Reflection | Life, Mindset and Marketing Lessons from a Year in Business

November 19, 2018


Today marks my birthday, and also my first business birthday – so it’s a big day for celebration!

It also marks the first day of a new direction for the Stevie Says Social brand, one that I have been slowly steering toward for a little while now and which marks a bigger focus on education and training for small business.

I have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes for several months on a number of different things related to this, and I am very proud to share some of them on my brand new online home!!!! – steviesayssocial.com – so head over and check it out because the new brand refresh is smokin’ hot if I do say so myself.

And before we dive into this podcast I just have to remind you because it’s NOT EVEN a week away! This Sunday, I will be releasing my Social Media Bootcamp online training series and it’s a complete game changer. I am quite literally giving you my entire roadmap for social media success – the WHOLE DAMN THING. You are gonna want to sign up – steviesayssocial.com/bootcamp if you haven’t already.

So, enough about me – let’s talk about today’s podcast.

Join the FREE Social Media Bootcamp kicking off this Sunday here.

This episode is a mix of life, mindset and marketing lessons.

There’s a lot of people around me celebrating their first business birthday at the moment, which means that a lot of businesses were started this time last year! So, maybe spring – ie RIGHT NOW – is the time for new adventures and beginnings?!

It certainly rings true for me. Every year in October when the jacarandas come out in Brisbane, there has been a turning point or significant thing happen in my life. The purple and the scent in the air is also a sign every year that what I call ‘the good months’ are here – summer, fun times, and things are just lighter.

Spring brings new beginnings, and it’s the perfect time for change.

So. If there is anyone thinking of starting a business I hope this episode inspires you to go for it – given that there’s never a perfect time, maybe now is the season? It certainly has been for many of us!

For my business friends also celebrating year number one, a huge congratulations – my gosh, it’s hard work isn’t i!  People see the good times, and the wins, and the two month staycations in Bali and the Instagram highlights but they don’t see that we have all mostly likely worked harder this year than we ever have in our lives. They don’t see the late nights, and the self-doubt, and the time away from family and friends and all of the sacrifices to do something we genuinely love.

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have it any other way and I know many of you will share this sentiment, but holy cow the hustle is real.

So, why do we do it?

For me – it’s freedom, ultimately. And the fact that I couldn’t look myself in the eye if I hadn’t finally plucked up the courage to chase my dreams.

There’s an awesome quote going around from Jim Carrey that says ‘you can fail at something you don’t want, so you may as well take a risk on something you love’.

And honestly? This is EXACTLY what drives me.  

For me that’s the freedom to do what I want when I want and to live to my highest potential and genuinely make myself proud. Starting a business that allows me to live a life on my own terms doing something I’m passionate about with the ability to achieve is really the holy grail for me, and I’m doing it.

There’s highs, there’s lows and there’s everything in between. So, what I thought might be useful would be to sum up the past year, some insights into some of the big things that drive me and the biggest lessons that I have learnt from a year in business. Some of it is professional, but some is really personal too.

At the end of the day, I don’t think you can separate them.

Without the personal sides of my path so far I wouldn’t be here doing this right now, plain and simple. And so, I think it’s important to share.  

So here it it:: My Life, Mindset and Marketing Lessons from a Year in Business

Let me start with where I was about a year and six weeks ago; sitting in my office cubicle sweating bullets.

{I had) It was just five minutes until a meeting I’d scheduled with my boss to quit my job, and I was madly googling ‘how to resign on good terms’.

With no idea how I was going to pluck up the courage to get the words out of my mouth, I was hoping Google might have some answers for me.

Here’s the thing.

I had a good job; I was earning good money.

And, after leaving a career in lawyer a few years early, it had taken me some serious time, dedication and commitment to finally move BACK up the ranks in a completely different industry and snag a senior marketing management position that I actually quite liked.

Leaving the security of something that was good and comfortable? AGAIN?

Was I crazy?

I googled it to check. No, it seemed, I wasn’t.

“Be prepared”, the articles said.

“Save money in advance. Make sure you set up your client work ahead of time”.

Tick, tick, tick.

I’d done all of that.

But at the end of the day, none of this was about the practicality.

Sure, I get the importance of doing your due diligence, and backing yourself, and getting your ducks in a row.. but at the end of the day?

This all came down to the fact that if I didn’t jump now.. leave my job, go out on my own, try to build something that I was really DAMN proud of… I would ALWAYS have wondered.

And that wasn’t a position I wanted to be in: I owed myself more.

Now, before I let you know how it all turned out, let me give you some background and insight into how this all came to be.

—-

A month earlier, my boyfriend Jules and I had been travelling around Europe.

For three weeks, we’d been sailing through Croatia on a yacht, we’d spent hot nights sipping red wine in Trastevere, we’d partied in Ios and I was a week away from being proposed to overlooking the water on a rooftop in Santorini in what was quite possibly the most romantic moment ever.

It was the first time since backpacking around the world 10 years earlier that I truly felt free.

I didn’t feel stressed.

I wasn’t resenting Monday.

And with the time that I had away from my everyday and out of the routine of ‘living’, I’d started to really think about whether the life I was living was the one I had imagined for myself.

One day – whilst sipping Limoncellos on an orange sun lounge overlooking Positano (it sounds exaggerated, but it’s true) – I realised it wasn’t.

My life was good, but it wasn’t that fulfilling.

I had a job I didn’t dislike, but I wasn’t really learning or growing.

My days were FINE, but it also kind of felt like I was living groundhog day every single day – which would be awesome if I was hanging out in Bali – but in a small, dark cubicle, not so much.

I didn’t ‘hate’ it, but I also didn’t have the freedom to do things differently even if I’d wanted to.

Ultimately? My time wasn’t my own.

And even though that’s the ‘norm’ –  to have a 9 to 5 job, get paid every fortnight, spend your nights tired on the couch and do it all again the next day – there was something missing and it wasn’t enough for me.

That day in Positano, I decided that no matter what it took, I would made a big change.

Easy to say after a few Limoncellos in the sun on a holiday in Europe. A little (ahem, lot) harder to execute when you’re back in your cubicle in Brisbane waiting for your resignation meeting unsure whether you’re shivering is a result of the office’s artic air conditioning or your rattling nerves.

—–

I’ve done some research in the months since making that big decision, because it kind of seems like I’m the exception rather than the rule.

And let me say – I’m not saying that quitting your job and diving into the unknown is for everyone. It’s not. And for those that LOVE what they do, and their life, then kudos to you – that’s what everyone should be striving for.

My point, though, is that so many in that position don’t love what they’re doing.

They accept mediocre – in jobs, relationships, circumstances, life, whatever.

What I learnt from my research has really stuck with me.

I discovered that big decisions requiring boatloads of courage and stepping into uncertainty usually only ever come about in two situations::

  1. When the pain of staying put outweighs the pain of change and upsetting the status quo; and/or
  2. After a significant life event.

I think it’s important to acknowledge this, because I think it’s true and I wish it wasn’t.

That it takes something ‘bad’ happening in your life or that it takes waiting so long that it’s unbearable to maintain the status quo before making a big decision to improve your life genuinely makes me sad.

For me though, it was certainly true.

In fact, it’s the only silver lining that I received from the worst thing that has ever happened to me personally, which was losing my beautiful Dad.

For better or for worse, it’s probably the biggest factor that has impacted my major decisions over the past couple of years because it was a huge slap in the face reminder that life is so very short.

So, let me tell that story.

Why?

Because my hope is that it doesn’t take a similar event happening for others to get the same realisations I did.

[I hope telling that story prompts someone feeling ‘meh’ about their circumstances to take the action they need to in order to create a bigger life for themselves without needing something similar to happen to them in order to give them the push to do so].

—-

One day a few years ago, I woke up a little hungover after a party the night before, but mostly happy. Summer was officially over and the Gold Coast humidity gone the days were clear.

My Dad woke up early to go for a paddle ski on the lake at Burleigh, and Mum and I joked that it was the first time he’d used it since last Summer.

“It’s the perfect Autumn day”, I wrote as my Facebook status update that morning.

Two hours later, the police came up the driveway to tell us that he was dead.

I remember the garage door opening and the blue police uniforms and my Mum screaming.

And just like that, life as I knew it was over.

I spent a few years after that completely lost.

I almost pretended it didn’t happen. It was easier that way, because I didn’t need to feel the pain or acknowledge that in many ways i was living my worst nightmare.

I drank and partied a lot, and everyone said how much fun I was.

I thought I was having fun too, but in retrospect? I just wasted a lot of time with a hangover.

Over those few years, I lost two more very close friends.

My friend Maria was diagnosed with glandular fever. By the time they realised it was blood cancer it was too later and we flew to her funeral in New Zealand a few days later.

My friend Trent got married to his beautiful wife Lauren, and four weeks later went for a surf. He died suddenly while he was in the water.. He was 36.

If you had told me a few years ago that those three amazing people who were ALL more full of life than most people I knew would no longer be here, I wouldn’t have believed you. Neither would they.

For my Dad and for my friends, I am so sad that they don’t get to do the one thing we think we’re entitled to – a long, healthy life.

It’s not fair and it’s hard to talk about so most people don’t.

At the end of the day, we all think we have so much time, but the truth is that we were NEVER promised 83.5 long, healthy years.

That was the catalyst that ultimately – after a lot of years feeling really lost and like my security blanket had been ripped out from under me – pushed me to stop living an okay life and to really start pushing as hard as I possibly could for an amazing one.

I owed it to them, and to myself.

The only silver lining that comes from any kind of loss is the perspective that it gives you on life. It opens your eyes, and it drives you. Anyone who has lost anyone close to them would know what I mean.

And so, long story short, this time last year I did pluck up the courage to resign.

My boss was understanding (the Google article must have had some good tips in there, we’re still on good terms).

And I started that business – this business – that I’d always dreamt of having.

And that?

Was the very beginning.

—-

A year on, I’m still a business baby.

But, it’s safe to say that I’ve already learnt a lot.

About business, about marketing and also about myself – because starting a business is the biggest lesson in personal development that you’ll ever undertake.

And so, what I thought that I would do is to reflect on the past year and how my business baby, Stevie Says Social, has evolved in that time, as well as to share a few of the BIGGEST lessons that I have learnt.

Some of my stories and tips are social media related, and some are much more personal.

Both are important.

Hopefully my little story and some of these learnings inspire someone else to go run wild and chase after whatever it is they want, too.

The evolution of Stevie Says Social

Let’s start with the evolution of Stevie Says Social.

Because it certainly wasn’t a business to begin with.

It really all started on New Years Eve 2016/2017.

That night, I was in bed by 9pm.

‘WHO THE BLOODY HELL AM I?!’, I said to my friends.

Secretly though, it felt kinda good (in a smug-HA-HA way) to finally be that sensible, grown up person that I had heard people in their thirties were supposed to be.

And, thanks to my early bedtime, I woke up on New Years Day completely hangover free for the very first time in my adult life.

(Eep. If that wasn’t a sign of great things to come, then I really don’t know what was).

That morning, Jules and I got up early to go for a walk.

By a walk, I mean a walk + condescending smirk-fest at all the stragglers coming home from the Valley even though that was me last year BUT IT DIDN’T MATTER BECAUSE I WAS SO GROWN UP NOW!!!!).

Ahem. Anyway.

I was kind of at a loss when I got home.

With no hangover, I had no need to grab a family feast KFC box and nap the arvo away. Considering that’s what everyone I knew was doing, I was really bloody bored.

And so, I dug out my journal, which in recent years I’d only ever written in when life was dealing me lemons.

Reading back on it was like reading the equivalent to a teenage emo/goth’s neg-o perspective on life, and I was mildly horrified.

It’s time to turn this around, I remember thinking.

I was feeling positive and happy in my post-walk-non-hangover-smug-AF-glow, and so I wrote four things down on a scrap of paper in the diary.

They were literally just things that I thought might be nice to tick off at some stage in the future.

They weren’t SMART goals; and they certainly didn’t have timeframes or action steps or accountabilities or any of that stuff ‘they’ tell you that you need tied to them.

This is that scrap of paper.

Now, I’ve never really been one for vision boards or positive thinking because to be honest I’d always slagged it off as woo woo and hippy.

But this year, I just think I might give it a go.

Because every single thing that I wrote down on that scrap of paper came to fruition in 2017.

But, let’s stick with the business stuff for now.

On the afternoon of January 1, I registered the domain name for steviesayssocial.com.

Then, I decided that it was a shitty name, and so I chewed Jules’ ear off for a month or so about whether I should call it ‘The Social Service’. Or ‘Social Honey’ (WTF). In the end, I stuck with Stevie Says Social. Obviously.

Then, I opened a Canva account and played with a logo for way too long.

This is the ugliest thing I have ever seen. And I created it. Ewww.

And I got a Squarespace website and built the ugliest crappiest website ever with RED all over it before realising how butt ugly it was and starting with another.

Which was also ugly, but I ran with that for about six months after.

Then, I wrote a blog post.

And another.

And another.

Literally, every weekend for those few months  – after a full week of work whilst all of my friends were out having fun – I would spend my time writing epic 3000 word blog posts and uploading them onto the site.

No-one read them.

I opened social media accounts. No-one followed me.

I remember doing an ‘Insta Story’ in David Jones one day and not a single soul watched it. I checked 27 times.

I kept going.

It wasn’t until the second quarter of the year that a few people started following, but it wasn’t until later in the year that I managed to get any level of ‘success’ with it.

In July, my blog started gaining traction.

People were asking what my services were.

I didn’t have any. Services, what?

That was forever away.

In the meantime, I was gearing up for a month in Europe in August which I’d spent FOREVER saving for.

And we already know what happened whilst I was there.

I came back from Europe on cloud nine after getting engaged, having a lot of time to think and deciding to make the blog a real business.

I ALSO came back to a zillion client enquiries from my blog. I had started doing a few side jobs before I left, but the level of enquiry grew really randomly (by a LOT) in September/October.

And so, I sat clammy hands in my boss’ office and did it. Resigned. All the while thinking what the HELL am I thinking?!

After it was official, I made it my goal to launch at the beginning of November with a full roster of clients. I couldn’t afford not to.

As luck – and months of blogging and building an audience – would have it, it literally took one post on social media and I had more enquiries than I knew what to do with.

At this stage, I decided to structure myself differently to other social media marketers.

Rather than having a whole roster of clients, I decided to work exclusively with one client at a time on their social media strategy for two weeks, train them on how to implement it in house, and then move onto the next.

This meant that I wasn’t overloaded with work, and i was able to book my calendar out a couple of months in advance.

And quite literally, that’s what I continued to do until August this year.

I even managed to spend two months living and working in Bali throughout the Aussie winter this year using this structure.

Starting a podcast

Let’s rewind though, because I haven’t yet spoken about the biggest game changer in my biz so far – this podcast.

In January this year, I started to get a bit tired of missing my weekends and writing 3000 word posts every week. Who would have thought, right?

As a complete podcast junkie, so I decided that perhaps starting one could be the way to go.

I don’t know what it is about January 1, but on that day in 2017 I googled “How to Start a podcast” – seriously, I have Google to thank for so many things – and spent the day on Youtube watching tutorials and trying to work out how on earth to set one up. That decision? Hands down one of the very best I have ever made. Every week since January – with a month break ahead of the newly branded Talk Social to Me name change –  I have recorded, edited and released a podcast on a different aspect of social media and interviewing people who are doing great things with their businesses.

And every week since then, I have had hundreds of people listening to the podcast.

Just last week, podcast downloads surpassed 70,000

The impact that this has had on my business and my ‘personal brand’ – even though I hate that term – is exceptional.

No longer am I just another social media marketer competing on price with the hundreds of others out there.

I attracted a different calibre of client.

People contacted me ready to work with me, rather than price shopping.

And once again, almost a year later, I found myself with more work than I knew what to do with – only this time, I was able to charge what I was worth because people had listened to the podcast and knew that I knew my social media stuff.  

[And guys? If you are inspired and you are thinking that a podcast might be a good idea for your biz too – head over to steviesayssocial.com/podcastfreebie now to download a cheat sheet with all of the tools – mics etc – that I used to get set up and which I still use now!]

And that brings me now!

Well, two months ago actually.

As with any business, it’s so important to adapt and evolve, and when the demand for my services started to escalate at that time I knew that it was time to ‘grow up’.

For me, that meant some big decisions.

With the huge increase in demand, was it time to hire more people and expand my service based business?

To expand my services and start offering more management and ad management offerings?

If I listened to those around, the answer would be yes.

But, for me, that didn’t feel right. At least, not just yet – I do have something up my sleeve in this respect but it’s still under wraps.

Instead, my decision meant really listening to my heart and thinking about the reasons why I decided to start a business in the first place.

I’m obsessed with digital marketing and social media, there’s no doubt about that.

But what I’ve discovered over the past year is that there is such a need for social media to be taught in a broader context – because the bottom like is that success – more followers, but more importantly more business and more money in the bank – comes down to much more than simply hashtag strategy.

Basic marketing principles – branding, sales funnels, traffic – alongside social media strategy is sorely needed, and yet I didn’t see anyone focusing on it.

And so brings us to the Stevie Says Social of today.

As I’ve already hinted about, I’ve spent over two months obsessing over the creation of an 8 part complete roadmap to social media success course.

I’ve launched The Social Shop on my website, with templates and checklists and resources for businesses struggling with their socials and which will be added to each and every month!

I’ve put my money where my mouth is and I’ve committed to a complete re-brand. It feels like a re-birth, like Stevie Says Social is finally growing up.

And there’s more coming too, with a full suite of products and promotions mapped out six months in advance.

So, that’s my story – which, really, is only just beginning.

A year after that resignation, I couldn’t be more excited about the future.

THINGS ARE GOOD AND CRAZY AND GOOD.

With all of the evolution that’s already happened, and with much of it still to come, I thought I’d finish with seven top lessons I’ve learnt throughout the evolution of the business in the past 12 months.

1. Just Start::

Do literally anything related to your goal. If you want a successful blog that will launch you into self-employment, set up a website. Or sit down and write and article – or even just a few sentences. If you want to lose 10 kilos, lace up your runners and walk outside for 10 minutes. Or lay down and do 10 pushups. Or stop with the choccie croissant for brekky every damn morning. Want to save $10,000? Open a savings account and bank 20 bucks.

The thing is, no matter how small, it all counts and the funny thing about momentum is that it keeps going.

It’s so easy to get trapped in the cycle of reading, researching and talking about doing something, but never getting around to actually doing it. And if you don’t do anything, nothing happens. The secret is to put the book down/shut your mouth/stop procrastinating and just to do one little thing. Tomorrow, you can do more – and you will. But for today, just start.

When I decided I wanted to start a business, I started by writing a blog post. A single blog post. And honestly? It all snowballed from there.

2. Commit to Being the Best::

One thing that I hope sets me apart from other social media marketers is that I am OBSESSED with learning everything I possibly can.

In every industry, there are plenty of okay people.

Those people do okay.

They hum along, they win some jobs, they pay the bills.

But I truly believe that in order to really gain momentum in anything you do, you need to be the BEST.

For me, that means committing to learning ALL THE TIME. Seriously, if you knew the amount of podcasts I listen to, articles I read, events I go to, things that I do to uplevel my knowledge and education in the area of digital and social you would call me the worlds biggest GEEKTOWN. I know that my partner Jules does; his nickname for me is ‘little nerd’.

But, you’ve gotta.

If you want to be the best, you need to put in the work to be the best.

3. Build an audience before you launch.

This is something that I did completely by accident.

When I decided to start that social media blog at the start of last year and commit to 3000 word posts every single week – seriously, what was I thinking? Little NERD – I didn’t think that it was a pre-launch strategy for my business. Turns out, it was the best pre-launch strategy I could ever have employed.

By sharing my knowledge, I grew an audience by accident, and they were approaching ME to work with them before I had ever considered that it would be a business so soon.

There are two lessons here.

One, if you think you might want to start a business at some stage, start by sharing your knowledge in the field you will eventually work in. You really never know where it could lead, and the benefit of doing it before you officially kick off is that you have time to SUCK. Honestly, I look back at some of the first things that I wrote and I am horrified. It gives you leeway to get better, so you hit the start line as a new and improved version of your warm-up self.

And two, if you KNOW you are going to start a business – adopt a pre launch strategy. Warm your audience up INTENTIONALLY. Open your social accounts, starting providing valuable information and building momentum. There’s nothing worse than launching on day one to crickets.

4. Don’t quit without a nestegg:

Starting a service based business is one of the least expensive start ups out there. With that said, there are still a lot of expensive that I didn’t account for. Public liability insurance, financial advice, recurring online subscriptions.

They add up, and if you don’t have a ‘pillow’ to support you – even if you are covering your previous salary from day one, as I was – it will play games with your piece of mind.

When I decided to jump, I knew that I had a considerable sum behind me to support me in the event that something went wrong. I had just sold a house and had the luxury of taking some of the profit to support me. I’ve not needed it yet, but knowing it was there has been a game changer.

It has meant that I haven’t panicked and taken on work that wasn’t a right fit.

It has allowed me to take the time I needed to create online offerings – something that I wouldn’t have been able to create the space in my client schedule to do otherwise.. It has allowed me to invest in training, education and resources to help me uplevel. And never once have I woken up at night worrying about how I would pay the bills.

Grind it out, save your dollars, reduce your living expenses and make the jump when you are financially comfortable to do so. It’s not the sexiest advice, but trust me – the stress of not having the resources to cover yourself on top of the stresses associated with new business life would railroad most of us.

5. Do more of what you love.

For me, this is huge. I started a business to feel passionate and inspired about what I do.

One of the easiest ways NOT to feel like that is to start a business or take on work that doesn’t make you feel that way. This, for me, has been more difficult than I had anticipated it to be.

When you start to build momentum, you will receive biggest and better enquiries.

Here’s the golden rule – don’t say yes to things that don’t light you up.

Sure, it’s not ALWAYS possible but here’s the thing.

When you are start starting out and it is just you, you have limited time and finite resources. So, every yes to one thing is a no to something else.

And you know what happens?

Every damn time you say yes to something that doesn’t light you up, you seem to get the DREAM offer a day later – and you no longer have the capacity to accept.

It’s happened to me several times.

The lesson here is to know your ideal client and to beam out messages to attract them in ALL of your marketing. The better you get at this, the more dreamies you attract and the less difficult it becomes to filter out the others.

6. Bonus Tip. You’ve gotta risk it to get the biscuit.

This is what I’ve learnt. If you don’t try, how on EARTH will you ever know?

I could have decided to play it safe and stayed in corporate.

I didn’t. It paid off, but my god I didn’t know whether it would at the time.

I could have played it safe and not decided to put together my upcoming course and online educaion offerings. I don’t know whether they will be picked up. I hope, but I don’t know.

But if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Do it. Whatever IT is for you – I bet there’s something that comes to mind.

Just bloody do it. I think another brand has trademarked that before me haven’t they. Haha. And there you have it.

I’m a year in.

Still a business baby, but so much further along than I was last year.

For others in business, I hope you related to some of this. For those thinking about starting out, I hope it inspires you and I haven’t scared you off 😉

Happy first birthday and actual birthday to me!

Did you enjoy this episode?

As a birthday present, I would be SO STOKED with an iTunes review. I’m a simple gal. Simply jump into your iTunes app, scroll down and leave a rating and write a review too.

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