The real truth behind 6-figure success
Head’s up — this post is LONG, but worth it! I did a Clubhouse chat last week with some of my biz buddies, and we talked about what it really takes to hit 6 figures as a business owner. It’s NOT usually what people think (ie. it’s not that hard if you focus on the right things).
But there is so much smoke and mirrors out there in the online space about hitting this coveted 6 figure mark (which, by the way, when you factor in 26-30% for expenses, and 25ish% for taxes, isn’t really leaving you with that much leftover). I want everyone to make 6 figures and beyond in your biz, because it allows you to actually HIRE help so you don’t burn out, and help more people because you can afford to put better systems and structures in place.
So today, I want to break down the exact numbers in my business so you can see what REAL business progress looks like.
You may have seen this post before if you’ve been on my list for a while, but I’ve updated it with NEW numbers, and it’s I think it’s always worth reading it again as a reminder that progress takes TIME and doesn’t happen overnight!
With social media these days, there’s a fine line between being inspiring and being annoying, right?
Say you’re scrolling Instagram and you see that fitness model you follow (you know the one with the rock hard abs and perky butt who is spewing inspirational quotes at you, and then probably trying to get you to sign up for her fitness program).
Some people might find this inspiring, but you know what it does to me?
- It shuts me down.
- It makes me feel like crap.
- It makes me feel like I am sooo far away from THAT, that her course could never help me.
I can’t be like her. She doesn’t understand my problems (like that I’m mostly lazy, or kind of hate working out, or that I loooove sugar lol). Her course isn’t for people like me.
Well the same goes for when you see people on the internet trying to sell you a course to help you build your business, so that you can make 6-figures in 3 minutes, or be a millionaire overnight.
I don’t trust them and I won’t buy from them, and I am guessing you are the same. Especially if you’re SO far away from 6 figures that you’d be happy just to make $6 at this point 😂
If you’re here, you’re smart enough to know that it’s not my gig to try to make you think you can get instantly rich, and that if you just join my Uncage Your Business program, everything will be a pretty shiny rainbow of joy (and money) for the rest of your business and life.
I’m pretty real when I talk about my results in business, and my clients results too.
But I wanted to get a little more specific with you today to help you get a true picture of what business progress and business success really looks like.
I want to start off by confirming that I am not someone who had a husband or parents paying for everything in my business when I started. I didn’t even have savings. I barely had a job when I started out. I did this all on my own and I hustled to make it work. There is NOTHING wrong with folks who have financial support (good on you! Take it!). But I didn’t. So if you don’t either, and you’re starting from square one like I was, I’ve got you… keep reading.
I shared this image in a previous post when I was talking about how I created and grew my group program Uncage Your Business to its first 100k launch (hint: it was NOT overnight)
REAL BUSINESS PROGRESS
These numbers show how I started running Uncage Your Business with 12 people at $349, 3 years into my business, and how it’s grown from there.
Of course, now it’s 2021 and Uncage Your Business continues to grow into a program that brought in 500k last year and is on it’s way to $1million.
BUT BUT BUT – before you let those numbers freak you out and you feel like this isn’t relatable content, hear me out!
I think it’s SO important to share some more details of what real progress looks like so you can see that YOU CAN DO IT TOO! .
I know right now it might feel like you will never get there and trust me, I hear you. I remember thinking HOW ON EARTH WILL THIS EVER BE SUSTAINABLE in the first 2 years of my business.
It felt so far away. And then slowly, one bit at a time, it started to “work”… and it kept working. And you can get there too it just takes time.
Here is exactly what that progress looked like for me.
YEAR ONE (2012) – MOVED INTO A VAN AND STARTED A BUSINESS
Setup: I lived in a van and ran my business two days a week while working out of anywhere I could get a decent wifi signal, and I rock climbed all the other days!
Clients: I worked with a few clients for free when I started out (friends, and friends of friends!), and I eventually moved to a Pay-What-You-Want pricing model with those folks, and then onto full pricing after about 3-4 months.
Within the first few months of my business I had clients (only a few, but still — clients!) finding me through my website and paying me full price (which was only like $250/month then, but still!!)
Marketing: I wrote blog posts that featured other business owners who already had their own audience, and they shared these posts. This helped me get organic traffic right away. I was also in a few business groups (one for a paid program) where I networked and got to know people and offered help there, which helped me build a name for myself. I still highly recommend both of these strategies to help you get exposure for your business early on.
Money: I grossed $12000 my first year in business, which to be honest, I was SO proud of! I took off in a van, created something out of thin air, and people paid me $12k for it. It was fun to see even a little bit of money come in, though I did have a sinking feeling of “how am I going to actually make enough to live off when I get home?”
LESSONS FOR YOU: You need to just START. I was terrified to ask those people to be my clients, and then to pay me! I was terrified to ask those people to be on my blog (and I did get a lot of NO’s!). You have to ask anyway. You have to get started even if it’s scary.
YEAR TWO (2013) – I GOT A JOB
Setup: I left the campervan and moved back to Toronto and got a part time job in order to be able to afford to pay my rent and live while my business grew (you heard that right – I went and GOT A JOB after I started my business!). I knew I needed to invest in my business and making money from another source was the way — it super important to me to make sure I wasn’t putting too much pressure on my business and getting stressed out!
Clients + Programs: I tried everything this year! One-on-one services, a failed attempt at an online course, a successful attempt at selling a Pay-What-You-Want online guide; small group programs, short individual sessions, VIP days. I wanted to try it all to see what worked best for me. I was ALWAYS launching and it was exhilarating to be DOING so much, but also exhausting! I also ran my first retreat this year!
Marketing: I went on a guest posting frenzy and submitted what felt like a bazillion posts a month. These helped me get in front of new audiences and grew my list a LOT that year. I also started my Uncaged Lifers FB group this year (this was before there was a FB group for everything!) and I was able to use that to market the many new services I was creating.
Money: I grossed around $80k my second year. I attribute this to being willing to just try EVERYTHING and continuously taking action instead of over-thinking. But I also attribute it to working like 60 hours a week for a lot of the year. It was not sustainable and I knew that I would need to find a better way to work rather than constantly creating new programs every month. I had to get really honest with myself after this year about what was working and what wasn’t, and let go of a lot of parts of my business that I had been holding onto. I also had to niche in hard and ditch some of the more wishy washy parts of my messaging in favor of getting REALLY specific about who I could help.
LESSONS FOR YOU: You need to niche in. Really. You do. It is the fastest path to making money in your business, and I don’t know about you, but business is already slow enough, I’ll always happily fast track it where I can! Niching can do that for you. Uncage Your Business can do that for you.
YEAR THREE+FOUR (2014/2015) – STARTED RUNNING UNCAGE YOUR BUSINESS AND HIT 100K
Setup: In my 3rd year I eventually went down to just one day a week at my other job (JUST enough to pay my rent) and relied on my business for everything else. It was a big scary step for me, but I knew I had enough money coming in to cover the basics and I figured, worst case, I could pick up more hours or get another job if my business didn’t bring in the money I needed. ! I still travelled a lot and ran Uncage Your Business from places like Morocco, Belize, and Kentucky (on rock climbing trips! I was truly living my Uncaged life!
Clients + Programs: I ditched all my one-on-one packages and started running a group program near the end of my third year. This program was Uncage Your Business, which is still going strong til this day (though it’s had a LOT of updates since then!). I also created a bunch of mini-online-courses on various topics and sold them for around $30.
Marketing: I started running light FB ads (my first paid advertising!) and pitched myself for podcasts. By this stage I had really narrowed down my niche and was VERY specific about what I do. This meant I had people coming to me asking to interview me, and I had to do less of the pitching! This is exactly what I teach in Uncage Your Business, and my clients often have opportunities like this come to them in their first year of business!
Money: I grossed over $100k in my third year, and I attribute this to really niching in even more and scaling to run group programs. I also learned that little online courses don’t really sell that well unless you have a solid marketing funnel in place (often the strategy with low priced offers is running FB ads to them and breaking even on your ad spend, and then up-selling people into your higher level programs). I made a little from the courses without a strategy, but not enough to make them worth it.
NOTE that this 100k is gross income. My expenses were probably around 20% back then, plus the 30% or so that went to taxes…. You learn VERY quickly that a 6 figure year in business doesn’t leave you taking home all that much money!
LESSONS FOR YOU: Uplevel your mindset about how much money you need/want to make. 100k is NOT really 100k when you break down how much you are actually taking home after investing in your business (which is non-negotiable). It’s time to start believing that it’s possible to not only hit 6 figures, but exceed it! And while you do that, don’t be afraid to invest in your business! Businesses that invest earn more than businesses that don’t. Period. I truly believe that every investment will help you grow in some way.
YEAR FIVE+SIX (2016/2017) – I HIRED A TEAM AND SCALED UYB
Setup: I’d learned by this time that I preferred to stay in one place and work (I was sick of crappy wifi while travelling and the stress of trying to run a group with spotty connection) so I hunkered down in Toronto and started to plan my launches around my travel plans. I had finally found my groove of the business model that worked best for ME. Some people HATE launches and want the security of ongoing clients throughout the year. I LOVE launching and I want to work on blocks of a few months, and then take a few months off.
Clients + Programs: I decided to ditch many of the smaller programs I had created (including all my smaller online courses!), and double down on running Uncage Your Business. I’ve learned that UYB is THE best way I can help people become Uncaged and it’s the way I LOVE working, so I decided to ONLY sell UYB and ditch everything else. It was a big leap, but it felt like the right move. Everyone has always told me that the key to scaling was doing one thing and doing it well — so I decided to give it a try.
Money + Marketing: I started doing 6-figure launches of UYB and was able to SUPER simplify my marketing by only leading people to ONE thing that I sell. Hallelujah! I also learned that growing a business means you also need to grow a team, and grow your expenses… which was a learning curve for me. I had a series of not-great contractors on my team, and I had a few breakdowns wondering if I’d ever be able to actually get good help in my biz, or whether I should just keep doing it all on my own (not sustainable).
LESSONS FOR YOU: Don’t be afraid to get known for ONE thing (this ties back to niche too!). The sooner you do it, the sooner people will send you referrals, ask you to be on their podcasts and want to interview you for their blogs, and the sooner you can start to stop fluffing around trying EVERYTHING and really start to dial in your marketing and start to GROW. I have seen this happen as early as year ONE with our Uncage Your Business students! The power of niching into one specific area is POWERFUL my friends.
YEAR SEVEN TO NINE (2018-present) – I ONLY SELL UYB NOW AND AM NEARING THE 1M MARK
Setup: I now live in Squamish BC and get to play in the mountains in between my twice yearly launches!
Programs: I still run only Uncage Your Business, and since 2019 have turned it into a self study program too, meaning I can now make money in between my launches! This has allowed me to scale HUGELY! I was convinced that no one would buy the self study, but they are, and my students are doing GREAT in it! Plus is has let us bring in so much additional revenue between launches and help so many people who otherwise would have waited 6 months to get the business help they need. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner!
Money and Marketing: I have now been able to afford to hire a full time team member (Hi Ange!), and am also a tech VA and marketing assistant to help keep this (finally!) well oiled machine running. My company brought in over 850k last year and we are rinsing and repeating our strategies from last year + trying a few new organic traffic methods this year.
I finally feel like I have a team to support me and the systems in place that I need to grow, while still being able to take tons of time off each year for my own uncaged life.
I can ALSO tell you that as your business grows to 6 figures or multiple 6-figures, your expenses grow too, and I am taking home only a little bit more than when it was just me in my business in years 3-4. So there’s that.
LESSONS FOR YOU: Every stage of growth is hard! I’ll admit, the beginning stage you’re in is the MOST hard, because you’re still figuring out all the pieces and working your ass off, but the money isn’t coming in yet. Year 1 and 2 are absolutely the most challenging in any business IMO.
But — it never ends! Once you think you’re all set and you can finally just chill and roll with it in your biz, a new challenge will arise. The growth is never over. Get used to it EARLY ON.
You need to stay persistent, consistent, and open as you move forward with each stage, be willing to try new things, and get help. You can’t do this alone at ANY stage.
AND — all of this is possible for you. This is the lesson I want you to take home. Start with step one, and then two, and then just keep going, slowly but surely, and you will get there.
And don’t hate on those million dollar business owners and think they have it easy — they have TONS of challenges and stresses to deal with too, I promise you. Be kind to every business owner you meet (unless they are throwing douchey marketing shit in your face, then feel free to tell them off, and come back to your community of business owners with integrity here at Uncaged lol)
I would not have imagined even hitting 100k would be possible when I first started Uncaged all those years ago back in 2011, when I was thrilled to have made $12k in my business.
Because of this, I am SO passionate about helping people like you who are new to business and are feeling like “Is this ever going to work!?”. Because I know it can work. It just takes time and focus on the RIGHT things.
Overnight successes (the rare times they DO happen) burn out FAST because they don’t have the systems and structures in place to handle that kind of volume, and often their methods aren’t repeatable (just like a one hit wonder, they come and go).
I want to help my students build long-term, sustainable success.
Here’s what I attribute my success to:
- A willingness to TRY new things and experiment over and over again, especially in the beginning
- Putting myself out there and ASKING people to be my client (yikes right!) and asking for opportunities like being interviewed and featured on other blogs
- Niching in and getting mega clear on what I can offer people (I wasn’t super clear yet in year 1-2, and that clarity made all the difference in the following years!)
- Investing in my business along the way (I was always in a course, or hiring a coach, or paying someone for copywriting or web design or strategy help etc)
I learned a LOT of lessons while building my business here at Uncaged and it’s the entire reason why I do the work I do now — to help you shortcut the process and get there faster (but not TOO fast) and with more ease.
I teach EVERYTHING above in our Uncage Your Business program by the way 🙂
I loooove seeing my Uncage Your Business students go through this process and see it finally “click” — building a business isn’t rocket science and it’s not some mysterious thing — it’s a PROCESS, and once you learn this process, you can’t unlearn it. Progress is inevitable!
Check out Uncage Your Business here and learn how YOU can get on your way to creating 6-figure success and beyond… it all starts with getting those FIRST paying clients, which UYB will help you do!
PS. Thanks for reading this epically long post! I hope it helped you see the trajectory of REAL growth and helps you get motivated to stay the course and keep going — a lot can happen in just a few years in your biz!