Ask me anything – a crowdsourced end of year review
I put out a call last week to have you ask me ANYTHING you wanted to know about me or my business for me to answer in an end of year review-style post. FUN!
I sifted through and removed any Qs that were specific to the asker’s business or not about ME (because this IS meant to be a year in review post about me/Uncaged and I wanted to keep it focused on that), and pasted the rest here. My answers are below. Enjoy! Thank you to everyone who sent in questions!!
What was your biggest surprise this year?
That I didn’t die when I drove by myself to Wyoming and back (I just got my FIRST car and re-learned how to drive after 15 years!).
What was your biggest mistake?
Paying for a $120/mo yoga membership that I barely used (it was a good year for mistakes if that’s the worst, right!?)
What’s next for you for 2017?
Focusing on growing my group program Uncage Your Business while taking large bouts of time off adventuring – so, the usual!
Where do you seek inspiration when you are feeling blah?
Nature! Getting outside is the best way to shake up that energy. Problem is, I live in downtown Toronto, and it isn’t so inspiring to get out around here, so usually that means buying a plane ticket or hopping in my car and getting the fuck out of here.
What book(s) would you recommend for someone starting a life coaching business?
Ca$hvertising – coaching if great and you can be the best coach in the world, but if you don’t know how to market yourself, you’re screwed.
What self doubts have you had to deal with this year when it comes to your business?
I joined an invite-only Facebook group that has just 100 business in it who are all killing it – like, multiple 6 figures into multi 7 (yes SEVEN) figures. I’m definitely the small fish in that group! They post about biz stuff and some of it is wayyy beyond what I can even understand (teams of 20 people with full time staff, 6 figure launches, and complex biz systems and tech that I haven’t even heard of!) I was honored to be invited to that group, but it brought up all kinds of gremlins about not being good enough, smart enough, hard working enough blah blah blah. I had to stop that shit before it got out of control and remind myself that my goals are mine and theirs are theirs and they don’t need to be the same, and I am lucky to have them in my corner to learn from and grow with. I talk more about this here in a Facebook Live I did.
Do you feel an Uncaged life will be how you live the rest of your life, or do you think certain future decisions might restrict this?
Hmmm are you asking if I plan to have kids? Sure sounds like it LOL. Right now, I don’t have kinds nor do I plan to. BUT if I did, I’d make sure that my partner was on board to travel as much as possible with them. I know many families who take their kids everywhere – road trips, international trips, climbing trips, and hiking trips! Their attitude is very much like mine (ie. “you’ll figure it out as you go”). So if there was a future decision that would impede my uncaged-ness, you’d better believe that I would figure it out! That all being said, I do like having a home base. I have a dog now (Rhubarb! You can see her over on Instragram), and have actually lived in Toronto for 8 yearsnow. My day to day is pretty routine! Some days, if it wasn’t for Rhubarb, I’d barely leave my house. I have daydreams of moving back out west, to the mountains, so I can be closer to nature, with more open space to take my little dingo, and more room to roam close to home. We’ll see what 2017 holds!
What advice would you give now to yourself exactly one year ago?
Don’t over-invest this year – your projections are not going to be met because your focus isn’t going to be on growing your business, but growing yourself. Stay conservative and get clear about what you need before going balls to the wall with hiring more team members!
When you aren’t creating courses (what I imagine is the fun work), how do you stay motivated to keep doing the work, getting your name out there, building your audience, etc?
I get excited about what my clients are up to so finding ways to support them feels natural to me. I also know that my revenue depends on scaling up and reaching more and more people, so knowing that my paycheck is coming from all the little in-between work helps make sure I stay on top of it!
Do you ever worry that the work will dry up?
Yep! But I know that I’m creative enough to grow with my clients and to keep up with the industry, and failing that, I have all the skills I need now to start a new business in a new industry if I wanted to – could be a whole new fun adventure!
What is your business revenue for 2016?
Gross is looking to be about $240k USD – My expenses are approximately 30%.
How much profit do you make from each retreat (percentage-wise)?
About $4000 when all is said and done. I interviewed 25 business owners for my retreat course and the average profit was bang on at $4k, with a range form $500-8k per retreat.
What do you like least about having a business?
The admin work. Being responsible for EVERYTHING. The pressure. Tech stuff.
How many times in an average day do you have to remind yourself not to listen to that little voice in your head that tries to talk you out of going forward with an idea?
Too many to count!
Best less than $100 purchase made last year?
$30 park pass for the 3-day solo hike I did in August. Seriously – this was the best thing I did all year (and I did a LOT of great things this year). I can’t even describe the feeling of hiking all day til everything hurts, then setting up camp, pumping out some sweet tunes, tearing around the woods in a bikini with a saw, cutting dead wood to make a fire, and getting accidentally drunk on scotch – totally alone the whole time. THE BEST.
Did your revenue increase or decrease in 2016 vs 2015? If it increased, what do you directly attribute to the growth?
I think it decreased… or maybe stayed just the same? I don’t have my full income reports yet. My projections for growth were NOT reached however, and I fully attribute that to fucking off for most of the year and not working. What DID work and why my income was still substantial, was putting more emphasis on my group course launch and working to get myself in front of some new audiences this year through Facebook ads and podcasts.
What’s one trend you’re tired of seeing in the creative entrepreneur space?
People selling courses that don’t qualify their ideal participants. Anything where the person using it probably needs to have more of a base first if they want the strategies to work. I’d love to see more business owners be more frank about who their courses, classes and coaching is for, instead of selling “dream-solutions” to new business owners who aren’t ready to benefit from them yet.
Do you have a virtual assistant?
Yep! I had a few this year and now have one main amazing unicorn by my side!
You seem to have added many more info products to your lineup this year. Has that been a good move for your business sales wise?
Not really. The mini-courses were created as a solution to always getting asked the same questions but not having an easy, low priced way to help people get the answers. They serve that purpose, but because I don’t do any marketing for them, I don’t sell a ton of them. Passive income is a myth and unless you have a strong sales funnel or are actively marketing your online courses, you won’t make much money from them. The ones I DO sell I get great feedback on, so it’s not a matter of not building a good product. It’s all in the marketing. I love having them to bundle up and sell, to offer my current higher paying clients, and to gift in free giveaways for other businesses contests and draws. But I would never consider it a revenue stream and wouldn’t advise anyone plan on creating a similar shop of mini courses unless you have a HUGE audience to sell to and a solid marketing plan in place!
Is there a ‘right time’ for a life/business coach to create a product line of info products, like after you develop a following, credibility, etc or can a new coach be successful with info products from the start?
In my opinion, you should have already worked with enough clients to know exactly what your market needs, know exactly how to give it to the and have tested your methods over and over again until you have create a repeatable system that works. Or you need to have enough expertise in an area that you know your methods work and you have validated them in some way. THEN you can work on turning that into a course (and then testing THAT to make sure the way you have it laid out also works). If you don’t have an following yet, there will be no one to buy your course, it’s always a good idea to build your business first before creating online products. And again, you need to be realistic about how they will fit into your business model. If you want to actually make money with them, you need to invest in some training and strategy to create a solid launch plan, marketing plan, and funnel. This is costly (as is creating the course itself!) which is why I always recommend that you wait to make sure your idea is good and that there is a market lined up to buy it, before you invest any money into it!
Favorite climb this year?
“Orange Juice” in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky! Not just because it’s on the upper end of my hardest climbs to date, but because LOOK AT THIS THING. So beautiful. It’s just begging to be climbed. It was such a fun project for me this fall in the Red!
How has your business changed since you first had the vision for it in your van years ago? Or is it exactly what you imagined it would become?
Oh my gosh, I had NO idea what my business would be back them! I remember thinking “how the eff is this ever going to work?” but still putting one foot in front of the other anyway, trusting that it would work somehow. When I started, I said to myself that I’d be happy if my business could consistently bring in $50k/year. That is more than enough for me to live off, and that PLUS lots of travel and freedom was all I was after. I had no idea it would get this big and that my clients and community would be so amazing and that 5 years later this is where I would be!
What kind of marketing had the biggest return for you this year?
Facebook ads brought in lots of new folks and a strong(er) than usual launch strategy involving videos, retargeting ads, and email marketing helped me a lot!
What held you back this year? How did you or will you get through it?
My energy for my business held me back. This was a year of huge personal growth for me and I wasn’t always interested in working in my business – so I didn’t! Luckily I had a great team to keep the ship sailing, but I felt disengaged for a lot of the year. When I was working with clients and actively working I was ON, but I took quite a few months totally off (and it was great!). Every business needs that ones in a while. It’s nice to give it a break and come back with fresh eyes. It just means I didn’t grow as much as I had planned, but I am totally ok with that!
Your email mentions that “This was a SUPER interesting year for me personally and business-wise.”. My question is : What made it interesting, business-wise? How was it different from previous year(s)?
I invested a lot in a team this year in my business and also took more time off than ever. It was a bit of an experiment.
I ended a relationship early in the year and took off on a series of wild adventures (what felt like more so than usual!). There were a lot of firsts.
In the past year, I bought my first car and learned to drive, did my first winter camping trip, went on my first all-expense paid first-class trip to Norway (to star in a travel video for Norweginan tourism!), got my first big-ish tattoo (it’s rhubarb!) and then got another one started (in progress!), did my first long solo road trip (Toronto to Wyoming and back!), did first solo mountain summit in Colorado, my first solo multi-day hiking trip (just me and Rhubarb for 3 days!, and first multi-day canoe trip. I also slept in a tent over 30 nights this summer which was pretty sweet!
In between all that I also travelled to Cuba, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, California, Kentucky and West Virginia. And in between that started dating someone new and explored a lot of cool new things right here in Toronto.
I made an effort to put myself out of my comfort zone a lot this year and learned that it’s never as scary as you think it’s going to be. A lot of it was challenging in a type 2 fun kind of way (like that 17hr driving day on the way home from Wyoming, and camping in snow without winter camping gear). But all good adventures need a little short lived misery.
I did a lot of things I said I’d “never be able to do” this year. I’d put limits on myself and I was ready to break them. And while I’ve always been someone who goes after what they want, this had a different feel to it. Because I did it all for myself. By myself.
I decided it was time to stop waiting on other people. Time to stop hoping to someday meet a partner who would be as adventurous as I am and want to do it all with me. Time to stop using having no one to do things with as an excuse not to do them. Time to remember that I built this uncaged life for myself for a reason and while I don’t know where it will take me in the long term, I do know that really LIVING it right now is the only way I’ll get to anywhere I actually want to be.
So that seemed to be the focus of my year. Work? Less so. At first I felt guilty about it. Like I wasn’t a good business owners. Like I didn’t deserve to still be making money in my business since I wasn’t working that much. Like I’d be letting my clients and my community down if my interest in my business wandered a little.
I realize now that actually, I’ve reached the ultimate in business success (as I define it for myself). I have a business that helps really cool clients to really cool things. That makes me a great living. And that lets me travel and actually take time off (and a lot of it) and ENJOY it, without sacrificing how much I can give to my clients. When I work, I hustle hard. And apparently, when I take time off, I vacation HARD too.
It was a good learning this year – seeing the full Uncaged life in action and navigating all the feels that it made me feel. I’m proud of the year I had – I will look back and think of it as one of my best years ever!
What are your best sources of personal referrals, and how do you keep them motivated to refer?
My business colleagues (many of whom are past clients!). They are motivated to refer because they love me and the work that I do, and it’s often a good fit for their market. I can’t stress enough how much your connections and your network will absolutely make or break your business.
How do you handle discouraging periods when your efforts are not producing the results you want?
I usually cry, get freaked out that nothing will ever work again, call up a business buddy who can talk me down, and then move to to figuring out what WILL work, if this thing isn’t working.
My question is about when you were just starting out in your business. In addition to one-one coaching for income what was the easiest passive income option to create and sell?
The “easiest” option was the one that my clients were literally asking me and telling me to create. They gave me the ideas, not the other way around. IMO that’s the ONLY way to create something that will sell well. And even then, nothing is passive and it will still take a LOT of your time, energy, and money to create, market, and sell anything you create.
What played a bigger role in your success this year: mindset or strategy?
Strategy (experimenting with different team members + having an actual launch strategy in place)
How did you come up with the name of your business?
I kinda got lucky! I hired out some basic design work when I was getting started (literally the first thing I did in my business!)and she brainstormed a few business names for me. Uncaged stuck, and here we are!
How do you like being in your 30s? How does this decade compare to your 20s so far?
IT’S THE BEST! I freaking love it so much. I feel like I know myself a LOT more. I give way less fucks about a lot of things. And WAY more fucks about other things. But all the right things. I look back at how much I thought I knew in my 20s and laugh at myself. I feel way more solid in my intention, grounded in my decisions, and open to where the future is headed. Not to mention I actually have a stable career now, which was a huge point of concern in my 20s. I loved being able to travel the world and take on odd jobs to get by, but I never saw myself in a career and always worried I’d have to “settle down” and get a “real job”. HA! Never! My life is pretty rad and I’m proud of what I’ve built for myself. And I love being able to be a walking representation of The Uncaged Life and know that it truly is my life’s work to help other people do the same. It’s amazing to have work with purpose.
What time do you wake up in the morning?
Usually between 745-830am, and never with an alarm clock. Waking to an alarm is one of my least favorite things ever. I think it reminds me of the (few) times I had real jobs and had to get up in the morning to get ready (and put pants on). Ew.
Do you ever miss working for someone else?
Sometimes yes! It’s nice to just be able to go to work and then forget about it. And always know you will be getting paid. And have health insurance benefits (even here in Canada not everything is covered!). BUT I would never ever ever go back unless it was very specific circumstances and ONLY if it was remote work. I don’t do well with people telling me what to do (especially when their requests don’t make sense to me or I can see a better way to do something), so I’m not always the best employee.
Do you ever feel like you can’t stand doing what you do? I know this might be a tough one to answer because of course you don’t want to tell the people you help that you can’t stand it, but, I feel that way. I know other coaches feel that way sometimes, but, they sure all sound like they love it all the time and if they aren’t loving it they just make changes. Easy peasy. Feels like BS.
Ha!!! I totally understand this question. And yeah, you know, sometimes I hate it. Working with the same niche (new coaches, particularly) can be frustrating. Not all of them are ready to have a business, but they want one, and it’s my job to help them. MANY of my clients have fears around success, failure, money, etc, and sometimes I lose patience for it (I’m not a mindset coach and I don’t go into these issues with them that deeply). Sometimes I just want to scream at everyone that if you want to have a business you need to shit or get off the pot, skin in the game, money where your mouth is, get over it and get to work. And sometimes I DO go there with my clients when we have a good relationship and they are ready to hear it.
That being said, I don’t take on clients who I can tell aren’t a good fit, and I try to be VERY clear in my marketing that my approach is not to hold your hand and coddle you, so I tend to not attract as many clients anymore that I don’t like!
I’ve been asked before “if you had all the money in the world and didn’t have to work would you still do what you do” and my answer is nah, probably not. I don’t know what I would do. It would probably still be something to do with helping people do cool shit and do stuff they love and be able to get out on more adventures. But I don’t think it would look exactly like what I do now.
How do you switch gears from work to personal throughout the day or week?
I don’t do it very well. If I’m at home alone, I’m usually working. I try to leave the house when I want to switch to personal time, or else I’d just always be half working on my laptop, even when Netflix is on!
What’s going on in your love life?
I have a new-ish boyfriend. He’s pretty awesome, and we are navigating a new relationship together. We feel more compatible that anyone I’ve ever been with, but we are also both strong, independent, stubborn types. It bring up a lot of our own issues individually and as a couple and we are learning how to work with each other as partners. It’s exciting and scary and frustrating and just lovely, as most new relationships are!
What did you have to say no to in order to grow your business?
Looking at what any of my close competitors/similar coaches to me are doing. I’d lose my shit and have quit a long time ago if I’d kept watching and comparing myself to them!
Your courses are always good quality content wise and obviously you spend resources to have them professionally graphically designed. Do you always at least break even on the money you have laid out?
Yep! I always try to pre-sell to make at LEAST enough to cover the costs (and sometimes I determine how much design work and copywriting will go into each one based on how much I make in the pre-sale!). Because I have built up an email list to sell to and always to a pre-sale pre-launch strategy to build an interest list, this always works for me. My larger courses cost about $8-10k to put together when all is said and done.
I’m struggling and feeling mediocre at best in trying to balance a 9-5 and launching my career coaching business. How do you push through the times you want to quit? How do you remain consistent and also balanced?
I want the business/life/work/freedom/whatever more than anything else, and I hustle my ass off to make it happen. Balance is kind of bullshit, especially when you are starting a business and have a full time job. You will really be working 2 jobs for a while when you are starting. It’s a lot of fucking hard work. You have to want it like you want nothing else and be willing to do what it takes. I personally worked WAY overtime for the first few months when I started, not sleeping barely eating, and not taking great care of myself. It wasn’t ideal. But it worked. I also have myself a long timeline. I sold my stuff and moved into a campervan and went on a long roadtrip. That was 8 months of slowly and consistently working on my business with out the pressure of having to make much money. If you have a full-time job, same thing. You set non-negotiable time every week to work on your business, and you sit down and do it. If you don’t, your business will grow more slowly. That’s ok if YOU are ok with that.
I’d also recommend making sure that you are putting your time and energy into the RIGHT things. Many new business owners waste time trying to do everything instead of just doing the key actions that will bring in clients faster.
What is currently your biggest business fear? How do you plan to overcome it?
That I won’t want to work anymore and things will fizzle up. I overcome it by getting really frank with myself about what I’m not loving and making the changes I need to make in order to continue to WANT to work. This means having fierce boundaries and not apologizing for the way I choose to do things in my business. Making my clients happy is important, but if I’m not happy, I can’t do good work and then we all lose.
If you could start your business again what would you do differently?
I’d narrow my focus RIGHT away. It took about a year of being too vague before I did this, and it changed everything. I’d niche the fuck in with a single specific area of focus and get known for that. Then branch out once I had the traction.
What three things have made your business a success?
My go-get-it attitude, my ability to make quick decisions, and consistently putting myself out in front of new communities online.
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When it comes to making big decisions, do you first listen to your own gut before consulting others? Or the other way around?
Gut first! Then ask others, mostly to get permission or confirm that what I am thinking is ok! If they disagree, I still usually go with my gut.
What is your drive for 2017?
Adventures. That is always my drive. I want to have more, and I want to help my clients have more. I want to be a catalyst for people getting out crap they hate and doing the shit they really want to be doing. And I want to make sure to continue to model that it IS possible.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
GOOD QUESTION and I wish I had an answer. I am currently considering a move away from Toronto and into the mountains somewhere. Without limitations, I’d likely end up in Montana or Colorado. Because I’m Canadian and can’t legally work in the US, the move will most likely be to Squamish BC or Canmore Alberta. But I don’t know! It’s true what they say — too many choices and people get overwhelmed and don’t pick anything!
Do you have a romantic partner? Why don’t you talk more about him/her?
I do — see the earlier question about it! I don’t talk about my romantic life a lot because it’s pretty separate from my business. My current and past partners aren’t in the online business space and when I’m with them work is a world away. Also, I’m not married with kids. I’ve been in multiple relationships since I started Uncaged, navigating breakups, being single, starting something new a few times. Lot of learning there, but just part of my private life that I haven’t felt necessary to share super publicly. My boyfriend now (hi Henry!) is amazing and I’m excited about the future for us. He is an environmental engineer with a schedule that lets him travel or work remotely for a lot of the year, for which I am grateful! I’m sure you’ll hear more about our adventures as they come! As you read this, we will be on a 10 day hike in Patagonia, trying not to kill each other!
How many years did it take you to consistently make more than $2,000/month?
One year – I made about 12k in my first year, and 80k in my second year, and up from there.
Do you ever hold any live events in Toronto?
Ya know, not really. Maybe that needs to change! I looove being behind my computer and the coziness of working with no pants and a big mug of tea. I did a free meetup a few years ago though, and it might be time for another one!
What were your fears of setting up your first retreat?
That someone would die or get hurt and sue us. Or that people wouldn’t have a good time. Neither happened!
How did you get clients when you were first starting out?
I got my first two clients by 1) asking a friend if I could coach her for free and then turned her into a paying client, and 2) asking a girl I met at a workshop if I could coach her for free and then also turned her into a paying client. My next clients came from online, within a month of starting my business! I posted my website everywhere and told everyone I knew what I was doing, and interviewed other people on my website so they would share it to help get me traction. It worked (and is still a great tactic to use today!).
If you could change one thing in the world and all you’d have to give up to do it would be your business, what would be worth it?
Oh boy… if all the poverty in the world could be ended forever, I’d give it all up for that FOR SURE.
What is your favorite retreat activity, and why?
The adventures! And also the “words to describe” exercise, where one person is the focus and everyone else calls out words that describe that person, things they see in them, and what they adore about them. It’s beautiful and powerful and always a tear jerker to hear how people really SEE you.
How many hours a week do you tend to work?
Some weeks, when I am launching or working up to a launch – 60hours. Some weeks, for weeks at a time, less than 5hours/week.
How did you build such a big audience?
Compared to a lot of people my audience isn’t THAT huge. But I got here by continuously getting my name out there in different way. Guest posting, being interviewed on blogs and podcasts, chatting with people in various coaching groups and business groups, and just connecting with people. I don’t even feel like I that great a job of networking, and if I was starting again I would do it WAY WAY more and start as early as I could and never stop. It’s ok to stay behind your laptop bubble but you NEED to get your name out there and get people to know who you are and all the amazing things you are doing.
If you had to decide where to spend time getting to know more people online would it be at conferences, asking directly for video coffee chats or something else?
It would be in Facebook groups connecting with people and then hopping on Skype to get to know them better and see how we could support each other.
Would you rather paddle board or climb naked for an afternoon?
A climbing harness + naked ass just does not sound comfortable, but being in the water naked (I’m assuming?) – ohh yes please!
Please move to Canmore Alberta !!! I loved your honesty in this post. It’s inspired me to cut the shit and get going. Not worrying about balancing my part time job, napping ( pregnant now) and my other baby, my business.
It’s top of the list!! Do you live there?? I haven’t really spend much time there so I would love to go for a bit and check it out more! My hesitations are 1) feeling isolated 2) LONG winter 3) ski bum crowd + super touristy takes away a home-y feel– and I have no idea if those are even valid! Are they?
I can definitely see Squamish since it’s so climbing centric. Also nice and close to Vancouver.
YES! The rain and grey would bother me (used to live in vancouver and hated it) but the outdoor activity would make up for it (hopefully!)
I really enjoyed this insight into your business, your life, your plans, and how all those things and people intersect! It’s encouraging and realistic. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Nell – all the best for you in 2017!
This was awesome~! And I have friends in Canmore I can connect you with who climb and just have to plug the awesomeness that is Nelson 😉 Loved your answers – thanks for this.
Thanks for posting this! I loved reading it!
Thanks so much for this honest and insightful look into your year and business. I gained quite a few tips and strategies to add into the mix for 2017! I wanted to ask you – why is it that you aren’t seriously considering the US as a place to live? Since you have an online business, isn’t it ok to live here and work since your business is registered in Canada? I lived in Bali for 6 months earlier this year and didn’t have a KITAS (work permit) in Indonesia. Surprisingly, they are quite strict with the work permits, but since I was working online, I wasn’t breaking any rules as my business was registered in the US and my clients were all online. Just a thought! Colorado is pretty darn amazing… 😉