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Lessons Learned From Building a $1 Million Digital Product Business

Episode 03: Lessons learned from building a $1 million digital product business

I’m so excited you’re tuning in for today’s special episode!

This is an extremely valuable episode because I’m going to take you through the first three and a half years of building my digital product business.

I’m dishing out all of the most important lessons that I learned from creating and selling digital products from 2016 through 2019.

Let me just say, I have tried all the things when it comes to digital products. If you love hearing business recaps then this is an episode you won’t want to miss. It’s filled with lots of juicy details and lessons that I learned the hard way. 

In today's episode we discuss...

  • Defining what funnels, launches and evergreen mean in the digital world
  • Why hiring a business coach early on was a game changer for me
  • The importance of forming your business structure early and protecting your brand
  • Why consistency is the key to long-term growth and success
  • A recap of what did and didn’t work for me and my business over the years

It was super fun to reminisce and remember all of the ways I worked to grow my business over the last few years.

At the end of 2019, I identified four ways that I wanted to grow my business in 2020, so next week, I’ll be revealing if I crushed those goals or if my business flopped. Be sure to tune in to find out exactly what happened!

Talk soon,

Monica

 

Resources Mentioned:

[00:00:04]
You are listening to the Empowered Business podcast, I’m your host, Monica Froese, a mom of two and your secret weapon to creating a six figure digital product business.

[00:00:16]
I’m on a mission to help one thousand women make one hundred thousand dollars a year. That’s right. One hundred million dollars towards financial independence for women. As an online business expert, I am teaching you everything I know right here week after week so you can join us on the journey to one hundred million dollars. Sound good. Then let’s jump in.

[00:00:47]
Welcome back to the Empowered Business podcast. I’m so excited for today’s episode because I’m going to take you on a journey through the first three and a half years of building my digital product business. Every year I do a year in review email to my email list that gets incredible interaction. I start at repurposing these emails into a blog post so people could follow along with my journey. This year I decided to do my 20 20 review on the podcast. But before we talk about 20, 20 and all of the craziness that happened, I think it’s important to cover exactly how I got to this point. So in today’s episode, I’m going to cover the important lessons I learned from creating and selling digital products from twenty sixteen through twenty nineteen, spanning three and a half years.

[00:01:37]
Now, if you love hearing recaps of people’s businesses, this is an episode you won’t want to miss. It’s filled with lots and lots of juicy details. Let me just say, I have tried all the things when it comes to digital products. I’ve done one on one calls, group coaching courses, memberships, spreadsheets, website templates, ebooks, principles, you name it. And I’ve pretty much done it. I’ve done live launches, webinars, evergreen launches, and I’ve created a ton of different sales funnels. When I say I’ve done all the things, I mean, I’ve done hashtag, all the things. Now I know you may be new to the world of digital products, so let me define a few words that you’ll hear me use. This will make sure that we’re just on the same page and that you’re not confused about what the heck I’m talking about. So the first is what exactly even is a digital product? So a digital product is an asset you create once that teaches your knowledge and skills. It’s highly profitable because you can sell it over and over again. Now, examples of a digital product in the most common ones that I see in the online world are ebooks, spreadsheets, principals, website templates and digital courses. A sales funnel is just a fancy way to describe your customers journey. It’s the roadmap for how a new visitor lands on your sales page to becoming a paying, loyal customer. View this as the book as the. Roadmap for how someone is introduced to you and then ends up paying you money.

[00:03:19]
A lunch is when you are hyper focused for a certain period of time and selling your product. This usually means you open the sales cart for a product from like three to seven days with a very intentional marketing campaign and then close the cart when those few days are over.

 

[00:03:35]
Evergreen is something that is available all the time, so, for example, when you keep the cart open, the sales card open on your digital product all year long, instead of closing it and using the launching model for promoting it. So it’s something that’s just available all the time. OK, so I started creating digital products in twenty sixteen.

 

[00:03:56]
I told you about the very first product I created in Episode two, which was the family budget spreadsheet. I had been blogging on Redefining Mom at that time for about three years and not really making any money. I was just too busy at my corporate job to spend time monetizing, but I still had some really cool opportunities, like going on Fox News and being invited to the White House to meet President Obama. So back then, you could get your blog found pretty easily because there’s a lot less competition.

 

[00:04:26]
But that doesn’t mean it was making money.

 

[00:04:28]
So I quit my corporate job after 11 years in early 2016, and I took a work from home job with another company until August of 2016, and this is when things really started to shift for me. I launched the family budget spreadsheet in June of 2016 and spent the entire summer writing my very first book, Busy Moms Building 12 Steps to Starting an Online Business for Busy Moms. In December of 2016, I decided to create my very first online course in group coaching program based on the busy Moms Building E-book. I sold the group coaching program by doing 15 minute one on one calls with people who signed up to my email list by the end of 2016, I had made just over twenty thousand dollars with the smaller digital products and I was antsy to make more so I could replace my corporate income and contribute to our family finances again. So let me tell you the six valuable lessons I learned in 2016. The first was I hate it. One on one calls. In fact, I dreaded them. One of the reasons I left corporate was because I had no control over the number of meetings I had to attend, and I constantly felt like I didn’t have time to get my actual work done. Plus, I’m an introvert, a loud introvert, but I am an introvert and I don’t drive energy from talking to people. So the calls were so draining. The only reason I did them was because my coach at the time was an extrovert and sold her group coaching program by doing one on one calls.

[00:06:02]
Which leads me to my second lesson of twenty sixteen hiring a business coach early on in my journey with seriously a game changer for me. If you hire the right coach, they will not only help you hold yourself accountable to your goals, but it helps to ease the overwhelm you feel from the decisions you need to make. Early on I had a coach in early 2016 but ended up hiring another coach who is rising to fame at that time. And honestly, it was a pretty huge mistake. I didn’t want to run my business the way that she ran hers, and that led me to realize that any time I invest heavily in a coach or a group coaching program or really anything for that matter, that I need to look for the person who is running a business the way that I want to run a business. And that’s the lens that I look through when I’m whenever I invest in anything in terms of education or support in my business. So the third valuable lesson from 2016 was that even though I said I hate it, one on one calls, there was a bright spot. It helped me to get to know my audience super well, which improved my copy. So the words that I wrote in emails and my sales pages, I do believe this helped me grow faster in the long run.

[00:07:16]
So I hated it, but I did it and I honestly don’t regret it. The fourth valuable lesson from Twenty Sixteen was to form your business structure early and protect your brand. So I personally believe that if you’re going to take your business seriously, then you need to have the structure in place sooner than later. I chose to become an LLC, which is a limited liability company instead of a sole proprietor. Well, before I needed to make the change because I didn’t want it looming over my head. Once I started to succeed, I also hired a lawyer to submit my trademark for redefining mom, which is something I have never regretted doing. The fifth valuable lesson I learned in that first year of monetizing with digital products was decision. Fatigue is a real thing. I cannot even express how burned out I was. I’m making decisions by late twenty sixteen. I had no idea how many decisions I’d need to make in my business as compared to what I had to do in my corporate job. And I had a very busy corporate job. So by the end of the day, my husband would ask me what we were having for dinner and I would snap because I could not make any more decisions. This was something we figured out that I needed to fix early on, or I’d end up with money, but no marriage.

[00:08:33]
And I didn’t want that. So I set out in twenty seventeen to protect my energy a lot better. And then the left valuable lesson I learned in 2015 was consistency. I was a very wired to work, a typical eight to five workday for years. I thought what I wanted was to work less when I started the business, but that proved to not be true. If I learned anything in those first few years of growing my brand, it’s that consistency is the key to long term growth and success. You have to show up day in and day out if you expect to grow a successful business. In twenty seventeen, my world shifted dramatically. I was running my first group coaching program paired with a course getting to know my students even better and growing an email list of over ten thousand people. I cross my first ten thousand a month in February of twenty seventeen. What I love. Another online course on Pinterest marketing that would help me become known in the online business community as the Pinterest advertising expert in July of two thousand seventeen, I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, which led to two major shifts in my life. First, I had to really come to terms with the postpartum PTSD that I had suffered during my first pregnancy. If you are a mom who has or is struggling with postpartum PTSD, I’m going to link to my blog series about this topic in the show notes because I am so very passionate about it and I feel it’s not something that’s talked about, which makes many moms feel isolated with their struggles.

[00:10:06]
I was also very tired and sick in my first trimester, so I cut back my working hours to twenty to twenty five a week while my oldest daughter was in kindergarten. Now, right before I entered my third trimester in late 2017, a few of my blogging friends convinced me to run a beta of what would become known as my signature program on Pinterest advertising called PIN Practical Promotions. Little did I know that becoming a subject matter expert on a relatively new topic in the industry was about to change my entire life. I had 20 students in the beta round of
impractical promotions. They paid me ninety seven dollars each, which felt like a ton of money actually on a course I had never created yet. And I created the course over a period of five weeks, which brought me to the end of 2017 and my daughter was due in March of twenty eighteen. So in twenty seventeen, since I worked a lot less, I spent my energy creating sales funnels for my smaller digital products, which would bring in consistent revenue with little intervention from me. I was constantly looking to drive cold leads so people who didn’t know anything about my brand at all into my funnel.

[00:11:19]
And that’s how I discovered Pinterest advertising at the time. Pinterest ads were really basic and other bloggers were not interested in paying money when free traffic wasn’t all that hard to come by from Pinterest at the time. But I knew that Pinterest ads were going to continue to mature and the faucet for free traffic would eventually dry up, as it does on every platform. My corporate marketing skills were just screaming at me to be constantly looking for the best ROIC, which is return on investment for my time. So I ended twenty seventeen, making just shy of one hundred thousand dollars with very few expenses. I brought home almost as much as I made in my corporate job in twenty seventeen, which felt incredible. Now let’s talk about the four valuable lessons that I learned in 2017. First, doubling down on one platform for my marketing efforts was super valuable. When you’re first getting started and trying to grow a brand all by yourself, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. So I doubled down on growing my brand on Pinterest before I moved on to any other platform. The second valuable lesson is that becoming known as a subject matter expert was a game changer. I didn’t set out to become the Pinterest advertising girl, but my natural curiosity to not do what everyone else is doing proved to really work in my favor. I would argue that it is easier to grow a brand when you become known.

[00:12:46]
For one thing, it helps to grow an audience faster and then eventually you can pivot if you want to. That’s exactly what I did in twenty twenty, which we’re going to talk all about in my next episode. So the third valuable lesson I learned in twenty seventeen was that networking and connections are everything in business. Online business is no exception. There’s nothing wrong with buying yourself into the room with the right people. And in twenty seventeen I joined up here mastermind and went to several blogging flash online business, online marketing type conferences. I met amazing people who I’m still friends with to this day and that I have partnered with along the way to grow our brands together. And the last lesson I learned in twenty seventeen was hire some help. I hired my first support virtual assistant in two thousand and seventeen and I thought it was crazy at the time, but little did I know that I was setting myself up for success with understanding the importance of spending money to make money and the fact that expenses are simply a part of doing business. Two thousand and eighteen was an incredibly pivotal year in my life. Not only did the business grow dramatically in revenue, but my second daughter was born in twenty eighteen. I started publishing urine reviews, so I will link to that in the show notes.

[00:14:04]
I also stopped sharing exact numbers. I decided to start sharing percentages instead. I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years, but it really came down to protecting myself and my family. And also I think it can be discouraging to hear big numbers without context, especially if you were a new business owner in percentages, really still give you the overall picture of how the business is being run. And without you getting hung up on what the actual number is. So since I was much more detailed in my year and reviews in twenty eighteen and twenty nineteen, I’ll recap what I said here for you. And it’s actually a pretty fascinating recap because I actually wrote this back at the end of twenty eighteen, whereas the recap I just gave you for 2016 and 2017 was based on notes that I had taken at the time. But my conclusions for the early years, my business come more from the hindsight is 20 20 mentality rather than how I felt at the time. So as I’m recapping twenty eighteen and twenty nineteen, you’re going to get a sense of how I actually felt at that time without knowing what was going to happen moving forward. So let’s talk about how I made money in twenty eighteen. So the revenue I made multiple six figures in twenty eighteen but it was still under five hundred thousand dollars a year. So the revenue breakdown works like this.

[00:15:24]
Twenty nine percent of my income came from affiliate marketing. That’s when you recommend other people’s products and receive a commission. 70 percent of my income in twenty eighteen came from my own digital products and less than one percent came from display ads on my site, which you’ll come to know as you get to know me even better that I cannot stand display ads. So I took them off my site and they haven’t been on there for about two years. I also had a very small amount of money that came in through contract work. I used to manage other people’s Pinterest accounts, but as my digital products started to grow, I gave that work up in twenty eighteen. OK, business expenses. So I’m going to recap the major expense categories that I had in twenty eighteen. And these are percentages of the overall revenue of what I spent. OK, so job, education, these are things like business coaching courses. I spent fourteen point eight percent of my revenue on job education. I spent seven point two percent on advertising like Facebook and Pinterest, that I spent six point six percent on affiliate payout’s. And that means the people who recommended my courses, I paid them a commission for that. Then we have software, software, super important. Any time someone tries to tell me that they don’t want to invest in a piece of software that’s going to make their life easier, it blows my mind because you can’t run a business without expenses.

[00:16:43]
So these are things like lead pages, which is my landing page builder convert kit, which is my email service provider. I spent five point three percent of my overall revenue on software, which is actually I just did my twenty twenty numbers is still very in line. That’s a very consistent number. Travel. Oh, one of the things I forgot to mention is I got to go to Pinterest in twenty eighteen so I did a lot of travel in twenty eighteen. I actually think I do talk about this in a little bit further down when we talk about wins and things that didn’t work in twenty eighteen. But I actually completely forgot until I’m reading my own note, fear that I travel to Pinterest 11 weeks postpartum. It was a huge shock and it was a huge honor because I had been working really hard on my Pinterest courses that I was selling. So that was in May of twenty eighteen. Anyways, back to the point. I spent five point two percent of my total revenue on travel. I did do a lot of travel in 2013 and then finally I spent four point six percent of my total revenue on contractors, which included a virtual assistant and a graphic designer. Also, this means I did not have a lot of help in my business and I was making a pretty substantial income at this point and I had just had a baby.

[00:17:58]
So two thousand eighteen was a very interesting year and I have a lot to say about it because I did an actual recap of that year so I actually can look back and really know what I was thinking as I was going through it. So let’s talk about this. What worked in twenty eighteen? Looks like I have three main things that worked. First, creating a signature course. So as I mentioned earlier, a few blogging friends of mine pushed me to create a course on Pinterest advertising. I have a knack for analyzing data and it was evident that there was a lack of resources and how to properly leverage Pinterest ads in the market at the time. So I use Pinterest ads to drive Target traffic to my sales funnels. And in January of 2013, I officially launched impractical promotions to the public. Throughout twenty eighteen. I use this course to explore multiple different marketing avenues such as live launching life challenges, joint ventures and webinars. And by far the two most successful methods that I saw that year were live challenges, which I still do to this day, and you’ll hear much more about in future episodes and joint ventures. And that’s just when you partner with another brand and usually you do a webinar for their audience and at the end you pitch your program, they get a commission since they let you get in front of their audience.

[00:19:14]
That’s actually really how I got known for Pinterest, because a few very influential people in the Pinterest marketing space got to know me and invited me to talk about Pinterest advertising to their audience. So creating a signature. Allowed me to leverage my professional skills from corporate and marry them with something I was truly passionate about, which to me is a win win. So the second thing that worked in twenty eighteen was affiliate launches. I created an entire course documenting my experience with affiliate launches on Pinterest called Practical Influence. Now that has since been retired, along with all my other Pinterest courses in twenty twenty. I’m going to talk a lot more about that, though, in the next episode. So I’m not talking about Amazon affiliate links here. I’m talking about open closed car launches that pay out 30 to 50 percent. So when I recommend someone else’s program and the kick back is 30 to 50 percent commission. Now, in order for this to work, the product has to be closely related to what your audience needs. And my top affiliate launched Just Put Me On the leaderboard is one of the best performing affiliates. So let me tell you this. Being an affiliate for someone in a program that you really, really believe in, in your same industry is a really great way to make connections. So if you think about this, if someone is recommending my course to their audience and they sell a decent amount of my courses, I’m going to recognize that.

[00:20:35]
I see that. And that forges a connection between us. So it’s a really great way to build brand awareness, especially in the beginning. OK, so the third thing that worked in twenty eighteen with advertising, it’s no secret that I have a love affair with Pinterest. That’s what surprised me in twenty eighteen was my love affair with Facebook ads. I’m passionate about bringing targeted traffic from ads onto my email list and nurturing them and paying customers. I use Pinterest ads as a low cost effective way to grow. My emails and Facebook ads had proven to be really successful for things like flash sales, feeding my life challenges and Facebook ads have just really quality leads. I even ran my very first successful Facebook ad campaign for my family budget spreadsheet in twenty eighteen, which a reminder I had created that two years earlier. So advertising would become one, if not the most critical aspect of my business from twenty eighteen on what didn’t work in twenty eighteen. Well, first of all, I was under investing in support. When you go back to those percentages I shared earlier, I invested almost 15 percent in job education and under five percent and actually getting help inside my business. I was making way too much money to not have help in my business. So that was something I really set out to change in 2019.

[00:21:54]
Another thing that didn’t work, traveling way too much. So from late August, twenty eighteen to early November, twenty eighteen. I had been gone for six weeks. I mean, I had been home at points during those six weeks, but I had a I think I had a trip almost every single week, whether it was the whole week or not. I mean I was home but gone a lot. It was literally nutty to do that right after having a baby. Plus, I am a very routine oriented person and it takes me several days to get back into the swing of things when I get home. I had a major case of FAMO and I feared that I would slip into postpartum again. So I used travel as a way to avoid my feelings. It really didn’t work. And I told myself then that I never intended on traveling so much in a short period of time ever again unless my family is with me. I can’t say that I totally stuck to that in twenty nineteen, but I can tell you twenty twenty certainly made me honor this two years later. So another thing that I really decided I did not like in twenty eighteen was free Facebook groups. So I’m going to give you a little rant that I went on in twenty eighteen and I would have
to say I probably still agree with this. So this is what I said. Free Facebook groups, not just mine but other people’s groups as well.

[00:23:02]
I said, listen, I’m going to give some tough love here, which is something I’ve known for Facebook groups. Drain your energy and our time, sucker. The number one issue I have with most groups is the whining from people who are too busy complaining and not actually doing the work it fucks me in and it just completely derails me either I find myself defending something which is pointless or I catch myself falling into comparison traps. And I said, and in twenty nineteen I was going to be shutting down my free group and leaving many other groups. Some groups are amazing and I intend on giving a list of groups I recommend joining when I close my down. That’s what I said. I don’t think I did though, because I still don’t like free Facebook groups. What I said is completely true. It’s usually people who are too busy complaining then doing the work. And also when you’re taking advice from people on free Facebook groups, you don’t know if it’s good advice. So I’m I think free Facebook groups serve a purpose, mainly in terms of pop up groups that happen for a specific amount of time that’s driven towards one purpose. Otherwise, still not really a big fan. I believe in enjoying paid Facebook groups where I can trust the mentorship that’s going on inside of them. OK, another thing that didn’t work in twenty eighteen ads on my site.

[00:24:14]
This is so funny because I still two years later rant about the fact that I can’t stand display ads. I probably can’t stand them more than in twenty eighteen. But this is what I said back then. I said I call myself the anti blogger. Blogger. Twister is true, though I don’t follow most conventional blogging, and I still don’t. I hate writing blog posts. I actually loathe it. I prefer nurturing my email list, creating useful digital products and building sales funnels. See, I knew myself in twenty eighteen. It’s exactly how I still feel. I view my blog as a vehicle for people to find me. I did what I needed to do as a blogger to make my blog work for me. This makes display ads pretty pointless for me and I don’t like how they clutter my site. And then I said this month I turn them off. That must have been I wrote this in early twenty eighteen. So I turn them off, never turn them back on. Don’t miss them at all. OK, the fifth thing that didn’t really work for me in twenty eighteen was slow email growth. So I say that this is exactly why it’s so important to do a yearly review. I was shocked by how little my list actually grew in twenty eighteen. When all is said and done with unsubscribes and deleting inactive subscribers. I had only gained fifteen thousand new subscribers in twenty eighteen, which is actually a lot, especially if they are very focused leads, which I think they turned out to be so.

[00:25:28]
But I was writing this at the time. I didn’t. To me it felt like not a lot for my goals, but so part of me is OK with this because I was focused on building foundational blocks like my course and funnels. However, now it’s time to really ramp up the number of people going through the funnels that are successful. And I said that would be a huge focus for me in twenty eighteen, which it was. But I do have different opinions on email list now in terms of I’m not a fan of vanity numbers like new subscribers. Who cares as long as they’re converting if more my attitude. We’ll talk about more of that later. So what was necessary in twenty eighteen. So first I became an escort. This allowed me to start paying myself on payroll and really set me up for success with hiring my first full time employee in twenty eighteen, I invested in high level business coaching. So it’s a constant struggle for me because of the high expense. And I said that in twenty eighteen and I feel it still to this day even making more money. However, there is no doubt that every experience I’ve had with mastermind groups or business coaching has had a meaningful impact on my business still holds true to this day.

[00:26:31]
And sometimes the program itself turns out not to be that great. But the connections I’ve gained have been invaluable also still very, very true. All right. Maternity leave, that was a necessary thing of twenty eighteen. Did you know that Redefining Mom started because I was furious about the lack of maternity leave policies in the United States. It took me three plus years to process the fact that my postpartum was way worse because of the lack of support offered to new working moms. And it’s a huge reason why my kids are five and a half years apart. I was unwilling to have another baby and be forced back into ten plus hour days within 12 weeks of having a baby. I built my business specifically so that I could have another baby and dictate my own maternity leave. And that’s exactly what I did. I fully funded eight plus weeks of maternity leave from my own business profits in twenty eighteen. And as a very fun side note, I went on to pay one hundred percent of my full time employee Haleys maternity leave and twenty twenty making that story a full circle. I’m very proud of that fact. So one thing I didn’t write about in twenty eighteen was that I had my first copy cat. I went on to have a lot more copycats in twenty nineteen and twenty twenty. But let me tell you, the first one always gets you the worst.

[00:27:44]
I’ve learned that there is no way to avoid bad apples in online business and there will always be someone that decides they deserve to take your hard work for free. Don’t let that deter you. OK, now it’s time to move on to our final year for this episode that I’m going to recap, which is twenty nineteen. I learned so much about myself and how to run a real business in twenty nineteen. I stretched myself in ways I didn’t even know were possible. It all started when I went on a seven day Disney cruise in late December. Twenty eighteen. I had just stopped breastfeeding and my hormones were all out of whack. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about right now. I was sitting in the Orlando airport waiting for our flight home and I felt like I was on the most violent seas I had
ever experienced it. First, I dismissed the feeling as typical. I just needed to find my land legs again. Plus it was my first seven day cruise. So I figured it impacted me way more than a three or four day cruise would. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. This was just the beginning of what would turn out to be a very trying year for my physical health. I was diagnosed with something called Male Day Disembarkment Syndrome. Honestly, I butcher that name, but you can Google it. We’ll put it in the notes.

[00:28:59]
This essentially meant that I was walking around feeling like I was on a rocking boat every single day. It put an immense amount of strain on my mental abilities when it came to running a business and really even participating in normal activities. In some ways I am grateful for the diagnosis because it led me to realize if I wanted to keep growing a business that wasn’t one hundred percent reliant on me, that I needed to start hiring. Hiring would prove to be the best decision I made in twenty nineteen and it led to a two X growth in revenue. Which honestly blows me away, considering we had already grown by almost four times in twenty eighteen while I was having a baby, so here’s how 2019 revenue broke down. 10 percent of my revenue was affiliate marketing. So money I made from recommending other people’s services and products, that was 10 percent of my overall revenue, down from twenty nine percent in twenty eighteen and ninety percent of my revenue in 2013 came from digital products, whereas in twenty eighteen, 70 percent came from there. Let’s talk about my expenses in twenty eighteen. So the biggest difference was payroll. So overall payroll was me, including one full time employee who I still have today. Her name Paly. That was twenty point five percent. Now that’s different than what I reported it in the twenty twenty eighteen review because I wasn’t paying myself on payroll in 2013 my advertising expenses.

[00:30:17]
So Facebook and Pinterest ads went up from seven point two percent to eleven point five seven percent. And I also started spending more on other contractors. I had copywriters, web designers. I even hired an operations manager who I love. But it was really preemptive. It was sooner than I needed her. So my expenses for contractors went up from four point six in twenty eighteen to six point seven percent affiliate payout’s. So money I paid for people recommending my courses remained basically the same six point four compared to six point six travel. OK, so even though my expenses percentage wise remain the same right around five and a half percent, I did a lot of travel in twenty nineteen again, but I started flying first class. At this point I consider that to be a big perk of working so hard at my business and some people would never waste money on that. But I don’t view it as a waste. I view it as really if I’m going to put all this effort into this business. And that’s something that really makes me feel like it’s worth it. So I do it. Job, education. So mastermind’s and courses. I had made a commitment in twenty eighteen to spend more in my team and less on actually investing in programs, because at this point I really knew what I needed to do. I just needed to execute. So I spent fourteen point eight percent of my revenue in twenty eighteen on job education and it went down to just under five percent.

[00:31:32]
In twenty eighteen software went down slightly from five point three to four percent in eighteen. Again that lead pages convert kit all the things you need to actually run a business. Now I can’t compare twenty eighteen profit numbers to twenty nineteen because it’s not apples to apples in twenty eighteen. I was sharing numbers based on this equation that most people who start a business is going to view their finances. This is what it was like, revenue minus expenses. So not including payroll or any profit distributions that I took minus taxes equals Monica’s money. So I took my revenue, I paid my expenses, then I paid the government. And what was left was my money was my profit. Now in twenty nineteen, because I became an S corp, things had to change. Now I had a function like what a real business functions like, which is revenue minus expenses, which also includes my payroll. So what I was paying myself then minus taxes equals business profit. So I pay a portion of taxes out of payroll and then another portion based on the business’s profit. This is my big financial lesson that I learned in twenty nineteen even after I pay taxes on that end profit. No, I then have to decide what to do with the profit that is left.

[00:32:46]
Do I take it as a profit distribution into our family finances, which is what I had been doing all along. I was just taking profit distributions, not paying myself on payroll, which is very common as a sole proprietor. But in twenty nineteen I needed to start accounting for cash flow in the business because guess how my payroll and my employees payroll gets paid via real cash in the bank account. So you can’t pay an employee with a business credit card like you can a contractor. You can’t decide to stop payroll for a month like you can when it’s just you, when it’s just you as a sole proprietor, you don’t have to pay yourself. But we have employees. Guess what? They expect to get paid. So what became really important to me in twenty nineteen was to start padding my business savings account because I really wanted the business to succeed and not go in debt, which is something I never want to do. And to this day I still have not. I’ve never gone into debt in the business. I never plan on it. Now, the second biggest financial lesson I learned in twenty nineteen was that my own paycheck from the business is to compensate me for my hard work showing up every day and the profit I make for my business is my reward or the risk I took building something from scratch. So I basically get paid in two different ways.

[00:33:55]
I have a payroll as if a company was paying me. That company happens to be my own and I take profit distributions after everything is said and done because I started this from scratch and that’s basically my reward for running this business. Let’s talk about what worked in twenty nineteen. First, hiring a full time employee and understanding
business cash flow. Hiring a full time employee on payroll is a huge deal. Not only is it a huge financial commitment, but it also requires business owners to have a solid. Standing of their business finances, as I was just mentioning, payroll comes directly from cash in the bank account, not a business credit card like you pay contractors. So we had a significant amount of cash on hand inside of the business going into twenty twenty. And I am completely sold that hiring people to be dedicated to my business was the best decision I made in twenty eighteen and found the number one reason we were able to to ax our twenty eighteen revenue and shout out to Hayley for being an amazing employee and friend and still is to this day. The second thing that worked in twenty nineteen launches, launches and more launches, the twenty nineteen was the year of launching impractical practical promotions and a variety of different ways. I tried everything imaginable. Open and close current launches like webinars, life challenges, evergreen funnels and joint ventures. I learned so much about the buying journey of my ideal customer and more importantly, I learned how to read and analyze data to make better decisions.

[00:35:23]
It also led me to understand a big gap in my core suite, and I was able to go on to make over forty thousand dollars pre selling a course before it was even created. And that is the third thing that worked very well for me in twenty eighteen. This is so incredible to me and it really speaks volumes about how I show up every day and support my students because I launched this course that actually now retired and we’ll talk about more in that twenty twenty review. But I launched a course on how to create profitable sales funnels with Pinterest and I presold it during our Black Friday, our annual Black Friday sale. And we had our biggest revenue month to date at that point. And it was just so amazing because people were trusting me, paying me money before I even had the content create it. And that just is a big testament to when you dedicate your energy and supporting the people who pay you money that you’ll have repeat buyers. So the fourth thing that worked in twenty nineteen was I made a commitment to always serve our students first. I spent two full years dedicate it to making my first major course in practical promotions the best it could possibly be. I refused to create any other products during that time, any major products, I should say, so I could focus on my current students.

[00:36:34]
And that really paid off with loyalty. The fifth thing that worked was I added thirty four thousand dollars in revenue using something called Order Bump’s. So building a business is really just a big snowball effect. Everything you do builds upon the stuff before. So I think one of the hardest lessons for a new business owner is accepting that you cannot do everything at once and everything to everyone. So once I figured out how to make money from sales funnels and how to use targeted paid traffic to get eyes on those funnels, I took the next step of adding an order bump to my checkout shopping carts. I cannot believe how easy it was to set up and what a dramatic difference it made in order. Bumpe is an enhancement to a product. So for an example, I sell the family budget spreadsheet for seventeen dollars. On the checkout page, I offer you my holiday planning spreadsheet for seven dollars. That’s an order bump. You can take it or not if you take it. The average price of the cart increases, meaning more money, more profit. So the sixth thing that worked in twenty nineteen was I spoke at a conference called Vinken. It’s a financial bloggers conference and I hosted a community happy hour. This was one of the best highlights of twenty nineteen. I had a panel with four of my good business friends and we talked all about Pinterest and our panel decided to host a community happy hour during the conference, which had an amazing turnout and really help me see how far I had come in my business, because a lot of people who had been following me for a lot of years came up to me and they recognized me at which it was actually really incredible and made me feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I’m doing every day because I was told stories of how I impacted people and changed their lives.

[00:38:13]
And it was just incredibly humbling. And honestly, I would hope that anyone who starts an online business have an opportunity to meet people who follow them because it’s just a life changing experience. OK, number seven, the seventh thing that worked in twenty nineteen was I paid off credit cards and flew and those lay flat first class seats to Paris with my husband. Whoa. This was an experience in a good way and kind of in a bad way. I’ll talk about why it wasn’t good later on. But what was good about it was I started this business with the intent of providing a better life for my family, and it has far exceeded my expectations and brought some really awesome opportunities. In twenty nineteen, we were able to pay off all of our credit cards thanks to using our family budget spreadsheet system and the business profits.

[00:39:00]
Plus, my husband and I treated ourself to the first class seats to Paris and it was an incredible experience, also a terrible experience. But hold on, I’ll get to that in a minute. So let’s talk about what didn’t work in twenty nineteen drum roll, because here it’s coming, working and traveling too much to the point of burnout. So I was experiencing some pretty severe health issues, like I mentioned earlier. And when we went to Paris, I ended up spending most. A trip with one hundred and three degree fever in September barely worked because we all came down with the stomach bug. It was brutal. It was actually on the heels of me launching a really big group coaching program. So it was very stressful as well. And of course, I did what I am known to do, which I traveled way too much. I honestly really have a tough time saying no to cool opportunities, and I’m still working on drawing boundaries around my work and family time. And that’s the same thing I said in twenty eighteen. And then coronavirus happened and pretty much forced us to not go anywhere. So the second thing that didn’t work in twenty nineteen were legal battles, copycats and haters. Oh boy. So I am not sure if this fits under what didn’t work, but it definitely fits under the Suk’s. An unexpected side effect of doing well in the online space is the crappy people who lack ethics in
common sense.

[00:40:24]
And I still maintain this in two thousand twenty two thousand twenty one as well. I am fine with Hater’s for the most part because I understand not everyone will like me. And it’s true because I have a very strong personality. However, I can’t do the topic of copycats justice in this podcast episode because really it would take me about an hour to tell you all the things that are wrong with copying other people’s work. But I’m going to leave you with this. It is not OK to copy someone else’s hard work under any circumstances. Some people learn that the hard way when they found out. I am not afraid to use a lawyer to enforce my rights. Just don’t do it. I poured years and years of my life into my content and anyone else who swipes it does not deserve empathy. They deserve to pay the consequences for their utter disregard of intellectual property. Copying is wrong. Don’t do it, OK. The third thing that I would say didn’t work in twenty nineteen was launch PTSD. And honestly, this is a real thing. Launching is so much work, way more work than I feel anyone ever talks about. I often see these flashing numbers, but rarely a real glimpse into how much work it actually takes to pull off a profitable launch. I am happy to say I had four successful launches in twenty nineteen.

[00:41:43]
I am sad to say I pulled two of them off by myself, which left me with little anxiety about how to keep the business afloat because I was so burned out. I also rarely took the time to stop and celebrate or do something nice for myself at the end of each lunch. And this is something I must change. I will never launch again myself. And I have to say, so far I have not done it by myself again and hopefully never will. So let’s talk about what was necessary for twenty nineteen. The first was trademarks, copyrights and legal disclosures. Oh my. That was my literal title for this. So this is the reality of running a real business. If you want people to take you seriously, then you need to be the first up to bat. I invested in trademarks, formal copyrights, legal contracts, terms of use, policies I could go on and on. I am someone who will protect my hard work and I am a proponent of everyone else doing the same. No to business liability insurance. I feel like this fits in with the theme of what feels like the down side of business. However, it’s just smart to have a business liability policy. It’s not any different than having life insurance or health insurance. Number three, the third thing that’s necessary that I did in twenty nineteen, I upheld my accounting and bookkeeping. More money means I needed to have a tighter grip on my finances.

[00:43:03]
So I hired an amazing bookkeeper who is helping me be more proactive with financials. And my local CPA is awesome as well. And he handles all my taxes and also my CPA office handles our payroll. The fourth thing that was necessary in twenty eighteen was self development. So I didn’t realize how much mindset work I had to do until the moment someone swiped my entire course. Of course that is eight hundred pages in Google Docs, of course that I poured my entire three years into. It was the defining moment that was either going to make or break me. And it sounds so simple that simply I should fight anyone who stole from me. But the reality is it messes with your head and your confidence. So I learned it was up to me to protect my own mindset. I devoured many, many, many mindset, books and podcasts in twenty nineteen. I do have five recommendations. If you happen to be interested, we’ll link to these in the show notes as well. So we have traction by Geno Wickepin, basically the Bible on how to run a successful business efficiently. Company of One by Paul Jarvis. This taught me that there is power in staying small and lean as a company built to sell by John Warrilow. This explains how to run a business that is not dependent on you to succeed and actually teaches you how to run a business that you can sell.

[00:44:21]
Then I read Profit First by Mike Miklowitz. It’s a financial system for managing your business finances. I have to say, a lot of my friends follow this, I don’t, but I think it taught me a lot about understanding how business finances work. So definitely a good read. And probably my favorite read of Twenty Nineteen was building a story brand by Donald Miller, which is a brilliant system for connecting with your community by positioning your brand the right way. Storytelling. I really hope you enjoyed this recap of the first three and a half years I worked to make over a million dollars by selling digital products. It was super fun to reminisce and remember all of the ways I worked to grow my business over the years. I can’t wait to dove into all the lessons I learned in 2020. It was a huge year for so many reasons. The online business world saw a huge influx of people wanting to start their own businesses. When Coronavirus started. This created a huge shift and what I wanted to do in my own business. At the end of twenty nineteen, I identified four ways that I wanted to grow my business in twenty twenty. And here’s the question. Did any of them happen and did I accomplish my goals or did my business completely flop in twenty twenty. So tune in for our next episode to hear exactly what did and didn’t happen in twenty twenty. Also please remember to subscribe to the Empowered Business podcast.

[00:45:40]
That way you won’t miss out on any future episodes. So I can’t wait to dove into twenty twenty and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye. Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of the Empowered Business podcast. If you’re ready to get started creating digital products and take your business to the next level, download my free digital product toolbox. Head to Monica Froese.com or slash toolbox to grab it. As always, you can find all of the links and information mentioned in this episode at Monica Froese.com/podcast for you right here again next week.

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