Going from making $0 to $13k/month and back

“I’m sorry, but I have to let you go.”

It was a weird Thursday morning. I was 22 years old and right in the middle of putting my life together when I got fired.

“You can come to work tomorrow though if you want.”

All I wanted was just to get out of there.

Getting fired presented a massive setback for me. Everything happened so fast. Everything happened just as my boyfriend and I were trying to prove to our parents that we can manage this weird thing called life.

There’s no good timing for getting fired.

But looking back now, the timing couldn’t be better. I just didn’t know it yet.

Getting fired was a sign

When I really wanted something, I did absolutely everything to get it. I always excelled at that, no matter what I was after.

Like when I wanted to become the youngest editor-in-chief for our college newspaper. Or when I wanted to land a job at a national newspaper before I finished college. I set my eyes on the prize and never looked away until I got that prize. And it worked.

Me as editor-in-chief of our student newspaper. Super proud.

Me as editor-in-chief of our student newspaper. Super proud.

After working at the advertising agency for a year and a half, I set my eyes on a new goal. I’m a restless soul, I never liked settling down. So when I started to feel the dread of me settling down creep into my veins, I acted and started looking for a way out of the agency life.

I wanted to become a business owner myself. I knew how to make good decisions, and I was a great observer of the trends that were happening in the world. I validated that several times through the client work I did for the agency.

I wanted to incorporate that knowledge into our existing efforts of scaling the agency’s business, but they didn’t listen. I pushed them towards expanding their services by including social media management into their offers, but they argued that social media was just a fad.

Despite my inner need for escaping the agency work, I didn’t want to get fired. Yet, I did.

I wanted to slowly step through the entrepreneurial door and carefully estimate what to do next, but they pushed me right through it.

I took it as a sign.

My walk home that day felt longer than usual. When I got home, I poured myself a glass of red wine, wrote a lengthy blog post about how I lost my job and how good that feels in a way, and I went to sleep.

Next day I was open for business.

Where to begin?

Where does one begin building a business?

Some people would start by brainstorming the name of the business, designing a logotype, setting up a webpage.

Not me.

I had bills to pay. I had responsibilities to attend to. Spending time designing a logo and coming up with the name of my business was considered procrastinating in my world.

I needed to get clients. And no matter what anyone tells you, you don’t need a website to close a client. You don’t need a custom-designed logo. You don’t even need a fancy but slightly funny business name.

What you need are your skills and a way to sell them.

My first workspace. Tiny desk in our tiny apartment.

My first workspace. Tiny desk in our tiny apartment.

I was starting from absolute scratch, and I knew nothing about selling my services. Where do I reach out to prospects? How do I make them answer me? How do I set myself apart from every other person who’s also developing and implementing social media strategies?

I didn’t have time to educate myself about sales, so I did what any person with a bit of common sense would do — I experimented.

Since I was selling social media services, my ideal client was someone who was present on social media because he was aware of the positive impact a good strategy can have on one’s business growth, but he didn’t exactly know what he was doing and/or wasn’t reaching the desired results.

The absolute best way of defining who exactly to reach out to is going directly to the source of those painful problems — social media. Instead of blindly contacting all the businesses I can think of, I contacted those who I saw had issues.

Facebook was where I got started. I browsed my news feed and marked every single local business that was advertising or being present on Facebook but wasn’t getting a good engagement-rate based on the number of likes they had on their Facebook Page at that time.

I put all of them in a spreadsheet — which contained information from 100 business by then—,visited their webpages, wrote out their contact information and went to work.

My strategy was simple — reach out via email, follow up via phone. If they read the email, we can talk about the details of our possible engagement over the phone. If they haven’t read it, I still have a chance of selling to them during our call.

What I struggled with however was how to reach out via email effectively. How to make sure the email is not too long but contains all the vital information they need to make an informed decision? How to make them like my personality?

Since I didn’t know what will make them tick, I didn’t want to send out a hundred identical emails. What if I screw up all hundred of them?

So I A/B tested with the first 30-40 emails I sent out.

I included my profile picture in some emails to make it more personal, while I sent out the other ones without a profile picture to prevent my young age from turning them away.

Some emails that went out had a short personalized intro and a presentation of my packages, where other emails were long and full of personalized advice on what they should do next to achieve better results.

After A/B testing I concluded that the next emails should be sent out with my profile picture and personalized advice included, and when I had the perfect email crafted, I sent it out to the other businesses that remained on my contact list.

When they didn’t reply, I followed up with a call. It was inconvenient, it was nerve-wracking, it was horrible when I started. Sometimes they hung up. Sometimes they laughed. Sometimes they asked for more advice and then never contacted me back.

But that experience not only made me a lot stronger, but it also brought something bigger:

After a few weeks, I had my first 3 clients.

My first clients

With these new three clients on board, I had two areas I needed to pay attention to — taking care of those clients with excellent work that generates tangible results and scaling my business further.

The first one came quite natural since I was already used to agency work. That said, I needed to adjust my processes because I was now taking care of everything myself.

There was no account manager that would keep in touch with clients and make sure they’re happy. There was no designer that would design the visuals per my instructions. I had to adapt. And through trial and error I did, very fast.

When it came to scaling my business though, that was a tougher nut to crack, and I needed to overcome several obstacles.

Working from coffee shops.

Working from coffee shops.

First, I was a 22-year-old who just got fired. No matter the level of expertise, people have a hard time trusting someone like that.

Second, I never wanted to keep my business local. Starting with local clients was okay, but I never wanted to narrow my potential by working with local businesses only. Scaling internationally though is an entirely different challenge that requires a completely different approach.

Third, if I wanted to scale my business internationally, I needed to transform all of my online presence and start communicating in English. English isn’t my native language, so moving in that direction meant that I’m going to spend a lot more time writing a simple blog post than I usually would.

A combination of those three obstacles seemed like it might discourage me from pursuing this.

But I was determined to make it work, no matter what.

Learning how to work on my business

Now that I had the money coming in, I dedicated 30% of my time towards working onmy business and online presence.

Since I have validated my business service of offering social media help, this was the best time to start thinking about a name for my business.

I wanted something that reflects my personality but also communicates what I do in general. After much brainstorming for possible word combinations that sound memorable, it all came down to searching for an available domain.

Super Spicy Media was available. And I bought it without thinking twice.

I signed up for WordPress and bought a theme for $50. My first business investment! I learned the basics of HTML, personalized my page a little bit to reflect my brand, and launched it.

I had to write everything in English. Was it perfect? Hell no. But it was good enough.

Immediately after launching a webpage, I started writing valuable blog posts that would attract my target audience. All of the topics I wrote about were derived from my conversations with clients.

They told me what they struggled with most before we started working together. They were asking me questions about the inner-workings of social media platforms. They wanted to know more about how to determine what’s successful and what’s not.

If they were asking those questions, other business owners must be struggling with that too. I collected those topics and started writing blog posts.

The power of building your authority

While developing content for my webpage, I also started strengthening my presence online, starting with Twitter.

I changed all of my communication and started publishing my tweets in English. I followed a lot of online authorities I admired and wanted to potentially connect with. Amy Hoy, Brennan Dunn, Paul Jarvis were just a few of them.

I engaged with them, learned from them, started building relationships with them, and also worked on sharing some value of my own.

Another strategy that I used for growing my authority was to use Twitter search to find people that were looking for specific advice or help with social media. When I found them, I genuinely helped them out with exchanging a couple of tweets, selflessly helping them without pitching my services.

Strengthening my authority was my first goal. Getting new clients was secondary.

After months of doing this on a daily basis, I landed myself my first international client.

And a while later, Brennan, the same guy I admired and looked up to, asked me to jump on a call with him and help him with some social media issues.

The game was on.

Overcoming my fear of talking in English

Building my relationships with online authorities like Brennan was scary. I had massive respect for all of them, and just tapping into that world, full of awesome and extremely successful people, was nerve-wracking.

No matter how nervous I was before every engagement with those people I admired, I had to get over that fear.

So I practiced.

Before every call, I went to my bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, and practiced my English. I practiced dialogs, trying to quickly answer the questions they might ask me.

It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. Because after a few calls and exchanged emails with Brennan, I got invited to speak at his conference in Virginia.

And it finally felt like all that hard work is starting to pay off.

Preparing for my first conference talks

When Brennan invited me to speak at Double Your Freelancing Conference, I said yes without thinking twice about it. I needed to do this, no matter how many sleepless nights I’m going to consequently have because of my anxiety. This is going to be that boost I need to scale my business internationally, and I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity.

But Double Your Freelancing wasn’t the first international conference I was invited to speak at. A few weeks before my call with Brennan I was asked to speak at BabelCamp in the Czech Republic, which was scheduled to happen a week before Double Your Freelancing Conference.

Now I had two conferences to speak at. And back then I didn’t have the slightest clue that they’re going to lead me to 9 more speaking gigs.

My talk preparation started really early. I wanted to have one of the best and most engaging talks, I wanted to attract people’s attention with my energy and value I provided, and I worked hard for that.

If there’s one thing that I mostly focused on is the actionability of my talk. If I want to be successful, the attendees need to walk away from my talk with an exact plan of action.

And through all that hard work, I achieved that perfectly.

Speaking at Double Your Freelancing Conference.

Speaking at Double Your Freelancing Conference.

My talks were engaging, energetic, and actionable. I worried that my slightly accented English is going to prevent people from easily following my talk, but that was not the case at all.

After every talk I was approached by business owners, looking to utilize social media as a way to scale their business even further. I connected with new people, made new friends, stayed in touch with them online, and finally started to grow my business internationally.

Dropping off local clients

70% client work, 30% Super Spicy Media growth. That was the general time-investment for the next couple of years.

I needed to keep my clients happy through maintaining a great performance if I wanted to sustain my current revenue. That approach also allowed me to gradually raise my prices with time.

However, if I wanted to scale Super Spicy Media, I needed to invest my time and effort and work on my business as well.

Maintaining my strong social media presence, growing my authority on Twitter, publishing weekly blog posts, sending newsletters, all of that I was already doing.

But if I truly wanted to take my business to the next level and have Super Spicy Media reach brand new audiences outside of my existing circle, I needed to do something differently.

I needed to share my knowledge through podcasts.

Podcasting.

Podcasting.

Back then, podcasts were on the rise, so there was no question what the best course of action was. I reached out to podcast hosts and pitched them a few interview topics.

I experimented with different topics and outreach formats, and I gradually started landing interview after interview.

Podcasts interviews were a way of reaching brand new audiences and expanding my network. What I didn’t know at that time though was that the same interviews will help me reach and close new clients.

I was now faced with a dreadful and difficult decision.

At that time I was still working with a couple of local clients. We’ve been collaborating for more than a year, and they’ve stayed on the original pricing plan, which was much lower from the new price I was charging.

They have stayed with me for a long time, always supporting me. At the same time, I evolved, I got better.

I was spending the same amount of time working for my new clients as I did for my old ones, but they were paying me 2x more.

After a lot of thinking I decided that shedding this kind of weight is an evolutionary step one has to do if he/she wants to move forward.

So I fired my last local clients and continued with an entirely international clientele.

Adapting my way of work

All of my new clients were from the United States. Even though their culture isn’t vastly different from ours, you can still notice a slight change.

I’ve adapted my way of communication pretty quickly through detailed observation. How do they respond to my emails? How do they talk and behave during our meetings?

That wasn’t the only thing I needed to adapt myself to. The other thing was my working schedule.

Their morning was about 2PM my time. Instead of working in the morning, I started working in the afternoon.

My whole business was changing, and I had to stop from time to time to think about the fact that I’m just a girl in Slovenia with a laptop and a Wi-Fi. And I’m working with some of the most admirable companies from the United States.

But I didn’t stop there.

Scaling a business without increasing the workload

“How can I scale my business further without increasing my daily workload?”

That was the question I was struggling with the most back then. I loved client work, but if there as a chance for an additional source of revenue that doesn’t require an increase in my regular workload, I’d take that.

The answer was: Products.

Thanks to technology, anyone can write an ebook or create a digital product and sell it online. And that’s precisely what I decided to do.

But writing and launching an ebook isn’t easy. Far from it.

It takes time, it takes effort, and if English isn’t your native language, it takes a little bit more time on top of that.

I needed to validate my idea first before I even wrote the first sentence of my ebook. I decided to have a prelaunch.

My email list was of decent size. My open-rates were incredible. So when it was time to make a decision about the topic of the book, I sent out a survey, asking people what they were struggling with most.

It was Facebook Ads.

I took a few hours off my client work to set up a landing page for the ebook, write a short copy for it, and send it to my email list.

“If I could get $200 from presales on the first day, I’m writing the book.”

I got $400 in 24 hours.

Finding a new passion

The Facebook Ads Manual was launched a few months later. The feeling I had when I finally launched it was indescribable.

Client work was fun, but products were fulfilling.

Creating something that people love was humbling and motivating. Being in touch with every single customer, talking to them about their struggles and helping them with actionable advice made me feel accomplished.

And I wanted more of that.

In the next year, I launched a few more products and loved it every time.

What niching down brought me

When I launched my ebook, my authority strengthened beyond belief. Not only I sold more products, but I grew my clientele as a consequence as well.

My clientele isn’t the only thing that grew during these past few years. I started getting contacted by more and more prospects. I was officially receiving more collaboration requests than I could handle.

That made my observation easier. How were people reaching out to me? Where did they find me? And most importantly — what do they want?

And that’s when I started noticing something I haven’t seen before.

Back then, I was still mostly developing and implementing social media strategies in general. But as time moved forward, I was getting increased inquiries for Facebook Advertising management only.

Facebook Ads were a significant part of my service offerings at that time, but my business wasn’t focused on that. However, I liked the idea of niching down and becoming the expert in that field.

As you can imagine, being really good at developing strategies for multiple social media platforms was incredibly hard. I spent hours just keeping track of all the recent updates those platforms launched.

Focusing on Facebook Ads would eliminate that struggle. And what I truly liked about Facebook Ads from an agency-owner perspective was that they were quantifiable and measurable.

So after a few months of deliberating, I took yet another big step.

I started offering Facebook Ads services only.

(Un)expected growth

My logic was this: Now that I niched down, I’ll get fewer inquiries because I offer fewer services.

In reality, it was entirely different.

My observations were spot on. Businesses really were in need of Facebook Ads, and because I responded to that trend in the way I did, my business started to grow.

Besides the United States, I also started working with clients from Canada, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, and many more.

Niching down also opened a lot of other doors for me. I was interviewed for podcasts on a weekly basis, and I got booked for speaking in United States, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, 11 conferences total.

Celebrating success.

Celebrating success.

My knowledge of Facebook Ads deepened immensely. I could achieve incredible results faster and scale with ease. That allowed me to raise my prices again and as a consequence, I mainly worked with multimillion-dollar businesses.

The stakes were higher this time around, and the workload was demanding. That led me to hire my first Facebook Ads professional.

Super Spicy Media was turning into an agency.

Experiencing burnout

Even though I have been strategically working on this for years, I had a feeling I got from $0 to $13,000/month in the blink of an eye.

I was working with companies I admired from a distance just a few years back. I was making more money than ever. I generated 6-figures a year.

And I was burnt out.

Struggling with burnout and recording videos about it.

Struggling with burnout and recording videos about it.

Client work wasn’t as enjoyable as it was. We were still generating incredible results, but I didn’t enjoy those results as much as I used to.

Because of the workload I had, I stopped sharing valuable content. I haven’t launched a product in years. My relationships with other people deteriorated.

I didn’t know what to do.

Taking time off

I’ve deliberated on what to do for so long that I burnt out completely. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t think.

All of this forced me to take time off. No work, no phone, no technology. I just wanted to be with myself, and occasionally read a chapter from a book.

That detoxification allowed my mind to finally breathe. And after a while, the fog was gone, and I finally knew what was missing that whole time.

Making yet another drastic leap

I’m a restless soul that does what she wants to do.

I always hated working for other people. I didn’t necessarily know what the reason was, but I knew it never felt natural for me.

While owning an agency and doing client work is somewhat independent of a traditional form of employment, you’re still not entirely free from working for someone else. It’s just a different take on a traditional employer-employee relationship.

I’m a born creator. And I missed creating and developing and launching products. I missed that intense connection you have with your customers.

I’ve been talking about launching an online course about Facebook Ads for years, and I was letting myself down.

I missed the complete freedom you have when deciding what to do that day. When you’re not obligated to show up in meetings or implement a new campaign.

I kinda missed being myself.

And when I realized all of that, I made another decision.

I fired most of my clients to pursue the dream of launching my online course.

The toughest decision I had to make

It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. I went from making $13,000/month to having one client only in one week.

Because what’s the point of accumulating all that money if you’re not genuinely happy?

What’s the point of doing all that if you’re not truly enjoying your work?

What’s the point of even owning your own business if you don’t enjoy it?

I kept that one client to cover my costs of running a business and invest the rest back in the form of Facebook Ads, education, software. Everything I need to successfully create and launch my online course.

I sat down and went to work.

Launching my video course

When launching my video course, I took the same approach I did with my book — I wanted to validate the idea first.

(LOL at my positive outlook on life by validating an idea after firing most of my clients.)

I developed the name for the course, the overall structure of the course, designed a landing page, set up a payment method, and launched it to my email list.

I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been years since I launched a new product and I haven’t been really emailing my email list regularly.

But in that one week of promoting The Science of Facebook Ads (the name of the course), I made $10,000 in presales.

It felt so right. And at that moment I knew I made the right decision.

Excited before launching my course.

Excited before launching my course.

What’s Mojca up to now?

So … what’s the plan now? Where am I currently?

Creating a video course is harder than it looks. I’m recording and launching new videos on a weekly basis. I closed the enrollment for now so I can focus on creating and not worry about marketing. All of the videos will be released in January 2019, and that’s when I’ll start enrolling new students into the program.

Successfully promoting my course will definitely be the focus of my 2019. The students are incredibly satisfied with the course, the potential for growth is immense. And I cannot wait to tap into that even more.

I’m still working with that client I kept. During this time I have also worked on a few other projects, mostly having a consulting role.

I still enjoy a little bit of client work, that’s why I sometimes take on a new client if the match is good.

In 2019 however, I want to focus on substituting the revenue I used to get from my client work completely with other forms of work.

I’m working on my video course to be a regular source of good income, but I’m also expanding my services.

During these past few years, I realized that I truly enjoy teaching. Teaching through my video course is one thing, but in the second half of 2018, I’ve been doing a lot more corporate workshops as well.

It all looks like 2019 will go in that direction as well, and I’m looking forward to teaching even more people about the benefits Facebook Advertising can have on business growth.

What have I learned?

People are weird.

We all want to be happy. But when it comes to making a hard decision and following that happiness, we freeze.

I was the same.

“If I can just endure this a little bit longer, I’ll get through it.”

It doesn’t work like that.

If you don’t like something, change it.

If you don’t enjoy something, go in a different direction.

I wanted to endure my job at the advertising agency. But when they fired me, I realized that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in the first place.

I was almost ready to endure the client work I didn’t enjoy. But when I realized it’s not what I want, I changed my story and found out that being satisfied with what you do is just around the corner.

None of the money matters if you’re not enjoying what you do in the first place.

But through hard work, you can always achieve bigger success and a lot more joy elsewhere.

Mojca ZoveComment