Episode 1: Starting at ZERO.
This transcript has been automatically generated.
I felt pregnant with this idea. Have you ever just had something that you wanted to give birth to? So much like an idea that you wanted to just see come alive, but I had no idea how to get to it.
I'm Bonnie Christine, and this is where all things, creativity, design, business, and marketing unite. I'm a mama living in a tiny town, tucked right inside the Smokey Mountains, running a multi seven figure business, doing the most creative and impactful work of my life. When I first set out to become an entrepreneur, I was struggling to make ends meet and wrestling with how to accomplish my biggest dream of becoming a fabric designer.
Fast forward to today, I'm not only licensing my artwork all over the world, but also teaching others how to design their creative life and experience the same success. I'm here to help you spend your life doing something that lights you up. I'll help you build a creative business that also creates an impact, changes people's lives, gives you all of the freedom you want and is wildly profitable. Welcome to the Professional Creative Podcast. Is this thing on?
Oh my goodness. Welcome to the very first episode of The Professional Creative. I'm so excited to start this show. I'm so excited to have you tune in, and I'm so excited for everything that we have in store for you.
But first of all, can I just say if you are here listening to this, thank you. Thank you so much for being here,for tuning in, and for all of the support you have shown for this show. Our very first episode is all about starting from zero, which I thought was quite relevant since we are literally starting from zero together on this podcast right now. But what better way to get started than to really catch everyone up to speed on where I'm at today.
So we're going to look back at the last 13 years,and I'm going to be covering 30 business breakthroughs with you that I have experienced. So I literally sat down and created a timeline. We'll actually share the image of the timeline with you over in the show notes. So if you wanna see it and look at it while I'm going through this episode, you can head on over to professional creative.com/one in order to see the timeline that I'll be walking you through today.
But after I made the timeline, I really sat down and brainstormed the business breakthroughs, like the very pivotal moments of every year from the beginning to present day that I think have really contributed to where I'm at today. So that's what we're gonna do. This episode, it's also gonna give you a nice overview as to what's to come, because I'm gonna kind of breeze through the timeline and breeze through the 30 business breakthroughs knowing that we are gonna have so much time together.
Each one of these will likely have an entire episode on their own when the time comes. Okay, so are you ready to dive in? The first thing I wanna do is just really go through my timeline with you. So we'll be covering the key indicators of everything that I did in my business over the last 13 years. Again, sometimes I try to do this in less than 60 seconds.
I'm gonna take just a little bit more time than that today, but I am gonna move through it pretty quickly just so that we get all caught up to today. I grew up in a incredibly creative family with two parents that were both entrepreneurs. That means that my childhood was really nurtured in creativity, so we were always baking and cooking and sewing and crafting and all of these kinds of things.
And then also both of my parents were entrepreneurs. And so I was always encouraged to explore my big ideas and try new things, which made me know that I also wanted to be an entrepreneur. So I headed off to college knowing that I was creative and that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn't know what that meant. I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I just went to business school.
I'm actually the first person in my entire family to have even gone to school, to have even gone to college. And that in and of itself feels pretty incredible. But you know, I didn't really understand how to become an entrepreneur. So some people asked me if my business school helped. I don't really know.
I think it bought me some time to figure out what I really wanted to do, right? So I graduated and married my high school sweetheart, David in 2008, and I started working for my mom who had a quilt shop in our hometown. And so my job was to meet with the fabric reps and decide what we wanted to carry in the store and the new collections and things like that.
I had decided that I wanted to be in the handmade industry in some way, and the way to do that back in 2009 was to start a blog. So I started a blog. It was called Going Home to Roost, and I went all in, meaning I blogged twice a day every day for many, many years. I also started an Etsy shop,so I was selling handmade aprons and tea towels, and I eventually started to make just enough money to feel like I could do it full time, which was not that much money. We're probably talking, I don't know. Me and David together were making under $30,000 a year for all of the beginning years. So we were really scraping by, but we didn't have many expenses either.
We didn't have children, so we made it work. Now, there was this one day that I was walking down an aisle in the shop with fabric on both sides of me, and it hit me. This was someone's job, someone's career was sitting at home or wherever and designing fabric, and I had just never even considered that as a career option.
And everything for me came into alignment in that moment. I wanted to become a fabric designer. The only problem was I had no idea how to do that. I had no history, art practice. I didn't even know how to even get started. And so simultaneously, it was for sure my life's biggest dream. And also I was met with such overwhelm that it halted me like I didn't know how to even begin.
So I let six months go by. Six months went by without me taking any action, even though I had started talking about wanting to do this until one day I woke up and I decided that I had put it off for too long and I was gonna start learning. So I spent the next year learning Adobe Illustrator and the next year creating repeating patterns.
So the next two years, 2011 and 2012 were spent creating artwork and learning all the things that I needed to learn. I ended up putting a portfolio together and I started pitching it, and I signed my very first art licensing contract for fabric in October of 2012. Now, this changed everything. It changed everything. Moving on right after that, I started a membership for the first time.
My membership was really nothing more than a paid newsletter. It was $5 a month and a, I had 200 people sign up for it in the opening week. This was late 2012, and that started to create $1,000 of reoccurring revenue for me and David for the first time ever. And now that was life changing. That was life changing. So we're gonna break this timeline down in terms of what it means in regards to money and how much help I had, and also some key business indicators. But for now, I'm just gonna keep going through the timeline. Over the next year, I focused on licensing my artwork and signing contracts with different companies in different industries and licensing it as much as I could. In September of 2013, I had my son, his name is Bear, so he was my first baby.
I continued to blog. I continued to Etsy, I continued to license, and something happened in late 2014, and I got the opportunity to teach for a company called Creative Live. Now, teaching was never on my radar, but they had heard about me through my blog and invited me to come teach whatever I wanted to teach. And I was like,
Well, the only thing that I really know is Adobe Illustrator. And they said, Great, come and teach that. And so I did, and that spun me in a new direction in my career that I could have never seen coming. I added educator to my list of entrepreneurship. After that, in 2015, I held my first Women's Business retreat.
I also started teaching on Skillshare. So teaching a bit more and more. I then had my second child, Ollie in August of 2015. Now, the next year, I really spent kind of getting my footing as a mom and building out my portfolio and teaching a little bit more. But my husband still had a full-time day job, so he was out of the house from nine to five.
He was also a professional cyclist, which meant that he trained a lot. He trained multiple hours a day and raced every weekend. So this kind of leads me to my next part where I was really struggling. I was struggling because I had felt like the whole world had passed me by. At this point, we're in 2017, I've got a two and four year old, and I just felt like I was doing the bare minimum to scrape by in my business. And there were all these things that I knew I wanted to learn that I hadn't had time to focus on. And I just remember feeling like I was in a hole, trying to dig my way out to get my footing again as an entrepreneur. Then I had this idea that I really wanted to teach this big course on surface pattern design, and today it's called Surface Design Immersion. I had it on my heart. In fact, I felt pregnant with this idea. Have you ever just had something that you wanted to give birth to? So much like an idea that you wanted to just see come alive, but I had no idea how to get to it. And so in late 2017, I just buckled down and I started to learn again.
And the number one thing I needed to learn was how to market and grow my email list. And so I buckled down and focused on that for the first time. I launched Immersion for the first time in February of 2018, and it changed my life. If you know me well, this we've done the immersion course for this past year was its fifth edition.
And so every year we host this course and the spring, and then we have a backend membership called Flourish for Alumni that opens. And then we also do a live event called Immersion Live. It's a creative conference every October. And so that has been what the last several years have looked like for me. I launched a mastermind in 2019, and so we're called the Mark Makers.
It's a small group of 30 creative entrepreneurs. Last year I had my 15th fabric collection release, and that really brings me to today, which I'm adding one more thing to my timeline. I'm adding the podcast to the timeline, which is gonna be a huge part of my future. It's going to be a turning point. So now that we're all caught up, the, that was an overview of the last 13 years. Let's talk about what this has looked like from a money perspective. Now, I don't think that money is always the best way to indicate success, right? Because you can have money and not be happy, but also money is a good indicator of progress. And so we are gonna talk about money on this podcast because let me tell you, the first time that I heard other female entrepreneurs share what they were able to accomplish in their business, it made me know what was possible. And so as I share numbers with you, you know, numbers are always a little weird to share. I want you to know what's possible because it has truly been just something that I can't even put words to.
So looking at my timeline from the very beginning, let's say 2009 to 2012, I, my business consistently made between like 12 and $19,000 a year. That was from selling ad spots on my blog and selling handmade goods in my Etsy shop. Now, things began to change in 2013 because I started getting revenue from my licensing, and I also launched the membership.
And remember that started creating a thousand dollars of reoccurring revenue for us every month. So in 2013, the business brought in $33,000, which pretty much matched my husband's salary for the first time ever. From there, the, the business has generated revenue every year that was almost double. Sometimes it was double, sometimes it was 30 or 40%, but a significant increase every year.
And we're gonna talk more about how I think that's possible. But in 2014, the business brought in 46,000. In 2015, it brought in 91,000. In 2016, it brought in 112,000. In 2017, it brought in 239,000. In 2018, the business did 513,000. In 2019, it did 1.1 million. Oh my goodness. In 2020, it did 2.5 million.
In 2021, it did 4.5 million. And you know, we're not done with 2022, but the increase has been substantial. Yet again, those numbers are not lost on me. I can't even believe them when I say them out loud. It has been an incredible journey from the beginning to where I am today, and it's not just me today. And so the next thing I wanna talk about is help.
How much help have I had? Well, not a lot for way too long. So about the first 10 years, it was just me. It was just me. I called myself a solopreneur, and I was the one truly pushing all of the buttons and moving everything forward. And honestly, I was pretty proud of it. Somewhere in there was a,
Well, I don't have time to train someone else to do it anyways, and no one can do it as good as me, so I might as well just keep doing it. Which both things were like sloppy thinking, right? None of those things were true, but I thought they were. However, in 2017, I started working with an accountant.
This was the first time that I really like took something that I was not good at and did not enjoy off of my plate. I also began to just get help outside of the business, but with things that would create more time for me to work more in the business. So I started getting just a little bit of help with my house, which gave me a couple of hours back Every week.
We got a little bit of help with our lawn care, we got a little bit of help with my kids. We used to do this thing every Monday called Mimi Monday, where my mom would come and keep the kids, and I would like get an entire week's worth of work done in a single day. So I just started to embrace the idea of maybe I can do more if I have more help.
Now, I brought on someone like an assistant for the first time in 2019, and by 2021, we had grown to a team of six that's including me. And that felt pretty good, but we still needed more. So today we are a team of eight, and that feels really, really good. So let me tell you what those positions are.
The team of eight is including me, and it's all actual employees of the business. So that is a program manager, that's Nikkita, an integrator, that's Lisa, my virtual assistant. Her name is Ephia, a lead designer for the business. Her name is Rebecca, our head of customer success, that's Kylie, our customer success champion. That's Ashley and a content producer. Her name is Arin. Now, in addition to that, we work with some contractors. So the accountant still my favorite. We also have about 20 people who we call our experts and guides. They're all alumni who come in and help me answer students questions and support the community. And then I also work with an ads manager. So that's an overview of where we are today.
That would still be considered a very small team for how much the business really produces. Now, the key business indicator that I wanna talk about is the email list. And I know that this one is hard for some creatives to wrap their mind around, but the email list has doubled every year as well. And my point that I wanna make here is that my income didn't GU double,
and then the email list, it was the other way around. The email list doubled, and then my income doubled. So I didn't pay attention to my email for way too long. That led me to 2017, and I had about 4,500 people on my email list, literally from 2009 to 2017. How many years is that? Eight years it took to grow 4,500 people on my list because I hadn't tried at all.
And then I started trying, we'll talk a little bit more about that in a minute. But it went from 4,000 to 8,000 to 16,000 to 32,000 to 64,000 to today is around 112,000. And so that is a key indicator. Okay, so why do I tell you all of this? The thing that I want you to really let sink into your bones,
because the title of this episode is starting at zero, right? When I started, I had nothing but zero. I had zero audience, zero followers, I had zero money, actually had negative money, I had zero help. And most importantly, I had zero credentials, meaning I had no art degree, I had no art experience, I had no foot in the door. I literally had no credentials. And guess what? We don't need any of those things in order to just get started. So with that, I want to dive into 30 business breakthroughs that I've really identified on my timeline that has gotten me to where I am today. They are gonna be things like habits and mindset shifts and strategies and philosophies that have completely formed where we are.
Okay? So number one, they're also gonna go in chronological order just in case you're following along. Number one comes in 2009, and it's the mindset that there is room for you. If you've been around me very often, you know, this is something that I say all the time, but I wanted to tell you where it came from. When I started my blog, I started emailing all of the other big blocks, and this was so naive of me at the time, but I started emailing them so excited, just kind of introducing myself and saying hello and telling them about this new blog that I had. And we used to do something called a blog role where you would link between, you know, blogs that were your friends.
And so I would, you know, tell them that I added them to my blog role and see if they wanted to add me to. And you know, most people didn't write me back, understandably so, but one person did, Her name was Gina Corre from Moish, and she welcomed me to the blogosphere and she told me, just one little line, there's room for you. And this changed my perspective so much because here I am technically her competitor. And she said, You know what? There's enough people to go around. There's room for you. Come on in, carve yourself out a spot. And so I did. It was like she expanded this little space for me to come step into. And it's really true.
I mean, the Blogosphere was pretty saturated at the time. And so I know that some of you feel like you're trying to enter an industry that may feel saturated, but honestly, at the end of the day, there are not many saturated markets because the world is huge and there are so many people in it. There is enough to go around. And so there is room for you. And furthermore, there's a need for you. There's a need for your voice and your creativity and your perspective. You know, sometimes we may feel like it's all been done before, and the truth is it has. But also the truth is that it hasn't been done by you. Number two is to give back.
We've always had a heart for giving back, and we started to be intentional about it early on. Giving back for us looks like giving 10% of what we make. We also consider it the tithe, but it was a shift that happened here was like we used to give back if we could kind of at the end of the month after we paid our bills.
And if you're like meme, there's usually not enough or a lot left at the end of the month when you are making ends meet. And so what we did was shift to give first. So we gave 10% of every paycheck that we got at the very beginning and off the top, which meant that it was a priority for us to give back. And we've kept this a priority all these years,
and it's such a good lesson to learn. It's like this bigger purpose. It also helps manage some money mindset, especially if you may have some guilt or questioning around whether how it feels to make money. Because one of my mentors, Stu McLaren always says, The more money you make, the bigger impact you can have. And when you set your intention of being generous and giving back from a very early on stage,
then honestly the more money you make, the bigger impact you can make. And that really feels, I mean, really incredible. And so there's this philosophy, right, that if you can't give 10 cents of a dollar, then you won't be able to give a thousand dollars on 10,000 or $10,000 on a hundred thousand. And it's true, it doesn't, You know,
we think it'll be easier, like, well, we'll give back when we have more money, but it actually gets harder, not easier. So implementing this as a philosophy early on really just keeps your relationship with money healthy. It keeps your impact getting bigger and bigger, and it's a beautiful way to give back. Number three is one thing a day.
So on my timeline, this looks like right after I had the big dream to become a fabric designer, but wasted six months sitting in complete overwhelm. I actually remember the morning that I woke up and I thought, You haven't done anything. I actually got mad that I had let six months go by without taking action of any kind. And so in anger, really, I decided to just start already, just start doing something. And pretty quickly it came to me that I needed to start doing something every single day. Because if I had done one thing a day starting six months ago, how many things is that? Six to like 180 things I would've already accomplished towards this goal. Yet here I was at zero because I, I had done nothing. So I obsessed over this goal. Now, some days it was 10 or 15 minutes, and other days it was 6, 7, 8 hours. But every single day I did something. I didn't skip a day. In fact, I remember getting in the bed a few times and being like, Oh, I didn't do my thing today. And I got right back up and did 10 or 15 minutes worth of something.
This is what led me to accomplishing my biggest goal just under two years later. It was through consistent small actions. Number four is to invest in what you need. And so this was tough when we were making no money and struggling to make ends meet, I needed to buy some stuff. I needed to buy Adobe Illustrator to learn it. I needed to buy a welcome tablet to draw on, and I didn't have the money. And so we sold some stuff. We actually ended up selling a car in order to buy me some time and be able to get the things that I needed. But this philosophy has stayed with me over the years because oftentimes I think we let our businesses bottleneck because we don't want to invest in the thing that we really need.
And you know what I'm talking about, because we are crafty, we're creative, and we will piecemeal together a hundred different things to make it work. And we'll be proud of it, even though there was one solution that we thought was too expensive for us, that would've made everything more simple. And the thing that we forget to take into account is our time.
Our time is worth so much. And so we spend all this time piecemealing stuff together when we could have just invested in what we really needed and saved so much time. So I always, always think about just is there a most efficient product or most efficient app, or most efficient way to do something that'll save me time that I need to invest in?
Number five comes in 2012 where I had spent a year, almost a year making a hundred patterns. And this is a mindset, and I call it cherishing your early work. Now, no matter what you do, if you are a creative, you have what we call early work. If you are a writer, these are those first few pieces that you write.
And if you are a musician, these are the first few songs that you sing. If you're an artist, it's your early artwork. And oftentimes we can get kind of frustrated and impatient in this time. We really just want to arrive already. And I remember feeling like, Oh, the world is passing me by. I, there are closing windows of opportunities, you know, all around me. And I just made a very intentional mindset shift from that to I'm exactly where I need to be, and the perfect window of opportunity will be waiting for me when I arrive. Furthermore, this is necessary. It's a necessary time because you can't really rush the early work when you're, you know, really refining and defining your signature style.
It's necessary, and it's always obvious when it's rushed too. So take this time actually know many artists who their favorite work was created in this time. Because if you think about it, it's so pure. You are creating from the pureness of your heart like exactly what you want to create. There's no deadlines, there's no feedback, there's no, you know, art directors giving you feedback or briefs that you're having to work through. You're just creating, and it's such a blissful time. So it should be cherished. Number six is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I learned that growth and comfort cannot coexist, which means that we have to get comfortable stepping just outside our comfort zone. And then what I do is just hang out there until all of a sudden one day I'm comfortable.
So for instance, I'm pretty uncomfortable right now speaking into this mic on my very first podcast episode, but I, my promise to you is that I'm gonna hang out here until I'm comfortable and then I'm gonna step outside of my comfort zone one more time and I'm gonna do it over and over and over again because that's how your comfort zone grows and you're able to do things today that you couldn't imagine doing five years ago.
This one for me came in late 2012 when I found myself walking up to art directors with my portfolio in hand and asking them for feedback on my work. Oh my goodness. So nerve-wracking. Now, number seven is to sell with no ceiling. This philosophy or strategy rather came to me right around the time that I launched my membership. And let me explain it to you.
Up until this point, I had been trading time for money. So I was making aprons and tea towels and pillows, and very much like if I was sick or on vacation, then I was not making any income. And I remember calculating how much income I could make if I made as many aprons as I could in a day, five days a week, all year long, and sold out of them every time. And if that was the case, then I could make I think $40,000 a year, which is not nothing, right? It's pretty good, but it seemed completely exhausting. Like I didn't wanna make that many aprons. And so I had a mentor that started talking to me about percentages and how you could create income from products that worked on percentages.
So for instance, art licensing is one of the best things you can do to sell with no ceiling because you license your artwork once and then you get paid based on how many products are sold. So technically it could be millions right Now, other ways to do this that I implemented in 2012 was like digital eBooks. And I would list them in my Etsy shop.
I used to do some Adobe Illustrator videos and I would sell them for $5 a piece in my Etsy shop. So I would wake up to having made 40 or $50 while I was sleeping. And then I thought, we're onto something. How many income streams can I layer on that allow me to sell with no ceiling? And so that's the first time that the membership came to mind.
It was, again, $5 a month. 200 people signed up in the opening month. By the way, the membership still exists. We just celebrated our 10th year, but today it has over 4,000 members in it, and it's much more than just a paid newsletter, and it's also more than just $5 a month. But this strategy of just adding income streams that don't have a ceiling to their success changed everything for me.
Number eight is a mindset of abundance over fear. I was starting to show my work, this was in 2013, and I was starting to license more, but I was struggling with a lot of fear-based mindsets. Like, Oh, I don't know if I wanna share this work because what if someone copies it or what if someone steals it? Or what if, what if, what if? And I'm like, Why am I basing my decisions in fear with statements that start with what if? So I just changed that. I just flipped it on its head and decided that anytime I was making a fear based decision, I would think of the exact opposite abundance based decision and do that instead. And so if I was afraid to post my work because someone might copy it, instead I would say, What if I post this and my dream company finds it and I land the licensing opportunity of my life? Everything changed because even to this day, if I find myself making a fear based decision, I quickly whip it around to the abundance based opposite, incredible, incredible shift there.
Number nine is to learn how to focus. So on my timeline, this comes in late 2013, which is also right after I had my first baby. And who knew all the time that I had had myself was now cut into a tiny fraction.
But it turns out that clearly I was wasting a ton of time because I learned by by learning how to focus, truly focus, I learned how to replicate just about the same amount of work that I had been doing in an entire day in just nap time, which was about two hours. And so I really dove into time management strategies and productivity strategies and how to remove distraction and do one thing at a time in order to focus.
And it's still something that I completely nerd out about today. Number 10 is around the same time, and it's a mindset I don't have to choose between being a mother and being an entrepreneur. If you have small kids and you're trying to also run a business, you likely struggle with this as well. There is some guilt around doing work with your children and you go back and forth,
Am I not being a good mom or am I showing them what's possible and inspiring their future, right? And so I just decided that I don't have to choose that I can do both. And while it leads to some scrambled days and some inefficiency, right, my kids get to come alongside me and watch me do something that I love. Number 11 is to niche down.
Now this comes on my timeline. At the same time that I taught for Creative Live for the first time, I actually had a content producer through Creative Live work with me on my course. And I learned so much from him. He taught me not only how to teach, but how to make teaching impactful, like how to teach through story and make it matter because I was just gonna show up and teach Adobe Illustrator.
And he was like, Well, why? What does that make possible? How can you tell story? And so when you teach Illustrator, you know, technically someone could, you know, I, I could, I could teach graphic designers and logo designers and all, all these different types of designers, but I chose surface pattern design because that was my passion.
But also it's so niche down that I know exactly how to speak to someone interested in surface design. If I started talking to a broader audience that included like graphic designers and logo designers and illustrators and all of that, somehow my messaging gets a little blurry. Like I don't know exactly how to speak to them or how to make everyone understand that they can do all of these things with what I teach.
And so I just niched down as, do you say niche or niche? I, it doesn't matter to me. I'll probably say both. I just niched down as far as I could and all of a sudden clarity came. I knew how to speak to my person and my person knew that they were my person when they were my person. And so that's my advice to you.
If you can niche down any further than you can, then you are more easily, like you more easily come to mind when someone is recommending something. So use this as an example. If you are a hairdresser and you, you know, you can cut anybody's type of hair, well take that. And what if you were like a hairdresser, but you were an expert in cutting curly hair?
Now all of a sudden you've niched down and when my friend who has curly hair is looking for a new hair hairdresser immediately, like I know a girl, I know your person, she's an expert in curly hair, right? So that's what we're looking for is like that expert level in your niche. All you have to be to be successful is an expert in one tiny little area. So niche down.
Number 12 is act like a boss. Let me hear it all of you entrepreneurs. It is a glorious life where we can wear our stretchy pants and work from home if we want to, but let's be real. Sometimes it's not that glamorous. It can be lonely and it can also be hard to actually set a schedule and set deadlines and hold ourselves accountable to them.
This for me, came in around 2015 and when I asked myself if I was acting like a boss, the answer was quite frankly no. And so I started to act more responsible, set a schedule, set hours for my day, get ready first thing in the morning, you know, be more respectful of my working hours and it changed everything for me. So if we are not acting like the boss that we know, we need to be hold ourselves accountable, put our deadlines on paper and hold ourselves to them.
Number 13 is create the beauty that we want to see come alive in the world. There's a little story behind this one. I was working on a fabric collection, which is in total 10 prints.
And sometimes when you're in this, you're making decisions based on other prints in the in the collection. And anyways, I finished the collection and I kind of stood back and I was like, It's done, It's beautiful, I love it. And then I started, I don't even know why. I just really soaked in every pattern by itself. And I was like, would I buy that? Would I want to use that in my own life? And to my surprise, the answer wasn't always yes, how fascinating. Then why did I design it? Right? But I had made some decisions along the way based on feedback that wasn't the right feedback. And so I began looking at my work with a whole new perspective.
I wanted to create the beauty that I actually wanted to see come alive in the world. And that made me fall in love with my work in an entirely new way, but also it helped me refine my signature style. So if you are a musician, are you writing the songs that you want to hear, right? If you are a writer, are you writing the articles or the books that you want to read?
You know, I would assume yes, but maybe like me, the answer is no. And that we could do some refining. Number 14 is to get some help. This was in 2016, right after I had had my second baby and I just started to allow some help come into my life. I already mentioned this, but my accountant and a little bit of help with my house and a little bit of help with my kids, I just decided that I could do more better if I had some help.
Closely related to that is number 15. And it's learn how to say no. Now, I don't know if you struggle with this, but I don't like saying no. I would much rather say yes. And as entrepreneurs, it's important that we say yes at the beginning because we wanna say yes to every opportunity that comes our way.
It's how we get some wind under our wings and we get some momentum. But eventually we have to decipher what we wanna say yes to and what we need to say no to. Because in reality, everything that we say yes to is saying no to something else. And so we have a limited number of yeses and we need to make sure that we use them for the best things.
One of the best things I learned was how to say no, because sometimes we don't wanna say no. So we like avoid the situation or let the email go sit out in the bottom of our inbox, or we say something like very ambiguous, like, why don't you come check back with me? You know, I'm really busy right now, let's circle back on this in three months or six months.
Like we really just need to say no. So one of the best ways to say no is to say no with a yes. So let me put it into an example. Hey Bonnie, do you create logos? Hi, no, I don't create logos, but I have a friend who does. Here's her information. You see that it was a confident and clear no,
but there was a lead, there was a yes, there was like a lead to another option. And so anytime I have to say no, I always try to say no with a yes. I hope that helps you.
Number 16 is always be a student. This comes on my timeline in 2017, right when I was really struggling, right? Remember my kids were really young, my husband was out of the house in his day job, by the way. I brought him home from his day job in 2018. And so that was an incredible milestone that I need to, I need to add to my timeline. So anyways, always be a student. So I realized that the way out of this bubble that I had been living in that you know, made me feel like the whole world was passing me by. The only way out of that was to learn, was to be a voracious learner, to get back at it, to read a book, take a course. And the best book that I read at in, and it was exactly at this time was a book called Your Best Year by Lisa Jacobs.
And so we'll link that in the show notes. It changed everything for me. And it was like Lisa, who fast forward today, Lisa is my integrator, but at the time she was an author and it was like she reached her hand down into my bubble and just pulled me up to my feet with this book. It was incredible. Number 17 is to build an email list.
And so this book, Your Best Year is really what helped me understand how to plan and make a plan of attack for a goal that I had. And so I really buckled down and started building my email list. Now, if you'll remember, at this time I had 4,500 people on my email list, but what I didn't tell you was my open rate was 6%.
That's that's really, really horrible. 6% open rate. And that was because I hadn't been communicating with my email list. They were what we call cold. They didn't know who I was. They had probably joined years ago and I hadn't been emailing them. And so between the fall of 2017 and February, so five months, I doubled my list to just over 8,000 and I increased my open rate to 60%.
What? So just for reference, industry standard is somewhere between like 20 and 40. So 25 to 35%, this is incredible. So that has boosted me always since that moment in time. I am an advocate for building an email list. And I'll have to say if there was anything that I would go back and change, it would be this. I would have focused on building my email list earlier than I did,but that's okay cuz we're here today.
Number 18 is annual planning. Now, this is something else that I learned from Lisa Jacobs. And annual planning was like a line in the sand for me and my business. Before I had an annual plan, everything felt very scrambly like I wasn't sure what I was doing from the day to day. My income was very inconsistent.
I didn't trust my business, I didn't trust the income. I thought maybe I had had a lucky break, but I would have like one or two months that were really good and then three or four months that were really dry. And I remember feeling like I had ideas that would create income, but I didn't have time to to like roll them out.
I needed money. Like today, I needed to be able to pay my mortgage this week. And so there was just a lack of overall strategy. So I learned how to annual plan, which basically helps you put everything on a calendar for the entire year. So what this looks like for me is that I set aside an entire day at the end of the year and I have a big acrylic calendar, like a four by eight foot calendar on my wall that I can wipe clean at the end of the year and write up the the schedule for the next year. But however you do this, like I'm pretty sure you can find paper versions on Amazon to put up on your wall. Whatever you do, you need to have your year at a glance on a wall where you can quickly reference it.
Because from there what you do is put down your vacations and your birthdays and your family trips and your kids, you know, school breaks if they have 'em. And then you put down your work if you have any work trips or something like that. And then any known deadlines. So for me, I always know when I have to turn in a fabric collection or things like that.
So you put that all out on the calendar and then all of a sudden you can see where there are gaps. There are gaps in income generators or there's gaps where you could put in some new ideas that you want to explore. So it really takes like brainstorming everything that is available to you in the next year and putting it on your calendar, putting a date to it, which gets it out of your head. It puts it on paper, which clears up some mental bandwidth. And when you look now you have clarity on where you're going throughout the course of the year, what you're doing and how you're gonna get there, which brings clarity to your day to day actions. Huge advocate of annual planning. Number 19 is to be a good steward of ideas.
I believe that God gives us ideas and then waits to see if we're going to steward them well. And if we do, maybe we get a little bit of a bigger or a better idea, right? Over and over and over again. This for me came when I taught the immersion course surface design immersion. For the very first time I wanted to see this idea come to fruition with everything in my being and I stewarded it, well, stewarded it. Is that a word? I honored the idea. And so now when I get an idea or if I'm low on ideas, I ask for ideas. But I very intentionally am careful and thoughtful with the ideas that come to me in choosing whether to move forward with them or not. Number 20 is rewards. Now we are gonna talk about this in an upcoming episode on how to create your path to success.
But I'll mention it here because I think it's really important to build rewards into your goal accomplishing system. As entrepreneurs, I think it's really easy for us to just kind of barrel roll through one accomplishment after another without pausing to really reflect on how far we've come. And so I build in rewards all over the place, like teeny tiny ones and really big ones.
So for instance, if I make it through a 60 minute time block where I have focused on one thing and and done it really well, then I will reward myself with like 15 minutes of aimless clicking and checking around the internet and Instagram and stuff like that, right? And it feels good. Now, if I accomplish something a little bit bigger, like a big deadline, maybe I'll like, as soon as I book the deadline, I also decide on the reward. So oftentimes I'll have a really big deadline and I'll go ahead and book my massage for the next day, or like reservations at our favorite restaurant or something like that. Now your reward doesn't always have to cost money. You could also just treat yourself to like an afternoon in the hammock with your favorite book or a walk with someone that you love, right? It's just this practice of stopping and appreciating what it was that you accomplished and rejuvenating a little bit before you go on and tackle the next thing.
Probably my favorite reward of all time came after I taught the immersion course for the first time I hit the goal that I wanted to hit, actually far exceeded it, and I knew what I was gonna do if I hit that goal. I was gonna build my garden. I wanted to build a greenhouse and I wanted to build a garden where I could grow my inspiration, literally grow the flowers and everything that I used for inspiration. And so as soon as it was over, the first thing that I did was start scheduling and planning this greenhouse. And I laid the floor myself. I found this huge pile of a hundred year old brick on Craigslist, I think, and I went and picked them up one by one. I loaded them and I laid this herringbone floor myself. And with every stone, I just appreciated what I had accomplished. And to this day, I get to go spend time in my garden and it has grown so much inspiration for me, and it was a reward that I had built into my whole goal accomplishing process.
Number 21 is to embrace paid traffic. Now, I think as creatives, we love organic traffic as we should. Organic traffic is what I did all the way up until oh late, late 2018. And it served me well for 10 years. It meant that I was connecting with my audience well and and loving on them well. But I heard someone say that if you had something available and you just needed more eyeballs on it, well you could get them. All you had to do was pay for them. And I thought now that's a different approach. Rather than like feeling like we had to run ads, What if I just paid for more eyeballs? I love thinking about it in that perspective. And so today organic traffic doesn't really happen anymore like it used to today. We have algorithms to consider and you know, a lot of attention grabbing things from our audience. And so go ahead and do ourselves a favor and boost a post or run an ad or test paid traffic in some way, whether it's on Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest or something like that, just to help what we have, get more eyeballs on it. Actually think it's really cool that as creatives we have this ability at our fingertips because it wasn't that long ago that if we wanted to run an ad, we were, we were buying like, not that I ever did this, but if I did, I would've had to buy like billboard space or pay for a commercial or put it an ad in the newspaper. It wasn't that long ago when that's how we got our message out, which meant that it was falling on a lot of eyes and ears that were the wrong person.
And with today's technology, we can target the perfect person for whatever it is we have that we want to get their eyeballs on. Number 22 is how to transition. Now, transitioning is something that we do every day, all day, right? For me it's like take the kids to school, transition to workout, transition to work. But then at work I'm like transitioning to email, to Slack, to creating artwork, to answering some questions like transitions all over the place. And then at the end of the day, transitioning from work back to family. And what I realized is that it's really important to like actually fully transition so that we're not multitasking when we are doing other things. So for instance, when I leave work, I really release and leave my work.
Actually, I'll oftentimes brain dump at the end of the day, everything that's still in my head so that I can release it and know that when I get back to work the next day, everything I'll be able to pick up right where I left off without having to try to think about it for the rest of the night. Because my family does not want multitasking, mom. They want full focused, present intentional mom and wife, right? And I want that too because that means I'm living life well. So not only focusing on transitioning well, but also transitioning as little as possible. So we live in a distracted world and it can oftentimes feel like we're just kind of popcorning through our day from one thing to the next.
But every time we transition from email to artwork or something like that and back and forth and back and forth, we're losing our focus and we're losing, losing our momentum. And it takes us a little while to get back to where we were. And so this takes me back to learning how to focus and transition as few times in a day as possible.
Number 23 is to surround myself with big thinkers. For me, this came in late 2019 and it's reflective of the first time I joined a mastermind. I am a part of Stu McLaren's mastermind called Impact. And I'll never forget walking in that room and being met with some big thinkers, being met with people who were speaking my language and understood how to support me.
And for the first time when I shared a ridiculous goal that I had, no one looked at me like I was crazy. They got excited and they knew how to encourage it and support it because they knew it was possible. And so for me, the first time walking in a room like this and just having my mind of what was possible be expanded beyond measure was incredible and also addicting.
Like you must place yourself around big thinkers as often as you can because you'll come away with just such an expansiveness on what you know is possible for you and your life. And it is thrilling.
Number 24 is to embrace vulnerability. Now if you're looking at my timeline, this comes in the middle of 2020. So the whole world is changing and I got to meet anxiety for the very first time.
Not something that I ever struggled with before, but I landed in the hospital thinking that I was dying of a heart attack and realized that it was actually a panic attack. Now a lot of things led to this. My son had been in an accident, I mean he's okay, but he had to get a bunch of stitches and just, you know,the pandemic and all of the things had added up. But I had no idea that I was approaching this level of stress. And so I kind of did all the things you do, like get help immediately. I started working with a counselor and it took me about a year to work through quite a lot of stuff. And one of the things most early on was like how uncomfortable I was with feeling vulnerable and why, you know, why was I so uncomfortable, feeling vulnerable, and how can I increase my tolerance for vulnerability? So this is what I worked on and am still working on, I'm sure for the rest of my life was to how to embrace vulnerability. Now, soon after that, just a couple of months later comes the next one, which is to really embrace my why.
What this year, that year in particular made me wanna do was just kind of like go into self-preservation mode and almost hide and I had to really approach my work and think, can I do this? Like can I step into the driver's seat of this freight train that I built? I wasn't sure what the answer was, but the answer was undoubtedly yes, but I'm gonna have to work. I'm gonna have to work on vulnerability, and I'm gonna have to work on my leadership skills. And part of this was, which is number 25, embracing my why. At the end of the day, I do all the things that I do. I do them for you, and I do them to inspire creative entrepreneurs to build their business and spin their life doing something that they love.
And so, as long as I'm helping one person, one person, accomplish their dreams, that's my why. Like the success of the creatives in our audience equals the success of us, the brand. And so when I leave that at the forefront of everything that we do, then we can handle so much more. Like nothing can derail us because we're on a mission to help as many creatives as we possibly can. And that strengthens our ability to do so.
Now we're in 2021, and number 26 is to lead with love. I found myself leading a community that was scared from the pandemic. I found myself leading a team for the first time. I never, I never saw myself having a team, being a solopreneur for so long. And I found myself actually lacking in leadership skills.
I was kind of good at leading like a one to mini, you know, I'd always led my membership and course students, but I hadn't really led an like an intimate team. And it has turned out to be my favorite thing of all time. But really learning some leadership skills and learning how to lead with love. Love first. Empathy first has really been the most incredible part of leadership development.
Number 27 comes in 2021, and it is to rejuvenate. This one makes sense. After such a hard year in 2020, I was feeling myself approaching burnout, not in full burnout, just lacking time to do anything fun, like lacking time to learn something new. I remember feeling like there were some books out that I wanted to read that I just had no time to read.
And that to me is a warning sign that I'm approaching burnout because I don't have time to be curious. I don't have time to play. And so I set myself up to be able to rejuvenate more than ever in 2021. And the way that I did that was by number 28 systems. So in order to be able to take a step back from your business without it just crumbling to the floor, you have to create systems. This is something that I put off for a long time, but our philosophy now is that if we do something more than twice on the third time, we make a system for it. And so it's really just a tutorial on how you do the things that you do. And what this does is it allows you to get help.
It allows you to be able to transfer tasks to other people without requiring you to train them over and over again because you have a system for it. It's also incredibly helpful for the team. So if we have someone else sick or someone on vacation, they have a library of systems that they can hand off to the person who's covering for them. So systems was my way to rejuvenation.
The way we do it is that we have, we use a platform called Kajabi, and we built an internal, basically course, but it's only accessible to the team. So everyone has their own modules and creates their own lessons with these systems in it. But you don't have to do that. You could absolutely just keep them in Dropbox or keep them in Google Drive and create systems for yourself so that you can utilize help when you can.
Number 29 is working in my zone of genius, if you will. I'm sure you've heard that term before, but zone of genius to me means that I'm doing only the things that only I can do. So I've said that was a goal of mine for many years. I wanna get to the place where I'm only doing only the things that I can do, and it felt like a goal that I would never reach, right? But last year, I actually got pretty close to it, and it's an incredible feeling. So this zone is when you're doing things that you're not only really good at, but you're also fully enjoy. So you're good at them and you enjoy them, and they're things that only you can do.
So for instance, if we take this podcast only, I can be the one recording the podcast, but I don't have to be the one to create the transcript or something like that, right? So I can do the thing that only I can do and then task out the things that I don't have to be the one to do. And this gets you to where you're really tapping into your zone of genius, like every day. And our goal on the the team is that every team member also gets to tap into their zone of genius for the majority of the day. Now, we all, myself included, have to do things that are not in our, you know, genius zone. But the more we can, the better. And it's been a really cool way to switch tasks around,
because sometimes the thing that you're doing that you don't like doing will be what someone else loves doing. So we pass tasks around until everyone feels pretty confident and happy with what they're doing.
Which brings me to number 30. And here we are in late 2022. This is November, 2022. And I am overcoming comparison. Now, not to say that I haven't struggled with this many times over the years,but to release a podcast at this time in history, when the podcast world feels completely saturated, and at this time in my career, which feels like I really wish I would've started a podcast 10 years ago, has me really overcoming comparison because I have been feeling like, Who do you think you are? You know, Total imposter syndrome. All of my mentors that are far beyond and more successful than me have been podcasting for years and years and years.
And you know what? I just have to get outta my own way. I have to put my blinders on and I have to just start. Which brings me back to the very beginning of this episode and the title starting at Zero. The Entrepreneur career is just one of starting at zero over and over and over and over again. We're stepping out of our comfort zone.
We're doing difficult things, we're being vulnerable, and yet we're showing up, We're showing up afraid, and we're doing it anyways. So here I am, and here you are. And if you are listening to this, just an overwhelming thank you full of gratitude for you listening to this today. I'm so excited for where we're going. I can't wait for you to dive into the podcast even more.
And I will see you next time on the Professional Creative. Bye for now.