Episode #103: From 0 – 5 Figure Months: How I Built Up Both My Online Businesses From Zero

I’m now in my 14th year of running my own business, and at this point have brought two businesses up to earning 5-figure months, starting completely from scratch each time. But how did I do it? In this episode I’ll share 5 key areas that made it possible (and that I am still constantly working on as aim for even bigger goals)


Listen to the Episode:

Ruth Poundwhite 0:00
I’m now in my 14th year of running my own business. And at this point, I have bought two businesses up to the point of earning five figure months starting completely from scratch each time. But how did I do it? In this episode, I’ll share five key areas that made it possible and that I’m still constantly working on as I work on even bigger goals. You’re listening to quietly ambitious with conversations about how it really feels to build a business that honours your whole self unapologetically. And that includes who you are, how you feel, what you really desire, the impact that you want to create, and importantly, the money you want to make. I’m your host, Ruth Poundwhite. And my superpower is supporting sensitive and ambitious humans to make more money by fully expressing and owning all of who they are. Let’s dive in.

Ruth Poundwhite 0:57
Hi, and welcome back to another solo episode of The quietly ambitious podcast. So today, I wanted to talk about how I built how I have built two different businesses up to five figure months from scratch. Now, this is kind of following on from Episode 100, which is where I was celebrating 100 episodes and three years in this business, and also Episode 101, where I was talking about the day to day of how I get it all done. Basically, I just wanted to give you the bigger picture of how I have built a business from nothing, because we all started nothing. And I think that’s a helpful reminder. And then how I built my second business from nothing in 2018, starting in 2018. And there was no crossover between the two businesses, except of course, for my knowledge and understanding. And the first thing I just want to mention before I get into this, and I have got five key areas that I think have made all the difference that I’m going to share with you as we go. The first thing I wanted to mention, though, before we get to that is that it’s really common to think that others have it easier than we do in business in life in all areas. Right? Or that it’s or to think that it’s personally harder for us that we’ve got more obstacles in the way right. This is a basically a cognitive bias. It’s known as the headwinds, tailwinds theory. And the reason for that name is because I mean, I know this for sure from when I go on runs, like when you’re running into the wind, it’s so like, you can really feel it holding you back. And then when you turn around and run with the wind at your back, it doesn’t feel like it pushes you along as much as the wind pushing against you pushes against you. Right. So the idea is that it’s much more easy to notice the headwind, but we don’t appreciate the tailwind aka the things that are easier for us. Right. And I think I was actually reading up on this, and I’ll share a link in the show notes about an article about the headwinds, tailwind theory. But the why behind it is basically because it helps us to think more positively about ourselves, like we want to see ourselves in a better light. So if we can see that we had more obstacles in the way than others, then obviously, it helps us feel more positive. Like if we’re making the thing happen, despite the obstacles, then that’s means we’re amazing, right? And if we’re not making the thing happen, and we have the obstacles, well, then there’s a reason it doesn’t mean we’re worse than the person, right? It just means that we had it harder. And I think it’s really helpful to remember this, because in the case of like comparing our situation to others in our businesses, I think it just feels safer to think that we have it harder. It’s a defence mechanism. And it’s totally normal. And it’s okay, that we think this way. So it’s either there to make us feel better, or it’s the It could even be there to kind of keep us safe, right and stop us going for the thing, because it’s just not worth it. It’s just harder for me than it was for them. Right. And obviously, it’s true. We all have things that are harder for us and easier for us than others. And obviously, like privilege and injustice exists. And I’m not saying that it’s not real. But I wanted to bring this up now because I know that it’s easy to look at someone else’s journey and to think, Oh, well, they had this or they didn’t have to deal with this thing, or they started earlier than me it was just easier back then. Right? None of that stuff is helping you in creating the life and business that you want right now. None of that stuff is helping you in building the momentum that will help you build the life that you’re dreaming of. So while yes, some of the stuff is real. I also want you to remember and I’m hoping that I’ll show you in this podcast episode is that we all have different things in our way. We all have to start from zero. And the thing that makes that takes you from zero to five figure months is constantly showing up yesterday in your way Yes, acknowledging your feelings, but keeping on keeping on that is ultimately the main message of this episode. Although with that being said, Of course, I do have more specific things to share than that as well. Okay, so I’m going to share five things that I feel made the difference in building both of my businesses up to five figure months. And I will say obviously, there’s a lot in this episode, I’m not going to go into detail in all things because it would be an entire course, rather a focus episode. Some of this stuff I have talked about in other episodes, some of this stuff I talk about in my programmes and courses. And obviously, I talk about this stuff with my one to one clients all the time. So if you’re desiring that support, then please do get in touch. My prices are about to go way up, I’m changing some of the things about the way I work. So now is definitely a good time to get in touch if you’re feeling the nudge. Okay, so number one. Number one is basically the belief that I had to have that made it all possible. And there are different ways of describing this belief. And I’ll get to that. But the way I want to talk about it at first is it was the knowing and belief that I can’t not do this. So what, where I’m coming from with that, and it shows up in different ways. But firstly, this idea that, Oh, it was easier for them, because Instagram algorithm was easier to gain back then. Or it was easier for her because SEO was so easy in the past, like you could get on page one of Google, whatever, yes, okay, maybe some of that stuff might have some truth to it, maybe you just got to focus on what you can do now, right? Like the best time to plant a tree was 100 years ago. But the second best time to plant a tree is now we got to plan it with the conditions that we got. And knowing that you can’t not do this is very helpful in just stopping the overthinking and taking the action and making it happen. So what happened in my case was, well, actually, several times, I would doubt myself, like, it’s very normal for the early stages of business to feel slow to feel difficult to not be making the money that you want to make, right. And even later on in business. And this shows up again, and again, for me, like even when your income increases, you’ve still got next level that you want to reach, you still got new goals that you want to set, you’ve got more expensive expenses, whatever it is, there’s always a next level that you’re working towards, right. And there’s always times in which you’ll doubt whether it’s working. And for me this belief that it’s not really a belief, it’s kind of a knowing that knowing that I can’t not do this helps me to realise, okay, I could sit here thinking about all the reasons why it’s not working, or I can remember that I cannot do this, I’ve got to make it work, I have no choice. So I’m just going to keep going, I’m gonna keep on keeping on. And that’s very, very helpful for me, because what I realised really early on, when I started my first business, I was basically unemployable. I started my first business, I didn’t call it business back then I was basically just scrambling to make money. But I started because I couldn’t get a job. And what became clear to me is that I didn’t want a job. And then the longer I went on working for myself, the less and less employable I became. And now at this point, I don’t think I could ever get a regular job like never say never, I don’t think I could ever get a regular job. So I literally cannot do this, right. But it’s not just about being unemployable. It’s also about knowing that you have a vision for your life, that you want to create that you can’t not do this, even if it doesn’t work straight away. Even if you’re not making the money, you want that quickly, right? You can’t not do this. And believe me, when I started my first business, I was making very little money. And I will talk a little bit about more more about my prices and offers and stuff a little bit later in this episode. But it wasn’t paying off really quickly for me, but I knew I couldn’t not do it. So it just kept going and kept going. And it kept going. It’s simple. It’s like the simplest thing, and the hardest thing about having a business. So that’s step number one, it’s not really a step by step thing. It’s point number one. Number two, being a business owner. I know this sounds kind of obvious, because if you’ve got a business, you’re a business owner, but here’s the thing. A lot of people say that they’re running their own business and do not act or own the fact that they are a business owner. Now, I’m not saying that to shame anyone. The truth is that there are a lot of ideas out there about what a business owner should look like. And I definitely felt when I started my first business, I never would have called myself a business owner, I definitely didn’t think I fit in with the idea of what a business owner should be. That said, I noticed that massive things shifted. When I did decide I was a business owner. So I went like I said earlier on, I was kind of scrambling to make money. And then I had my eyes opened about what’s possible. And then I kind of decided I was turning this into a proper business.

Ruth Poundwhite 9:13
And the thing about deciding that this, you’re building a business is a really, it really does follow on from the first point but it’s really about knowing that, okay, if I’m building a business over, like, if I’m building this thing, I can’t even think of the words for a bit. If I’m building something that’s a real business, then it’s okay if it takes time. It’s okay if it takes time to build up this vision I have for my life in business. And I also know that there is a compound effect to everything I’m building and this was definitely not something I knew when I first started my first business but when I started my second business, I knew this from the get go. And that’s definitely been an advantage for me for me and starting my second business and I will say My second business income has gone up way quicker than it did in my first business, probably because of these knowings that I had from running my first business. But the truth is that everything you do all the action you take, is all building momentum behind the scenes, it’s just that it’s not necessarily paying off as quickly as you would like it is paying off. It’s just that it’s not necessarily paying off as quickly as you would like. And the thing that you need to lean into is the compound effect of that momentum. So it’s not a case of doing one thing, then doing another thing, then doing another thing, and then doing another, it’s a case of doing one thing, building on that thing, doing another thing building on that thing, oh, that thing has a momentum of its own. Now, it’s kind of snowballing and the Snowball is getting bigger as it’s rolling down the mountain, right? This is the thing about deciding that you are a business owner, you are building something that is bigger than you. It’s not all about you. And it’s something that might take time. Like if you think about traditional businesses, and I think this does make it difficult sometimes when we think because because the online business world has such potential, there’s, there’s no technically no overheads, you can just put stuff out there and start making money instantly. And that is amazing. But it doesn’t always happen like that. And if you think about kind of brick and mortar business, or or startup or whatever they often like operate in loss for years as they build their thing. But they’ve got a vision for the business that they’re building or the company that they’re building, right. And it can take time. And the other thing I wanted to say here is support, right? When you’re building a business, you don’t have to do it all alone, you are not the same thing as your business, your business is its own thing, you just work on it and in it, and you get to be supported as you work on it. And in it. So obviously, I recognise, absolutely recognise that you don’t always have the money to be supported in the early days, I certainly was not supported in the early days of my business. Again, this is where I had an advantage when I started my second business, because I knew that the support was absolutely key, the mindset support the coaching, and then the you know, like admin support and all of that as well. And what I hear a lot of people saying is I don’t want to build a business that that has a team and all of this. And it’s like, you know what, I would really ask yourself what it is about having a team that you are finding difficult to get your head around, like what is it that feels bad or wrong about having a team because you don’t have to have employees, you don’t have to pay anyone salary, you can hire subcontractors, it’s really easy, you can hire them for a really short number of hours at first, I say it’s really easy. I’m not like minimising your feelings, like everything feels hard when you haven’t done it before. And that is true. And you get to be kind to yourself about that. But the other truth is that trying to do it alone will will make it harder it absolutely well. And that’s why it’s often harder in the earlier days, because you can’t afford to do it alone. But you can’t afford not to do it alone. But the truth is that you got to it’s, it’s it’s easier if you call in support. And when you do call in support, it’s often you often need to do it before you feel completely ready to do it. Again, deciding that you are building a business and you are a business owner helps you make decisions from an empowered place. About

Ruth Poundwhite 13:14
around, I’m losing my word to you know, I mean, it helps you make decisions from like, if I really believe I was a business owner, here’s what I would do. It’s just a shift in thinking that can really change what’s possible in your business. And like I said, going for that support from day one, not even from day one, I went for the support in this second business from before I even had a second business, I knew how important it was. But in the first business that took me years and years and years, and it definitely slowed my growth. And there’s nothing wrong with having slow growth. But I’m here to tell you that if you’re thinking about it, and because I know a lot of you listening, you know you’re making a decent amount of money, but you’re not being supported in the way you want to support be supported. So consider this your nudge, to hire that support even before you’re ready or to dig into your beliefs about why you don’t want the support in the first place. Okay, so number three, building nurturing and selling to my audience. So I want to say that the fundamentals of growing an audience and and making money from that audience, to put it bluntly, in both businesses are exactly the same. You need a way to grow your audience, you need to nurture that audience build a relationship with the audience, and you need to be able to sell to that audience. Now I actually did it differently in both businesses. So the first business was very much me providing a service. And I found my clients by posting in different forums. I don’t think Facebook groups were a thing back then in 2008. Maybe they were no, I don’t think so. Facebook was very new back then. Anyway, I digress. Yeah, forums, networking, and I built up an email list. I wasn’t really on social media. And in the end, I got a lot of referrals as well and paid commission to people who referred me as well. And then in the second business, I decided to show my face before visible beyond social media, put myself out that way really have conversations with people who I felt were my people. Again, from the knowledge I had, from my first business, I really did focus on my email list again. But yeah, I did it in very different way, like podcast, never did anything like that in my first business. So the reason I bring this up is just to highlight the fact that there are many ways to build your audience, there are many places to build that, to nurture it and to sell to it. The principles are always the same building, nurturing, and selling the way you do, it gets to be your choice. And some of that is about what you feel comfortable doing. Some of that is about where you like hanging out. And some of that is about things just shifting with the time’s right. And the great thing is that, and you know what I want to just say here that both times,

Ruth Poundwhite 15:46
this happened very slowly for me, and I think this is true. I see this with my clients as well. Basically, it feels like nothing is happening, nothing is happening, or my audience is tiny, my audience is tiny. And suddenly, it’s like, hang on a minute, this compound effect really is working, I’ve suddenly got 500 people on my email list, I’ve suddenly got 1000 people. So we’ve got 2000 people, right. So I just want to emphasise that it always feels slow. And you can make 10, sign up 10 figure months, oh, my goodness, how much even is 10 figure months, I don’t even know, five figure months, you can make five figure months from a very small audience. So when I started doing it, in my first business, I think I had an email list of about 2000 people, when I started doing it in this business, my email list was even smaller than that. And I just need you to know that because it can feel like even talking about having an email list of 2000 people you might think is massive. To me, that’s small. And obviously, for these big business, online business owners, that is definitely a small audience. But if you are constantly growing, nurturing and selling, you can make a very good living from a very small list and aiming for that first 500. Honestly, you can make very good money, even with 500 people, I really want you to know that. And it all depends on your pricing your offers and the ecosystem that you have in place, which I’m about to get to. But yeah, building my audience, nurturing my audience and selling to my audience, I think that what I did, right both times, is that I just kept on going. I don’t know what it was. But I feel like especially in the first business, I just didn’t care that much about the numbers I just kept showing up, kept showing up kept showing up. Now, obviously, it wasn’t very visible in terms of social media and stuff. But it kept showing up with my email list. I kept showing up. And as far as I kept getting the clients, and it just kept going, like no judgement on myself about how long it was taking or not. In this business, I think that because of the focus on social media, especially earlier on, I did judge myself by the numbers more. But even now, like, I’m only like, less than three years into this business, I don’t have a huge audience. And even now I get to, I don’t care that much about being on social media, I don’t need it, I make a very good amount of money, not necessarily being on it consistently anymore. I do think if you’re in the earliest stages, it’s it’s probably your giving, like I said, You got to build that momentum. But yeah, you get to choose and you get to show up in a way that is authentic to who you are. And yeah, just remember, you can make five figure months with a very small audience. Okay, number four, the pricing that offers an ecosystem. So what I really want to say here is that in both businesses quite, quite early on, I think it took me longer in the first business because obviously I had a lot less experience then. But both times there was a moment where I had a realisation that my pricing and offers just weren’t serving me. So in my first business I had, I was full of doubt, like I had no confidence in what I was doing. I was doing freelance writing, just because I found an ad online. I never thought of myself as a writer, obviously, I kind of wrote stuff. I did have a personal blog back then. And I obviously wrote essays for my university stuff. But yeah, I have a lot of imposter syndrome. I had no like, concepts of how much it was worth. And I basically charged what I saw other people charging on the lower end so that I can get clients and even raise my prices really frack and by a fraction. At one point I had these people replied to me saying, Oh, I can get people cheaper. So obviously that didn’t help with my mindset. But what happened is, I was working really, really, really, really hard, long hours, and I was turning into a writing robot. It was very unfulfilling, and I knew that that was not sustainable. It kind of ruined my relationship with writing for a while. So I knew that things had to change and I raised my prices and I was doing okay, even though I had some people say that they didn’t want to work with me. They obviously weren’t my right people. I did get clients at the higher rate. But again, I realised that I didn’t want to be doing everything myself and what really changed the game for me and my first business was hiring other people to take on some of the workload and what And I remember at certain points when I had big goals, like one point I wanted to go travelling, I needed to be making a certain amount of money, I needed to earn a certain amount of money in advance to pay for the flights and stuff. But then I wanted to be making a certain amount of money with less work, so that I would have time to both travel and work as we were going. So I really looked at my office, and I changed the structure of my office so that they weren’t as demanding of me. And I basically made it so that I would have guaranteed monthly income from certain clients. And that was really, really powerful. And again, this really goes back to what I was saying in point number two, just like being the business owner, right making decisions as a business owner. And then in this business, it it hit me fairly early on that I was trying to sell my one to one services at a certain price, but it was not aligned to that price. Because if I knew, I knew if I was fully booked at that price, it would be too much for me, and it didn’t feel good. So I had to take a really big bold move and raise my prices, even though I wasn’t fully booked yet. And I talked about that in an earlier episode of this season on raising your prices. But basically, the key point I want to make here is that how you get to five figure months and beyond is that you have to make sure your ecosystem of offers and that your pricing supports that as being possible. So one of the things that I have people do when they start working with me often is to you know, we talk about what their money goals are, how much they want to be making, what’s the gap between where they are and where they want to be. And then we look at their ecosystem of offers. Okay, so you’ve got this offer, you’ve got that offer, at this price? How many people? Can you work with capacity wise? And if you were fully booked, how much could you make. And it’s so surprising to me that often, often people realise that what they want to make really isn’t that possible within the ecosystem of offers that they have right now. It’s either not possible because they literally would have to sell like 100 of their thing. And they don’t have the audience to support that. And remember, I was saying you get to make a decent income on a small audience. But only if you’re being smart about your pricing and ecosystems. It’s either that they have to sell to too many people or it’s that, you know, it’s a one to one service, and they only have a certain amount of capacity. So wants their full level. So it’s kind of simple, but you need to be revisiting this ecosystem, your ecosystem on a regular basis, make sure it supports your money goal. Ideally, I would love for you to make sure it supports three times your money goal. And that definitely feels more stretchy. But it gets you thinking really stepping into that business owner and the vision you have for where you want to take your business in the future. That for me is something that I didn’t always do. And my first business I had no idea about, I didn’t have the experience then. But in my second business that has been in my mind from almost day one. And I would say like I spent ages in this business getting to consistent 5k months. But it was very quick, the shift from five to 10k. Because I did the work to make sure that my ecosystem supported a much larger money goal than the one I actually wanted now. So it immediately kind of collapsed that timeline and made it all possible. So I’d really recommend sitting down and working on that.

Ruth Poundwhite 23:03
And then number 5.5 is about thinking bigger and owning your ambition. So I guess the thinking bigger stuff, I’ve kind of touched on a little bit by going bigger with your goal. But what I also mean by this is just having a vision for your life and having a vision for the impact that you want to create in your business. And I know that this is a tricky question sometimes for some people. And you know what, I don’t think you have to have this all figured out. In order to reach five figure months in your business, you don’t have to have it all figured out. Often the clarity on your vision will come from the action. So you might not have a vision one year into business, you might not have a vision or a big vision five years into your business. It’s okay if your vision for now is just getting up to a consistent income, or having a consistent flow of clients, you know, but having a bigger vision for my life in business has definitely helped me like like I said, there were times when I had big goals like to go travelling, buy a house, all of those times when there’s been a bigger reason for it, I have had a massive jump in income. Because it’s gotten me to be that business owner and shaped my business in a way that supports that goal. But also, something I talk about a lot. And this is really what I mean when I talk about the term quietly ambitious is really owning what it is that you desire. There is so much noise out there about the business we should be building what we should want in our lives. Doing the inner work and connecting with yourself tuning into what you really desire is one of the biggest things you can do for yourself. Because when you are building a business that is really in alignment with what you desire versus in alignment with the thing you think you should desire. Everything is easier. I’m not saying it’s all easy, but things flow a lot easier when you know you’re doing it from the most authentic and aligned place and that has been huge for me. And like I’ve said my story many times is when I first started my first business I tried to be someone I wasn’t. I felt a massive disconnect between my inside of my outside and it chipped away at me and it made everything harder. And once I learned into my personality, the way I wanted to do my business, the things I wanted, that were different to what other business owners were talking about, that’s when my income started to massively increase. And obviously, I’m carrying all of that through to this business as well. So those are the five things that I think have made all the difference in building from zero to five figure months in my two businesses. So number one, the belief that made it all possible, I can’t not do this. Number two, being an acting like a real business owner, number three, building nurturing selling to my audience, keep on showing up. But you can do in different ways. Number four, making sure the pricing the offers and the ecosystem supports the business that you want to build, or, or ideally supports three times the money you want to make. Number five, thinking bigger, and really owning what it is that I desire, even if that looks different to what I thought I should desire. So that was a bit of a whirlwind. And obviously, some of this stuff is covered in more detail in other episodes. I would love to know what you thought about this, please do get in touch at Ruth Poundwhite on Instagram, or send me an email Hi at Ruth poundwhite.com. And just know that if you’ve got the nudge to work together, to go for whatever the next stage in your businesses to go for those five figure months, whatever it is, then please get in touch because like I said, I am about to do another quite major price rise, and I’m shifting my offers. So one to one, there’s going to be a big price rise in the rest and rise group programme, there’s going to be a shift in the way I offer it is definitely going to make it better, but it means that it will cost you more so now is the best time to join. So you can find more about that on my website, Ruth poundwhite.com. And yeah, I guess I just want to end by saying I’m so grateful for everything I learned things did take me longer in my first business, but that is absolutely not a bad thing. Everything you’re doing will make sense. At some point in the future. You’ll look back in hindsight and you’ll know that the lessons you got were exactly the lessons you needed at the time. And just remember, it’s all happening. Keep on keeping on that is really the best advice I can give you whether you’re just starting out whether you’re doing okay, but you want more whether you’re doing great, but you still got a massive goal. Just keep going keep going in the name of the bigger vision. Thank you so much for listening to another episode of quietly ambitious. If you have a moment to rate and review know that it really does make a difference. And if you’d like to carry on the conversation, then you can connect with me on Instagram at Ruth Poundwhite Join me in the Facebook group or my personal favourite. Sign up to my newsletter letters to quietly ambitious humans. Just go to a Ruth poundwhite.com forward slash newsletter to subscribe and keep doing what you’re doing because your work really does matter.

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“you can make 5-figure months with a very small audience”

Show Notes

I’m now in my 14th year of running my own business, and at this point have brought two businesses up to earning 5-figure months, starting completely from scratch each time. But how did I do it? In this episode I’ll share 5 key areas that made it possible (and that I am still constantly working on as aim for even bigger goals)

“you are not the same thing as your business” 

Some of the things I talked about:

  • The trap of thinking everyone else has it easier than you
  • The belief that made it all possible for me
  • How I made decisions from a place of knowing I was a “business owner” and that I was building something that was bigger than me
  • The different ways I grew my audience in each business (and how big it had to be to reach 5-figure months)
  • The way I see most businesses struggling to hit their goals with their current offers, pricing and ecosystem

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Quietly Ambitious

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Where to Find the Podcast…

Thanks so much for listening!

When you subscribe to updates you get access to 3 bonus episodes of the podcast – exclusively for email subscribers – that dive behind the scenes of my business (I talk about failures, money, community & more!)