“OMG, I cannot DO this for the rest of my life!!! I’m 35 years old! Is this really all there is? Is this why I got good grades and went to college and got a good corporate job??? So I could waste away in this dungeon doing a job that slowly kills my soul?”
I felt trapped. I wanted freedom. I wanted flexibility. I wanted financial independence.
But most of all, I wanted to have a bigger impact. To do something that mattered. Because each day that passed, I felt more and more panicked that I was wasting my life. Going to college, getting a job, making money for someone else and having finite earning potential – all of that’s great if what you are doing excites you. If it’s your passion. If you feel like you’re really making an impact in the world.
But what if it doesn’t? What if you realize that you’re made for more?
And I felt so guilty about not being happy. Because I had a good job, made great money and I felt like I should just be satisfied with what I had because so many others aren’t as fortunate. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to do something more.
And the one thing I loved about my job was marketing + web design.
So I got the opportunity to start a freelance web design business when one of our vendors at my day job asked me who built our website.
“I did,” I replied.
“Do you do any work on the side?” he asked.
That’s how I got my first client.
A girl at my gym asked me what I did for a living, and I said “I’m in IT and marketing… and I do web design on the side.”
I remember my face getting so hot… like why did you just lie to her? You’re not a web designer! You learned all this on your own by Googling…
“Do you know WordPress?” she asked. “Our guy won’t return our calls.”
That’s how I got my second client, and it snowballed from there. I started building websites for small businesses and entrepreneurs while still working full time. My goal was to make enough money to replace my day job income so that I could be my own boss. And so I spent every single evening after work and all day on the weekends working on client websites.
And I quickly burnt myself out.
I wasn’t charging enough (thanks, imposter syndrome). I didn’t have good processes or boundaries in place. I said yes to everyone and everything. I calculated that I was making about $4 an hour from my side hustle, 75 cents less than I’d made at my very first job in high school.
“This isn’t worth it…” I thought. “I’m going to wrap up these projects and just forget about owning my own business.“
And I truly almost gave up.
But if you know me… you know that when I get my mind on something, I’ll make it happen. I won’t take no for an answer, even from myself.
So I was listening to Chalene Johnson’s Build Your Tribe podcast one day where this random guy was talking about how he earns money by showing people how to set up web hosting… but they didn’t pay him to show them how to do it, the web hosting company paid him when people purchased the web hosting he recommended and showed them how to set up.
That guy is Pat Flynn of the Smart Passive Income Podcast, by the way…
It was one of those record-scratch moments.
“Wait, so instead of building websites for people, I can teach them for free how to do it themselves, and when they buy the things they’ll have to buy anyway to build their site, I’ll make money from those companies?!?! No wonder there are so many “how to build a website” tutorials out there! I can make a waaaay better tutorial, and give it away for free and still make money!“
And so I immediately got to work and recorded the tutorials that would become the very first Free 5 Day Website Challenge.
But these weren’t gonna be anything like the other WordPress tutorials out there. I’d taught myself WordPress over the previous 10 years in my marketing and IT roles at my day job. Back then there were two ways to learn:
- Trial and error
- WordPress forums full of dudes who were more interested in proving how much smarter they were than everyone else than actually helping people.
I’d make the mistake from time to time of asking a question in a WordPress forum… the responses I’d get were always along the lines of:
“If you have to even ask that question you have no business building a website.”
Duly noted, bro. I’ll figure it out myself.
When I think back on it now, no wonder I had such doubts about my abilities. I probably internalized that stuff more than I realized, and I didn’t want to be called dumb for asking questions so I figured it all out on my own – with great success!
My favorite self-taught achievement was building a continuing education website that brought in over $10K a month in revenue for my organization – so I wasn’t totally worthless when came to building websites…
So when I decided I’d teach people how to DIY with WordPress instead of doing it for them, I put in place some core values that had my past-self in mind:
- There will be a safe space for people who are not techie to learn so that they aren’t eviscerated online when they ask questions.
- No jargon, no trying to explain how it all works behind the scenes. No one cares. They’re not trying to be a web developer, they’re just trying to get their website up so they can move on to getting clients and making money.
- There are NO stupid questions.
- There are several key things that online business owners need to have set up on their website to be successful beyond just the design. Teach them how to do it all in one place. Don’t make them figure it all out themselves.
- When someone asks a question, answer it with the exact steps they need to take to do what they’re trying to do. Don’t just tell them what to do, tell them how to do it too because chances are they won’t know how to do it.
In 2016, I started mentoring other web designers, teaching them how to market themselves online, how to get clients, and how to run projects in what ultimately became the Web Designer Academy, which has helped hundreds of web designers work less and make more money.
And by the end of 2017, I was FINALLY earning enough money from affiliate commissions, courses + 1:1 client work to replace my 6-figure day job salary.
I quit my day job on January 2, 2018 and I spent the next 2 years doing 1:1 web design projects for clients, mentoring web designers inside the Web Designer Academy, and teaching entrepreneurs how to DIY their websites and market themselves online.
I offboarded my 1:1 clients at the end of 2019 to go all in on teaching entrepreneurs and web designers how to create freedom, flexibility and financial independence, and in 2020 we re-launched our Web Designer Academy course as a high-touch, high-impact group coaching program for ambitious women web designers.
Now, in 2023, I run a half-million dollar company with 2 employees that works with hundreds of web designers inside the Web Designer Academy to market and sell 5-figure web design services to their dream clients.
If I can go from employee to entrepreneur to CEO, anyone can do it.
I want to empower and show you that you CAN understand it, that you CAN do it, and that if you commit to taking the action, you can make a huge change in your life.
It is totally possible to turn your side hustle into your full time job. I know because I’ve done it, and it’s changed my life. It takes a major commitment, massive action and willingness to try things that don’t work, and make mistakes and keep iterating. It’s not gonna happen as fast as you want it to.
There are enough obstacles to overcome, and the one thing that I don’t ever want to stand in your way is the tech.
Imagine going to bed on Sunday night and not dreading Monday morning. (It’s an amazing feeling, by the way…)
Imagine being able to wear whatever you want every day and not have someone telling you where to be every second of the day.
Imagine being so excited to open up your laptop, jump online (from anywhere that has internet) and help people transform their lives that work doesn’t even feel like work anymore.
I hope my journey inspires you to create a life where you can design your own schedule, help others achieve their goals and experience the financial freedom that comes with not being just another employee ID on the payroll sheet.