Working online businesses today

Quit job to thriving online company (my success story)

In this 2-part series I let you take a look behind my scenes for the first time and show you my path from pathetic freelance jobs to a flourishing online company.

My development from a frustrated employee who spontaneously quits her job to a happy entrepreneur who works independently and regardless of location has been an exciting one. I hope you can learn a thing or two from my story and avoid some mistakes.

Shortly before Christmas 2010. My trial period as a marketing manager ended successfully and I was deadly unhappy. The mood in the company was bad because everyone was fighting everyone else, and as a marketing manager I had hardly any design options. I knew I couldn't stay a month longer, so I “had” to quit quickly.

When my boss asked me what I would like to do next, my answer was, "Sell something online."

I had no concrete plans. I didn't even know if I wanted to continue marketing and communication as part of my livelihood. It should be “any topic that makes sense”.

I wanted that too: only work 4 hours, a lot of passive income

Reading Tim Ferris ’bestseller“ The 4-Hour Week ”had inspired me and it was clear to me that I wanted to do that too: work little, a lot of passive income.

What I didn't know then: 4 hours of work per week is absolutely unrealistic and passive income is not really passive.

I am a whole-or-not-at-all person. That's why I had to get rid of my job, even if I didn't have an alternative. I've learned to rely on my gut instinct. If I feel sick about a big decision, the decision is right. And when I gave up my notice, I was uncomfortable, be sure ...

First of all, I needed money. So, as a project manager for an agency, I launched a large Porsche project. Freelancing was not a long-term option for me, because I wanted to be the master of my time and be able to work from wherever I want. However, working as a freelancer means never knowing when the next job will come.

The orders came, but the journey was difficult

I was good at generating orders. I had perfected my cold calling emails and received 2 new, larger orders, 2 introductory talks and a few nice rejections by sending 40 emails to Berlin PR and advertising agencies. However, I quickly realized that this way of customer acquisition was not an option for me. Researching the 40 agency contacts took 3 days and for a new assignment I would have to start the whole game from the beginning. That's why I'm such a huge fan of email marketing today. 😉

A niche was needed - just what?

After a long search for topics - from vegan nutrition to small dog breeds (the test blog even went really well) - I ended up in marketing again because I couldn't imagine a more exciting and meaningful job. (Because: the good is so close - that was absolutely true here.)

However, I knew I had to specializeif I wanted to make a name for myself as an independent marketing consultant. My hodgepodge of marketing, PR and event experiences was nice to look at on my résumé. In communicating with potential customers, this vendor's tray was very difficult to sell.

The inspiration came quickly and fiercely when I came across a video by the American online marketer Don Crowthers online. He explained how companies use social media marketing to increase awareness and sales. (That was in 2011, when the topic was still hot.)

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Quit job to thriving online company - My success story @SandraHolze

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I found my niche with social media marketing. Communication on Facebook and Xing was already familiar to me from my work in various startups and I had the feeling that I could bundle all my strengths and professional experience here.

No sooner said than done, I made my largest investment to date and paid $ 1,900 for Don Crowther's social media course. In addition, I consumed all the content I could find on the subject of social media, blogging, Facebook, Youtube for many hours a day. I had time ...

First of all, I set up my blog on likesmedia.de and published my first article in September 2011. I have kept up the weekly cycle almost completely until today. Starting the blog first was the best decision I could make back then. At that time I was still talking and my language was rather stilted and impersonal. I thought that's what it took to look professional.

I also printed business cards right away, because I thought I wouldn't be a serious company without the cards. I can only laugh about that today and I recently disposed of these things.

The first customers came offline - not online

The next decisive step was to find out who my customers are and what makes them tick. I put a lot of energy into getting to know potential customers and that paid off quickly. I went to a lot of networking events and I squeeze everyone there on their marketing problems.

Then I gave lectures to 20 to 40 people in the back room of my favorite caféorganized for me by a group moderator on Xing. Even if the effort was enormous and maybe 2 to 3 customers and 10 newsletter readers got stuck per presentation, I took a lot of knowledge with me. Because this is where my ideal customers sat: self-employed and small business marketing people. I wrote down every single question and later used it as the basis for my newsletters and webinars.

4 months after starting my blog, I had my publication in Handwerker-Magazin. A journalist came across my blog while doing research and wanted to know my expert opinion on the subject of social media for craftsmen.

Pure waste of time: giving a presentation to people who were not my target group

6 months after starting my blog, my first big order came in online: 2 lectures to managing directors of small and medium-sized companies in the Federal Ministry of Economics. The jobs were well paid, but I quickly knew that the 50+ year old directors who fear Facebook weren't my ideal clients.

At the beginning my newsletter had an amazing 20 readers

I sent my first weekly email newsletter to an amazing 20 people (including a few friends) and after all these years many readers are still there!

To speed it up, I've created a free give-away (lead magnet). Just nobody wanted that. That was probably due to the length (an A4 PDF with 25 pages) and the lousy visual preparation on my blog. This is why I am so strict with my clients today when they create blackjack lead magnets or are too stingy to be a designer. I've been through it and advise you: Invest the few euros and save yourself this detour.

After a year, 60% of my jobs came through my blog

That wasn't a bad result, but still not enough. So I had to keep freelancing to stay afloat. That made money, but it robbed me of the time to move my business forward. I also felt like I was employed again. That's exactly what I didn't want anymore.

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It was time to say no

At the time, I offered my advice in packages, which went well. However, I always let myself be drawn into one-on-one consultations. Result: The effort was disproportionate to the income and no customer achieves great results after just one hour of Facebook consultation. It took a long time before I had the courage to consistently say no to that.

Testing is above studying

Fortunately, I had a steady income right from the start of my social media career. I let all my contacts know that I am doing social media marketing from now on. Lo and behold, 2 companies - an online travel portal and a bag manufacturer - have entrusted me with all social media activities.

Not only was the regular money great.

I was able to learn a lot about which blog topics, Facebook posts and newsletters are well received by different target groups. That was worth gold and gave me the experience that I still benefit from today.

Today I see many "online marketing professionals" who can market themselves successfully, but have no experience at all with topics and niches other than their own.

I always have to know things exactly and that's why it was important to me to broaden my horizons and master social media marketing in various industries.

From 2011 to 2013 I increased my sales by 50% annually.

I was so serious about building my company that I have now turned down requests from agencies and was forced to generate my income with social media consultations and online sales. Saying no to money made me feel sick, so I knew I was on the right track.

Read here in Part 2 how I finally managed to put my knowledge of Twitter into my first online course (which completely flopped) and how it went on until I celebrated my monthly sales record in December 2015 with over 30,000 EUR ...