In September 2019 I got signed off work with stress and anxiety. The combination of realising I'd just been promoted into a job that was completely wrong for me and a couple of fairly significant personal events had hit me like a brick.
I felt frustrated & useless. I’d well & truly hit rock bottom & knew if I didn’t do something about it, I’d be there forever.
So I had some coaching to get me back to work and it turned out to be the best decision I've ever made. The experience had such a powerful effect on me that I decided THAT was what I wanted to do.
This is Part 1 of my journey of turning that light bulb moment into a real, legit side business.
I found out I was pregnant and having been coaching for free as part of my studies for a few months, I decided now was the time to get my first paying clients. I was still off social media after my breakdown, so I needed another way to find clients. I was scared but pulled my big girl pants on and created my first offer of £50 for 4 sessions. This may sound bargainous, but because I'd worked in a corporate job my whole like and had never asked anyone for money, this felt like a HUGE sum to be charging. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and sent it out to everyone I knew.
My friends passed on my offer to their friends (one even posted it on her slack channel at work) and I got my first six paying clients! Sure, they weren’t paying me much, but they were paying me something for doing what I loved. I was high as a kite.
After studying my ass off, I qualified as a coach one month earlier than planned. I hired my first business coach and mentor to help me get it off the ground. He taught me the ‘Prosperous Coach’ methodology which involves inviting people in your network for a complimentary coaching session with the idea that they’ll either sign up or refer you.
I also felt like I’d been leading a double life, keeping my side hustle from my boss, so I decided to take the plunge and come out of the side business closet. Luckily my boss couldn’t have been more supportive. Phew!
I signed my biggest client yet (a whopping £400 for 4 sessions!) who was a referral from my wedding photographer who was one of my original £50 clients. He said his girlfriend owned ‘an interior design business’. She turned out to be Athina Bluff, owner of Topology Interiors with a massive 22k followers (at the time) on Instagram. I didn't realise it then, but my relationship with Athina would end up being a total game changer for my business.
Having spent the last 2 months offering literally everyone I knew a complimentary coaching session, I signed 3 more paying clients. Brainstorming who to offer the sessions to was the inspiration for what is now my ‘Outreach Onion Method'.
And after helping me go from an hourly rate to a package model, my coach encouraged me to start increasing my prices every time I signed someone new. So by now I was charging £900 for a 3 month programme, which would have seemed impossible two months before . I now felt like a legit small business owner. I coached in the mornings before work, in the evenings and at weekends, literally every spare minute I had. It was full on, but I loved it.
Athina asked if I wanted to be the resident coach on a group mentoring programme she was creating for budding interior designers. My initial reaction was to run for the hills. I didn't feel ready, but my coach (and the fire in my belly) told me to cut the shit and go for it.
I also started dipping my toe back into the world of social media, setting up my Instagram profile and posting my first ever article on LinkedIn. I was terrified of people from work seeing, but as my coach pointed out, I had nothing to hide anymore, so I had no excuse!
Just 4 weeks after our initial conversation, Athina & I launched the ‘Interior Designers’ Toolkit’. We smashed our goal of 10 sign ups with a massive 18 in just 3 days. I couldn’t believe it. The combination of her years of industry experience and my coaching skills turned out to be absolute fire. For the first time, I could really see how this could become my full time business.
And good job I did because after their coaching sessions with me during the Designers’ Toolkit, five women approached me about carrying on with 121 coaching. They all signed up, meaning I was almost full - something I could never have imagined would happen so soon.
Six weeks before I was due to give birth, I landed another 2 paying clients through a combination of referrals from my original £50 offer and my complimentary sessions. What felt bonkers was having to start turning people away as I was due to go on maternity leave soon.
I had my daughter Edie and I went on maternity leave having made my first £10k. Actual, real money that I had made myself, doing something I was passionate about. So, I now not only had a beautiful baby girl, but also a real business on the side of my 9-5. Life was now unrecognisable from what it had been a year ago. The feeling was pretty surreal.
So what did I learn?
1. Your friends and family are your biggest advocates and will act as your salespeople if you ask them. They're the first place you should start when you want to get clients. Not social media.
2. Having a small business coach may seem scary but the investment is always worth it. My first one helped me increase my prices 125% in less than 2 months, which I would never have done on my own.
3. You never know where the initial complimentary or ‘low price’ clients will lead you. The majority of my 121 clients ended up coming from the Designers’ Toolkit, which I can trace all the way back to her boyfriend, my wedding photographer, who I coached for a measly £50 right at the start. So follow the breadcrumbs - you never know where they'll take you.
I hope my story serves as some inspiration wherever you're at on your business journey. Find out here what happened and the lessons I learned during my first year as a full time business owner.
Business Coach & Side Hustle Queen
Hi, I'm Lauren. I burnt out from the corporate world, hit rock bottom and used the experience to create my dream life. I now help passionate and ambitious women start and grow businesses. I'm living proof that you can - and deserve to - have it all.