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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!
Making six figures is one of THE big goals everyone wants to hit in online business, and getting there feels pretty dang incredible (though it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time)! Even though I started freelancing in 2010 to help pay for college, I didn’t really take my business seriously until 2018. Two years later (in 2020), I made six figures for the first time ($106,000, to be exact!) and since then I’ve learned ways to make it a lot more sustainable (without completely burning myself out).
Hitting $100k in 2020 left me feeling pretty burnt out. My strategy up to this point was to just continue to take on more and more clients! My prices were super low, and I worked all the time. So in 2021, I narrowed down my client list – and I didn’t hit six figures that year. But in 2022, I made six figures in my online business for the second time, and I’ve figured out how to keep it sustainable for me in the future. If you’re looking for inspiration and insights as you’re growing your business, this post shares all my best tips for how to make six figures…plus some surprising things I skipped!
These days, most of my one-on-one projects come from repeat clients or referrals, but that’s something I built over time. In the earlier days, I spent 20 minutes each day in Facebook groups, answering questions and supporting other business owners. Unless someone asked, I didn’t even directly pitch my services! Instead, I went above and beyond to be as helpful as possible, getting into the nitty-gritty tech questions and making personalized Loom videos. When they were ready to hire someone, they thought of me!
Saying goodbye to the 9-to-5 life is literally one of the best things I have ever done, but sometimes the boundaries between work and home get super blurry. It was challenging to focus on paid client work or growing my business when a part of me couldn’t stop thinking about the laundry or what was for dinner. Shifting how I approach doing all those “adulting” things, like grocery shopping, cleaning, and running errands, helped me find the time to be present at work and home.
Even though I’m helping clients build an online course, I want to get to the heart of their bigger goals. Do they want to work less? Write a book? Help more people? I start there, so we can build a course that serves their overall mission. Along the way, I do everything I can to go above and beyond. My clients regularly tell me, “you just care so much about my business,” and it’s because I constantly am focusing on their bigger vision. If you show clients you’re there for them, they’ll come back for their next project and refer you to other people.
I don’t love super-sales-y networking that feels slimy, but I do love building genuine relationships with other business owners. Over the last few years, I’ve focused on getting together with other entrepreneurs to ask questions, learn from one another, and cheer each other on as our businesses grow!
It sounds cliché, but mindset really is everything! Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can’t, or you think you can’t — you’re right,” and that’s so true for online business. When you’re in charge of your own professional development and rates, it can be intimidating. One of my biggest challenges was giving myself permission to earn more. Of course, you should always continue learning in your business, so you can become better at your service and raise rates. But working on the mental piece makes it easier to ask for more as you grow!
Making money in my business is great, but I also want to make sure I’m keeping a close eye on what I spend. I’m a DIY person by nature, so before I spend money on a course or coaching sessions, I’ll see how far I get with a Google search! The Profit First system was also a game changer for tracking my income and expenses. Basically, you set aside a percentage of each sale as profit before deducting any expenses. You can grab my free Profit First Template to try it out!
The first business investment I ever made was sessions with Meg in 2018. She helped me clarify how I could create a business from my freelance side hustle and take the leap from full-time employment to working for myself. This coaching was massive in helping me actually start to treat my business like, well…a business!
I purchased Showit website templates from Elizabeth McCravy’s shop in 2019 and 2021, and I cannot say enough good things! They made my site look more professional, and I always get compliments. Elizabeth even includes a course to guide you in setting up a site and customizing your template.
Remember the burnout I talked about in 2020? I felt like I couldn’t take a break from work had to work all the time, and I had a season where I felt exhausted all the time. Ashley helped me create a more sustainable schedule and find ways to grow without adding more work to an already overloaded plate.
Personalized brand photography is one of the BEST things you can invest in for your business. Seriously, my sales doubled within a week of taking my first brand photos! I did sessions in 2019 and 2020 with Amalie Orrange from The Branded Boss, and I had my latest session with Christina Jones Photography this year.
There are quite a few things I’ve seen in other people’s posts about hitting six figures in online business that I definitely didn’t do! I wanted to share this list so you can see that there’s not one set path to make six figures. Everyone’s journey looks a little bit different, and that’s ok!
While I have a handful of contractors who occasionally help me out with projects, for the most part, I’m the only person working in my business! Working on the money mindset, relationship building, and time management pieces made enough space to make six figures in online business without building a huge team.
I didn’t worry about social media
This might be a controversial take, but content creation can eat up tons of time without a lot of return on investment. I didn’t post on social media consistently until 2022, and that helped me focus more on other things that helped my business grow. Instead of worrying about what to post, I focused heavily on relationship building and supporting my current clients which turned them into lead-generation referral machines for me. (In full transparency, this was sort of accidental, and I didn’t expect the number of referrals I get to take off so much, but I do think client experience is HUGE).
If I did things all over again, I would make sure I posted at least once a month on my social platforms to keep them active without spending too much time on them. One of my small regrets is that despite being five years in business, it sometimes looks like I’m a new business owner when you stalk my socials because I didn’t post much in the early years.
While I did two separate rounds of one-on-one coaching, I didn’t sign up for any expensive masterminds or group coaching experiences. Personal coaching gave me the support I needed at a way more affordable price (in total, I spent less than $2,000 over 5 years). I did do a ton of networking and connecting with other business owners, but most of that was for free – I even started a few of my own mini-masterminds along the way with business friends so we could support each other without the hefty price tag.
As you read how I made six figures in my online business, I hope you found some helpful takeaways! It’s a significant milestone, but it’s definitely possible to get there with strategy, support, and a LOT of hard work. You can do this!
If you have questions about how to make six figures, let’s connect on Instagram – my DMs are always open! For more practical tips on the exact resources I invest in, check out my tools and resources page, where I list everything I currently use.