Contributor: Celinne Da Costa (ForbesWomen) | Source: www.forbes.com
The era of biting your tongue because of a crappy boss or staying stuck in a job you hate is long gone, especially if you’re a woman: it’s time to stop holding yourself back by what you’ve been told that you can or cannot do in your career, bust through that society-imposed glass ceiling, and be your own boss. In today’s digital world, you get to choose how to make your income and shape your life.
That’s exactly what Amy Porterfield, online marketing expert and founder of a multi-million dollar digital course business, is striving to teach women everywhere.
Through her bestselling courses and top-ranked podcast, Online Marketing Made Easy, Porterfield has paved the way for even the newest online entrepreneurs to bypass the overwhelm, and instead generate exciting momentum as they build a business they love.
Porterfield knows a thing or two about scaling a successful business: it only took her 4 years to hit her first million-dollar year, and less than 10 years to launch 8 successful digital courses, enroll 40,000+ students, grow a community of over half a million people, and be on track for a $10 million dollar year.
Amy Porterfield: When I tell you that my family was blue-collar to the bone, I mean it. My dad was a firefighter and my mom worked part-time as a hairstylist in Orange County, California. They had a very traditional marriage: my mom made dinner every night and set out my dad’s clothes for him, while my dad worked two jobs to earn our income and always called the shots at home.
Every time he left for work, my sister and I would look up at him from the floor where we were playing Barbies and he’d say, “Girls, when you grow up, find a way to be your own boss.” As a child, I had no idea what he was talking about. All I knew was that he was the household boss. Over the years, I settled into the comfortable idea of having a boss—despite what my dad said. It just felt natural.
I went on to work as a content director for a world-famous motivational speaker for almost seven years. Although it was a genuinely great experience, I was incredibly unhappy towards the end because I was still building someone else’s dream. I hit a point where I craved the freedom of creating a life by my own design more than the comfort and safety of having a boss. Becoming an entrepreneur was the only way I could make that happen.
But, I still didn’t believe in myself. I genuinely thought I didn’t have any skills that would allow me to build a business outside of corporate.
Da Costa: What was the breaking point that made you realize you had to become your own boss?
Porterfield: Before quitting my job in 2009, I learned everything I could about the online digital space and running launches from beginning to end. There was this tiger in me that roared, "In one year, I'm going to quit and make this happen for myself."
I started my own social media consulting business on the side and slowly built up clientele until I got the courage to take the leap. When I did, I realized I’d made my biggest career mistake ever. Instead of one boss, I had eight clients who were basically my bosses in a business that I was good at but hated.
I had stepped right back into a “doer” role instead of out into a “leader” role because I was still afraid to put myself out there. I knew I needed to become the go-to person for something in my industry, but I hadn’t found it yet. It was more comfortable and safe having a bunch of people telling me what to do.
It all blew up in my face two years later when I’d just gotten off a plane after attending a marketing conference. One of my worst clients called me while I was on the tarmac trying to juggle my suitcase, cell phone, and coffee cup. Between the roar of airplane engines and propellers flapping, I could only hear every other word of him viciously barking at me. “The webinar went horrible today. Where were you?! Amy, this will never happen again.”
It was the last straw. I was shaking with dread, my face was hot, and as I gripped the phone against my ear, something inside of me just snapped. I was so done playing small and letting others hold me back. “You got that right,” I thought. “This will never happen again.” That moment, I decided to reclaim my freedom. Shortly after that, I fired all my consulting clients and started building my current business.
Da Costa: What were the biggest challenges you faced once you decided to build your business?
Porterfield: I didn’t know what I was doing when I created my first digital course. I rushed to get something in the market without figuring out my expertise. My course was about launching a book using social media, which I’d helped people a bit with but I’d never done on my own. Big mistake.
I also had no idea who I was marketing to and was trying to figure the whole thing out on my own. I ended up spending several thousand dollars creating the course and only making a whopping $247.
I was so mortified that I didn’t want to get out of bed the next morning. I spent a week walking around in a black robe all day until my husband said, "I think it's time that you get out of the robe, get dressed, and make this happen."
I had to get very clear on what I wanted: what kind of business, what lit me up, and what my next best move was. I wasn’t looking for perfection, but rather for progress. Something inside of me said, “Don’t you dare go back to having a boss!” I had to start believing in myself and what I could do. I’d never done that before.
Da Costa: What was the turning point for your business?
Porterfield: I started to pay really close attention to what my audience needed: reading their comments on my blog, paying attention to their questions and stories, and uncovering their fears, challenges, and hopes. Finally, I began creating courses that people would actually buy (such as how to use social media to build your business).
Then came the confidence boost when I started hearing success stories from my students. The first time I heard, "Your program helped me quit my job and start my own business!" I was hooked. Their success felt like my own.
As money started flowing in, I realized that if I could do this, other women could, too. Quickly I made the decision that I would "go first" — I would build this business, make mistakes, and share them along the way — so that I could be an example for what is possible. That gave me a purpose that I didn’t previously have. It also gave me a sense of responsibility — a bigger mission. Two years later, I had my first $1 million dollar year. As of today, I’m on track to have a $10 million dollar year.
Since then, I've faced big challenges along the way, including two failed launches, a misguided marketing decision that cost me a whopping $20,000, and the heartbreak of entering into a partnership that turned out to be wrong for me, but even so, every day I know I am right where I'm meant to be because I get to call the shots in designing my future.
Perhaps the biggest realization I had was that creating courses is so much bigger than me. It’s about empowering other women to never have a boss again either. They can blast right through the glass ceiling and make as much money as they want, have as big an impact as they want, and be as creative as they want. They never again need to feel restricted by someone else’s rules and instead have the freedom to make their own decisions. That’s why I got into this business and that’s what I want for all female entrepreneurs. My dad said it to me and my sister first, and now I’m telling all of you: be your own boss.
Da Costa: Many entrepreneurs today are talking about online courses. What makes your approach different?
Porterfield: One of the biggest mistakes that course creators make is to throw everything they know at students and overwhelm them. Instead of quantity, my programs focus on quality. I teach exactly what my students need to know. No fluff. No extra. Nobody has time for that.
Speed sets me apart too. I show people how to create a roadmap to teach their students. I show them how to take out all the fluff and get people from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible.
I also genuinely care about getting my students to the finish line (so many people who buy a digital course don’t finish). If you’re not intentional about getting course buyers from A to B, they probably won’t arrive there. That’s why I also teach ways to create a community around your content: accountability will get students to complete the course faster.
Da Costa: What are your top tips for women looking to get into the driver’s seat of their own destiny?
Porterfield: The key is creating a digital course. I believe that everybody has a course in them. Everyone knows how to do something that somebody else genuinely wants to know how to do, too. You just have to have the confidence to say, “Yes! That’s me!” And then be willing to teach someone who might be a few steps behind you—or many steps behind you.
At the beginning of my career, I struggled to find a course topic my ideal potential customer wanted to learn and that I was genuinely excited to teach. My best tips to help you skip that struggle are:
1/ Do a 3-Day "No Judgement" Brainstorm Session
For the next three days, write down every single idea you have for a digital course. Don’t judge your flashes of ideas as they come. Just write them all down, the good, the bad and the ugly. From there, circle the top 2-3 that excite you the most.
2/ Think About Your Own Transformations
We’ve all had goals, dreams, and things we want to happen in our lives that we got to work on and made happen. Ask yourself, “How did I make it happen? What did I do to get what I wanted?” Your course topic might be waiting in your answers. Write down every idea that comes to mind and circle the one that excites you the most.
3/ Notice What's Working
When I’m thinking about my next course topic, I take some time to look at what’s going well in my business. If you’re already making money in your business (even just a little) take a look at the areas that are yielding the biggest results. Your course topic could easily reveal itself in the answers to these three questions:
What topic am I always talking about with my customers or being asked to “pick my brain” about?
What process or systems do I use with my one-on-one clients (or myself) that gets results?
If you work with clients one-on-one or do any type of client work, what has been working for your clients? What do you do to get them results?
Jot down your answers to these questions. You will be amazed by how much clarity comes from diving into each of them!
From my own experiences and those of my students, here’s what I know for sure: a digital course business is the single most powerful and strategic way to make an impact in the world while growing your income to life-changing levels. You deserve to set yourself (and your earning potential) free by creating a business and life you truly love.
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