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As I’ve grown both of my businesses over the years, I’ve uncovered the areas that were most valuable to focus on at each milestone. As someone who highly values time freedom I’m constantly looking for the ways to make the most impact with the most efficiency, and today I’ll share with you what those were for me at $2k, $5k, $10k, and $20k+ months.
$2k Months: Relationships + A Signature Service
When I started my first business as a designer back in 2015 the only thing I wanted was to hit $2k months, to replace my income. I didn’t actually know much about running a business, or having business expenses, but in my mind if I could get to that coveted $2k, I’d be fine. I’d be great!
Getting there consistently actually took me a while, but when I honed in on Relationships and having a Signature Service, I quickly hit that milestone.
At any level of business, with any type of business, I believe relationships are one of the most valuable things you can focus on. This helps you get more referrals, connect with more future clients, and also not feel so isolated working for yourself. Back in 2015 and 2016 I focused on relationships through Facebook Groups, Twitter (Twitter Chats were my *thing!*), and coffee chats.
Nowadays I don’t love spending a ton of time on social media, but I do still have coffee chats here and there to connect with people and continue to expand my network and just to feel more connected with people working online.
The big caveat with focusing on relationships is that they have to be genuine. If you’re only connecting with people ‘to get’ those relationships don’t really pan out into anything that feels good or actually supports your business. So while relationships DO help you grow your business, I’d invite you to lead with the intention that you genuinely want to connect with people and learn more about them and foster a real relationship.
The other thing that helped me lock in those consistent $2k months was having a signature service. This is something I recommend to any service based business owner—have a thing that you are known for. A process, a framework, a way of working with clients that clearly moves them from point A to point B. This is easier to sell, easier to become known for, and easier to map out a schedule around so that you can still honor your desire for time freedom.
$5k: Systematizing + Simplification
I’m the kind of person who would rather be proactive than reactive, so focusing on processes and systems (and keeping everything very simple) early makes more sense for me. That being said, some people would interchange this section with the next ($10k months), but as someone who highly values time, this always has made more sense for me.
As you are growing your customer or client base and gaining momentum you are also learning what works and what doesn’t. As soon as you find something that works, I’d recommend systematizing it. I’d also encourage you to be open to letting go of or evolving things that aren’t working.
So, in my design business that looked like creating processes for onboarding and offboarding clients, creating a standard process for collecting any client information I needed, and creating a system for invoicing, contracts, and client communications.
In my second business, as a coach, I followed a similar path. As soon as I found a service or way of working that I liked, and that was working for my clients I started looking for the repetitive things that I could systematize to make it easier and simpler to do over and over again.
This carries over into more than just the client side of your business, though. Perhaps you start using some sort of scheduling software for those coffee chats, to help you be in your inbox less. Perhaps you schedule social media, or time block time to create content, so there’s routine and structure around your days and weeks.
The overarching idea here is: simple, simple, simple. You will probably find things to eliminate in this process. That’s fine, that’s the goal. You may find that you’re spending hours a week in Facebook groups but no clients have ever come from that—can you let that go?
Basically, the internal shift that happens here is you move from being ‘a freelancer with some clients’ to ‘a business owner’. I remember this shift for myself, back in my first business. I started setting up my laptop and notebook and water bottle on the kitchen table every day at a set time, instead of working from my couch or bed or wherever else. I started treating my business more like a business and that internal shift reflected in external actions which created more and more growth in my business.
$10k: Authority + Client Experience
Once I had more processes in place where I felt I could continue to grow and serve clients without working 80-hour weeks, I have the ability to continue to improve upon my client experience (which may involve increasing prices) and really take the time to step into more authority.
What I mean by authority is owning and sharing my thoughts and ideas around my industry or offer, sharing client testimonials and case studies, and basically showing up more for my business. Expanding my reach, my impact, and visibility.
For me it always felt important to have a proper foundation (clients coming in, processes built) before this step. That’s not everyone’s journey, but I’m someone who thrives in feeling secure and capable and following these steps is how I’ve continued to grow without completely compromising my nervous system.
In both of my businesses I hit $10k/month with very similar offers that I hit $2k/month with, I just was able to hold more clients or customers because of the support I had built in with systems, processes, and simplicity overall.
After this point, as you continue to grow (if that’s something you desire) I’ve found that most people will start to introduce new offers and focus on having an offer suite. That can feel overwhelming if you don’t have this foundation really streamlined and simplified. I’d encourage you to hold onto the mantra less, but better as you scale to $10k months.
$20k: Offer Suite + Scaling
Beyond $10kk months can be like the Wild Wild West, honestly. There are a lot of ways to navigate this kind of growth. For most of my clients, and in my own journey, this is when we start to think about our business and our offers as a suite.
By this point you probably have a signature offer–perhaps it’s coaching, or a program, or a copywriting package, or a branding package. We begin to explore what else your customer or client is going through around this signature offer that you could support them with.
For example, if you’re a designer with a signature branding package and you want to increase your income but don’t want to squeeze in more clients—how else can you support existing clients?
For some designers that might look like offering ongoing, retainer work to their favorite branding clients. For others, that might look like creating customizable templates that their clients could take and use. For others that might look like more strategy-based work that requires less time, or could be done in an intensive type model.
There are a lot of solutions here and there’s no right or wrong. I begin with my clients by simply exploring what else their clients need, and seeing if we can uncover a simple, obvious solution that they could continue to help them with (typically it means an offer before their signature offer, or one directly after).
Now some people shift into more teaching here, or they build an agency, or they bring on junior team members—all of these are great solutions too. What I encourage you to do is first check in with your goals… Do you want to increase your income just because you think you have to or should, or is there a real desire to continue to grow and scale your business?
And if there is, I’d next check in with how you want your business to feel as you scale and what you’d like your days to look like in the best case scenario. What we find here varies for everyone. I have clients say that they actually see themselves doing less of the work they’re doing now and more managing and leading a team. I have clients say they never want to give up the work they’re doing now and they hate the idea of managing people. I have clients say I want to teach others how to do what I do.
It’s all fair game and possible, but the $10k mark is a great place to check in with what this next level of your business actually looks like—otherwise you run the risk of just stacking more and more and more on top of what you are currently doing and burning yourself out.
There’s rarely a perfect path to growing your business, but as you can see there are a few key areas that I’ve found that have made the journey as simple and ease-filled as possible. Where are you currently at in your business? What are you focusing on?
- Client onboarding: how to streamline your process and impress your clients
- Client Goodbye Packet: The ultimate guide to client offboarding
- HoneyBook: Client management system
- DotCal: Call scheduling software
- How to create a successful signature service
Kaitlyn Kessler is a business coach and mentor dedicated to helping her clients create more ease in their businesses and lives.
Her support blends strategic thinking with the inner work and a whole lot of self-love. This supports her clients to step into more alignment with their offers, their business models, their values, how they want to lead, and more so they can continue to grow their impact and income in a way that actually feels good.