how i increased my income by 500% in one year

song: carry on by twosmith

read time: 7 minutes

i live in a family of entrepreneurs — really. everyone in my immediate family is self-employed. i attribute this little detail to the reason i am the way i am. i’ve never seen the 9-to-5 done in my family. naturally, when push came to shove and it was time to start making money, a corporate job seemed incredibly unattractive. everything about it— the time restrictions (because, heck! i’ll be honest— i love a mid-day nap), the limited 2 weeks of vacation time (because, hello! i love being a gypsy and traveling whenever i can), the cap on how much you make (because, obvio — if there’s money to be made, i want to be the one who is making it).

in 2012, when i was searching for a job and what i would do to financially support my expensive taste and lifestyle— my dad came in my room, sat me down, and suggested i dive into the family business: real estate. he told me, “you can make $30k with your eyes closed.” at the time, $30,000  a year sounded like a lot of money and the thought of it being easy made it a no-brainer. i renewed my CA real estate license, dressed the part, went to conferences, and plugged away with my eyes open — and well, the $30k never came.

to be completely transparent— i was struggling. like, real time. whatever the poverty line is, i was more than likely living under that line.

a new year rolled in and midway through i decided to launch third story apartment — a creative house for dreamers and entrepreneurs. it’s where i live my life as a creative doing design, social media, writing / blogging, and consulting. even after i launched third story apartment though, i was half in / half out. i was still trying to make real estate work, even though it felt like i was living in the torture chambers of work. i had trouble committing to one idea — one thing. it’s like i was swimming in the ocean of entrepreneurship, but wearing a life vest called real estate— which never allowed me to really dive into the ocean waters. eventually, i realized — if i was going to swim and actually survive in the world of entrepreneurship, i was going to have to take off my life vest and just swim even if i was scared of sinking.

so i did.

i tell you all this because, while it’s humbling to be honest about how financially desperate i was a couple years ago—  what i tell you next won’t mean much unless you know how everything started. in 2014, when i decided to plunge all of me into my business— i saw a major shift in my finances.

get ready— cause here’s the shocker statement. in one year, i increased my income by 500%! i went from living “paycheck to paycheck” to living with money in my savings account and never having to say “no” to experiences because i didn’t have the funds in the bank account.

here’s the thing— i’m no different than you. there is nothing about me that makes me better, more special, or more talented than you. if i could do this— you can, too.

there’s plenty of money to be made in this world — there’s no reason why you and i cannot be the ones to make it.

so how did i do it? simple— i did these eleven things.

1. set goals. this may seem like a no-brainer— but regardless, it’s important to mention. before i increased my income and completely transformed my lifestyle, i didn’t really have any financial goals other than “make money”. which, i mean, is fine— but the question you ought to be answer to yourself is “how much money do you want to make?”

really, right now. take a second — write down a number. and when you write down a number, don’t play it safe. write down a number that you actually want to make this year.

is it okay if i get brutally honest? okay, because i am. i was making $12k a year before my business exploded. yeah, i know— it’s embarrassingly low. i told you— below the poverty line. and at the beginning of 2015 i wrote down that i wanted to make $40k. honestly, it felt like i was writing down an impossible number. regardless of how i felt, i wrote it down, because ideally — at the end of the year, i wanted to say i made that much.

because i had a goal in mind, i reached it. but here’s the twist — i reached my goal midway through the year. i reached my goal of $40k in june of 2015. i attribute this to setting goals. i told myself i was going to make $40k and i didn’t let that number leave my mind.

so do the same. write down your number and keep it in the forefront of your mind even if it feels like you’re shooting for the stars.

2. involve God. hands down, above anything else, THIS is the most important thing that i ever did for my business. forget the marketing, i really didn’t even do a good job at marketing myself. i forgot to instagram or tweet for a whole year. imagine that. as a business owner, it’s essential that you involve God in your business. God will open doors that no man can open, he’ll pave ways for your business where there seems to be no path, and he’ll orchestrate divine connections and opportunities for you. in 2015, i began being intentional about involving God in my business. to this day— i still do. i wake up in the mornings and thank God for the creativity of david, the wisdom of solomon, and the courage of esther. i thank God in advance that he is sending the right clients my way, that he is giving me ideas to expand my influence and help take my clients business’ to the next level. if you think that God doesn’t care about your business— you’re wrong. God cares. if he gave you the idea for your business, then obviously, he wants to see it succeed. something that i hold onto is the truth that God wants to outdo himself in blessing me — that’s not just in my personal life, that’s in my business. the same goes for you— God wants to outdo himself in blessing you. he wants to bless you, your dreams, your ideas, your finances, and your business so big that it makes your head spin. think on that.

3. generosity never leaves you empty. last year, one of my goals for my life was to learn the spirit of generosity. i wanted to learn what generosity meant in every sense of the meaning. i wanted to learn to be generous with my time, skills and talents, words, and finances. it may sound silly, but one of my dreams was to be able to take a table full of friends out to dinner and take care of the tab. whenever, i saw an opportunity to be generous — i took it. i never let an opportunity pass me by. if there was an opportunity to buy someone a cup of coffee, i took it. if there was an opportunity to help someone with a graphic, i did it. if there was an opportunity to help someone brainstorm for their business, i seized it. if there was an opportunity to encourage someone with my words, i went for it. i am confident that generosity is one of the key elements to living the extravagant life. it’s like the game, bigger better. have you ever played it? you start with something small like an egg — you go around town and ask for something bigger or better. but in order to receive the bigger or better, you have to release what’s in your hand. i heard a story once of a couple of kids who started out with an egg and at the end of a full day of playing bigger better they ended up with a car. like, what?! crazy, right? but it comes down to this— releasing what is in your hand to receive something better. generosity does exactly that. it’s giving what is in your hands to open your hands up to receive something bigger or better.  generosity opens doors for you that no social platform can and it leaves room for more goodness to come into your life. as soon as i really stepped into living an extravagantly generous life— my business expanded. everytime.

i dare you– try it. try being extravagantly generous for a month —watch what happens. generosity will never leave you empty handed. it’ll always fill you up to a place of overflowing.

4. don’t dip your toes in, dive in. i told you earlier —i was half in half out when i launched third story apartment. eventually, i had to come to terms with the fact that i had to choose to either do real estate or third story— because half-assing both of them wasn’t working for me. (excuse the language.) i decided, i wasn’t going to dip my toes into making third story apartment work, i was going to dive in. it was sink or swim. once i started really working at it and pouring myself into making my idea work— it began to flourish. i realized i wasn’t going to sink— i was going to freaking swim! and swim well!

your take away— whatever project you are working on, don’t half ass it. if you’re going to do it— give it your all. you’ll never know what will happen when you just dive into the deep end of uncertainty. like me, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. either way, wouldn’t you rather find out what would happen if you gave your idea your absolute all?

5. get up and work. okay, so i obviously do not believe in living the 9-to-5 life. i wouldn’t own two businesses if i did. but here’s what i do believe— i believe in getting up and getting straight to work. i believe in guarding your mornings and protecting your time during the hours of 9-to-5. when i first started the life of entrepreneurship — i thought “freeeeeeeedom!” freedom was ringing its bell and i was the one dancing in the street. i slept in, hung out with people during work day, and didn’t manage my time well at all. it didn’t take long to figure out that while self-employment does give you freedom, you still have a duty to respect your time if you want to thrive. truth: you’ll never increase your income or get to your goal by being lazy. you have to get up and work. the first couple hours of my day are sacred — i try to turn my phone off and the notifications on my computer and focus on getting a realistic to-do list for the day made and getting a couple solid hours of work done with zero interruption. here’s the secret: how you start your morning will define how your day goes. if you start it well, if you start it strong — you’ll end it feeling accomplished. and as a for the 9-to-5 part— i try to never hang out with people during those hours. it’s prime time for making money. it’s work hard, play hard — living like this the majority of the time allows me to take weeks off to travel and work for 5 minutes a day. it allows me to live in another country and find adventure whenever i want. protecting your 9-to-5 will give you the freedom you’ve been craving. because here’s the truth— no one else will protect your time for you. people will try to steal your time and fill it with things that are not getting you closer to your goals. you’ve got to take charge— you have to do the work, you have to protect your time, and respect your goals.

6. make the most of every opportunity. mumford and sons has a song that gets me every time— the lyrics go like this “keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn.” this has been so key in my journey— whenever i found an opportunity to serve someone else’s vision i took it. in 2014, i got connected to a brand of conferences. i jokingly sent a message to the founder of the brand and said, “if you ever need help with social media at your conferences, let me know! i’ll pencil you in.” that little comment led to so much— it gave me the opportunity to work with the brand. while i wasn’t getting paid, it was an opportunity that i didn’t want to miss because i knew that i had something to gain by working for the brand. i was gaining experience, i was networking with others in my industry, and i was learning the ins and outs of planning experiences. this opportunity was a domino effect that led to other opportunities that generated clients and connections.

so key lesson: make the most of opportunity. keep your eyes to serve and your hands to learn. you never know what it’ll lead to.

7. talk about what you do. i’ll admit — i was kind of terrible at this for a while (at least online). which, is ironic since i offer social media service to brands. but regardless, i talked about what i did which is how i landed the majority of my clients. whenever i had the chance, i’d tell people what i did and say “if you ever need anything, let me know! i’d love to help you.” social media is amazing, but word of mouth trumps all. word of mouth is how i built my business. my mom talked about my business, my dad referred me to his friends, my sister’s talked about it to whoever, and yes — even my online audience talked about my services to people for me.

this year, i realized i should probably start utilizing social media more to talk about my business— i started stepping everything up. in three months, i’ve already doubled what i made last year at this time thanks to social media and word of mouth. i’ve received clients from every platform — twitter, facebook, instagram, and snapchat! yes, snapchat! the idea is to give people an invitation to what you do. think about it— if you are hosting a party you wouldn’t expect someone to attend if they never got an invite or heard about it. in the same way, you can’t expect to get business if you don’t talk about what you do. whether it’s old school word of mouth or using technology, make time to talk about what you do.

8. hustle hard. be okay with working harder than anyone else around you. if you have big goals, it’s going to take hard work to get there. and will it pay off? yes! yes, it will.

9. say “yes”. don’t be afraid to say “yes” to new things. yeah, it’s a little scary trying something new —but they pay off of saying “yes” is always astronomical. okay, so personal example— because those always help me. as i was diving deeper into third story apartment, i was in desperate need of some new clients. i had a few— but they were as a mom says “pepe clients” meaning small ones. all week, i had been praying for new clients. out of the blue, i got an email from a company in LA that asked if i could update the design of their blog. i automatically, wrote back and said “no, i’m sorry —that’s outside of my domain” and referred them to a friend. two seconds after i sent the e-mail, i felt knots in my stomach. i distinctly remember the conversation that happened between me and God next. (i told you— i involve God in my business.)

it went like this:

God: “why’d you do that? why did you send them away?”

me: “well, i don’t know web design.”

like duh, God.

God: “you’ve been asking for clients and i sent that company to you. they were supposed to be your client, not your friend’s.”

me: silence and feeling all kinds of stupid.

God: “the next time someone asks you to build a website — say ‘yes!’”

me: “okay…” with major doubt that anyone was going to ask me anytime soon for a website.

i kid you not— the next week, two people asked me to build them a website. i said “yes”. truth be told, i had no idea what the heck i was doing or how to build a website. but i said “yes” because it was an opportunity and the truth is— we are creative beings who can learn to do anything we set our mind to. a month later, i produced my first two websites and these days— building websites is not only a major part of my income, but also one of my favorite projects to work on.

had i not learned to say “yes” even when i scared, i wouldn’t be where i am now or doing what i’m doing now.

the lesson: say “yes” even if it scares you— you’re stronger and more capable than you think.

10. treat clients like VIPs (always). it doesn’t matter what is happening — always treat your clients like they are the most important client you have. make each client feel special and like their projects are the only ones you are working on. whatever you are doing— you are the customer service industry. do what you can to make your clients happy, go the extra mile even if it means a couple more hours of work. if a client has to stop working with you for some reason, make sure you leave the best last impression possible. while they may not be working with you anymore, you never know who they’ll refer to you.

11. know your worth. last but not least, one of the most important things in business and life: know your worth. one of the biggest things i struggled with while starting out and growing my business was pricing. at times, i felt guilty for my prices. until one day, my dad broke it down real good for me. on a walk to the mailbox he said, “lindsey, never feel guilty for what you charge. you are the answer to someone else’s problem. you can’t put a price tag on creativity. if you have it, you have it.” after that, everything changed. i realized that while some projects may not take me very long— it was okay to be charging what i do. as i’ve grown as a designer, writer, and social media consultant— i’ve raised my prices. why? because i know more, i’m better at what i do, i have better ideas now, and my time is more on demand than ever. it’s the law of supply and demand. i realize now that my time is money. these days, i won’t open my computer and do work for anyone unless i’m making $100 an hour. and you know what— i’m okay with that. i don’t feel bad about it because i’m a solution to people’s problems. i have knowledge and creativity that other people need and i’ve been crafting and perfecting my skills everyday. when you know and value your your worth, your clients will too.

so here is the question— do you know your worth? are you underestimating what your time and skills are worth? write down what you think you ought to be making on certain projects — then start charging it.

okay, that’s it. that’s all i did in order to increase my income by 500% in 2015. there were no magic online courses, no secret groups, no special new skillsets — it was just a bunch of hard work, believing in myself, shifting my mentality to believe i was capable of making my goals, and saying “yes” to opportunities.

whether you are sitting at a desk job and want to launch an online business or you already have a business but feel like you are struggling to keep your head above water— i challenge you, put these ideas to practice and watch what happens. and if you have questions along the way, shoot me an e-mail. we’ll chat.

believe in yourself, dare take the limits off what you can do, and start believing that you can do anything you set your mind to — because you can.