There are so many different types of ittybiz owners in the world, but so often only the biggest or flashiest ones get represented in the media we consume.
To counter this, I've been interviewing real IttyBiz customers and clients so that you can see the variety and diversity of solo businesses out there – and the different ways that people run their business and manage their work.
So without further ado, I'd love to introduce you to IttyBiz customer…
Hey Casey! What do you & your ittybiz do?
I’m a life coach for people who have ADHD – specifically high achievers, like lawyers, professors and other professionals who are struggling with attention deficit.
Where can people find your website?
You can find me at dixonlifecoaching.com.
How long have you been running this business?
I've been running this business for the last 16 years!
Why did you start this business? What was the catalyst or “reason why”?
For about 12 years, I was a school head / principal of a private school for kids with learning disabilities and ADHD. In my last three years there, I really didn't enjoy my work.
I loved my students and the teachers and the way that the school was run, but I didn't enjoy being the director, and the politics just wasn’t my thing.
So I hired an executive coach who helped me to go from “behind the scenes”, just working at that school, to being the head of school, with 37 employees, a two-and-a-half-million-dollar budget and a board of trustees.
And I remember sitting there in her office one day, and I just looked at her and said, what I want to do is what you do. And she said, “Well, you could totally do this – just for your people.”
And so that's what happened! I left the school and got my coaching training. And I've been happily doing this ever since.
What was the hardest part of getting started / the early years?
The hardest part was that initial stage where you don't have any clients. This was also back in 2005 – a time during which it was much more challenging to get clients without some kind of referral / network, and to generate business just with your online presence.
And so I ended up doing a lot of intermediate jobs as I was getting my coaches training and getting my first coaching clients. So I was a tutor. And I would get up really early and drive around the county to different schools, and work with kids who were having trouble learning how to read because of their dyslexia. And I knew how to do that from my work in the school that I had been at. And I had a reputation for that.
So I was sort of working really hard, not making much money, doing things that were outside the scope of my business so that I could start the business itself.
And so for me, the hardest part of getting started in the early years was having to do other kinds of work, while I developed a reputation and an online presence for the coaching.
Another thing that was hard for me was that I took a lot of clients that weren't in my ideal client bucket because I was trying to figure out who that was. I just needed to take clients so that I could get my coaching hours in, practice my coaching and fill my business so that I made enough money to live.
What’s easier for you now than it was in the beginning of your business?
Everything is easier for me now than it was in the beginning of my business except for at this particular moment. I'm doing a massive scaling up.
So if I wanted to keep my business exactly the same as it is that it was the beginning of this year. It would be really easy. I have a full slate of clients. I have a good online presence. I'm doing a lot of speaking and writing. My clients are really happy I'm doing both group and individual coaching, and I made pretty good money last year.
But everything's easier just because experience has made me a better coach. So that part's much easier for me. I know how to do groups, which took a little learning curve to it. Running the online presence is a lot easier, too.
Now I feel like I know what to do when talking to clients in my marketing materials, about their challenges or pain points, and why it's not their fault and what it's going to look like after they're done with coaching. It all comes more naturally and easier because of just doing it for so many years. (I have about 7000 hours of coaching experience!) So it just seems easier now.
How many hours a week do you work on average?
That's a tough question, because I have purposefully scheduled my life to allow for greatest flexibility for my personal life. So I only do client facing work three weeks out of each month, the first three.
And then I have the rest of the month for either professional activities like you know, running the business, updating the website, developing marketing and email stuff, doing social media writing, presenting or developing presentations, as well as travel.
I try to I spend about a third of every year outside of the house traveling. And that was true for 2020 as well. So I'm trying to do as much of that lifestyle thing as possible. I also only run groups 9 months out of the year so that even during those three months, I'm I have fewer client facing hours.
But if I'm working with clients (and trying to run the business) I would say that I probably work about 40 to 50 hours a week. Some weeks it drops dramatically down to 20, perhaps. But most of the time, I would say it's around a full time gig.
And then sometimes it's it's a lot less depending on what I'm doing. If I just sit and coach and I don't do anything else that week, I'm probably working about 15 to 20 hours.
But there's so much to do most of the time that if I'm making a big push for a launch of a program, or I'm writing something, or I'm developing online coursework, or I have a big presentation coming up, it can be significantly higher. But one of the things that I try to do with my work is to model for my clients what it's like not to work crazy hours, and not to burn yourself out.
How much time do you spend per week on social media?
Very little – I made some evergreen content for all the social media channels about four or five years ago, and pushed the Go button. And it just kind of goes now.
My assistant Christine will do launch social media occasionally. But right now what I plan to do is to take my social media and decimate it, clean it out and start that from scratch once I have my online courses up and running. So I don't really do much there.
Do you answer your own email, or does someone else do it?
No, Christine does that for me. I felt really overwhelmed with all the inquiries that I was getting and trying to explain to everybody why I wasn't going to be able to help them or I spent way too many hours helping them find another coach to work with.
And so about four years ago, Christine took over my email inbox for the business. And now she answers all of my emails. Depending on whether this person is in my ideal target market or not, she has templates and referrals for all those people who are not.
And if there's somebody that she thinks that I might want to work with, then she sends me sends them an email with a Calendly link, so they can schedule a 20 minute phone call with me. And so she's my gatekeeper.
And boy, did that relieve a lot of the pressure off of me to try to help everybody on my own.
How frequently do you produce content?
I was publishing blog posts every other month, but in 2020, I had a brief six month period where I don't think I had anything. That is very rare for me – I'm pretty consistent over time.
Right now I'm producing tons of content, for online courses. And all of my social media, blog posts, etc., will be generated from that.
I'm also doing case studies right now, some interviewing clients who have been through a lot of my programs (just like you’re doing, Kris!). From those interviews I’m taking quotes and testimonials and things I can use for social media as well as trying to generate content using those case studies.
How frequently do you email your list?
I'm not a frequent emailer, but every time I write a blog post, I send out two emails.
If there is a program or a speaking gig that I'm involved with, then I will send out two or three emails about it. That happens probably three or four times a year. Although in 2021, I'm not doing any speaking gigs at all.
When I have a group event, I send my potential clients a series of eight emails over the course of a 2-month period. My clients are pretty famous for jumping in and joining groups at the very last minute, but they need to be consistently reminded that there is something helpful for them out there in the world, and that they have been interested in my services in the past.
Do you do everything yourself, or do you hire others to manage parts of your business?
I did everything myself for about the first 10 years, and there are parts of that that I really liked. I liked to do the financial work. I loved to build my own website. I used to love doing my own content creation, but then it became too much.
So Christine is my business manager. She helps me with business strategy, as well as problem design. And she up until very recently did all of my sort of email inbox response, my tech, my technical stuff, making sure that all the parts work, landing pages and writing. She helps me write some content after I give her outlines and drafts.
I have another assistant, his name is Jan. He's in the Philippines, and Christine is helping me to manage him. He's there to do the tech-heavy, client-facing work tasks. So he's doing things like making PDF worksheets into fillable worksheets, editing videos, etc.
I think the best thing that I've ever done is to hire out and get help, because that really helped me to scale up the first time that I was doing something. So that was really helpful.
What’s the best purchase / investment you’ve ever made for your business?
The best purchase that I made for my business was hiring Christine – not that she's a “purchase”, but she's a person. (Laughs) And that was incredible.
I've also taken some business management or business development courses through IttyBiz, which were incredibly useful and helpful.
The International Coach Federation has a business development series that I got a lot out of, too – and I think my own coaches’ training also was an incredible investment for that for me.
What’s your favorite product in the Karma Store?
My favorite product in the karma store is The 1-Hour Content Plan. I absolutely love it.
I think it's the sort of simplicity on the far side of complexity. You have everything that you could possibly create content about, and it helps you really to just break it down, to say, “Okay, let's organize this in a logical way. Everything that I do could be covered by that content plan.”
So I went through that about five or six years ago, and developed all of those social media posts that you and I were talking about, and some blog articles, and then it sort of helped me to get started, to get up and running with those things.
Now I'm going through The 1-Hour Content Plan again, to take a fresh look. And it's really helping me to develop my social media posts, blog posts, and even my online course, webinars and future courses that I can be doing.
So it’s really an incredibly powerful tool – but also very inexpensive and easy to use at the same time.
More customer profiles are coming – maybe one will be yours?
If you're an IttyBiz customer and would like to be featured in an upcoming customer profile, get in touch!
And if you're not a customer yet, consider Casey's favorite product, The 1-Hour Content Plan – or any of the pay-what-you-want products in the Karma Store.
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