Julie Stoian spoke with Kathy Caprino about she accomplished under pressure in 547 days.
In my work as a coach and writer, I hear from hundreds of people each year who share inspiring stories of intensive sacrifice and commitment to building a better, happier life. Once in a while, the story is not only very compelling, but also has essential personal development and business growth lessons that we all can learn from.
Julie Stoian’s story is one of those. It’s a moving life journey that involved giving up full-time custody of her kids for 547 days in order to grow her business so she could provide a better life for them long-term. What began as a side gig has grown into a seven-figure business today — and allowed Julie to take back custody of her children and provide a better life for them.
Over the past five years, through her digital marketing business Create Your Laptop Life, Julie has helped thousands of people build out their marketing strategy, focusing on Facebook ads and sales funnels. Julie is a sought-after expert in digital marketing, having achieved such accolades as the BlogHer Voices of the Year Award and becoming the first woman to earn the Dream Car incentive from ClickFunnels. Stoian has equipped thousands of up-and-coming business owners with the skills and strategies they need to create, build and grow profitable online businesses.
Here’s what Julie shared about how to overcome serious life challenges and embrace the intensively hard work to rebuild one’s life and business:
Kathy Caprino: Julie, tell us the backstory of your success — what led you to focus on digital marketing, and moving that from a side hustle to a successful full-time endeavor?
Julie Stoian: Throughout my years as a stay-at-home mom, I turned to blogging in order to find an outlet that would use my brain in the midst of laundry and diapers. I loved everything about blogging —mostly the writing, but also the tech side. When my three children finally all went to school, I decided to grow a freelance writing career. The goal was to write five articles a day for $5.00 each and that would be $125 a week — the amount I needed for groceries.
As time went on, I continued to learn about the tech and design side of blogging and had people coming to me for help. I opened up Fabulous Blogging in October 2012 and started helping people with the tech side.
By summer 2014, I was consistently making $1500 -$2000 a month doing writing and design. It was all fine until I found myself divorced and pregnant with a fourth baby at the same time. All of a sudden I knew that this kind of money wasn’t enough to live on.
So I took a temporary full-time marketing job at a college just for the insurance and moonlighted my business in the evenings. It was the longest 9 months of my life. I was separated from my three kids during the week because they needed to stay in a good school system and home (that I couldn’t afford). So I grew my fourth baby, worked day and night, and saved up $10,000 to take my own maternity leave.
I transitioned to Digital Marketing during that time because I knew that people would pay more if I could solve the higher-level problems of leads and customers. I couldn’t just be a writer or a designer — I had to be a full-service Digital Marketer who could transform a business.
As soon as I did this, I was able to double and triple my prices, and by the time my fourth child was three months old, I had my first $7000 month.
From there, it all exploded I used Digital Marketing strategies on my clients with great success, and then used them on my own business and went from a one person business to a million dollar brand in less than two years.
It took me 547 days to become stable enough financially to have my kids come live with me full-time. Now I consistently generate about $100,000 a month with the Create Your Laptop Life brand.
Caprino: Through this experience, what have you learned about the power of sacrifice and fierce prioritization, and making the HARD decisions in order to live the life you want?
Stoian: I’ve learned that many people won’t do what they have to do to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. Most failed businesses are run by people who remained too attached to a particular product or idea, rather than remaining fiercely attached to the prospect of being in charge of their own financial future.
I didn’t care what I did, I was committed to doing it from my laptop. Yes I had to slog through some pretty nasty clients, but I was focused on the goal. Financial security I could control from my own home and with my own two hands. So I didn’t get hung up on branding or a specific product or course.
Letting go of taking care of my kids full-time for a year and a half was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It never got easier. There were always tears on Sunday nights when I had to send them back home.
I remember on the first day of school, I woke up really early in the morning to drive 45 minutes just to be at the bus stop. I couldn’t handle how many things I was missing. I would do Ellie’s homework with her on Skype. That kind of pain and trauma builds a strength and hustle most other things do not.
Caprino: Can you share your top five marketing and business development strategies that you teach other small business owners, and that helped you save $100,000 in your first year?
Stoian: Sure, here are the key strategies:
1. Determine how much do you need to live
The very first thing I do with clients who want to save enough to quit their 9-5 (and then save enough for whatever is next in life) is… how much do you need to live on per month? You’d be amazed at how many people don’t know this. Once we have that ironed out, we build a business plan that pays the owner first. It’s not a business if you’re not able to get paid.
Based on the profit first model, doing this does two things — it gives the owner the first of the harvest, rather than the leftovers. It also makes it really hard to overspend because there’s usually very little left at the beginning. It makes all those tools and software and other things seem not that necessary because you’re in bootstrapping mode. When you don’t do it this way, you will pay yourself last, and all the little things that businesses supposedly “need” will eat up your profits.
2. Figure out how to price your products and services
The second thing I do is teach people how to price products and services so that you can hit that number! Especially in the digital product space, people just “guess” pricing rather than pricing based on what their revenue goals are. And when you know WHAT you actually have to make, and how many packages of this and that it takes, you are more confident in your pricing, and therefore better able to sell them!
3. Find the low-hanging problems
The third thing I do is teach people how to find the low-hanging problems that people will pay for solutions. It’s about learning how to get attached to a specific audience rather than a specific idea. When you find people with problems, and really work to provide solutions, the money and leads come racing in. Networking and visibility are two key components to finding the people you can serve. Using this model, I’ve never released a product or course that hasn’t sold because they are all born out of actual problems people have.
4. Learn the ins and outs of funnels and ads
Next, the trend of the hour right? Funnels and ads. These are the two skills you need — whether to build your own or to sell the service, learning sales funnels and Facebook Ads are the fastest way to get in front of a ton of people and make the money you need to make! Learning these from the ground up is daunting so I break it down into four distinct pillars.
1. The offer – let’s create the best and most insane offer we can.
2. The copy – More than tech and design, learning how to write well and develop great copy or video script is key.
3. Targeting – We need to figure out the profile of the person who needs this, and find them.
3. Finally, customer loyalty — This is one of the most amazing things about my business — it’s a million dollar business and I have a tiny list of 15,000. When I tell people this, they can’t believe it. And in the Expert Secrets Affiliate Marketing Contest that Russell Brunson released, I beat out Tony Robbins, Jeff Walker, Grant Cardone, and Amy Porterfield because of this one belief — that you don’t need a huge list to create a massive amount of money. It’s easier to get a buyer to buy again then to constantly look for new buyers. So I teach business owners how to deliver an experience that keeps customers for life!
Caprino: What is the one challenge you see most often that holds small business owners back from exponential success and how can they overcome that block?
Stoian: The biggest challenge is their own expectations. Internet Marketing gurus are the reason people think “millionaires in minutes” are realistic. And because of this, people quit. They give up. They let disillusionment take over. They quit way too fast. They think business building is 3 clicks and a few thousand in ads.
Learning how to manage your own expectations as well as the expectations of your clients and customers is key. Because when you overpromise and underdeliver, the internet is a small place and people find out. So matching an expectation with reality is one of the biggest skills and attributes of a success business person!
Caprino: What’s your ultimate goal for your business, in the next 5-10 years and what strategies will you employ to help you get there?
Stoian: The ultimate goal of Create Your Laptop Life is to create a stable online community of freelancers and entrepreneurs who can go to CYLL to get things they need to build their laptop life — be it physical products, courses, coaching, and strategic business relationships. I envision a brand that is at recognizable as Triple AAA to all of us who have memberships.
Caprino: Any other critical tips and strategies you’d like to share?
Stoian: Yes, and this is for people who aren’t in the online space yet. Remember that Digital marketing is the skill suite that will propel you faster than anything else. Whether you sell those skills as a solopreneur or agency, or if you use these skills on your own business model, it’s the #1 skill set that will get you to your goals faster.
For more info, visit Create Your Laptop Life.
This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.