$1 Million in Annual Revenue, Zero Full-Time Staff: How I Run a Simple, Profitable, One-Woman-Led Business

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“Hire a team!” You need to hire a team!

This is the advice everyone hears or gives when it comes to taking your entrepreneurial endeavors to the next level. Do you want to go from five figures of turnover to six? Build a team. Want to break the million dollar mark? Hire a team.

I’m here to tell you: since 2019, I have been earning at least a million dollars a year thanks to my business, talking shrimpwithout hiring a team.

If you’re like me, this news should be a relief.

I never wanted employees

I didn’t want to interview, manage, have meetings with, or feel responsible for the livelihoods of a group of people. In the event of a drop in income, I didn’t want to have to panic about payroll.

Every time I saw a photo of a fellow entrepreneur with his team of ten, I thought to myself, “Better you than me, my friend. If that is the mindset of “playing small”, so be it. Captain Small, this way. I’m a fan of small — small and skinny.

Many of my co-workers, those with large teams, engage in a lot of money-making, lead-generating activities that I resist because they are a lot of work and require… well, a team. These include online challenges, virtual summits, and — the “must” I most stubbornly rejected — one-on-one sales calls.

Most of my income comes from selling courses and digital products via email. It’s pretty low-fi, that’s how I like it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have help in my business.

Instead of employees, I hire contractors

And they have been essential to my growth and continued success.

An independent contractor is not an employee. He’s a specialist. They arrive on day one already knowing how to do the task at hand, which saves you a lot of time and headache trying to train them. Entrepreneurs also often have multiple clients; what you pay them does not determine their entire livelihood.

Independent contractors have their pros and cons. Choosing to hire them instead of an employee means less paperwork and expense for me, and – even if no business benefits – more freedom for them. They can work for other clients, run their own business, and maintain multiple streams of income – and they do.

Here are the two main players who have supported me in my business since it was much smaller and helped me cross the $1,000,000 mark.

#1: A designer/developer/digital strategist

My friend Michelle Martello, founder of Minimal designs, is what we would call a unicorn, a Swiss army knife. She is brilliant at graphic design, web coding, and getting seen and paid for online.

Over the years, I’ve hired her both for projects I knew I needed, like redesigning my website, and for projects she needed, like a redesign four years later. (The Online Years are even more accelerated than the Dog Years. Something that was fresh in 2017 now looks like you set it up in the late 90s.)

She has also :

  • Helped me optimize my website for my newsletter signups
  • Creating branding templates so I can easily create my own Instagram quote cards in Adobe Photoshop
  • I turned documents I had already created into valuable, salable assets by suggesting sections of interactive notebooks and making them look pretty
  • Set up my first system (very simple and easy) to sell these digital products, so all I had to do was tell people about it and provide a link. The first product she helped me set up, my 60-Minute Copywriting Mini-Course on Makeoversgave me a taste of scalable income, and I was hooked.

At times I worked with Michelle on a retainer basis; to others, a project base. Although she’s not officially part of my “team”, I owe a lot of the growth of my business to having her in my corner.

#2: An Online Business Manager (OBM)

My OBM, Sandra Booker, has her own company, Any old task.

Despite my successful design projects with Michelle, I initially resisted hiring somebody continuously, because I didn’t know what tasks they could offload to me and I thought that delegating would generate more work than it would save me.

I was so wrong.

What convinced me to hire him? A fellow editor, Tarzan Kay, posted about Sandra on Facebook, saying, “Since I started working with Sandra, I’ve made a lot more money.” Magic words. I also hired Sandra.

At the time, my entire business was based on custom writing services. I helped my clients in real time in a shared Google Doc. For a while, Sandra’s role in my business was mainly to help me manage my client appointments.

She also started helping me with my newsletter emails, checking them for typos and other oopsies before I hit send. We named this task “Check ‘n’ Send”.

As we discovered more tasks that took me too long and didn’t fall into my “genius zone”, these also went to Sandra (and her team, which she manages) . It allowed me to move from personalized services to the business model I have now, based on scalable offers.

Thanks to his support, I was able to:

  • Create new offers, like my email writing course Inbox Heroes and my group mentoring program, shrimp club.
  • Put more energy into selling my existing short writing course and my signature class with my partner Marie Forleo, The cure for copying.
  • Be more effective and earn more with Affiliate Promotions, where for a commission I promote courses from colleagues that I think my audience will love.
  • Create more content for my audience, aka my “Shrimpers”, many of whom are business owners and writers and want to learn everything they can.
  • Write more emails, which means more sales, which means more revenue.
  • Putting more energy into the part that I do best and enjoy the most: writing.

Sandra and her team support me in too many ways to catalog, but here are just a few examples of how their contribution has helped me increase my income to seven figures.

In a typical week, they:

  • Manage my inbox, respond to podcast interviews and other requests, respond from “Team Talking Shrimp” when appropriate
  • Provide customer service
  • Review and help refresh my previous email launch sequences
  • Tag and segment my email subscriber list so I send the right offers to the right people
  • Index all my past content and direct me to it so I can refresh and recycle it if needed
  • Provide fresh insight and strategic intelligence
  • Push me to reply, write emails and create trainings
  • Keep taking tasks away from me that I think will take “2 seconds” and end up taking hours, for example: “Can you please turn this video of me pouring syrup on pancakes into a gif and drag it into the email?”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Sandra and I communicate mainly by Voxer, an app that looks like a walkie-talkie. Usually, as I walk around, I think of things I need her to do or ask her about, and she reminds me of the tasks ahead of me: “Don’t forget to record the questions and answers for the Shrimp Club” or “Are you going to write an e-mail today? »

My advice for you

What should you do if you want to grow or pivot online, but don’t want a team of employees?

Hire at least one contractor to free up time and bandwidth. This will allow you to focus on what you do best.

Don’t try to do everything yourself, otherwise you will never be able to do more or generate more income than you already do.

For years I had heard everyone say they wished they had hired help sooner. I am now saying the same thing. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll write about how expanding to a team of 20 internal employees was the best thing I’ve ever done, and how I hit the mark. ten millions. So never say never.

But for now, I’m happy with my official business status: tiny and profitable.