This One Goal is Fucking You Over

We Need to Talk about Making 6 Figures in Your First Year

I told you I made 10k this month and I bet in your head you thought ’10K x 12 = 120K, holy shitballs! Halley must use money as toilet paper! I’ll hire her and she’ll teach me about making toilet paper money!’

Check yourself, friend.

I’m not going to shoot hot air up your petticoats about it because that will lead to a lot of broken dreams.

The problem with reporting highlights is the math.

A business owner tells you they had a 40K month and you nearly jizz yourself with excitement because you think they are raking in a neat half mill.

I went into my first month of business (with 5 subscribers, a handful of connections and only a couple of clients) thinking I could make 97K like Ash Ambridge did in her first year. (A. I admire the shit outta her and B. why not me?)

That did not happen and it made my life hella hard to have such an unrealistic goal.

I’m one month away from the end of my first year and this is what’s happened:

  • I’ve had my first 10K month (11 months into working for myself).
  • Monthly incomings going forward = approx. $4,000.
  • I’ve accrued debt due to being in business (I paid half of it with the 10k month).
  • My newsletter has about 200 people on it.
  • My launches usually sell out but I’ve had failures (three launches so far have bombed out of 9).
  • I’ve had a deluge of self-doubt because I’m not sure if these numbers are good (and they most certainly didn’t meet my 90K expectations).
  • I’ve come close to quitting multiple times because my financial dreams were not getting met.
  • My monthly income is doubling every 6 months.
  • July 1st marks my first full year of business owning and I’m currently at 33,518.54 for incomings this year.

Having high goals is great but making it thru the first year of business means having realistic expectations. There’s a reason why half of the people who started their businesses at the same time as me aren’t doing it anymore. This is hard and you need to know what REALLY happens (for most not just the outliers).

It’s not fair that other business owners tell you you can make 6 figures in your first year. It’s dangerous and sabotages a lot of amazing businesses and people.

Instead let’s focus on you doing this daring & risky adventure with the best results possible. By releasing the financials from being the end-goal and making it about your clients and their results you make the world a better place and make it easier to be booked out in advance.

If you’re still hell-bent on your 6 figure goal for your first year, I get it. (I’ll support you no matter what you decide.)

Here’s how you can do it better:

  • Write AMAZING, high-quality content.
  • Build your list for products. (You don’t need a MASSIVE list to make enough money to thrive in your first year but if you want to start topping those high 5 figures/6 figures you need a bigger audience to sell products to which means a list.)
  • Develop connections – be a real person and connect with the newbs, up & coming and established – don’t throw someone out because they don’t have a big enough following. That shit is petty.
  • Invest wisely in your business – website design, equipment, tools, training/coaching. Don’t keep buying for the sake of it.
  • Have a plan.
  • Build in realistic expectations.
  • Save up as much as possible.

PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG. I want that for you. To do better than me. To learn from my experiments and succeed better. 

Tell me – what goals do you (or did you) have for your first year of business?


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  • Um, THANK YOU! Honestly…it can be very draining and a big blow to the ego to read about others boasting their constant success, their business skyrocketing overnight, and their income quadrupling in an instant by having their e-mail list go from 5 to 500 in 1 month. I do stop and wonder what the magic formula is…you’ve just outlined it brilliantly! I appreciate this more than you know today!

    Stacey
    Reply
    • Same page! I find it hard to digest as well because it seems like if you’re not earning as much as them you’re failing which is totally not true.

      They need to share the failings/weaknesses so that we can see the full picture.

      Thanks for being here!

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • THAT’S what I’m talkin’ bout girl. 6 figures? HA! The first year is like that first job you get out of your hoity-toity college when you thought you’d be rolling in bank and then you realize you’re actually an artist and you’ll make $30K if you’re lucky. IF you’re lucky.

    I’m actually gonna draft my own blog post about that.

    Sophia Chang
    Reply
  • Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly! Can’t echo the website part enough ( I wasted a lot of time trying to do that on my own-dumb, dumb, dumb!). Just wanna say how much I *heart* you! Can’t get enough of your killer content. Keep up the great work 🙂

    Catherine | Fit Armadillo
    Reply
    • You should have seen E&S before Francesca stepped in! Horrid. I’m talking Ecto-slime green.
      Thanks for being here & reading! I really appreciate it.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • I’m always happy when people are honest about stuff like this. Heck, 5 years in this business of mine (the first 4 of which I was working for lots of other people AND a part-time job) and last year I made a whopping $32,000. But I was ecstatic because it was all from MY work. However, I now know I want to desperately break the 6-figure goal before I turn 30 in 3 years because it’s something my mother never got to do.

    Megan
    Reply
    • Wooohoo! 3 years is plenty of time (I’d assume based on your numbers and kickassery). I love your motive behind making 6 figures. I feel that.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • Absolutely adore this post. So many are boasting that you can make 6 or 7 figures within months of launching, and some do, but most are trying to obtain that dream and give up before they even make it past the third month because they are wondering where their clients are. Thank you for being so beautifully honest with your past year. I admire that.

    Lesley Stefanski
    Reply
    • So true, Lesley! And it’s such a shame because they thought they were doing it wrong but they might have been doing it right. Thanks for reading.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • You. Are. Fabulous. I adore how candid and blunt you are. Halley FTW <3

    Nat, Website Superhero
    Reply
  • THANK YOU. I get to see behind the scenes of many small bizs and it’s really tough out there. There’s a lot of competition and it takes time to get your marketing message clear (believe me…I know!).

    The gurus who tell you 100K is easy are liars. It’s really hard unless you’ve been in business before, have tons of money to invest, or you have someone BIG and trusted who’ll promote you to their crowd.

    If you make over 30K in the first two years of business, frankly IMO you’re a rockstar.

    Lisa Burger
    Reply
  • Woah, this is amazing! I love just how open and honest you are here. You would totally fit right next to Pat Flynn in my authentic entrepreneur spotlight (*wheels turning…*) And holy shitballs, I never even came close to making $30k in my first year! Actually who am I kidding, in the first year of my blog I made a big fat $0. It wasn’t even really a business yet. Thank you so much for being so honest. I’m going to share this with everyone I know who’s just starting out because they all need to hear it!!

    Laura G. Jones
    Reply
    • Thanks Laura. It was super scary to publish.

      (Oh really?)

      Yay! If it’d help someone please do pass it on. I wish I had known what realistic numbers are for first year of business.

      Thanks for reading & commenting.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • i’d love to break the six figure goal and even multiple six figures by 35 (31 now). right now i still feel like i’m throwing spaghetti on the wall! and even having my first $4k/ month would be awesome.

    janet
    Reply
    • Me too! I’m hoping to do so by end of next year. I can’t wait to get there. Spaghetti against the wall is how everyone starts. Experimentation is key.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • Thank you so much for being so open about your finances. I really love these “first year in business” breakdowns.

    Denise Duffield Thomas made a series for her first 3 years and it was very eye opening.

    Frankly I’m not even making my last agency salary yet, let alone to hope for 6 figures…

    Nela
    Reply
    • Same! I wish we all could talk more openly but it’s easier to sell if everyone thinks you’re doing amazing.

      Does DDT make 6 figures?

      You’ll get there. 🙂

      Halley Gray
      Reply
      • Yeah, I feel like if I don’t earn “enough” then I have no business helping others improve their business.

        She earned around $60k in her first year, and she hit 6 figures ($146k) in her second year.

        Thanks, I hope so 🙂

        Nela
        Reply
        • Hey Nela!

          Yeah, I totally understand that feeling but there are others who see your accomplishments as major + awesome. So keep teaching. 🙂

          Halley Gray
          Reply
  • I think this post makes you pretty cool. And I think 30k for your first year is grrrreat.

    I’m at the point in my business where I’m making enough to sustain myself which is freaking exciting. Took me 1,5 years of fumbling around and then 5 months of really committing to it.

    Something that I’d highly recommend would be to get your expenses down. If you’re single, why not live in Bali for the first year?

    I’m feeling pretty comfy with my income, but that’s also because I’m totally okay with working around a college student budget. I spend less than 1k a month (actually I spend about 700€ a month, but my income is all $$).

    Business is pretty exciting when you’re scraping by number is $700 per month. Cause it makes it ATTAINABLE aka less pressure aka more fun.

    Iris Barzen
    Reply
    • I agree with you on the expenses, Iris. I have a “cost of surviving” number and a “cost of living” number which includes investing in stuff and spending on clothes and concerts.

      Nela
      Reply
  • Love this! I think we all assume that everyone else is raking in the dough and we’re not—I publish my monthly income reports and sometimes it’s just damn depressing, but it shows me where I’m doing well and where I need to improve in my business!

    Erin E Flynn
    Reply
    • Yeah, so true. I love your breakdown of your income, Erin. Such a fascinating thing to see be hid the veil.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • OH MAN!!! Thank you so much for the reminder that not being an outlier doesn’t make you a failure – AND that it can equal out between really big and really lean months.
    Keep on swimming – keep on swimming – keep on swimming
    xo
    K

    KrisWithaK
    Reply
    • hahaaha. Such a great mantra and so true!

      Thanks for reading.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • YES
    THANK YOU
    PLEASE
    MORE

    Maria
    Reply
  • Thank you! I’m so thankful for your transparency!

    Jennifer
    Reply
  • First of all, I never would have guessed you have only been at this for a year. You provide some kick ass wisdom and advice and it sure feels like you are ‘an old pro’ at this! Also, THANK YOU for being honest about this. I won’t repeat what everyone else said but yeah.. so spot on. I have to constantly remind myself that I should feel proud of the fact that I am only 6 months in and making enough to cover my overhead expenses. If I just keep growing steadily, and learning from my mistakes, I think I’ll do alright and at least reach the level of income I earned at my miserable office job by this time next year. THAT will feel awesome.

    Carrie
    Reply
    • Carrie! You make my heart sing. Thanks for all that awesomeness.
      You are doing great! That is the ultimate goal, right? To make the same money (and eventually more) than our crappy day jobs.

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • Thanks for tellin’ it like it is. I feel like I’m going into the whole thing with my eyes wide open.

    Beth
    Reply
    • Perfect! That’ll make it so much easier for you. Let me know how it goes!

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • Nice read. I’m not into full freelancing or anything like that yet. But it’s nice to read your experiences.

    It shows how realistic you were and also committed to your passion. Not the same, but I’ve launched my first novel on my own. I too, similarly, didn’t dream of becoming a best seller and slowly built audience and sales with offers and marketing. I can feel what you were saying.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend.

    Sriteja Reddy
    Reply
  • I love the honesty and brevity of your posting this. You’re doing amazing though and I agree that 100k first years are not as common as we think they are and that’s OKAY. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… 🙂

    Kamila Gornia | for passion-driven solopreneurs
    Reply
  • Halley, I just have one thing to say about this post. Thank you! Now I can relax and stop stressing out about making six figures right now. (Read: it’s my first year too).

    Temmy
    Reply
  • In a “brick-and-mortar” business, they consider you a success if you’re “in the black” by the third year. While the internet has the lowest entry cost in the business (in dollars, not in how much personal time you spend), the costs aren’t zero- and you’re one guppy in a very big bowl.
    Only five percent of ANY business startups “make it”- be patient, make slow moves to change your core, and realize that very, very few are cut out to be the boss. (Our society is not big on training people to think for themselves).
    Own your mistakes as well as your successes, get help when you need it, and plan for the sudden expenses (what, I pay if my traffic goes up?).

    hagar
    Reply
  • Thank you thank you thank you!

    I loved this, I just started publishing my income reports and it was scary. So tired of the six figures for everyone posts.

    REAL TALK rules.

    Dani
    Reply
    • Agreed on all counts, Dani! Love that you’re talking real as well. 🙂

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • Seriously loved this post! It’s nice to see someone being totally up front + honest while still giving us something to strive towards. A 10k month within’ your first year?! Still seems like a dream to me. I’m launching next week + will keep inspiring women like you in my mind as I set out on this adventure!

    Kayli Schattner
    Reply
    • Woohoo, Kayli! Welcome to this world. Thanks so much for stopping in. I wasn’t expecting a 10k month in my first year but lo and behold it happened!

      Halley Gray
      Reply
  • Loving this post and loving these comments. I share my monthly income reports and though it’s a little embarrassing, I have been thanked SO many times by my readers for being so transparent. The support keeps me going!

    Stephanie Shar
    Reply
  • I’m so late to the party, but Halley as much as you tried to deflect – $10,000 in one month is nothing short of amazing. Having a focused, goal-oriented plan is such a valuable tip that we need to be constantly reminded of! Thanks for letting us get a peek into your wallet 🙂

    NiaSweetz
    Reply
    • Aw shucks. Thanks Nia! I’m so glad you’re here. Yeah, def the way forward is being strategic and using numbers to know if you’re hitting your goals or not. Haha my wallet is pretty empty. I’m a cards lady.

      Halley Gray
      Reply

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