On having an expensive hobby instead of a business

I spent a couple of years “building my business” on the side while I worked a corporate communications job.

I’d get up at 5 a couple times a week and write a blog post, schedule social media content, adjust my website copy, and create all kinds of design downloads, templates, and sales pages.

But all those months of researching, designing, studying, writing… I never made a penny.

Why?

Within two weeks of leaving my job to travel, I was settled in a house sit high in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico, and I was on the phone with the women who would become my first two clients.

In the last month of my job, I had already put in my notice, so I knew everything was on the line.

I designed it that way. I knew I didn’t have a single client yet—It was a risky move. Even though I let them believe I already had clients, my friends and family thought I was crazy. If they had known I didn’t even have any paying clients yet, they probably would have put me in a padded room.

But I had a feeling. I knew I was never going to make a change unless I absolutely had to. I was unhappy in my job, and not making progress in my business or writing. So I bet everything that I could do it, leaving myself with one option: doing it.

I didn’t know it yet, but that’s when everything started to change.

I realized I was missing… so many obvious steps. At the time, I believed some version of “If you build it, they will come.” I was trying to do it all myself, and instead of making connections and building a network, I was just trying to build a list. I was afraid of reaching out and talking to real people—because I’d have to either admit that I’d never had a client, or feel like a fraud calling myself a ‘copywriter and marketer’ when the only marketing I’d done was free & volunteer projects.

(Lists are great and incredibly valuable. But a list all on its own is like a diamond without a ring setting. It’s pretty, but what in the world are you going to do with it?)

Once I had no other income, that fear didn’t go away. It simply became irrelevant next to the absolute requirement that I find money for groceries and gas to get to my next house sit.

So I started connecting with people—As Ashton, the writer and marketer, not Ashton, the corporate employee sneaking around trying to start a business.

I helped out a few well-connected people in my ideal client group with free strategy, then I asked them for referrals. I began selectively cold-pitching others with personalized emails, shoutouts on social media, and offers to serve.

I actually stood behind “I am a copywriter and marketing strategist.” And the more I said it? The more opportunities I got to go out and BE one. The more I said it, the truer it became.

Today? I can’t imagine it ever not being true again.