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From Creative Outlet to Creative Agency: How Adding Value Led to a Thriving Business

Kelby Green started his solopreneurship journey as a creative outlet. In fact, it wasn’t even solopreneurship that he set out to do.

He just wanted to help his friends and family work through some financial decisions. Read on for the story of how Kelby’s first website led to him starting a creative agency.

Thanks for sharing with Fully Booked VA readers, Kelby!

It’s funny … this time last year I was just a few weeks away from transitioning out of the presumed security and comfort of my corporate banking job, into the uncertainty of solopreneurship.

When I look back now, I realize that I had a lot of close family and friends who supported my move, but very few of them truly understood what I was doing – or how I could possibly make a living and provide for my family working solely on the “interwebs”.

I understood their skepticism. Prior to learning about Gina and a few other successful solopreneurs, I thought the only people who made money online were huge companies or scammers.

And I was neither.

But that all changed (very quickly) once I saw first hand that by working to my natural inclination and adding value in every opportunity I was presented with, I could not only create a lucrative side hustle, but I could also build a successful business.

My entrepreneurial journey started a little over two years ago simply as a creative outlet.

How I Started as a Solopreneur

To give a little context, prior to embarking on my journey, I’d spent the last fifteen years working in various positions within the financial services industry. To say that I was a financial nerd would be a severe understatement.

But outside of becoming an Independent Financial Advisor – which I was not interested in, there weren’t many opportunities to “scratch my entrepreneurial itch” within that space.

I eventually resigned myself to the idea that I would be better served working my way up the corporate ladder than searching for the right opportunity to work for myself.

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Start by Noticing the Patterns

Over the years, I started noticing an interesting trend. Since I had been in the financial industry for many years, my family and friends started coming to me with personal finance questions as they progressed through different life stages.

Things such as paying down student loan debt, saving for first homes, and preparing financially for children, were questions that I was fielding on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. I loved the information and enjoyed sharing it with others, so I didn’t mind answering their questions.

However, over time, I thought there had to be an easier way to continue being a resource for my peers without answering the same questions over and over again.

Starting a Creative AgencyStart With a Creative Outlet

So as a creative outlet – or at least I thought so at the time – I created a blog, The Frugalennial, with the goal of answering many of the lifestyle and finance-related questions I was receiving from friends and family.

I had never considered myself a writer prior to this. Honestly, I still don’t. Sharing my thoughts on managing money with a handful of close friends certainly didn’t qualify me as such.

What it did, however, was validate that you can actually do something you love AND get paid for it.

Now, mind you, my blog has not come close to going viral. In fact, I still have an inkling that my website traffic is the result of a handful of my close family members repeatedly going to the site to boost my confidence a bit – and I’m okay with that. Ha!

Just Keep Connecting the Dots

Despite my low expectations and the fact that thousands of eyes weren’t finding my site on a daily or even monthly basis, I was unknowingly charting my path toward entrepreneurship. I just needed one person – the right person – to find my site. Interestingly enough, that didn’t take long.

Fully Booked VA was one of the first places I learned about making money by writing online. But even then, I never thought about monetizing my blog, or that I could actually make any money from writing. For me, it was just a creative outlet that could serve as a resource. Just that and nothing more.

As you could probably tell by the name of my blog, I was writing content that was geared towards frugal millennials … because, well, I’m frugal and a millennial.

By sheer chance, a financial advisor reached out to me via email. They were serving the same target market and wanted someone to create content for their blog. To top it off, they were willing to pay me for that content.

The Light-Bulb Moment

This was the light-bulb moment when I realized that this could actually turn into something more.

While I always had an entrepreneurial bend, I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that my journey would begin by creating content. But I was intrigued by the fact that I could write about something I was passionate about and earn an income from it.

So I went into it full force and tried to make a great impression with that first client.

The hard work began to pay off, and the advisor was receiving positive feedback from colleagues and potential clients based on the content I was creating. As a result, he referred me to other advisors, and within a matter of weeks, one advisor led to three advisors, which led to seven, and eventually 10+, at which point I had a decision to make.

Click Here to Get Gina’s 8 Tips to Start Your Freelance Career

Deciding to Grow

In every instance, my ultimate goal was to add value in the best way possible.

Over time, this meant that I was no longer just creating content, but I was also helping them market that content. When that wasn’t enough, I was helping them revamp their websites to make it more attractive to potential clients – because, in my mind, you could have the best content on the planet, but if your website is hideous, people will lose interest within seconds.

This led to the creation of a separate entity: Common Cents Content & Marketing.

Again, when it came to the core of what I brought to the table, I wanted to add value.

And for me that meant covering the full-spectrum of digital marketing for their advisory firms, from the look of their sites, to the content that lived there, to how it was shared with their audience.

By this point, my “part-time side income project” was rivaling my take home pay from the bank. This meant that if I scaled this up enough, it could be a sustainable option to replace my full-time corporate income.

A few years earlier, that wouldn’t have even have been a thought.

Time for a Decision

Naturally, I reached out to Gina. I had taken the 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success course and was a frequent lurker around the Facebook group page, so I knew that she would be the perfect person to guide me through the transition. If you’re a follower of the blog, I don’t have to sell you on the value that she provides – she’s AMAZING. But in my particular experience, she completely changed my growth trajectory by challenging me on a number of things – most importantly, my pricing.

(Gina’s Tip: Hey, if you want to enroll in the writing course, now would be the perfect time to do it! We’re taking it off the market on January 31st. We’re offering a payment plan too.)

As I mentioned, I focused a lot on adding value to the clients I worked with. What I quickly realized by working with Gina was, of course I was providing a ton of value – because my prices were so low!

Charging What You’re Worth

I think as an entrepreneur, especially one that’s just starting out, it’s natural to have imposter syndrome. So when someone is trying to pay you for something that you don’t have years and years of experience in, you may feel the need to charge a lower price.

But you shouldn’t!

When it comes to freelance work, it’s easy to look at it as providing a service in return for payment, but you’re more than that. You are providing a solution to a pain point – and you should be paid accordingly.

This was something that I struggled coming to grips with.

I was reluctant to have those difficult conversations about increasing my prices, but I did. And surprisingly, most of my clients agreed to the increase. In fact, in one case my monthly retainer rate increased by 400 percent (seriously!). After a little back-and-forth, they agreed to it, because at that point I had added so much value to their business that the extra amount was immaterial.

Those increases gave me the confidence to make the jump and I’m so glad I did!

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Freelance Writing Biz?
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Looking back nearly a year later, business has continued to show steady growth month-over-month. In fact, I experienced much better growth than I had anticipated.

The great thing about all of this is that I’m not an anomaly. I’m not a literary genius, nor do I have superior marketing or design skills. I’m just someone who knew there was something more to the corporate grind and just happened to find the intersection of my passion, background and skill-set and made that into a career.

I truly believe that anyone can follow the same path, if they want to, provided they put in some effort and keep at it. Giving up is tempting can be tempting sometimes, but in the end you’ll be happy you didn’t.

So what’s your story? How can you can find the intersection of my passion, background and skill-set and turn that into a business?

Hi, I’m Kelby Green … and I’m a Personal Finance nerd. No, really…I’m the person that creates excel budgets and loves to see that they balance at the end of the month. I write about frugal tips for millennials at Frugalennial and run a digital marketing agency called Common Cents Content. You can connect with me on Twitter.

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Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey

FOUNDER & CO-OWNER

Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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