Kelly McCausey started her entrepreneur journey in 2002. As a single mom with one son, she made graphics and websites for other home-based business owners. Not only did she work hard, but she traded hours for dollars. Over time, Kelly quickly learned there were smarter ways to build an online business. Find out how his solopreneur found the recipe for online business success in an ever-changing landscape.
You’ve been working from home since 2002, tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
I started out just trying to pay the bills. I created graphics and websites for other work at home moms for quite a while, then launched a podcast to serve the WAHM community. I interviewed so many smart people; my listeners started to think of me as an authority. I certainly picked up a lot of useful skills and relationships.
Together with Alice Seba, I launched a membership site that opened up a whole new world of recurring income for me. I still look back on that and marvel a bit at our early success. We were making good money in a community most people thought of as ‘too frugal to spend.' (Proof that you need to take care in who you listen to!)
In 2006, I was debt-free and had replaced my day job income. I turned in my notice and started to run my online business ventures full time.
How has your online business evolved over the years?
In 2011, I started to feel odd calling myself a work-at-home mom. My son was now grown and out of the house. I had an empty nest and enjoyed a lot of freedom and flexibility that WAHMs found difficult to relate to.
I decided to pursue a rebrand. I asked, ‘If I’m not a WAHM, what am I?’ I came upon the term ‘Solopreneur,' and I liked how it fit me. I run a business light and tight. No need for staff or offices, just the internet and a bit of creative outsourcing here and there. I’m not trying to build a big legacy business – I’m in it for a simple, flexible lifestyle.
I rebranded Work-at-Home Moms Talk Radio to Solo Smarts and started to serve a co-ed market for the first time. It was exciting and has been quite successful.
I never used to travel. Working at home and being a single mom, I liked being 100% virtual. But in 2010, I started to travel to marketing events and soon after started to speak at some of them.
In 2013, I started to host my own live events. Exposure & Profit is going on it’s the fourth year in 2017, and I’m co-hosting the fourth Beachpreneurs Beach Camp event in April of this year.
What types of marketing strategies have worked best for you?
Creating content that meets real felt needs and shining a light on others. This is blogging and podcasting in a nutshell. I love that the people who end up on my list, responding to my offers, came through my content marketing funnel. They know me, like and trust me.
I’ve dabbled in a few marketing tactics that didn’t feel as natural – like hosting a webinar for a largely unknown group of people. My offers, for podcast consulting, for example, were well received – but I found the client work awkward. They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them.
I much prefer my clients coming in through an offer funnel that warms them up and creates a comfortable relationship before they make any decisions giving them access to me.
When you create compelling content and make space for people to come together, you end up with a community. This is true for my live events and for what I do online.
How are you monetizing your business?
Thankfully, I’ve developed multiple streams of income. I sell information products and run memberships from my Solo Smarts website. I’ve consistently earned 25-30% of my annual income from promoting affiliate programs over the years. (I share resources that my people need that I don’t provide myself.)
I’m partnering with Samantha Angel on running White Label Perks. We create and sell customizable social, friendly content designed to build a list. I also own Mom Webs Hosting which is always growing.
Finally, I coach and consult. I’ve been shifting over to coaching on self-leadership and mindset but still enjoy helping other solopreneurs with their planning and implementation.
What has been the key to your success and longevity?
Those multiple streams of income I’ve mentioned – never having all my eggs in one basket has been important.
That, and friendships! Relationships are everything to me. I still do joint ventures regularly with Alice Seba though we haven’t been full-on project partners since 2006. I can’t tell you how much I value our friendship and look forward to seeing her at events.
My friendship and partnership with Nicole Dean is another major blessing for me. Nicole was just getting started when I met her, and she’s a total freaking rock star now – but you know what, she’s still the same down to earth, truly wonderful friend she always was.
Business models come and go, but relationships with people who keep trying new things and focus on meeting needs never go out of style.
What has been your biggest struggle as an online entrepreneur?
For many years, it was in not valuing my time or skills enough. Over and over I heard from people I respect that I wasn’t charging enough for my coaching or my products.
Pricing is as much a mindset and confidence issue as it is matching the market you serve. I had to do a lot of wiggling up and down the pay scale to find my personal sweet spot. I’m not charging as much as some people think I should, but I’m charging a lot more than I used to and I’m 100% happy with it.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start an online business?
Start with knowing yourself really well. What skills and interests do you want to lean into? Be prepared to trade hours for dollars in some fashion if you need cash to flow quickly – but always make yourself your number one client and keep giving a chunk of your time and creativity to a project that lets you create more of what you want in the world.
You put on an event called Beachpreneurs – tell us about it and who would benefit from it.
Oooh, thank you! Beachpreneurs is a live event business I co-run with Nicole Dean. Created to provide amazing in-person experiences and bold breakthroughs for female entrepreneurs, there are several different events.
Beach Camp is our hotel workshop. The fourth Beach Camp is coming to Daytona Beach, FL in April 2017.
Beach House is our Retreat; the 6th Retreat is coming up the first week of March 2017. Limited to 15 women, including us, we occupy a big house on the beach and tackle goals, roadblocks, and plans for the future. You know, Holly, we’d love you to come to the Beach House!
We also have Beach Cottage, which is an implementation getaway for up to three attendees. They stay with us on the beach along with a VA that we’ve brought in and we hustle together to make huge progress on something that will really move their business forward. Looking to do one of these later this Spring on Myrtle Beach.
Women come to us from all different niches, with a variety of business models. We look for gals who want to leverage their smart and make a big impact on the world. They’re perfect for us!
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I tend to hustle quite a lot in the winter months when I’m not traveling. Then come spring, I’m free to travel and enjoy more downtime. Flexibility is important to me. I put a high priority on my friends and family. When they need me, I want to always be ready to show up.
That means being smart and selective about new projects. At this point, I don’t need projects that put regular demands on the calendar. I look for projects that I can work in spurts, and profit from the long term.
Thanks to Kelly McCausey for sharing her story!
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Originally published July 28, 2009. Updated on April 10. 2017.