You might find it hard to believe, but this photo was taken during one of the most devastating times in my life.
This is the story of how I got there and how I moved beyond it to find myself, my message, and my purpose... and how you can too!
My online journey started when I was a starry-eyed bride-to-be with big dreams. I started a blog to help other simple-loving budget brides plan awesome weddings too.
And even though the experience dimmed some of the starry-eyed wonder from me for a bit, I am so incredibly greatful for it!
My early success with it even helped get a sweet job at digital marketing firm! I helped them grow their organic traffic and manage big-budget Adwords campaigns for their clients.
When I started I was learning Adwords from scratch – all while running campaigns at the same time! It was thrilling!
And honestly, it was an awesome job. But, after a few years I started to feel bored.
I liked the prestige, but it didn’t make my heart sing to help these huge companies become even bigger.
I still wanted to be my own boss more than anything in the world. And I wanted the freedom to live life on my own terms.
And lucky for me, my wedding blog and the 2 consulting clients I picked up on the side were doing well. So, I decided to leave my kushy job and build my dream.
And that first year on my own was amazing!
After a 8 or 9 months I fired my consulting clients to go all-in with the blog. And I even started hiring freelance writers and VA’s to help me (4 day work week here I come!). It was going to be huuuge!
But a couple months later everything hit the fan.
Google had a massive algorithm update and all of the free traffic I was getting was gone.
My entire business went from growing every month to nothing … LITERALLY overnight.
I had to fire all of my freelancers and start over from scratch.
And while trying to do that, I spent a year or two going through all the stages of grief.
At one point, I even had to get a part time job. It was so demoralizing! Especially when a former boss came in for her spa treatment!
I cried all the time, hated myself so much at points, stopped taking care of my appearance, retreated from the world and my friends, lived in shame, and lost faith in myself and life.
It was during this period that the feature image on this post was taken.
It was also the first time I started understanding what one needs to do to weather algorithm updates and changes in the economic climate. And no – it’s not a professional photo shoot (ha!)….
…Don’t worry, I’ll reveal all in a minute.
Everything came to head on one snowy winter night while out for after-dinner drinks with my husband. He urged to me to make a decision — Actually go-all-in with the blog and actually make it work (because I wasn’t really all-in anymore). Or, use my other digital marketing skills to build a “real” business.
Still wobbling between anger, denial and acceptance, I had to steady the tea in my hand and kwell the rage I could feel rising. I was really mad at him for not supporting me.
But financially, personally, and in terms of our relationship I knew he was right (and he really was and continues to be my biggest cheerleader) – which is why it made me so angry.
So… the very next day I decided to give up my blog!!! I put the content up for sale and decided to make this a fresh, clean start.
It was SO FREEING to let go of something I had lost passion for…And was a message that took me way too long to hear – “It’s time to step into your gifts dear Susanna!
And since web design was something I enjoyed and had become quite good at I decided that’s what I would do – for people who really needed my help though!!!
I started by helping small, solo businesses create fabulous websites that were built to grow leads and create trust and authority.
I believed strongly in helping these people and it was the perfect blend of passion and experience.
Plus I was confident I could do this after building my own high converting sites, helping my previous consulting clients grow their businesses, and helping the clients at the agency improve traffic and grow leads too!
- One of my former clients even became one of the top 10 real estate blogs in our city.
- I always averaged conversion rates of 25% to 50% on my lead magnets!
- I grew multiple social media accounts to well over 1000 in a very short period of time!
I was going to do it all – traffic building, social media, design… I could do it all! So why not? My small biz people needed it anyways!
And I did for a couple years!
- Was an early adopter of Pinterest and did a great job driving tons of traffic with it so did workshops on it and built a few accounts up.
- Created member-sites for all sorts of businesses – many of which converted really well the day after launching.
- Built SO MANY great-looking sites.
- Designed awesome lead magnets, funnels, and presentations.
Then at one point last year, I had another potential client come to me because she heard I could drive traffic, managed social media, and could also design. And the fact that I did it for practically free… well, “Eureka!!!” she thought! (ha!)
She came to me asking what many before (and after) have asked.…
“how can I get more traffic to my website? I need more sales! And I’m broke – so how can I do it for nothing… or a guaranteed ROI within a month”.
It was a question that was asked of me almost every week since I decided to serve this demographic.
And it was in that moment that the full realization of what I started to see at the time of this photoshoot REALLY started forming in my mind.
I started to see that even though I knew better, I too was taken in by all of the “gurus” who tout how easy and “Free” it is to succeed.
An even though all of the evidence – my past, my clients (even at the agency), and every case study I read – pointed to the fact that success like that is a long game … I thought I must be wrong because these big gurus said something else.
But when I looked at her online presence and saw what a mess it was, I knew I couldn’t help her based on her criteria of “success tomorrow” with “no time or money”.
And it was in this moment that I started to trust what I first started to understand at the time of this photoshoot!
And I saw a huge opportunity in this!
I realized that like my clients I had been duped by all of those guru marketers touting that their tactic or technique would make it “easy and fast”. What I realized is that they were just… “marketing”!!!
So I started telling everyone who came to me exactly what they needed to do to succeed.
“Get clear on what makes you unique… your niche, your products, and your message! Create a killer customer journey… with your one-of-a-kind personal brand! Do that – and you will be able to weather Social Media, Search Engine, or economic storm!”.
But instead of being a hero, they realized how much work it would be and they ran. It turns out I was more passionate about their freedom and success than they were!
And that’s when I realized that I had a niche-problem myself!!!
While I wanted to desperately help these small businesses and knew that I could, they didn’t want my help. I had a passion for helping them and they needed what I offered – but they weren’t experienced enough to see what a gift I was giving them.
Essentially, they needed a personal brand… but they weren’t willing to put the work in to create one! They were still on the “tactic-train” which just isn’t enough without the substance of a strategy and personal branding.
And this was when I started to build up my own personal brand as a Strategist and Clarity Coach
I won’t lie. It hasn’t always been easy.
I ran into people who constantly made me question myself and my beliefs. People who would say “you shouldn’t be doing this. You should go back to what’s safe”.
Even my mom wanted me to be someone else – she wanted me to be harder, more like what she believes makes a successful business person.
And I got the sense from multiple friends that saw my true authentic person as someone who is always scared and unwilling to put herself forward. Not the opinionated, sociable person that I was finally setting free thanks to my growing self-confidence, courage and clarity!
And had others who would say that I should just go back to conversion-focused design…. “Just go back to what you know.“.
But I was done with doing what others said, and not listening to what I felt on a deep level to be true.
It took me 3 years to step into what I knew at the time of this photoshoot – that personal branding is EVERYTHING – and deferred to other people’s opinions over and over again during that time.
Not just guru’s I told you about before. But also a business partner on a small project who simply thought I was being trite and shallow. But now see that we failed because we lacked this very thing!
All that combined, lead to the new me – someone who has stepped into my true self – a progressive and imaginative human-being, clarity coach, and personal brand strategist.
And that’s when I stepped into my true mission. My mission to Help others find the courage to step into their true selves too!
I finally saw that by deferring to others I wasn’t respecting myself. And that I diminished the capacity of my own self. The very thing that makes me the most powerful.
I learned that we are the leaders of our own lives. Following someone else’s way sacrifices a big part of you. It also sacrifices the lives of all of the people we are meant to help!
So today, this is what I do. I help others step into their true selves and to be the powerful force they are meant to be. I help them find the clarity they need to actually feel the weight of indecision or mental-chaos fall off them!
And I want to put this out to you now too.
NOW is your chance to stand up and be counted too! Every single one of us deserves that opportunity. We no longer have to live in the shadow of someone else. Everyday we make this decision…
What’s your decision today…
Are you ready to find that clarity, build your confidence, and build up the courage to change lives and maybe even the world?