141: Building a Successful Online Side Hustle in Less than a Year... with Less than $300 to Start! with Hannah Hageman

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Hannah Hageman is a mom we met within the last year, when she was just starting a blog online. And it's been really interesting to see how she's transitioned that blog into a service-based business. We thought she'd be great to bring on the show since she hasn't had a business that long, but she's already bringing in an income and supporting her family!

Hannah is mom to two adorable boys and wife to one handsome husband. Her web design company is focused on helping local businesses get visibility.

Welcome to the show, Hannah!

On The Podcast

00:45 - A Colorful Past

04:05 - Transitioning from Blog to Business

08:13 - Earning Your First Client

12:06 - Dealing With A Demanding Client

14:34 - Firing Clients

16:30 - Creating A Client Questionnaire

20:27 - Start-Up Costs For A Web Design Business

24:50 - Doubt and Nervousness

27:29 - A Day In The Life Of A WAHM

30:40 - Hannah's Adorable Mom Moment

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Learn How Personal Finance Impacts Your Business with Rachel!

A Colorful Past

Hannah was born in Seattle, and while she was still young moved to Northern Poland so her mom could get a PhD in International Entrepreneurialism. (Wow!) Then their family moved to Florida for a bit, but eventually they landed back in Washington. Finally, she and her husband moved to Montana - and Hannah says she doesn't want to move anywhere else for the rest of her life!

She considers herself a woman who doesn't do anything halfway. Over the last year Hannah has been on a self-discovery journey, in terms of the kind of business she wants to start.

(A cute example of how she doesn't do anything halfway is that in one week, Hannah: got married, went to Hawaii on her honeymoon, started a job, bought a car, and moved into a new apartment.)

Thanks to her background, she has the perfect blend of analytical and creative thinking to become an entrepreneur.

Hannah is married to Craig and they have two sons: Nells is 4 and Gunner is 2. She loves babies and businesses, but says she should only have one at the same time! Hannah recognizes that creating a start-up company is a lot like having a baby. It takes lots of attention and effort - and who knows, maybe there's even some crying at 2am! But she's putting in a lot of hands-on work now, so that later she can hire help and spend even more time with family. We heartily approve!

Transitioning from Blog to Business

Before diving into blogging, Hannah tried a few direct sales businesses, but didn't feel like she fit into that world very well. So she decided to take her entrepreneurial skills online.

She first saw Crystal Paine making a living online, and it got her thinking, "Why would bloggers spend so much time online if they weren't getting paid?" Hannah always thought that blogs were just for people who wanted to journal online, and missed the revenue potential. Blogging also fit the work from home model that she wanted.

One day, Hannah simply started blogging. She didn't throw a huge launch, or make a big deal. She just started.

In those early days Hannah says she learned a lot about conducting business online, networking, and getting plugged into communities.

But, again, she felt like she didn't fit in with the mommy blogger types. She says, "I knew online was the space I wanted to be in, but blogging wasn't the thing I wanted to do." Hannah had built her site using Squarespace, and was loving it! The intention behind Squarespace is to make it easy to build beautiful websites, and Hannah found building her site easy, but soon began to realize that not everyone found website building so seamless.

So she thought, "Why not use my skill of building websites?"

Other than acquiring a business license and filing her LLC, Hannah didn't create a lot of fanfare around her business start. She just began working. She realized she had a skill and her market needed it.

Through a home buying experience, where she struggled to get in touch with local contractors, Hannah knew firsthand how frustrating it was to find businesses online. She understood how it can be hard for contractors and other small businesses to always answer their phones. That's why a web presence is so crucial for any small business! But these customers also don't have time to create a site from scratch or drop $4,000 for custom web design. And so Hannah Hageman Web Design was born.

And her business took off! She's booked out several months in advance, and is constantly getting new inquiries. Customers are coming out of the woodwork! Though she didn't do market research beforehand, this striking proof of concept proves that her intuition was right.

Though taking a plunge based on intuition can be a risk, Hannah trusted that she was on the right path. After direct marketing went wrong, and blogging wasn't a good fit, Hannah knew web design felt right. She knows she's good at web design and people around her need help!

Earning Your First Client

Hannah took a really gutsy move to getting her first client. She knows this strategy might be unpopular, but she trolled Facebook for local businesses in her area without a website or with an inactive one. Then she made about 5 to 10 cold-calls and offered her services.

The first guy she called returned Hannah's request about three weeks later. He said he had been meaning to return Hannah's voicemail and was ready for her to start. Start what? Hannah thought. Oh! Building his website! Hannah remembers getting the call under pretty unprofessional conditions, cooking dinner at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. She had gone three weeks without any contact from her cold-calls, and wasn't expecting a return.

Her trick was hitting the pavement, finding a need, and meeting that need. Understanding her market meant that Hannah knew she needed to reach out via phone because her customers wouldn't necessarily understand a marketing email. Moving from Seattle to Montana was a bit of a technological backtrack. She had to adjust to the Wild West way of doing things, and she did!

Hannah continued to get call backs and as she booked more clients, news spread about her services. This gutsy way of marketing has paid off. At the Business Boutique an attendee approached Hannah and asked about her name lanyard: "You do web design?" Hannah responded, "Yes I do! Do you need a site?" And Hannah Hageman Web Design earned a new client!

"It's as simple as putting yourself out there," Hannah says. "All you have to do is see a need, and know what your market will respond to. If you don't get in front of people, they won't know you exist."

Dealing With A Demanding Client

So, has Hannah ever dealt with a really demanding client? Maybe someone who was very picky about features, or required different skill sets than what Hannah was able to offer? How does Hannah know she'll be a good fit?

Working with clients in general, Hannah thinks that a bit of disagreement and clashing is inevitable. And if you ever feel like you really do just need to fire your client, you're allowed to do that. (Even if it's your first!)

Hannah tried to combat poor client experience from the beginning. Despite not having a big fancy launch, she still put systems in place to protect herself. She figured out which tools she wanted to use, and how she wanted to present herself to clients. She created a process for client interaction, and only has run into trouble when she veered off of that course.

Tip: Figure out how you want to run your business, and communicate those standards to your client, then stick to them.

You can tell by a person's demeanor when the relationship starts to veer off course. (In the particular case Hannah is thinking of, she never agreed to do work she was unqualified to. But she has found communication difficult in this particular case and is bearing the brunt of that tumultuous relationship.)

Firing Clients

It feels kind of like we're talking about a breakup! We had to ask Hannah her tips for breaking up with a client in a respectful, tactful way.

She hasn't totally fired a client, but she has stopped work mid-project.

Websites are a big part of business. There are so many ways to use a website, and it seems like ideas can go in all different directions - not all of which are possible. Hannah had a client wanting her to design a T-shirt, which is outside of her wheelhouse. She politely declined that offer, but gave him a next step to take that wasn't her.

Creating A Client Questionnaire

Hannah put a lot into her client questionnaire process, and knows it's saved her unnecessary grief in her business. We wanted to hear a bit more about how she structured that document, and how it works.

There are two types of questionnaires Hannah uses: an introductory system and a client system.

She doesn't have a specific list of questions at the introduction phase. Since her business is confined to the geographic location of her hometown, she often ends up asking initial questions over the phone or face to face. Hannah tries to ask probing questions during these conversations, to get a sense of how much the client already knows about design and technology.

Tip: Don't be afraid to dive deep during your introductory questions, as that will give you tons of information about the client you're going to be working with!

Once a client has signed, Hannah then uses her client questionnaire system, a series of questions to help translate the client's vision onto paper in a way that Hannah can use to create their website. Hannah got this 'homework' strategy from Elle & Company and Lauren Hooker.

Tip: It may feel strange to give clients homework, but it is so necessary that clients do a bit of work and be equally invested in the outcome! The client questionnaire model translates to a lot of different businesses. For example, a life coach could use it to gauge where the client is in life to create a baseline for talking to them. Once you're on the clock, all that work is going to cost money. It's wise to get that information up front so the client gets the best value and you are satisfied.

Start Up Cost For A Web Design Business

Hannah's answer to this question is super encouraging. Her start-up cost for her business was less than $300! (And it was only that high because one of her kids broke her Microsoft Surface and she had to replace it for about $200 on Craig's List.)

Tip: All you need is a working computer and internet connection. It takes almost nothing to start and there are so many free tools you can use.

Another smart move, Hannah began her Squarespace subscription month-to-month ($15/month) since she didn't have a full year's fee up front.

Her business license was $70.

This is such great news for mamaprenuers wanting a low-cost start-up option! If you're creating a product, there are so many up front expenses: materials, tools you might need, and so on. We think it's absolutely amazing that Hannah started a business for $300 that has brought her family a steady income since she began.

Hannah has a second business that she wanted to talk about: creating an online directory for contractors in her hometown. Remember back when Hannah was buying a house and had a hard time finding businesses in the area to do a few repairs? Again, Hannah saw a need and filled it with her business.

There was only one problem. Her start-up directory would require a $3,000 piece software to get started. She didn't have that money in her pocket, but she did have two options for funding. She called up all the contractors she knew to proof the concept. Every single person she spoke to gave a resounding yes, and asked when they could send her a check!! Hannah ran with this idea, and at the first of the year reached back out to those initial contractors who were interested in the idea. They all agreed to buy, and Hannah rewarded that action with juicy benefits and bonuses. We can't wait to hear how her local business directory turns out!

Doubt and Nervousness

As you can tell, Hannah is quite confident and self-assured! We had to ask her if she ever struggled with doubt or nervousness when it came to growing her business.

"OH YES!" Hannah said.

With her directory business, for example, the first contacts she reached out to were members of her church. Hannah says that even though she knew them, making the call was super nerve-wracking! But getting one positive response made it easier to get the next "yes."

Hannah decided that she has a big dream, and it's a good one. Her dream is going to change the life of her family, and she has the power to do that - but not if she succumbs to fear.

Fear is natural. Let it come, then let it pass, and make the phone call.

Hannah's a big believer in fake it 'til you make it, and reminds herself to "be the confident, professional, and experienced web designer you know you will be in three years - but have to be right now to impress the one person in front of you."

You just need one yes.

Yes, Hannah was afraid, and yes, she still experiences a lot of self-doubt, but NO it doesn't stop her from doing what she needs for her family.

A Day In The Life Of A WAHM

It is not easy being a mom and a serial entrepreneur! Hannah has two littles at home, and she's starting up businesses. She defines her days as chaotic. Many days she doesn't get anything done, but then she starts fresh; not even the next morning, but the next hour. She just keeps trying.

Hannah did sit down with her husband and laid out her plans. She showed him what she was dreaming of achieving, and explained that they could only make those dreams a reality if they worked together.

Together, she and her husband agreed to a certain amount of time Hannah could spend each week on her business, until the business grew to a point they were able to hire help.

When her husband gets home from work, the Hagemans eat dinner together as a family, and then Hannah hides in her 'lair' to work. She does that three or four times a week. And sometimes when her kids nap at the same time, about one to two times a week, she gets a couple of hours of work accomplished.

But this 'work whenever you get a minute' strategy wasn't sustainable. Life got a bit crazy working in the periphery, so she decided to focus her days. Hannah spends her mornings giving total attention to her boys, and finds that in the afternoon they aren't as demanding of her attention.

Occasionally she'll put them in daycare (like the day we recorded this podcast) if she really needs to buckle down.

Hannah sits down on Sunday nights with her Brilliant Life Planner (awww, thanks Hannah!) to plan out her week, placing to-dos within the time blocks. She doesn't leave any detail out: work, grocery shopping, naps, showering, everything! "I know when the boys go down for a nap today, I need to work an hour because it says so in my planner," Hannah says. Having that baseline at the beginning of the week, Hannah finds it easier to get all the working hours she needs.

Hannah describes her work as more rhythmic than routine, but it's working. She gets about 10-15 hours a week in the margins. And we know that's great!

Hannah's Adorable Mom Moment

Her 4-year-old presented himself the other day with tons of sparkly, foam star stickers all over his shirt. They were supposed to be safely tucked away in the craft cupboard in his bedroom! He walked out strutting with such confidence and said, "Mom, I'm the mayor of this house!" Isn't that the cutest!?

Stay in Touch with Hannah!

Site: HannahHageman.com

Hannah wants to encourage any new mom pursuing business, and invites you to contact her either in our Facebook group or via email.

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