How a single mum of a neurodiverse daughter managed to retrain in digital skills and earn six figures online within two years…
It’s one thing to earn 6-figures within 2 years from an online business.
It’s another to achieve six-figure success when you’re a single mum of a neurodiverse daughter while juggling a consulting business.
Yet Hilary has been able to achieve this all while working part-time on her online business.
Today, you’ll hear how she did it including her time management strategies to outsourcing and learning to focus on specific niches in order to go from being a novice to having a 6-figure online business working part-time.
If you are working in corporate and looking to get out of the corporate rat race and transition to an online business, then click below to hear to Hilary’s insights.
Matt Raad: Hello again, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Investor Podcast. I’m your host, Matt Raad, and today, I’m really excited to have one of our amazing graduates, Hillary.
Hilary recently won our award for excellence, and you’ll see why because she has an interesting story to share.
Her journey with us hasn’t quite gone as planned, so she will share her ups and downs, but it’s very inspirational.
If you are working in corporate and looking to get out of the corporate rat race and transition to an online business, you definitely want to hear about Hilary’s journey. Also, if you are a mum trying to do this part-time, you’ll get a lot out of this story, too.
So, Hilary, thank you for being here today.
Hilary: Thanks for having me.
Matt: You are such a legend, and I want to congratulate you because you recently won our award for excellence. And you are such a high achiever.
I want to share some of your achievements and look at what’s been going on behind the scenes. On the surface, it all looks amazing. You’ve been studying with eBusiness Institute for two years and now run a leading Digital Agency in Melbourne for corporate clients.
But in addition to this, Hilary also runs a full-on environmental consultancy agency. So, this is not a small business. It deals with big government organisations and corporates, etc.
And Hilary is a single mum of a neurodiverse child. So, there’s a lot on her plate.
I’d love to have Hilary tell us how she achieved what she did with so much on her plate.
Hilary was juggling many life challenges prior to joining Champions
Matt: First, can you tell us where you live, Hilary?
Hilary: I live in Melbourne, about 6km from the CBD.
Matt: Awesome. You live in beautiful, trendy Melbourne, where you can get really good coffee and food. And you’re in that corporate space.
And what was your life like when you first joined our Champions program? What were you doing in life, and what was your background?
Hilary: I have a freelance environmental consultancy, which I’ve been running since 2005. But before that, I was a corporate environmental manager. I used to work on major infrastructure projects.
My daughter was really struggling with being able to go to school. So, that was a daily challenge for me. Plus, we had some major infrastructure projects at the time and were dealing with the pandemic lockdowns, etc.
Matt: On top of that, as a typical ultra-high achiever, you thought you’d join us and retrain in digital skills.
How sticking to the basics allowed Hilary to build her Digital Agency within 2 years
Matt: Have you always been a high-achiever type of person?
Hilary: Well, I love to learn new things, and I get a bit bored if it’s the same old thing.
Matt: You’re also taking on significant challenges in your environmental business. These are big infrastructure projects in Victoria, and a lot of us Aussies know how much infrastructure work is going on in Victoria now under the current government. Is it stressful to be working on those?
Hilary: It can be very stressful, but you get used to it over time. We used to joke that if it was big, different, and never done before, it had my name on it!
One thing I’ve had to learn with Digital Investors is to stick with the basics, do the vanilla, and do it over and over again. It’s a big lesson I’ve had to learn.
Matt: I noticed in your final Accountability email that you said one of the things you’re most proud of over these last two years was doing the “reps, reps, reps.”
That’s why we gave you the award for excellence; you seriously deserved it. You definitely did the reps.
Hilary’s strategy is an excellent lesson for our readers. She’s been a legend at this. Out of necessity, she has stayed focused on the foundations of what we teach – the plain, vanilla stuff.
Fast-forward to now, she’s achieved so much even with everything on her plate – being a single mum and running a full-on business.
Hilary followed the lessons taught by Matt and Liz Raad…
Matt: Your strategy was to focus on delivering quality SEO in your Digital Agency. Can you tell us how that’s been going for you after two years?
Hilary: It’s been going really well.
I originally came onto the Champions program with the intention of doing the portfolio strategy, building websites for semi-passive income.
But then, Matt and Liz Raad said you need to build some local websites first and start an agency. I thought, “Well, if I’m going to be successful in this, I should follow the program and do as I’m told.”
…and started her Digital Agency to build local websites for clients
Hilary: So, I decided to build some local websites and joined a local business networking group, BNI. It turned out the BNI chapter was only 700 meters from my house, it met at a time I could attend, and they needed a web developer. So, it all fell in my lap quite nicely.
I ended up with an accidental agency because I never really planned for it to go this way.
One of the things I love about being an environmental consultant is travelling and seeing lots of different types of projects, learning different things, and meeting different people. I found I could do all of this with my local agency, too, but right at my own doorstep.
Matt: So, you’ve enjoyed that part of it, then?
Hilary: I love it. I discovered I really enjoyed the sales part because I just listen to people and am interested in them and what they need.
Matt: Awesome, and you’ve done well with the clients you have.
How Hilary built her digital agency around her corporate consulting experience
She started her agency working with small start-ups…
Matt: I remember from our private bootcamps in Champions you’d be quietly typing in the chat how you picked up three new clients that week. And these are not small clients either. How much are you generally charging now?
Hilary: Well, some of the clients from my BNI chapter are start-ups and quite small. So, for them, I charge a minimum of $3,000.
There was one client I worked with in the beginning, and I charged less than that because they were a small business. She is a lawyer, and she has since won a national award. So now, she always asks, “Can I add more things to my website?” I’ve been able to help them grow, and I am really proud of that.
Matt: We’ve worked together on some of your websites in Bootcamps, etc, and they’re awesome. You’ve got a good eye for detail and obviously enjoy it.
…And now she works with big corporates and infrastructure companies
Matt: You’ve also been able to tie this in with the environmental constancy and infrastructure business you’re involved in.
Hilary: Yes, so I’ve built a website for an offshore wind consultant. Offshore wind is something that’s coming to Australia, and so I also built them a directory site of all the offshore wind projects in Australia. That was pretty exciting.
I also have a geotechnical engineering and environmental contamination company that I’m doing a website for at the moment. They were so relieved to have someone who actually understood what they were talking about!
We also have someone who does plumbing and drainage but for major infrastructure. Similarly, he was like, “Oh, you understand what an OCI is and all this jargon means. Other web developers would know this.”
And so, putting these two things together has been fun.
Matt: Yes, you can marry your corporate consultancy experience with the digital agency and create far better websites for your clients than they would realise. So they feel more comfortable talking to you than your average web developer.
Hilary: Yes, I think so. It’s a much easier conversation to have.
Matt: And it would be a lot of fun doing the keyword research for that, too.
Hilary: That’s right.
Matt: It’s your bread and butter. It’s in your blood.
Hilary: Yes, and I know there might only be a handful of potential clients, and they don’t always need SEO, but I do understand what those types of clients are looking for.
Matt: You can perfectly represent that on the website because you know their customer avatar well. You’re familiar with their clients.
Hilary: Yes, quite a few of them.
Matt: This is perfect.
How the Champions community helped Hilary through a challenging time
Matt: Can I bring you back to another challenge you took on when you first started to study your digital skills with eBusiness Institute?
What was the other business you were running when you first started?
Hilary: I had the idea a few years ago that I wanted to do a SaaS (Software and a Service) start-up. It wasn’t exactly in my space, but it was somewhat aligned. I built it from my kitchen bench, got it up and running, and found some clients.
But it didn’t really take off. It was difficult to go out and do the marketing as I was basically stuck at home. When you have a neurodiverse child, you have to be at home a lot.
And so, it wasn’t doing very well. I had lost money, and it was emotionally quite challenging. But Matt and Liz Raad helped me work through what to do with it. Eventually, I shut it down. I did have a few people reach out saying they wanted to buy it, but nothing eventuated.
But from that project, I had an assistant in the Philippines who’d been working with me, helping me with some of the admin, etc. I really wanted to keep her, so I helped her retrain in how to build websites, which she absolutely loves now. So, I’ve managed to keep her, which is important to me.
Honestly, it’s been quite tricky trying to cope with it all. But that’s what’s so great about the Champions community. We have all that positivity to help us cope with those challenging times.
Is running a Digital Agency easier than a Start-up?
Matt: Liz and I are angel investors who help advise many start-ups. And, Hilary, any start-up is super tough. It requires a lot of energy, money and capital. And you did a lot of hustle trying to get out there to market it.
But here’s what I want our readers to understand. You touched on something there, where you said it was very difficult for you to do as a single mum at home and you have to work around your daughter.
So, the question is, which one won out of the start-up and doing the digital agency? The digital agency you can do from home, even though you’ve got a lot on your plate. And there are readers out there who are in the same boat.
How Hilary runs her Digital Agency around her busy lifestyle
Matt: How have you been able to do all that and manage the time? What are some of the strategies? And don’t worry, they don’t have to be perfect.
1./ She sets blocks of time each week to work on her agency
Hilary: Well, I’ve tried to block my time, but that’s very hard to do.
In my environmental consultancy, I have four to six clients at any one time. And with the digital agency, you can have even more than that. So, it’s about trying to get that time organised. I have school hours to get as much done as I can, and then a bit of time after school too.
I’ve separated my day into blocks of time. At the beginning of the week, I organise what I will do on which day, etc. That helps me narrow down what I will focus on each day. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it helps!
2./ And she leverages her time by outsourcing
Hilary: And then I outsource where I can, too. For example, I have outsourced my graphic designer, and I also have an assistant, Addie, who is phenomenal. I mean, I couldn’t really do it without her! She’s been incredibly positive and excited by the journey.
I was already pretty good at project management, but it’s been extra challenging trying to manage two businesses at the same time. I just try to focus on where we need to progress to next. It’s not perfect, but it works.
Initially, my clients had to wait a bit longer than I would’ve liked for their websites. But over time, we’ve been getting much better at that.
Hilary’s advice for busy corporates on how to create a six-figure online business
Matt: Well, a big congratulations, and I should put it into perspective here. You are making six figures out of this now. So, I want our readers to understand your challenges and how much you’ve achieved.
Within two years, you’ve hit six figures from a brand-new skill. And at the same time, you’re still running a very successful existing environmental agency.
What advice do you have for anyone in our community who may be from a similar background?
I know many people out there are burnt out in their corporate roles or are very time-pressured.
When you think back over the last two years, are there any insights you can give to people that could help them here?
1./ Know the types of sites and businesses you want to work with
Hilary: I remember a couple of points in time when I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed. And you told me to reach out to the community. From that, I have a couple of people from the Champions community who really helped me. So, that’s been awesome.
There were also a couple of times when I got a bit ambitious. We did a $12,000 rebuild of a 250-page website. And it just took so much time.
Matt: Why does that not surprise me? You just casually say, “Oh yeah, I did a $12,000 rebuild of someone’s website.”
Hilary: Yes, but what I’ve done now is really tried to niche down and say, “I’m not doing WooCommerce or e-commerce. I am not doing these types of sites.” That’s really helped.
Instead, I’ve found people within the Champions community who have been able to help with those. And while I’m giving up revenue, I realised something. With my environmental consultancy, if it’s tricky, it’s got my name on it. I’m your person.
But with websites, if it’s tricky or difficult, I’m handing that off to someone else.
2./ Avoid “shiny objects syndrome” & focus on one thing
Matt: Perfect. So, in a way, would you say it’s taken about two years for you to get into the flow? I know it’s not all perfect; you’re still very busy, but how are you feeling now? Because it feels like it’s starting to work for you.
Hilary: Yes, it certainly is.
I mean, initially, when building for a local client website, I would spend days and days on keyword research. But it just takes practice, right? I’ve nailed that process now.
Also, initially, I was like a kid in a candy store. I was like, “Wow, that’s a great strategy. And that’s a great strategy. Oh, and that’s a great strategy, too!” So, I’d try and have a go at all of them but not get anywhere.
So, I’ve been focusing on the agency, and now my objective is to start working on the other portfolio sites.
3./ Build sites & businesses that complement each other
Hilary: I’m now developing a website that’s aligned with business networking. It means I can add to my current work rather than being completely different. I can leverage the things I’m already doing rather than trying to do something completely different and new.
Matt: Yes, so you built the directory site for a client in the environmental space, which you got paid to do. And also a directory site that fits in with what you were already doing. That’s really exciting, Hilary.
And I think everyone in our community knows and loves you. I’m presuming there have been a few long nights for you over the last couple of years. But I want to say a massive congratulations because you’ve done it, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
You’ve gotten into the flow now, even with everything on your plate. And you’ve made some major life changes here, too, over the last two years, like clearing out that start-up. I know that was a massive change for you.
To see your resilience through this journey has been super inspirational for anyone who is reading this, who may be starting out themselves, or even a single parent.
So, thank you very much, Hilary, for coming along and sharing your amazing story.
Hilary: Thanks very much for having me.
Want to leave your corporate job & retrain in digital skills?
Matt: If you’re listening to this and want to start on a similar journey like Hilary, or you want to get out of that corporate job, make sure you check out our free masterclass and keep listening to our podcasts.