Disclaimer: This story was originally written for Forbes by Celinne Da Costa and is not an original work by me. I only published it here as inspiration for my readers and students, to show that with the internet, impossible is nothing. You can find link to the original story at the bottom of this page.
Story begins here
It’s not often you meet a 23-year-old who has figured out how to make a six-figure income in less than a year, all while working less than 15 hours a week and completely remotely. Meet Sabrina Philipp, the online business coach behind Sabrina Philipp Strategy + Consulting, which focuses on helping both aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs build their business in a way that is intentional, manageable, and profitable.
I met Sabrina last year in Bali (where she is based), and we instantly connected on our similar philosophies on life. I had recently left behind my corporate life in New York City to pursue my dream of traveling the world full-time, and I was in the middle of conducting a social experiment in which I circumnavigated the globe by staying with people who were somehow connected to me. At that point, I still wasn’t completely convinced that designing a life I wanted and earning money for it was possible.
Learning about Sabrina’s story and business showed me that contrary to popular belief, it is indeed possible to work remotely, travel the world, have time to enjoy yourself, and make money while you’re at it. At first, I couldn’t believe the extent of Sabrina’s income — until I saw invoices for the equivalent of six months worth of work.
Sabrina shares how she was able to build a multiple six-figure business in less than a year while still making time to enjoy her life, and how others aspiring to follow this lifestyle can do the same:
Celinne Da Costa: What is your background before you moved to Bali to start your business?
Sabrina Philipp: I was born in Germany, grew up in Miami Beach, and majored in political science and religion. My senior year of college, I started thinking of ways that I could earn money while traveling. I had always found creative ways to get by, like by selling old clothes on eBay and working at a telemarketing firm, and I believed that there had to be a viable alternative to the corporate grind.
At first, I thought I could become a travel blogger and figure out how to trade services for accommodation — I had a website, logo, and everything! My mom is a financial analyst and my dad is an accountant, and they showed me how the path to monetizing a travel blog was challenging and unlikely. I didn’t have a better plan lined up, so I just decided to give it a shot and figure the rest out along the way.
I booked a one-way plane ticket to Bali (I was attracted to the spiritual scene it’s known for) with $800 in my bank account. I had no clue how I was going to make it work, but I did know that failure was not an option.
Da Costa: What drove you to start an online business?
Philipp: For a long time, I was torn between joining the Peace Corps and getting a Doctorate degree in Comparative Politics. I briefly entertained the idea of law school, but gave up on it when I realized I didn’t have a driving passion for any of those options – it was just my ego searching for something that others would approve of, as opposed to honoring what I really wanted.
What excited me was the idea of visiting foreign cities and acquiring passport stamps. I knew that if I decided to go down one of these paths, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel until much later on in life. I had to find another way.
Since I was young, I had been told that I had to work hard and get good grades so I could get into a great college, get a job, make money, and then one day, finally do what I wanted.
I think that’s such a lie.
It’s not that I believe in “breaking the rules,” it’s that I believe that I can make my own.
For me, that meant making a lot of money at a young age, working with what I loved, having a large platform to impact others, and doing it in a way that allowed me to sleep in, work in my yoga pants, and hang out in Bali. That wish was not a fairytale or pipe dream… because it came true.
Da Costa: Can you walk us through the specifics of creating an online service-based business?
Philipp: Almost any business can be moved to an online model, so instead of trying to find an idea for a business that would “work” online, get clarity on what it is that you actually want to do and who are the people you want to serve.
Once you have an idea, conduct market research by asking your ideal clients if they find value and/or would invest in the service you want to provide. If the answer is yes, move forward with it. If the answer is no, tweak and adjust. You do not need to scrap the idea and go back to the drawing board, but you do need to figure out what specifically isn’t landing with your ideal client. Sometimes, it’s just the way you communicate your idea — not the idea itself — that needs refining. Be willing to shift your marketing or sales process to attract customers.
Once you’ve settled on an idea and found an existing marketplace ready to invest in your service, it’s time to get your business set up. The two biggest things you’ll need are legal protections and a digital hub.
Every state and country have different regulations for what’s required to establish a business, so do some research or contact a lawyer to get your business legally registered. This will protect your personal assets and give you an added layer of credibility when engaging with clients. Whether you’re working with clients or a subcontractor, have contracts in place. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you’re defenseless against people not paying for your work or violating your intellectual property rights.
When it comes to forming your digital hub, you want to be where your ideal clients spend most of their time. If you’re marketing a subscription box to teenage girls who spend most of their time on Instagram, you don’t want to be investing heavily in Twitter. With time, you’ll figure out where your clients are, but one safe bet is always Facebook. From there, you can look into making a website and setting up on other social media platforms.
Makes it easy for people to contact you and learn about your services, and use your platforms to establish relationships with your clients. Visibility on social media is critical to the success of your online business: people can’t pay you if they can’t find you. Once you have this basic foundation, you can work on the creation and execution of a strategy to grow your business.
Da Costa: How were you able to quickly scale your business to earn six figures?
Philipp: It was a combination of careful strategy and divine intervention. I was telling myself I was a six-figure business owner before I even had the money in the bank. I believed so deeply that it would happen for me, and because of that, I was able to step into the mindset of a six-figure business owner and take action like they would. When I made investments, hired team members, or made any major decisions around my business, I always asked myself: what would a six-figure business owner do? To me, the answer meant never accepting anything less than everything I want.
When I arrived in Bali, I got my first online gig writing social media posts for $12/hour. My first month, I made $5k by doing social media management and a bunch of other odd jobs. My strategy was to build up my base of testimonials and referrals as quickly as possible, so I took free and low-paying jobs in exchange for testimonials. I leveraged that community to secure +$1k/month contracts for social media management, which quickly became +$2.6k/month contracts. My social media management clients began asking me for broader business consulting, so I moved into full-time business coaching. By my fourth month, I made $20K.
Jumping to premium pricing and having a support team in place to outsource work allowed me to scale my business really quickly. Before I knew it, I was running a multiple-six-figure business helping others create successful online businesses through private coaching, private retreats in Bali, group programs, courses, and group mastermind experiences where other business owners can collaborate and exchange ideas. After a little more than a year, I began having $60K months.
I attribute the jump start of my success to my decision to invest in a business coach: I paid $3600 for six weeks of coaching and from there, I was able to hit my first five-figure month. Investing in support and information was a big part of my ability to scale to six-figures so quickly.
Another key to my success was that I sold premium pricing early on. When it comes to hitting a six-figure salary, there are two primary routes: premium pricing for a few clients, and low pricing at massive volumes. My business is a hybrid model. I really try and offer a service for all price points so that I can serve as many people as possible, and also so that I have multiple streams of income as I now set my sights on achieving a seven-figure mark.
My business will cross the seven-figure mark next year, but I’m taking action to behave like a seven-figure business owner today. You can’t wait for a miracle, sign, or lucky break. You have to make your own luck. If you’re just starting out in your business, remember to think big and be strategic.
Da Costa: What are some practical tips for building a successful business?
Philipp: The framework that I teach to my clients is that any successful business should be intentional, manageable, and profitable. By success, I’m talking about a business that fills your bank account and your soul.
You have to be very intentional about what you want from your life, and then build your business around that. Take the time to gain clarity on what you love doing, who you want to serve, how you want to spend your time, and how you want your business to feel. Do you want a business that is constantly dynamic and challenging you, or do you want something that’s a little more rooted in ease and flow? It’s really important that you figure out what you want in a dream world, and then take actions towards making those dreams come true.
From there, you can put the proper systems, structure, and support team in place to build a manageable business around that vision. Hustling 18 hours a day might sound like an impressive feat, but it’s not sustainable. Manageability is crucial.
Lastly, a business needs to be profitable if it’s going to survive. Get really clear on the value you provide your clients and charge accordingly. Find ways to incorporate multiple streams of income and serve clients at different price points. The key to lasting profitability is scalability, and that will not be possible if your business isn’t intentional and manageable.
This framework can be applied to any business: online, offline, service-based, product-based. If you keep these three pillars at the forefront of your business plan, you will be successful.
Da Costa: What are your biggest challenges and fears when it came to building an online business?
Philipp: The Godfather is my favorite movie in the world, but Vito Corleone got it wrong: business is personal, especially when you’re creating a service-based business around a core set of values and message that you feel called to share with the world.
When something is personal, it becomes vulnerable. And in today’s society, vulnerability is a dirty word. We don’t want to be seen as weak or emotional or small. We want to be perceived as strong, perfect, and successful. But that’s not how business works. For me, I really felt vulnerable when it came to visibility, showing up, and talking about my business and what I had to offer.
We can limit and hold ourselves back with our beliefs. In my case, I really believed I would be judged for what I was doing. For a while, I operated almost entirely on referrals. While I did excellent work, I didn’t have an active lead generation plan in place because that would mean showing up on social media and letting my friends and family know what I was up to. I convinced myself that people would make fun of me and my business, and I allowed that fear to hold me back to the point that while I was home for Thanksgiving last year, I even considered taking a family friend’s advice to leave Bali and “get a real job.”
Thank goodness I found a way to work through my fears and stick to my guns! There will always be haters, but at the end of the day, the people who matter will support you: between my social media and email list, I now have over 10,000 business owners following my work.
What got me through the rough patches was a mindset shift, as well as a commitment to action. We can say that we don’t care what people think of us, but at some point, we have to prove it — not to them, but to ourselves. So yes, business is personal. That’s what makes it terrifying, but it’s also what makes it amazing. It’s such a satisfying feeling to move past your fears and in direction of your destiny, and watch it manifest because of your actions.
Da Costa: What advice would you give to people who want to build successful businesses while still remaining remote?
Philipp: Don’t try and do it alone. Whether it be hiring a business coach or a virtual assistant, you will need some form of support to guide and grow your business while still maintaining location independence. Sometimes, we avoid asking for help because it feels like we aren’t enough on our own. It doesn’t have to be that way. I look at asking for help as a sign that you’re ready for more: more money, more love, more freedom, more adventure.
It’s important to note that working remotely is not just about being able to work from anywhere, it’s about being able to close your laptop and enjoy your life. My mentors and team members have been invaluable to my business growth and personal happiness. Because of them, I can work three days a week, take one week off each month, focus entirely on coaching my clients, and still make $60k a month in my business.
I’m happy to be 23 years old and the owner of a successful multiple six-figure business, but I’m even more proud to have built a life by design that feels both empowering and limitless. While I built that life brick by brick, I wouldn’t have been able to create something so amazing if it weren’t for the help of my support system.
Source/Attribution: This story was first written for Forbes by Celinne Da Costa and you can find the original story here.
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