I'm a millennial who went from earning $30,000 a year to earning $30,000 a month by launching my own business. Here are the 5 steps I took to bring my income to the next level without fancy marketing.
- Celinne Da Costa, age 28, went from earning $27,000 a year after taxes to earning $32,000 a month in just six years.
- She quit her NYC advertising job to travel the world - in one year, she couch-surfed across 100 homes in 20 countries.
- She made a name for herself by promoting her journey on her social channels and in the media.
- When she returned from her trip, she began freelancing for a marketing consultant at $150 an hour. Nine months later, she had earned $100,000.
- Today, she helps entrepreneurs create powerful brands.
- Da Costa didn't use fancy marketing tactics - she took her business to the next level by focusing on 5 key areas: her standards, mindset, self, offers, and sales approach.
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I used to look upon the posts of people claiming to have made their yearly salary in a month with such disbelief. Until that person became me.
It's hard to believe that I just rang in a $32,000 month when a few years ago, I accepted my first job at an advertising agency in New York City making just $35,000 ($27,000 after taxes) a year.Considering living expenses (rent, electricity, food, etc.) in NYC added up to around $2,000 a month and I was earning about $2,200 after taxes, a significant portion of my day-to-day consisted of pinching pennies, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and stressing about money.
I was absolutely miserable - sharing a crowded apartment with three strangers in a room so small that I had a loft bed in order to fit my things, working 60-hour weeks, slapping hummus onto crackers when I got home because I was too tired to make dinner (and too broke to buy it), and watching reruns of Breaking Bad on Netflix until I passed out.
Was this really the American Dream I'd signed up for?
In 2015, I went on a volunteer trip to Cambodia - and everything changed.
A public figure stumbled on my travel blog (which only had a couple hundred followers at the time) and invited me to spend two weeks teaching at an orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and document my experiences.
The first day I arrived, I found out my grandfather passed away. The combination of my already broken heart, learning about the country's traumatic history, and witnessing innocent people suffer from poverty and an unjust system snapped something inside of me. I realized how little I was doing to contribute to anything other than my own misery.
The day after I got back to New York, I made a decision: I would not spend another minute of my life consciously living in fear. I had to change.I needed a project I could be proud of, to keep me busy while I figured out my next steps. I'd always wanted to travel the world, but I couldn't backpack around aimlessly without any purpose.
I came up with a social experiment, where I challenged myself to circumnavigate the globe by couch-surfing using only human connection (no website): This meant staying in the homes of friends, friends of friends, and strangers I'd meet on the road.
Over the course of a year, I stayed in the homes of 100-plus people (mostly strangers), in 20-plus countries across five continents … and spent less than $8,500.
I learned how to share my story in a compelling way, which led to earning five figures a month.
I leveraged my background as a brand strategist and writer to grow my social media channels - specifically my Instagram and Facebook pages - document my journey on my blog, and get myself in front of the media and publications. Every day, I wrote a story about the people I met, the experiences I was going through, and the changes I was making.
From the beginning, my goal was to create a powerful brand that was so captivating, compelling, and relatable that people would have no choice but to pay attention. Refining and mastering this skill is what set the foundation for my business.
As I'd predicted, people started to notice - my community started growing by the thousands, and I was invited to document my journey on Forbes, and my story was featured on large publications including Matador Network, Business Insider, and Intrepid.
About halfway through my journey, I started getting approached by entrepreneurs, publications, and even boards of tourism. They'd heard about me through word-of-mouth. They'd read or watched my stories. Some of them wanted to know how I was getting visible so quickly so they could do it, too. Others just wanted to take a part of my project. They came to me because they saw in me something they saw in themselves, and they wanted to learn what that was.That year after leaving corporate, I focused on doing what I absolutely loved without worrying about the consequences or money. I was smart and strategic about growing my online presence, and used storytelling as the glue to create a powerful personal brand.
When I returned from my trip, I started freelancing as a marketing consultant for $150 an hour and quickly grew from there. My clients were people who'd heard about me, who I'd collaborated with during my trip, or who I'd helped for free before.
Within nine months of officially launching my business, I'd hit my first $100,000 year. This evolved into what I do now, which is working with entrepreneurs to master their story to create powerful brands that grow their reach, visibility, and sales.
Fast forward to today, and I've just earned in a month what I used to earn in a year - no crazy launches, no big marketing pushes, nothing fancy outside of my regular marketing activities.
I earned my $32,000 month from one of my favorite islands in Greece, waking up in a cozy bed and breakfast overlooking the ocean, working from my laptop from charming outdoor cafes, and spending my precious time and energy on projects that I choose and that set my soul on fire.
Here are five key steps I took to grow my online business to the next level.
1. Raising my standards
I decided to dramatically raise my standards for the quality of client I'm willing to work with, what I earn, and how I spend my precious time. Before, I'd work with difficult clients because I "needed" the money. I'd settle for $10,000 months because I thought it was enough.
I would spend a lot of energy doing free work and letting people who weren't actually serious about my work waste my time, instead of focusing on my own projects. No more. I let go of a bunch of distractions and people who were holding me back.
2. Ruthlessly committing to mindset
As Tony Robbins says, "80% of success is psychology and 20% is mechanics."I've religiously focused on maximizing my wellness routine, meditation practice, and filling my mind with information that improves me. All the strategy in the world won't save you if you don't believe in yourself and aren't maximizing your focus, expertise, and mental well-being.
You need to be able to handle the shit that life throws at you with grace and patience instead of stress.
3. Investing in myself
I've spent over $20,000 on coaching, events, and masterminds in the past month and made it back almost instantly. I've invested over $50,000 on my self-development this year because I'm serious about being the absolute best at what I do, and that means learning from the best.
Plus, when you put your skin in the game, you'll be more motivated to show up and do the work. I've yet to meet someone who earns six figures or more who hasn't invested in themselves somehow.
4. Strengthening my offers
I did an audit of my packages and asked myself, "What do my clients need to get the best possible results?"
I increased the value of my services to ensure my clients get all the support they need from me. It's not just about what you want to sell, but rather about what your client wants and needs. Pay close attention to that … without happy clients, you can't have a thriving business.
5. Approaching sales with love
I used to be scared of selling because I thought it was slimy and unethical. I learned that selling is as good or bad as your intentions.
I reframed my perspective - instead of "selling," why not have genuine conversations where I actually listened to what people needed and offered them the perfect solution? I have no doubt of my ability to deliver, so selling is an act of service. If you genuinely believe that your product or service will transform the lives of your clients for the better, then selling is an act of love.
We are so scared to do what we love because we think we will fail. But think of the consequences if you don't take action - for me, I'd still be in some miserable corporate job somewhere in New York City, in my nicer but more expensive apartment, wondering "what if?" I actually followed my dreams instead of being CEO of my own company by age 27.Don't allow fear to run your life. Believe in your future earning potential, and most importantly, believe that you will show up for yourself when life calls you to rise. And then, just do the damn thing.