Why Your Business is Stuck at (or under) $250K in Revenue

Why Your Business is Stuck at (or under) $250K in Revenue

I am here with a super fun episode, and I swear, I think I say that every time, because I just love business and I am a total business nerd, and I can talk about these things all day, every day, and be in my glory. I think this episode is super fun. We’re talking about this $250,000 revenue plateau that you might be facing in your business. 

It is mastermind enrollment season around here at the Bold Leadership Revolution, which is why we are talking about this, and that means that my calendar is gloriously full of amazing small business owners who are growth-oriented, have big ambitious goals, and wanting to know just how to get from their point A, to their point B.

Given the timeliness of these conversations and wanting to encourage all of you who might want to apply for the mastermind, I wanted to share what I’m observing in these conversations, because I think you might be here too, and I just don’t want anybody to feel alone in their journey. 

I had a blog, it was actually my second blog back in 2012, and that was really why I was blogging, was because I had just gone through some of the worst financial times in my life. We had declared bankruptcy in 2010. We were rebuilding, repairing our entire lives, not just our finances, and gosh, I was so lonely during that time, and I thought that nobody else had bad things happen to them, and that nobody else faced adversity. I obviously figured out that wasn’t true, it’s just nobody talked about it.

On my blog, I wanted people to have a place where they could go and not feel so alone in their daily struggles, in their own adversity and challenges. That is very much a part of why I do what I do, and what I do here just in a little different context in terms of this is about business ownership, and my blog back then was about more family, and leadership, and life stuff. 

I really want to share these observations with you in case you’re hesitant about jumping on a call with me because you’re embarrassed or because you’re not sure if you’re weird, you’re not, I’m super weird, and that you are not alone in these challenges that you might be having. 

Firstly, let’s be clear about who I’m talking about because I think so many programs you see online are way too vague about who they are for, which is causing some of the problems I start to see later down the road when service providers are trying to break through various revenue plateaus.

This podcast episode is specifically speaking to experts who are delivering a service. 

It’s primarily who I speak to on a very broad scale. 

Expert, meaning, they have years of experience, time on task, a degree, a certification, a well-honed reputation for being truly exceptional at what they do. That is how we define experts. These experts are delivering services in a way that has them generating about $150,000 a year to just below $250,000 a year if they are applying for the mastermind. If you’re in that $250,000 spot, send an application if you’re a little below that. It’s on a case-by-case basis. We have to have a conversation, have to understand where you’re at in your business.

If you’re at a place where you’re trying to break through $100,000 revenue plateau so you can start paying yourself more, this is also going to be a super helpful episode for you, because heck, if you can start to break through some of these issues earlier, then maybe you won’t hit that plateau at $250,000. I did not hit a plateau at $250,000, but I had my growth slowed at that point, and that is actually very normal. 

This is for you if you’re at a plateau where you feel you keep coming in under this dollar amount, you’ve set this goal for a long time and you’re not there yet. I get that it could be frustrating if you feel like your growth has slowed, this can be for you as well. 

While I break down stages of business by revenue size, many people also do that, and not much changes though with the other revenue stages. Bigger decisions are made, sure. Things get easier, absolutely, because you have more money, and you’re buying yourself at a time, and you have more support. I know that’s contradictory. Women usually think that things get harder the more money you make, but they actually get way easier. 

That’s actually one of the things that’s keeping them plateaued, is they think it’s going to be harder. That’s a mindset shift that they need to make, but the reality is it gets easier.

Things that also change your boundaries need to be at ninja status. Your role changes but some things will always come up regardless of the revenue level that you’re at, and I just really want to be clear about that. While I’m talking about people in this revenue range of $150,000 to $250,000, you might recognize this in yourself whether you’re below it or above it, because these things do tend to continue to percolate, and we just get more skilled at addressing them, and you’re able to move on more quickly, they become less disruptive towards your goals. 

Why are you not breaking the $250,000 plateau? 

In general, experts are exceptional at their area of expertise, but when their expertise isn’t in business growth strategies, there is a knowledge base that’s missing. I hear from many women that I work with that they feel embarrassed, that they don’t have a business degree, and while you don’t need a business degree, business knowledge is a must. 

Otherwise, you wind up with shiny object syndrome. Hoping and wishing something works, and it can be incredibly frustrating to sit so close to your revenue goal, and continue to come in right below it regardless of that number.

The other thing that I am hearing from women, which is really super fascinating to me, and it seems to be more frustrating to them, is that I talk to women that are at these revenue plateaus, and they’re not newbies. They’ve spent their entire lifetimes honing their craft, and may even be in business for years. When they try to find the right educational resources for their revenue stage, they’re coming up with very beginner programs that have a lot of fluff and a lot of cutesy language that just doesn’t resonate with them because they’re in a much more advanced place. Even if their revenue doesn’t seem to be as advanced, and that is normal. 

Remember, there are statistics out there that say 88% of women small businesses, women-owned small businesses, are making below $100,000 a year. We need to put that in perspective. The women that I’ve been speaking to at these plateaus are action takers and have a fire in their belly for growth. So that’s what makes them so unique, you can’t look at these women and go “Oh, well they’re not implementing,” they are implementing, or “They just don’t want it bad enough,” they actually do want it. They do have a fire in their belly. 

Where in the world is this breakdown happening? 

I think it starts with having to make an important distinction and an important decision. 

The decision is, do you want to be self-employed as a freelancer or solopreneur? Or do you want to run a business? 

There is a difference. I don’t think we’re talking about this enough, that not everyone wants the responsibility or commitment that comes with running a business. That is a valid choice, but too often, we aren’t making the distinction between the two, so there isn’t a choice being made. Right now, I want you all to wrap your heads around the difference between whether you want to call it self-employed, a freelancer, a solopreneur, a service provider, or running a business. 

Do you want to make a sale, deliver a service? You decide how much you want to sell, and you decide how much you want to deliver, and I don’t mean to make it sound as transactional as it is. It’s just very simple. It’s a simple structure.

If you are an expert in an area that commands top dollar, you can most likely get to $250,000 a year with a solid executive assistant, but you’re going to struggle to get much beyond that without the desire to take on more team or market to a larger audience. You also only have so much bandwidth to split between marketing sales and delivery. 

Some solopreneurs might not even make it to the $250,000 a year mark, and that’s okay. It really depends on the industry they’re in. It depends on who they’re selling to. For example, I get a lot of therapists,  solopreneur therapists, who are going to struggle to hit that $250,000 mark, because they are often being dictated to how much they can charge per session. They’re working on a per session model, and they have a finite amount of time that they can deliver their service. 

Now that would be a service provider. If they then decided that they wanted to start to operate and deliver services through other therapists, now we’re running a business. If they decided that they wanted to build out some group program that might be a little more scalable, but then that’s going to require some more in terms of delivery, marketing, and selling, now we’re looking at it becoming more of a business.

If this is where you want to hang out, where you are a solopreneur, a service provider, your goals are going to be about making that $250,000 or whatever that number that is appropriate for you; $150,000, $250,000 on repeat. 

Using your money wisely to grow investments in other areas. You’re going to want to start taking your profit and taking your pay, and really starting to make investments in whether it be the stock market, whether it be real estate, whether it be in some other way that can grow your money for you. 

Now you want to do that regardless if you’re a service provider or a business owner, but really, that’s where you would want your focus to be, because you’re going to want to focus, be able to focus on getting revenue and that’s going to generate revenue for you in other ways, and find ways to make that $250,000 even easier, so you can take a break from delivery now and again. That’s going to be where you need to take some pressure off.

Now being a business owner is a different level of commitment that comes with complex problems, difficult decisions, higher revenue levels. 

If you don’t like solving problems, challenging yourself to do uncomfortable things, having difficult discussions, handling more pressure, and doing the common things uncommonly well, then this isn’t likely going to be for you, and that’s fine, but the thing is, you need to decide which strategy you are going to employ. Are you going to employ a service provider like a freelancer type strategy? Are you going to employ a business building strategy? Something that is going to take you beyond that $250,000. 

This is the first thing you’re going to need to look at and reset some expectations if required. Neither is better than the other. I really think this gets shamed and shit on a ton in online business spaces through social media, whatever just we have, just because that’s how social media tends to work. What I really want to do is destigmatize that, and say “neither is better than the other.” It’s just a matter of deciding what you want for yourself, your impact and your life. 

You get to make this decision. You have agency over it, but because you’re not taking agency over that, and making that decision, you’re most likely winding up overspending on things, putting different strategies in place that maybe you don’t need to have, and maybe you’re not focused on the best activities for you.

Now that you’ve made that decision, and also, by the way, I think there are a lot of you who are afraid to run a business, and that’s why you’re choosing to be a freelancer or a solopreneur. I just want to let you know that, if you’re choosing to be a freelancer or solopreneur because you’re afraid to run a business, I believe that you have the capacity and the capability to do that, if that’s what you want to do. I just really want everybody to hear that too. I believe women are so capable of running businesses and leading at their highest level in business. 

All right, so you’ve decided “Okay, I want to run a business,” here are the things that we need to look at, that are potentially causing you to plateau.

One, trying all the strategies to find the secret. 

There is no secret, again, hard truths. Purveyor of hard truths. There is no secret every time you try something new, burn down your business, change something, you start the clock over, you have to stop doing this. The actual secret to business success is time. It’s just like compounding interest on your investments. The more time you give a specific strategy, the more it grows, amplifies, and works. 

Every time you stop, you start the clock over again, and it’s so much harder to keep starting like, did you ever realize this, with maybe some health habits, like maybe you want to walk 10,000 steps a day and you’re at it, you’re at it for 20 days, you’re walking 10,000 steps a day, and then something happens, and you stop, and then the next day you stop, and then the next day, and then it is so much harder to get started again. Time is your friend if you know how to use it.

For all of you who come at me with “How long is this going to take?” first of all, it’s going to take a long fucking time. I’m just going to be honest. When do you plan on stopping working? How long do you plan on working for yourself or running a business? A long time. It’s going to take that long. It’s going to take as long as it takes, and longer if you continue to seed everything you do with impatience. When is this going to happen? How much time something takes is a vanity metric. 

The only reason why this matters, is because you’re seeing news headlines, and click bait, and social media posts around it happening fast, happening overnight, being a quick turnaround. I did this one thing, and then all these sales happened. It’s bullsh*t, it’s not real, it’s not true, it’s not the norm. Maybe it happens now and again, but it is not the norm. It’s going to take as long as it’s going to take, and that’s great, because the more time you have into something, the better it works, the faster it grows, the more it amplifies, and that’s what we really want, so there is no secret other than time.

The second thing that’s causing you to potentially plateau, is you are selling too many offers.

More does not equal more. Moving beyond $250,000 is about going deep, not wide. It’s about incremental improvements to what you already have. it’s about iteration, and it’s about design thinking, and evolving something, and making it better, and adding more value, and raising the rate, and adding more value, and making it better, and getting feedback, and getting case studies, and raising the rates, and it is that over and over again. It is not about selling more. The more you have to sell, the less you’re going to sell, because the more scattered your attention, your effort, and your energy is going to be across multiple offers.

The next one, your boundaries around your work and clients need to elevate. 

Otherwise, you get into the trap of overdelivering. Now, this could be fine as a solopreneur, honestly, I think it sucks either way. You’re going to get tired, you’re going to get resentful. This is when people come to me and they’re like “I hate everybody. I hate my clients. I’m booked but I’m miserable. I want to burn it down.” Boundaries. 

When running a business, you have to segment your time between growth activities, finance activities, team management activities, client success, and of course, you’re going to have people on your team who are responsible for these things, but you are ultimately responsible, and so you need to be able to have boundaries around your time. Not having boundaries around your time could look like scope creep, over-preparing for speaking engagements and workshops. You do not have to over-prepare, you are an expert, remember?

Over giving of your time without properly charging, not addressing payment issues, tolerating clients, not respecting your boundaries around any number of things. These are just a few. Making one-time decisions and requests, like I mentioned in another podcast. I had a long, long-term client last year, asked me if they could pay quarterly instead of monthly, and I wanted to please her. I wanted her to be happy and so I said yes. But that wound up being a cash flow nightmare and like an administrative burden for us as a team, so no going outside of your boundaries on these things. It just causes more problems, and the bigger you get, the more problems it’s going to cause, so your boundaries around your work and your clients need to elevate.

Another reason is, you’re not separating yourself from the business. 

This comes up a lot in different ways, but some are fearful around raising your prices, needing your business to be your primary source of fulfillment, making business problems about you personally, and I get that. Actually we were talking about this on the mastermind hot-seat call this week that I had with my mastermind, and they were saying “But this is how business gets marketed, is that there’s something wrong with you if something’s not working in the business,” and I definitely can see that, but businesses are inherently complex and problematic. You are not your business. Sure, your behavior impacts the business, because you’re the leader and you’re responsible, but when you can allow yourself to have your identity and separate that from your business, it gives you some space. It’s less overwhelming. 

Things like not everything has to mean so much about your business like you’re not a bad person. If your revenue is down one month, for example, across the board with my clients, July and August weren’t great revenue months, they were lower than anticipated, or they were lower than previous years, or what have you, but this summer was unique in terms of, what was the slogan, vaxxed and waxed? People wanted to leave their houses, people wanted to go out, people were less focused, maybe on certain things, and so revenues could be down in some businesses.

Separate yourself from the business, including getting a hobby. Stop making a mess out of your business because you’re bored or you need fulfillment, or you like drama, or you like things to be exciting. Your business should be as boring as it can be while still allowing you to be lit up and excited about your purpose and your mission. Here are just like a couple of other, maybe quick ones, not tracking metrics that tie to revenue. How do we know what’s working? How do we know what to amplify? How do we know what to ask? How do you know what questions to ask if you’re not tracking and measuring things? We’re going to talk about that in a minute. Not willing to simplify or streamline, less is truly more. 

I get that we’ve been sold a bill of goods here around like working hard, and more is more, and all that consumerism, and all that productivity culture, and all that stuff, but it is just simply not true. I’m just going to keep saying it. I say it on a lot of different podcasts in a lot of different ways. What is simple will scale, what is complex will not, less is truly more, and that goes from less offers to having less ways to even necessarily generate leads. We want to be able to keep things organized, trackable, and measurable as they’re coming in, and we need to simplify that to do that.

Here’s the last one that I have for you, and this is a really, really important one, not knowing what you don’t know. 

Every single leader that I have ever worked with, this is the Achilles heel, not knowing what you don’t know. 

It’s compounded by not asking for support. When you’re not getting the results you want, but then you continue to do the things you’re doing even if they’re working, we need to look at that. We need to look at what needs to be amplified, what needs to be tweaked just a tiny bit. This is about high performance. This is about dialing things in with precision. 

Not that it’s not working, but if you’re doing things at work and you’re still not meeting your goal, we need to look at how we can do what’s working better. Not knowing what you don’t know, and not asking for support, can be inherently problematic. This is happening a lot for experts, because they are attaching their worthiness to being right, to having the answers, to knowing all the things. 

This is how they’ve been rewarded in their careers and in their profession, and in their businesses, was from knowing the things. But remember, you’re an expert at what you do, and I’m an expert at what I do, and we come together, and we partner, and it’s like expert times two, and it’s infinity better.

Here’s how to get a little bit of a handle on knowing what you don’t know and asking for support. 

First of all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know what to ask, can you help me identify what I need to ask?” 

Secondly, if you’re debriefing your goals on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis, which I work with my clients on creating this habit, whether they like it or not. Whether they listen to me or not, from moment one, from the second, you enter any of my programs regardless of your revenue level, this is the habit, debriefing your goals on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis. You would be able to ask so much better questions if you were doing this. Just because something is working, doesn’t mean you leave it. We need to know so we can amplify it, and if it’s not working, we stop doing it. 

Here are some different ways that you can language asking for support, “Where can I be proactive about my growth instead of reactive when a problem arises? What’s working? How can I amplify it? Based on the following set of metrics, what should I focus on?” If you’re tracking things, and you came to me, and you said, “Based on what I’ve tracked, what should I focus on? What do you see in my data that I’m not seeing?” I’d be actually able to have a conversation with you about that. You don’t have to do anything other than say, “Here’s the things that I track, what do you think?” You could say “I feel stuck in this place” and obviously, describe the place. “What would you recommend?” “Have you ever experienced this before?” I guarantee you, that when you ask a question and say “have you ever experienced this before?” The person you’re asking the question of, probably has, and they might even have been able to share some of their knowledge based on their own experience. 

If any of this sounds like something you want to work on, whether it be simplifying, asking for support, identifying metrics, getting out of the over delivery, and creating some boundaries, separating yourself from your business, increasing your pricing, decreasing the amount of offers that you have, giving it the time to work, if any of those things sound like something you want to work on in the coming year so you can start taking the money you make and growing it, then I want you to fill out an application. We’re looking for five experts who are running service-based businesses to join us and I just want to be clear. I’m going to leave you with some of the things that I’m looking for.

We talked about this in the episode earlier in the month around, is the Bold Money Mastermind right for you? But I’m going to share. You’re already earning $20,000 per month or close to it. Listen, if you’re $150,000 in your business right now, and you’ve been doing what you’re doing a long time, and you’re an expert, book a call with me. I want to talk to you. 

It’s possible that you would be a good fit, but let’s talk about it. You want to grow your net worth to multiple millions of dollars without sacrificing the things you love, so you don’t necessarily want a business, a million dollar business, but you want millions of dollars in net worth, we can do that. We can put you on the path for that. You’re looking to organize your business for maximum leverage. You’re open to simplifying things and doing less. You’re patient and coachable. We do have an episode around “Are you coachable?” and that is a very important episode to listen to before you buy anything, not just from me. The last thing is I need you to promise me, you’re not going to tell the web celebs what I teach you in this mastermind, your lips have to be sealed confidentiality.