Unemployable to a millionaire
Sigrun Gudjonsdottir has built a successful coaching company out of nothing. She wants to encourage other women to do the same.
Using the crisis as an opportunity? You’re probably tired of hearing about it. What exactly is the opportunity if you’re stuck at home, applying for a new job or trying to get your one-person business up and running?
Sigrun Gudjonsdottir knows this situation only too well. Seven years ago she was sitting in her apartment in Zurich, depressed after losing two jobs in a short time and worn down by chronic pain. She had four university degrees, management experience at the highest level, turnaround experience and technology skills. She thought she would be the ideal choice for many start-ups. Her advisor at the employment agency saw it differently: “Too expensive, overqualified and therefore unemployable.” The many rejections she received in response to her applications confirmed her advisor’s opinion.
As a result, Sigrun decided to start her own business. She had previously been active in Facebook groups for women entrepreneurs and noticed that her advice was very much in demand there and that she enjoyed sharing her experience. However, she had never earned any money from it.
It started with a blog
In autumn 2013 she started a blog – not as an expert, but to share her experience . Her first entry: “Why “Start Before You Are Ready” Is The Only Way.” She wrote about the hurdles of founding a company, about her own perfectionism, about all the barriers in her head. Then, one day, she placed a banner on her website: “1 hour online coaching: $180”. Soon after, on March 26, 2014, the first customer booked – Sigrun was so thrilled that she still remembers the date and celebrates it.
Today, Sigrun has made her first name her brand, her hourly rate is $1,500, and her annual turnover has increased from $72,000 in her first year in business to $2.2 million in 2019. How was this possible in just five years?
There’s a business answer and a psychological answer to this. It’s crucial to only sell individual lessons at the beginning, says Sigrun. She went on to offer group seminars – initially only with six participants and later with up to 100 participants. However, a business will only become scalable if you teach your knowledge through online courses, she says.
And this is where the psychological component comes in: Two years after she founded her business, Sigrun announced in an interview that it was her goal to reach a million in sales in her fourth year. A person with these kinds of goals needs a strong drive. “It wasn't about the money. With the million, I wanted to show what women can achieve if they think big,” says Sigrun. As a teenager in Iceland, she was very angry to see so many women say goodbye to their dreams and find all kinds of reasons for it. She wanted to do it differently.
It doesn't work without courage
Even today, she hears all kinds of excuses from her customers from all over the world: No time because of the children, no support from their husband, no knowledge or skills in technology or finance. “Translated, this means: I don't have the courage. Or: It’s not important enough to me.” If you really want to start your business, Sigrun says, all you need is a Facebook group and a lot of courage.
Sigrun now reaches over 20,000 subscribers with her newsletter and has worked with more than 2000 clients. With the right business model, it’s possible to build a lucrative online business in almost any industry, says the entrepreneur who employs a team of 10: From the dog trainer to the math teacher, the designer to the architect, the insurance broker to the cook.
As an example, Sigrun explains that one of her clients, a nutritionist from Vienna who, despite her great expertise, had earned so little that she was barely able to pay her bills for the last 20 years. “We have changed her business model: Now she no longer works almost for free for everyone, but teaches professionals for good money,” says Sigrun. The switch took a lot of effort – “there were times when she hated me!” – but her revenue doubled in the first year. The Austrian TV channel ORF is currently producing a TV show about her.
And what goals does Sigrun have for the near future? «Not financial ones!» For now, she wants to support as many women as possible in setting up their online business. Sigrun had to postpone her other big goal by a year. On June 18, she was supposed to host 1000 women entrepreneurs from all over the world at her conference in Iceland. What will not be possible this year, will be all the better in 2021.
This article was translated to English from German and first appeared in Tagesanzeiger here.