How I Started A Successful Side Business Providing Financial Advice
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Ellie and I’m the founder of Money Therapy Consulting. Money Therapy Consulting is an online consulting company that educates individuals and founders about their finances. In addition to the consulting, I host seminars, write informative articles, and curate personalized financial plans for businesses and individuals
So, what does Money Therapy really do? Money Therapy sells peace, not financial advice. When someone leaves the conversation, they feel assured they are taking the appropriate steps with their money.
My main service is my one-on-one sessions. During those sessions, we speak about what you are really struggling with financially. Or, if you don’t know where to even start (which is ok!), I will guide you with a list of questions. What I love about the one-on-one sessions is that there is always a plan. I leave you with a to-do list and we set goals before our next meeting. My clients never feel like they are going at it alone.
Today, I am doing anywhere between 10-20 sessions a month. I’ve actually had to scale back due to the fact that Money Therapy is a side business. I work with people who are really struggling and ready to make a change. Money Therapy isn’t about convincing you to make a change in your financial life, it is ready to help when you are.
Money Therapy generates about $5,000 per month and I’m incredibly happy with that number. I could sell more sessions but the quality would not be there for my clients if I did. What I love about Money Therapy is that it proves that if you have a skill, some time, and a will, you can start a business with your talents. Everyone has a way of making money with what they already have in their toolbox.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started Money Therapy as an accident!
My background was in finance. I worked for a top financial company and then moved to DC working for a finance startup.
Consistency, reliability, and relationships. If you have these 3 things you have a very high likelihood that your business will be successful.
My ultimate goal was to start a company. So, when I quit my job in finance and started a company called Venyou, I realized the financial skills I had acquired during my finance years were invaluable. Instead of guestimating my monthly expenses, I knew what they were going to be down to the penny. Instead of spending money I didn’t have, I created a barter system with friends to keep costs down. Instead of being anxious in investor meetings, I was able to walk in with confidence and discuss how my company was going to seek profitability in a specific time frame and how much money was needed to do that. In fact, my finance skills kept my company afloat where others may have failed.
There are so many brilliant ideas and talented founders but if you don’t know anything about money, your chances of your business failing are nearly 100%.
Other founders heard about my finance background and were approaching me about how to best manage their money. They would ask me questions like; “What insurance can I afford? What business systems do I need to pay for? How do I pay my rent and my developers? Should I be investing and how much?”
I did this pretty regularly for free but once I gave a speech on finance for founders during startup week, the inquiries exploded. Startup week, for those who are not aware, is a week long event where founders and those supporting the startup ecosystem give speeches and network with each other. I highly recommend attending if you aren’t quite sure what you want to start/aren’t aware how you are going to do it.
After my speech, I no longer could sit with people for free, I knew I had to make Money Therapy a real business.
At first, Money Therapy was just word of mouth. One founder would recommend another founder and then those individuals would recommend their friends in normal 9-5 jobs. I expanded my services to include everything under the sun. If you had a financial question about it, I could answer it.
Now, I’m in such a cool space with the business. My clients range from 19-55 and I have helped them invest over $500,000 and pay down over $200,000 worth of debt. Those numbers motivate me.
Take us through the process of getting started.
Money Therapy started organically and it changed organically. Before I charged for my time, I was answering one-off financial questions. I would get calls, emails, requests for coffee, you name it, just to pick my brain about money. The fun part was that I didn’t know what type of questions I was going to get. I loved that variety but it was also mentally taxing. If I didn’t have the answer to their question I would have to look it up and get back to them or decipher something for them, which ate into time for myself and my other business. I knew I needed to put structure around my time.
If you have a good business model that people are willing to pay for, you don’t have to spend a ton of money acquiring clients or on your website.
I started putting my clients in silos; founders, employees, advisors, etc. This way, I could prepare for the types of questions they most likely had. I would “group” these people into one day. Instead of taking 3 meetings about various topics, I would hold 3 meetings in one day about similar types of questions. This way, it was less taxing on me and more beneficial to my clients.
I also had to do my due diligence and tell them what I was legally able to advise them on and what I could not advise them on. Finance is a heavily regulated business and if you make a misstep you could be in serious trouble. I can give you my opinion on your finances and options that I think might be appropriate for you but I can’t move the money for you. This is a blessing instead of a curse because it forces my clients to truly understand how to manage their own financial life.
Today, I have a very easy but manageable process for my clients. They have to sign up on a great app called Personal Capital. I have to look at it before we meet to determine where I think you may have gaps in your financial life. We set goals on what you would like to get out of the session and then we meet. Easy!
Describe the process of launching the business.
I was hesitant to formally launch the business because things had been going so well without any online presence. However, one of my clients moved and still wanted to interact with me. So, instead of doing our normal one-on-one meetings in person, we moved to Zoom. This was not an isolated incident. I started getting referrals outside the DC metro area and knew I couldn’t keep it offline.
So, during the spring of last year I launched moneytherapy.co and offered online signups via calendly and payment via square. I worked with a squarespace template and did everything under $100.
If you have a good business model that people are willing to pay for, you don’t have to spend a ton of money acquiring clients or on your website contrary to popular belief. I sent out a quick facebook blast on my personal page, set up a pinterest account, and Money Therapy was launched!
It was a rough go at first because I immediately wanted to do everything online. I got frustrated balancing online clients with my in-person ones and screwed up my calendar a few times. I felt like I had put too much on my plate and didn’t know if the business was ever going to regulate itself. However, I stuck to my system, made my offline clients schedule time with me on one portal so I wouldn’t get my calendar confused, only took on clients who were serious about working with me and eventually everything streamlined.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, what has worked and still works is word of mouth. Everyone talks! If you did a great job your clients will tell other people. This my preferred way of attracting new customers. After all, Money Therapy still is a service business.
In addition, I have also gotten passionate about writing blogs. This is a huge attraction to potential new clients. If someone has a quick question, I direct them to one of my blog articles. This saves them money and saves me time. If they have a deeper question, we schedule a session.
Another unforeseen method of attracting clients is Pinterest! Never in my wildest dreams would I think Money Therapy’s pinterest would have over 1 million views per month but it does and has been one of the main generators to my site. Pinterest has connected me with clients over the country. How did I learn pinterest was such a great marketing strategy? Youtube. If you don’t know it, youtube it. Hint: Tailwind is the ticket to this growth as well as consistent creation of new pins. At least 2 new pins a week.
None of these would work without a system. You have to have a system for attracting and retaining new clients. Here’s exactly what I do:
First, I set a time at the beginning of every month and come up with topics that I will write about for my blog. I record the subject, date, and if I stuck to the pubished date or not. I try to have the article written a few days before to I can edit it, add pictures, and think about how I will market it. The tabs below refer to the month so I can see where I am slacking and where I’m doing well. I try for at least one article a week.
Next, I look at HARO everyday. HARO stands for help a reporter out and it has helped me get into publications like Forbes, NBC News, TheStreet, Girbloss, Bustle, you get the idea. Writers are always looking for help with articles and if you fit the bill they will feature you in publications. This has helped me legitimize my brand.
Finally, I create assets like pinterest pins to help aid in my new article and market it. I use canva to do this and upload it directly to pinterest. I also use a service called tailwind so that it can automatically repin it.
Lastly, I follow up with my clients! I send them emails to see where they are on their goals and if they are ready to meet again. That’s it.
One piece of advice I have is understand where your brand shines. For me, it’s pinterest. I’m not going to spread myself thin trying to go after facebook ads or be the most followed on instagram. That is not where my brand does best. Realize that not all brands NEED to be everywhere. Find out where you perform best and stick to it.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, I’m in a good, consistent place with my business. It costs me almost nothing to run my business. Squarespace renews at about $200 every year and I don’t pay for any advertising or ads. The only thing I truly have invested is my time which is the most valuable of all. So, my $5,000 per month is almost pure profit.
I would like to stay at this level. It is manageable while I run my other business. However, what keeps me up at night is the people I’m not able to serve. My goal is to create an online course for different sectors; creatives, founders, employees, and college-aged individuals. I find the most similarities financially are within similar life cycles and goals. All though circumstances may be different for all, concerns are usually the same. With an online course I can serve so many more people. Scalability is always a concern with service-based businesses and I’d like the course to solve that.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The list would be too long to include everything helpful and advantageous I have learned but a few key things come to mind; consistency, reliability, and relationships. If you have these 3 things you have a very high likelihood that your business will be successful.
On consistency, it is important to not only be consistent with your business but also consistent with yourself. If you have an internal deadline that no one knows about, keep it. The most important person you should be consistent with is you. If you are consistent with yourself you will be consistent with your business. If you are consistent with your business you will be consistent with your messaging in your business. Consistency is the key to long-standing clients and customers.
On reliability, it is important you keep your word. If you said you will be somewhere or do something, be there and do it. If people know you are reliable, opportunities and doors will open up for you. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I was invited somewhere or asked to speak at an event because someone else was not reliable. Be the reliable person and watch your business flourish.
On relationships, they are the building blocks of all things. Treat everyone as you wish to be treated and remember that the customer really is always right. Network with people you actually care about getting to know. Ask people you aspire to be like to get coffee. Keep people in your circle that you trust and will give you honest advice. If you have good relationships, you have everything.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Anything that you can do to automate your business that will make your life easier, do it. I try to do as few things possible in a day which means I use a lot of tools to make it happen.
- Squarespace - A website, especially if you are providing a service, should be beautiful and simple. With website builders today, you should be able to get a website up and running in a half hour. Squarespace is pretty, it’s user-friendly, and it’s reasonably priced. I highly recommend using it. They also added a new feature to send emails so I stopped using mailchimp and started using their service.
- Square - I use this for all my invoicing. It has a simple dashboard and I use the chip reader if I have a face-to-face consulting meeting.
- Calend.ly - I use this for new inquiries and bookings - it is free!
- Tailwind - I use this to automate and repin my pinterest pins. This has been my #1 growth tool this past year.
- Combin - I use this to auto-like and follow ideal instagram accounts
- Canva - I use this to create marketing materials and pinterest posts. Also free!
- Go check out my post - it is appropriately titled “Everything I Use to Run My Business”
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My influences have changed over time. At the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I wanted to attack and attack quickly!
I read all the old faithfuls like the Lean Startup, Zero to One, #askgaryvee, and the $100 startup. I listened to podcasts about founders and joined facebook groups. They were informative and necessary at the time. However, you can’t live your life at that pace. That energy is needed at the beginning of your venture but you can’t sustain a life at that pace.
Today, I have a more holistic view of what I feed my brain because quite frankly, I got burned out.
Now, I listen to mainly financial news such as Jim Cramer and WSJ. Financial news gives you all the information you need to know without all the drama. If I need a kick in the ass I listen to Eric Thomas on Youtube. If I need to calm down I go to church. If I need to cry about business I go to my mom. If I need to get through a problem I go to work. Keep your influences simple.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice would be that it is okay if your journey doesn’t mimic someone else’s journey. Just as people are individuals, so are businesses. Listen to your intuition with your business, it will guide you down the right road. Lastly, only take advice from people you want to be like.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am always looking for partnership opportunities and contractors. I purposely keep my business employee-free. I want the people I work with to have their own businesses!
At the moment, I don’t need any new contractors but if you have a talent in video editing, illustration, or course-making please reach out at [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
Visit Money Therapy everywhere @moneytherapyco! Reach out directly [email protected]
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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