How I Built An $80K+/Year Business As A Solo Consultant Traveling The World

Nicole Hudson
Founder, Simply Hudson
$7K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
Simply Hudson
from Chicago
started July 2020
$7,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
59
followers
Discover what tools Nicole reccommends to grow your business!
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How I Built An $80K+/Year Business As A Solo Consultant Traveling The World

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi everyone! I’m Nicole Hudson, the Strategic Transformation Advisor behind Simply Hudson.

Simply Hudson works with passionate entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses to maximize career and business success. Our primary services focus on process design and strategic advising, with additional public speaking packages and online business development courses available.

I help position founders and leaders for meaningful, impactful, and sustainable growth. Above all else, I value simplicity, effectiveness, sustainability, integrity, and trust - and these shine through in our operations and client experiences.

Through process design, I guide clients through developing and improving organizational structures to build and scale a thriving business. For strategic advising, I guide my clients to discover and prioritize the best actions for their businesses, offering both a road map and the directions to follow it.

By designing streamlined, semi-automated processes, the company estimated an annual savings of over 800 manual work hours and $80,000 in annual overhead costs while supporting a fully remote, globally distributed workforce. Wow!

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Long story short, I’m a midwestern girl turned traveler, now finding my way back to my roots. I grew up outside Chicago and made the move to the East Coast for college. In Boston, I studied Economics before moving to the Big Apple to kickstart my career. Then in 2018, I decided to make a big change!

I was living in NYC at the time, working in the financial industry and unlike many stories I’ve heard, I truly enjoyed both my job and city life. But the truth was that I was checking the boxes for what I believed was a success to complete the happiness equation.

I’d always been interested in working abroad and decided to try my hand at consulting while exploring Europe for a few months. I wanted to test out other work options, develop or discover new skills, and determine if I was doing work I truly loved.

When starting a business, give it some time. Your business is like your baby – it needs time to grow and mature from its infancy. Nurture it – don’t pressure yourself to have immediate success on day one.

I discovered a few things.

  1. I did truly love my work and found myself teaching others about process design on my travels.
  2. I enjoyed a non-traditional lifestyle that did not require a typical corporate office setting.
  3. I was productive and passionate about my remote work with a better work/life balance, and what started as individual consulting morphed into a bigger plan.

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Through my travels, I met several digital nomad entrepreneurs and small business owners. I had opportunities to offer knowledge-sharing sessions and presentations with these groups where I shared my passion for process and enjoyed deep conversations on the topic.

As new business ideas were hashed out, the process became an important part of the conversation and my network began to reach out for support. This was my aha moment - I didn’t need to consult for a big company or be full-time for a single client. I could offer services on a smaller, more personalized scale with a large impact - something my ideal clientele was looking for.

When it came down to experience, I pulled from my educational background and corporate roles where I had worked in several different functions, but always stuck to a common theme of process improvement and project management.

As I thought about how to best engage with clients and what recent growth had most impacted me, I decided to expand my expertise with further education in coaching, adding to my strategic toolset and rounding out my personalized approach to client relationships.

Take us through the process of designing your first service.

The process of defining our first service took the form of turning the service offerings back into my own business. The consulting work and speaking engagements I had done over the past few years became my MVPs and were adapted to engage with a broader audience.

I sat down for a solo brainstorm to clearly outline my service offerings, thinking through my experience in corporate America, remote consulting, my training and skillsets, and what I was most passionate about in my work. I incorporated what I had learned from other entrepreneurs, such as their biggest challenges and struggles as well as unforeseen costs and time usage.

By grouping similar work efforts and standardizing terminology, I was able to narrow down the services to our four core offerings. Over time, I’ve continued to adapt and refine as the business evolves.

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Describe the process of launching the business.

Working as a solo consultant for a few years meant Simply Hudson already had clients - but it was time to become official! Throughout 2019, I had a full-time consulting gig that allowed me to increase my savings in preparation for the launch. In my free time, I focused in on what seemed like a small but important task - choosing a name.

This became one of the more time-consuming tasks, as I wanted the brand to align with my vision in a way that prospective clients understood. I made use of brainstorming workshops, online name generators, and feedback from friends and family to inform my final decision, and ultimately selected a name that focused on simplifying complexities through my expertise.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I decided it was time to focus my time and energy on launching Simply Hudson. The key deliverables to go live were our website development, system architecture to support internal processes, administrative needs such as legal contracts, and the development of our first online courses. I pulled together an initial launch plan to track all of the moving pieces and consulted my network to better understand potential funding needs. By visualizing the work efforts and potential cost, I was able to determine which aspects of the launch I would take on myself vs. outsourcing.

Since I would be offering process design and project management services, I turned my skills internally! Through a series of window drawings with whiteboard markers, I first focused on what the process flows would look like to work with Simply Hudson.

This included the customer journey, internal operations, and technical architecture which then fed into decisions to get it right from the start. To explain the service offerings to help prospective clients understand how we would help their business, I focused the strategic advising back on Simply Hudson to determine the core company values and vision.

From there, I made sure I had the right services in place for the most effective use of my time, skills, and budget. To keep everything running smoothly, I chose to outsource in the following areas:

Website branding, design, and development: while I could take the time to create something myself, I determined it was more effective and efficient to work with a pro. This allowed me to focus on the website experience, content, and service offerings while they focused on the design and technical aspects.

Web content: working directly with a content writer helped turn my technical knowledge and expertise into engaging web content.

Legal work: to better manage the client experience and keep internal administration to a minimum, I worked closely with my legal team to develop the necessary contract templates and other legalese such as terms and conditions. We also chose to trademark Simply Hudson and kicked off the registration process as soon as we could.

Bookkeeping: from the financial perspective, we brought on an accounting firm to handle the business registration, bookkeeping, invoicing/payment systems, and other tax-related matters to keep us in compliance.

Video Editing: for a professional look and feel to our course content, I decided to bring on a video editor who gave me tips for recording remotely and merged my video content and slides into an engaging course.

simply-hudson

Once I was in the full swing of things, getting to launch day took a little over 3 months. I chose to self-fund based on prior planning and worked closely with my contracted team to stick to the $16,000 budget.

l also focused on keeping overhead (both fixed and variable costs) low. By mapping out the process and project plan from the start, and thinking about all the different aspects of the business upfront, I felt confident going live that I had checked all my boxes.

One lesson learned was how challenging it can be to open a banking relationship while abroad. Despite pandemic times, we had a signature and in-person verification needs, so we opened the accounts we could up front and the remaining accounts when I was back in the US.

I also discovered over time that I prefer to keep my social media accounts separate. In the excitement of launching, I decided to use my existing accounts for both business and personal. I found that I was posting less and less and eventually decided to start fresh. While this may be different for everyone, I’m much happier with the separation!

simply-hudson

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Simply Hudson provides a personalized approach to every client, guiding leaders to a decision framework that refines their vision, simplifies complexities, overcomes obstacles, and reaches objectives.

By outfitting entrepreneurs and C-suite executives with these tools, entire organizations flourish, and the impact is palpable for employees and customers alike.

Organic growth has been most effective for my business as trust is a very important aspect of my work. I had the opportunity at the start of my career to build an incredible network through cross-functional roles, participation in industry events, and truly connecting with people on a personal level.

Networking isn’t just about the initial meeting or introductory email - it takes time and effort to get to know each other, understand how you can provide value, and show your worth. I have continued to maintain and build my network through different forums, staying engaged, and speaking both authentically and passionately about the work I do.

Regarding customer retention, we have a unique business model. My goal is to create something - whether that be an operational process or developing strategies for founders - that is flexible enough to adapt to evolving business needs.

In my ideal state, return clients are looking for support in something new, taking on a broader business change, or building on the initial foundation. My goal is for clients to receive ongoing value from our services as a return on their initial investment.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to deliver high-quality work with great communication to support your organic growth and return clients. Great client outcomes increase the number of conversations where you’re mentioned - and word of mouth is a great way to grow your business from a place of trust!

Like one of our early clients - working closely with the founder of a high volume service business, we designed and implemented operational processes to ensure accuracy, consistency, and adherence to tight deadlines; not to mention an incredible customer experience. In their first-year post-launch, our processes supported massive growth - a 256% increase in customers!

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How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I’m proud to say that Simply Hudson is profitable and excited about all of our upcoming projects - both internal and client-based! Our clients come from around the globe and cover a myriad of industries.

Variable costs have increased as we’ve grown our team, but the business is still lean and fully remote. Most fixed costs fall on technology, such as website hosting, CRM annual fees, etc. and the customer acquisition cost comes down to my varied time in meeting with prospects.

As Simply Hudson is very personalized, I find the standard metrics don’t necessarily show the full picture. I manage client count by service capacity to ensure focused attention and high-quality results - quality over quantity. It’s also important to me that I work with clients at the right time for their goals, which may be a few months out from initial conversations!

Simply Hudson is just starting to grow our social media presence on LinkedIn and Instagram, first focusing on organic growth with the strategic use of hashtags, engagement with aligned accounts, and strong content.

I’m looking forward to experimenting with ways to grow our customer base for online courses. We have several projects in the pipeline, but I’m most excited to expand on our course offerings in the coming months. If there’s something you’d like to see, drop us a line!

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in launching my business is that there is limited awareness of the role process design plays when getting started. I often hear statements like “I had no idea that was even a job!” It’s caused me to take a step back to think about how I describe my work and find ways to bring a more “corporate” function to small businesses and entrepreneurs without breaking the bank.

I’ve also had to tackle the challenge of context switching between clients. I talk a lot about boundary-setting - even publishing a full blog series on the topic - and how important they are to keeping things organized and preventing burnout. To deliver my best, I have to set my boundaries and structure for when I hold client meetings, team meetings, and focused work time.

Finally, I’ve learned to better delegate tasks rather than trying to do it all. By prioritizing and focusing on what I need to do vs. what I can get support on, I better focus my time and energy on the most effective and efficient use of time and skills.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

To keep operations running smoothly, Simply Hudson utilizes several different tools that we’ve worked to integrate. We have the basics, such as an email provider and website hosting, and several others that vary by internal and external client needs, such as Business Process Mapping tools. For client management, we like to use Dubsado as our core application as it allows us to manage scheduling, contracting, client portal capabilities, and more in a centralized location.

For courses, we’ve adapted as our business needs have evolved, and recently shifted to Teachable as our preferred platform. While we’re still discovering new features, we like the school setup, curriculum structure, dashboard analytics, and flexible plans as we continue to grow.

And to keep us organized, our team makes use of Trello. We have multiple boards to manage team responsibilities and longer-term company goals. We’re constantly adjusting as our team becomes more integrated and we launch more internal projects. Over time, we’ll continue to develop more process automation and integrations to best suit our business needs.

Other tools: MailChimp, Zapier, Google Workspace, Canva, SpeakerHub, Instagram, LinkedIn, Wordpress, and more.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The most influential resource to my business has been the incredible people within my network. They have championed and supported me from the start, and continue to inspire me with words of encouragement and their career trajectories. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!

One of the more influential books that helped create a business model that stayed authentic to me is Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. It wasn’t an easy read as it hit so close to home! However, the book helped me lean further into my personal growth, understand my underlying challenges and find comfort in the fact that it isn’t just me!

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Be confident and follow through. Entrepreneurship, and consulting especially, are about building relationships and delivering results. Build trust with your network, perform well and deliver.

When starting a business, give it some time. Your business is like your baby – it needs time to grow and mature from its infancy. Nurture it – don’t pressure yourself to have immediate success on day one. Allow it to grow and expand with time.

Learn, understand, and adapt to your audience. It’s important to refine your business as you grow and as a business owner, you’ll play many roles. The more you adapt, the more impactful you can be.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Keep your clients informed on progress, costs, risks, and anything else needed for your particular business relationship. The last thing you want is to surprise your client with something unexpected, like a delay in the project or a higher-than-expected cost.

Where can we go to learn more?

We’re invested in you and ready to collaborate. If you want an experienced partner you can trust, reach out through our website to learn more about our service offerings and schedule a free consult.

We love working with passionate clients and will work closely with you to best match and customize our services to your needs. If you’re interested in learning more about the impact process has on all aspects of your business, whether you’re just starting or looking to scale, check out our Power of Process MasterClass.

By signing up for our newsletter, you’ll receive monthly updates including course launches and blog notifications on the topics our clients are looking for. We’re excited to hear from you!

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Nicole Hudson, Founder of Simply Hudson
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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