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Made Vibrant

Why I Turned Down $15,000 in Revenue (And Thoughts On The Art Of An Evolving Business)

Caroline ZookCaroline Zook Caroline ZookCaroline Zook

Written by

Caroline Zook

Why I Turned Down $15,000 in Revenue (And Thoughts On The Art Of An Evolving Business)

If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re wondering why in the HECK I would turn down $15,000 of revenue for my business.

And that’s what I’m here to explain to you today.

So let’s begin with this: where did this $15K magically come from?

Well, I’m just gonna come out flat and say it: I busted my buns in the second half of 2014. I hit financial rock bottom in the middle of last summer following some serious struggles with anxiety. But I was determined not to work for someone else, so I gave myself one heck of a pep talk and decided to do everything in my power to make my business succeed.

Turns out, that kick in the pants worked because in the second half of last year, I saw an unbelievable amount of growth in project inquiries and client work. To give you some perspective, in Q3 of last year, I doubled my revenue from Q1 & Q2, and in Q4 I increased that number 5-fold. In other words, I wasn’t messing around.

Among several changes I made to my business, I got more focused and specific about my service offerings, I started managing my time for effectively so I could take on more work, and all this led to clients finally landing in my inbox instead of me having to go out and hunt them down.

For a while, it felt like I had finally hit my stride. Client work was fun and challenging, and I felt like I was using my unique talents to make a true difference for the handful of businesses and creatives I was working with.

But, I admit, there was a part of me that felt creatively stifled and burnt out. I was running myself ragged trying to keep up with all the work I had fought so hard to get.

Amidst all of that, through some very much appreciated prodding from Jason,  I somehow carved out the time to launch the Better Lettering Course… and that’s when everything changed.

Suddenly I was getting emails from students literally all over the world saying how the course had helped them reignite their creativity. Emails thanking me for putting together a fun, relatable resource, and for offering it at an affordable price.

Those students began to join the newsletter or follow me over on Instagram, and it just felt like the business was injected with this new life. All that new energy reminded me of one of my original intents for Made Vibrant – that it feel like a community (not just a client service business.)

I always wanted to create something that wasn’t just about me, but about finding other like-minded creatives out there who are interested in living a happy, bright, and deeply satisfying life.

I felt like I was suddenly impacting people on a bigger scale than I could ever do with my branding work. Don’t get me wrong, working 1-to-1 has its advantages, but there’s no match for the feeling of seeing the course students encourage one another, push themselves creatively, and connect with each other over something they love.

On a business level, I also realized that the model I had been following for the past six months just wasn’t sustainable. Trying to juggle timelines of multiple projects and doing my darndest to give myself fully to each of my clients has proven challenging at times. I worked long hours, fretted more hours than I can count over logos, and went to bed many nights wondering if I was letting everyone down.

NOT exactly a recipe for vibrant living.

So, I did exactly what I recommend in Connecting With Your Core: I took the necessary time to reflect, to ask myself the hard questions, and to really get clear on my vision for the next chapter of my business, preparing myself for the fact that it might mean a big change.

At the same time, four of my past clients approached me to expand upon our work together, along with two new clients asking for Brand Development packages. Transitioning away from client work would mean turning down $15K of locked-in project revenue over the next three months. 

And yet, I knew that if I kept going down this path, I would find myself three months later, worn out again and still without the time to develop the resources and products that I want so desperately to create for you guys and this community.

I knew what I had to do. 

So, two weeks ago, I started having the conversations I was dreading. I had to be honest with my clients and let them know I wouldn’t be able to take on the additional work.

And I’ll be honest, it sucked. There were a couple times where I wondered to myself,”Am I CRAZY?” I mean, I’ve worked so hard for a year to build demand for my services, and just when it starts paying off I shut the door.

BUT, here’s the lesson that I want you to take away from my experience:

No amount of money in the world is worth pursuing a life that is LESS than the one you know you want.

“No amount of money in the world is worth pursuing a life that is LESS than the one you know you want.”

When you have a vision for your future and the things you want to create, every moment you spend working toward another future is a waste. It’s a waste because your goal should be to pursue the life that makes you feel most vibrant. When you are the best and brightest YOU, the whole world wins.

So yes, here I am, switching gears yet again. And who knows, maybe it will all change again six months from now. Maybe I’ll miss my client work and crank things back up once I’ve been able to build out the resources I’m hoping to create.

There was a time when I might have felt guilty or ashamed of changing directions (and I know a lot of fellow creatives struggle with this), but I think as long as YOU know where you’re going – and more importantly, WHY – then you shouldn’t feel bad about evolving your business.

Creating work that is aligned with your core means constantly correcting your course. Real people change just like real businesses change.

Give yourself and your business permission to evolve.

This week, all I want you to do is consider the path that you’re walking on.

Are you working toward a goal because you think you should? Are you pressing on just because you’ve worked so hard to get where you are? Or are you truly on a path to a life that feels aligned with your vision for yourself.

I encourage you to ask yourself these hard questions, and if you’re not happy with where it feels like you’re headed, consider correcting your course, no matter how hard it might be.

I have some fun stuff up my sleeve in the coming months, and I hope you’ll all stick around to check it out. As far as I’m concerned, I’m here to encourage you to live your best, most creative life, so that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Why I Turned Down $15,000 in Revenue (And Thoughts On The Art Of An Evolving Business)

(Big Fat Takeaway)


This article written by

Caroline Zook

She/Her | Artist, designer + writer passionate about helping soulful creatives grow into their brightest selves. Lover of bright colors + even brighter people! One half of the crazy duo running these parts!

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