Lessons Learned While Failing Upwards



By Ceri Kidby-Salom

As I tried for the dozen-th time to get through to Centrelink I shook my head at how much this year definitely has not gone to the plan. If life had actually manifested in the way that I visualised and vision-mapped, then I’d have a little buffer of my savings from leaving my corporate gig, and be welcoming new clients on a regular basis.

There would be regular paid writing and speaking gigs in the works, philanthropical projects to fill my heart-spaced, and my little side essential oils network would be supplementing my savings for travel plans later this year. All from the comfort of out new two bedroom home.

But them over-optimism and inaction happened.

I took on summer semester subjects and travelled between four capital cities over the break. I needed a rest, and my partner needed laser eye surgery. I over-extended myself catching up with girlfriends and trying to plan and pay myself into results. The buffer dropped lower, and lower. Until we came back to Brisbane and I started Uni for the year. Broke.

Overwhelm took over, as I realised my whole year of editorial calendar meant jack unless I actually wrote the content. I couldn’t market myself if I wasn’t super clear on my message. I couldn’t get clients if they didn’t even know I was there. I couldn’t pay my bills without money coming in. Insert tears and expletives here.

My business was supposed to fund my way through the rest of my degree, and set me on the path to location-flexible financial freedom. Hah! There isn’t a market for blankets of fear and self-doubt, as far as I’m aware. I wouldn’t even have been confident to sell those!

I find myself now in a position that feels like starting from scratch. I want to share what I have done that has seen the buds of a successful business appear, and the real life struggle of trying to start a business as an online entrepreneur. I graduated from IIN in July 2014 and was working sporadically in marketing and events until December that year, when I was headhunted for and accepted a full time gig. “The world’s most ego-inflating bridge job” I thought. A year later I had resigned with enough saved up to keep me going for almost a full quarter. Or so I thought.

Lesson one:

Your monthly expenses are the bare minimum, and irregular business investments such as eCourses and hosting, entertainment, unexpected expenses, and charity or gifts all add up super quickly. Save yourself a buffer that is generous enough to cover it all.

I figured it would be easy enough to get some freelance clients and part-time work if client bookings were a little bit slow for the start of the year. I was wrong. I had to scramble for freelance work, and started applying for part-time jobs that I was overqualified yet underexperibened for. With barely any responses at all, and one unsuccessful interview that I thought had been a sure winner, my ego was left as bruised as my bank balance. Expenses kept coming out and I had to ask my parents and partner to support me. Ouch.

Lesson two:

Even if it means working overtime, make sure you have enough work coming in to support your expenses as well as having your buffer saved up. I figured that I would have the time to work on my business once I wasn’t working full time, which would ultimately lead to client bookings.

I couldn’t afford to pay for graphic design, photography, or advertising for my business. I thought that I could make do with what I had, but it took many hours of my own toil and a kind offer to ‘get into my back end’ from a lovely friend to make my website something that wasn’t totally embarrassing. A website you don’t want to direct traffic to will never result in client leads.

Lesson three:

Suck it up and pay for decent design even if it’s just a basic package to tide you over. It will save you heartache, embarrassment, and time. Photography is so important as we are such visual people. I traded a free photo session with a mate for feeding him my home cooking a great zone of genius swap).

It took a pointed prompt to ask my former freelance and practice clients for testimonials, and my partner inviting every single one of his friends to like my Facebook page to realise that I hadn’t even done that myself. His comfort in blatantly self-promoting made me uncomfortable enough to recognise it as a trigger. So I bit the bullet and got the testimonials, which were all totally lovely, to my surprise. People were so happy to write me a little something! I got a whole bunch of new Likes on my page from inviting everyone, even though I had to cover the names with one hand and click Invite with the other. Finally, some engagement!

Lesson four:

Promote the hell out of yourself. You can invite the world to like your page, it’s their own choice whether they do or don’t, and your fear of being seen will only result in… you not being seen! That is no way to run a business. Put yourself out there, let people choose what to do next.

I actually held a flash sale for one-off super-cheap coaching sessions, which helped me get my name out there a little, and I sold three sessions. The first session was bought by a total stranger who saw my page when a mutual friend liked it. How’s that for direct action! A friend transferred me the exact amount that I was estimating for a 3 hour pantry session offering including a pantry audit, market tour, and meal planning. Perfect. I scoured the Facebook groups and offered my freelance services on any relevant post, and scored a regular blog ghostwriting gig for a fellow health entrepreneur. I was able to pay my bills.

Another thing that happened along the way was sleepily signing up to hold a stall during my Uni’s Market Day. I was checking my email in the early hours while on the loo, and when I became awake enough to realise what I had done, was happy to be sitting where I had was! It was actually fairly successful, and I made enough to pay my partner back for my ingredients, and have some left over. It definitely got the wheels turning, and coupled with some deep work on my message and ideal audience, showed itself as a golden thread ripe for the following.


This year definitely hasn’t begun the way I expected and I don’t have the thriving business that I envisioned, but I have learned so much already. I’ve started to tick off some goals, and uncover a business that lights me up. Maybe the light is just creeping through the cracks, but despite the struggle and the tears, it’s actually starting to feel like it might all be worth it.


Ceri Kidby-Salom is a health+food coach and virtual assistant for healthy businesses. She studies Nutritional Medicine, cooks rad healthy food, and has stories that would make your Mama blush. While she is not your hippy-bohemian, kaftan-wearing coach she does believe that we should eat like we give a f*ck to properly fuel all of the awesome shit that we want to do in our lives and our businesses. Find her at: http://ceri.com.au

Photo by moshpitson.