As one of four siblings in the Chicago area, Susie Romans was always looking for a way to make a buck.
“Growing up in a lower-income family, if I ever wanted anything, it was up to me to make it happen,” she says. “I realized around age 10 or 11 my parents didn’t have extra money.”
Romans’ parents were Polish immigrants holding working-class jobs, her father in a factory and her mother first as a cleaning lady, then as a daycare worker.
But Romans, who began offering classic kid-size services like dog-walking (50 cents) and pulling weeds (25 cents) along with more elaborate projects like backyard carnivals (10 cents a ticket), “realized I could create money out of nothing if I had an idea I could get out there.”
She put her entrepreneurial drive on hold to attend college at the request of her parents, who were determined their daughter would get her degree. Then she continued to follow the traditional career path by taking a job selling telecommunications services to small businesses.
When she moved on to a position in marketing and social media, she realized it was “another experience of creating money out of thin air,” she says. “I knew if you called enough people and talked to enough people, you could create money and opportunity out of nothing.”
When her daughter was born in 2012, Romans took on a side gig in the form of a lifestyle blog, sharing her life, relationship, and experiences in early motherhood with readers. “I had these days where I’d have like 50,000 hits and crazy traffic, and I’d call my husband at work and be like, ‘Something’s working,'” she recalls.
When her son was born two years later, Romans realized it was time to reevaluate. “I was like, here I am with two kids, a corporate career, a blog that’s blowing up — something’s gotta give, I’m going to go nuts here!” she says. “I had all this experience, and this blog that was getting traffic, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t have a business model.”
For years, she had been managing social-media sites for small, local businesses on a retainer of about $350 a month, and thanks to her connections in the business community and her corporate expertise in sales and marketing, she figured she should be able to sign some clients on her own as a consultant should she leave her corporate job.
Romans remembers friends and coworkers thinking she was delusional to quit a good, steady job. “I had it made,” she says. “They were paying me well, I could work from home, and I was getting bonuses, but there was something greater. I love inspiring people and helping others, and I knew I was meant for something bigger.”
Plus, she felt her $50,000-a-year job wasn’t keeping up with her life. “It was a very midrange position, and I was young,” she says. “I moved fast in my life in every area. I felt like I needed more than that for my lifestyle, for childcare, for a house. I had this whole family and aspirations of doing things on a bigger scale.”
In late spring 2014, she pulled the plug on her day job. “I just thought, I know I’m capable of doing more,” Romans remembers. “I think this girl can make more money on her own than under this company. I’m a risk-taker — I didn’t have a savings plan, I had the mortgage, but I thought I should be able to bring in about $3,000, $4,000 a month on my own.”
She based that number on figures she had gleaned from other coaches and consultants who shared their numbers. “I realized people were paid more for the consulting than the implementation,” she says. “I’m thinking, ‘I can actually do all this stuff, but actually consultants get paid more.'”
She started by ramping down her lifestyle blog and buying her domain name, SusieRomans.com. She bundled some of her insights into $500 packages, branding herself as an online-marketing expert based on the results from the blog she had run for years. She started promoting to local business owners and seizing opportunities anywhere she could, taking speaking engagements everywhere from libraries to the Chamber of Commerce.
“In 90 days, I had a $10,000 month,” she says. “That was when everyone around me — my family thought I was a lunatic, doing this with two babies — that’s when everyone’s eyebrows raised. I’ve been doing $15,000, $20,000 months ever since.”
Today, 28-year-old Romans charges $1,400 for one-on-one coaching and $5,500 for four months. When she realized some prospective clients couldn’t afford coaching sessions, she began offering large-scale e-courses like Sweet Freedom Academy for $975, as well as smaller courses to tackle smaller subjects that kept coming up in conversations with her clients, such as how to get past the fear of failure ($100), and website traffic and visibility ($500). She now takes on only four to five individual clients a month and works 20 hours a week at most.
While she likes the idea of following your passion, she explains that to start your own business in consulting or coaching, passion isn’t enough. “Really highly skilled people and people with a high level of expertise can charge premium rates,” she says.
“Master your skill,” she advises. “Get good at something, because you need something to bring to the table.”