How to Have a Different Life (or One Year as the CEO of Me)

Like everyone else, I did my taxes last month and could hardly believe my eyes when I submitted the paperwork to the IRS.

I earned $60,000 in revenue in 2010, my first year of business for myself.

Of course, $60,000 certainly doesn’t make me rich (hello, expenses!), but the significance of this number, for me, is that it’s pretty much the same amount I was making as an annual salary in my previous full-time job.

Rewind back to January of last year. When I first quit my job, I was totally excited, but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t also scared. The fear and the lizard brain were there the whole time, even as I began to build my business, work with coaching clients, get speaking gigs and create my own training programs.

Most of the time, I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, or exactly what the outcome of my efforts would be, but I kept going anyway. Which is how I ended up here today, having proven to myself that it’s absolutely possible to have a different life if you’re willing to work for it.

How to Become the CEO of You

A lot of Happy Black Women often comment here on the blog about their goal to leave their job and work for themselves. Many are in the process of doing so right now! If that’s you, I’d like to continue to offer encouragement and link you to tools that might help you in your journey. I know how discouraging it can be to struggle making $10,000 a year on your own, let alone the equivalent of a full-time income. But the first thing you need to know is that “the economy” has nothing to do with you. People are still buying products and services (and they always will). Your job is just to make sure they buy from YOU. So don’t blame “the economy” on why you can’t get your business off the ground. It’s a weak excuse, and I know you’re better than that. To get started, you may want to read my How to Start a Side Hustle blog post series.

The second thing you should know is that blogging and social media are responsible for 99.9% of the leads I get in my business. Without my online presence, I would have NO business. Seriously. If you don’t have a professional blog yet, download my FREE ebook, The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Blog. Geared toward newbie bloggers, this easy-to-read guide will take you from soup to nuts in terms of your blog concept, software, design, content, promotion and analytics. Longtime bloggers will also benefit from the marketing angle of the ebook which outlines how to build your personal brand online through blogging.

How I Make Money in My Business

I operate as a sole practitioner in my business, which is based in Washington, DC (though I can “work” from anywhere). My clients and customers are mostly women – young professionals, nonprofit leaders and small business owners.

Here are all of my income streams (in order of financial significance):

  • Consulting services
  • Speaking fees
  • Part-time teaching as an adjunct professor
  • Book sales (I have 2 books for sale)
  • Affiliate marketing through my blogs (I have 3 blogs)
  • Career, business and personal development coaching
  • Online training programs

As you can see, I have a VERY diverse range of income streams, which together averaged $5,000 a month for my first year of working for myself. This year, I’ve been working to streamline my income to eliminate consulting and teaching, because they require a lot more time than the others and make me feel like I’m working a 9 to 5. My goal is location independence with my business so that I can travel and spend more time with my family.

But you know what the funny thing is? A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be this close to reaching that goal so soon. Last month, I got to go to Cincinnati for a speaking gig during the same week that my grandmother was having surgery. I had the opportunity to get paid as well as spend a few days with her in Ohio. I took my laptop so I could work when I had to, which wasn’t much. This is the life I had envisioned for myself last year. What started out as a side hustle has become a fulfilling business and career that both sustains me and allows me an enormous amount of freedom over my time.

Yes, it’s hard, but it’s actually not that hard. Not harder than working for someone your whole life just to “retire” and have fun, relaxation and wealth when you’re 65. That life is NOT for me. It never was. This is how to have a different life: Confess your big dream. Take the first step. Commit yourself fully. Distance yourself from negative people. Ignore the economy.  Get training. Work hard. There really isn’t one magic formula other people have that you don’t. A different life is available to you if you want it.

Today’s Assignment

Post your responses to the following questions in the comments:

  1. What does your “different life” look like?
  2. What’s the first step you need to take to become the CEO of you?




Comments & Feedback:

  1. Nicole

    This article (and your life) is SUCH a HUGE inspiration to me! I am printing this out to put in my vision book! You inspire me to think BIG and to always come back to me. You allow me to realize that I have everything inside me already that I need to prosper. And it’s ok to have dreams and follow them.

  2. Many congrats! You are truly an inspiration! I’ll following your lessons and am dreaming of the freedom in a life where I am CEO of me. *Right now I’m answering today’s assignment.*

  3. Love this!

    Let’s see…

    1) What does your “different life” look like?

    My “different life” looks like me finally leaving the classroom (I’m a secondary ELA teacher) to write full time. Having the freedom to go to meetings/events at my son’s school without having to call in for a sick or personal day. My “different life” looks like being able to travel anywhere and still be able to work. My different life is about freedom.

    2) What’s the first step you need to take to become the CEO of you?

    Well, slowly but surely I’ve been taking it writing more seriously. I’ve been stepping up freelance writing (and making money from it!). I am also taking a class to help learn more of the basics about freelancing, so the steps I need to take are actively pursing more gigs, not just being comfortable with the ones I have now, so I can meet my financial obligations through writing.

  4. April

    Sister Rosetta:

    Thank you for yet another meaningful blog post. A year from now my life will be fuller, richer [in every area] and I will have the freedom to discover new arenas. I would have empowered and employed numerous people. I’ve already taken the first step. I will follow-up.

    Be Blessed!

  5. I’m on the path of become the CEO of Me. Currently I’m only bringing in one income and I know that not enough. That’s way I chose to finally monetize my blog. I know that it will be some time for me to see something from that. In the meantime I will be working on me and finding more income.

    • I love watching your path – you have lots of possibilities for income streams with your blog. And you’re becoming so much more visible online. It’s awesome to see your growth!

  6. This post is very inspiritational for me as I am on a similar path and have similar ambitions. I feel even more confident that my financial freedom is possible in the two years I anticipate.

    • Anything is possible for you, Ashley :) 2 years was actually the timeline I had given myself – the universe may surprise you!

  7. Hi Rosetta,
    Let me say first that I love your blogs..I subscribe to 2 out of 3. I have sort of a random question related to working for yourself. Do you ever get lonely working by yourself? Like do you miss having coworkers and colleagues to bounce ideas off of and share insider office humor? I know it seems trivial but it really is something that is freaking me out about working for myself, especially considering since Ive been pretty much an office of 1 at the non profit where I work now since my other staff member resigned and it has really been a struggle emotionally. I love the independence and freedom of working solo but I have realized that I really do enjoy that daily human interaction in my professional life. I would love to hear your thoughts!

    • Thanks for reading! In the beginning I was really lonely + I was hooking up with other work-at-home folks for coffee, lunch etc. But then I kinda just settled in to my own projects + got used to it. But – I’m an extreme introvert. So it’s probably much harder if you’re an extrovert to get used to working by yourself. One thing that helps me now is being connected to other consultants on Twitter + FB – we share stories, help each other with problems, kinda like a water cooler!

  8. Congrats Rosetta! I’m proud of you too :) One of the things I love about you and your blogs is that you are so transparent and accessible. It’s not like, “Oh I woke up one day and decided to quit my job and here I am” You always give details and real feelings and a true peak behind the curtain as to what really needs to be done step by step. Not many folks are doing that and I think that differentiates you.

    • Appreciate the love Miss GG! It’s truly a process and I think we can all learn from more ladies sharing their stories and lessons learned.

  9. 1. My different life looks like me being successful at impacting the lives of others as well as being independent from the 9 to 5.

    2. The first step I need to take to become the CEO of me is to actually get out of the planning and start the doing…

    • Another comment about planning! Yes, the planning can paralyze you. I force myself to underplan, as I mentioned to Jubilance above, because I know the only way to get the information I need for a BETTER plan is to take action first and learn from my successes and mistakes. YOU have a great business idea and I love what you’re doing with your site – just keep keeping on :)

  10. My “different life” would be a lot like yours actually. Multiple income streams, the ability to work from home/road/etc, would incorporate my love of travel, and would allow me much more flexibility in my schedule than what I currently have in the corporate world.

    My first step is to create the project plan for how I’m going to realize my business idea. Its a great idea but I’m overwhelmed with all the things I would need to do, so having my plan will allow me to stay on track & finally start making things happen.

    • I love that you already have a vision for what you want your different life to look like. The planning piece can be tricky – you don’t want to feel like you have to OVERplan because then getting started seems even harder. My business plan is literally just 1 page, with all of the details (which are ever-changing) in a composition notebook. Make the plan, but don’t let it overwhelm you! Because it WILL change as you get more information on what works for you and what doesn’t. Best to you :)

      • Thanks! I’m going to get an inital plan down on paper & then just dive in. I’ve been scared but I know that I can’t let the fear paralyze me, at some point I have to DO.

  11. Kjen

    Congratulations! I know I don’t know you, but I’ve been following this blog for almost a year and watching your progress….I’m so proud of you!