Building a million dollar business by working less
with Maddy Avery
One of the biggest misconceptions around building a million dollar business is that it is going to mean working a lot more hours.
In today’s episode, Maddy Avery from Birdcage Marketing shares how earning more, actually can mean working less.
In this Episode:
- 03.11: Starting a business, only to reach breaking point
- 06.50: Why personal growth is so important to being a successful business owner
- 11.08: Breaking through the “I can’t be a millionaire” pattern
- 14.40: How to work less while earning more
- 22.32: Maddy’s best business advice
Maddy Avery is the Founder of Birdcage Marketing and a passionate marketer with over 10 years’ experience.
After completing her Masters in Communication (Advertising) and switching gears from working with household brands such as Oral-B, Clearasil and DermaVeen, Maddy now exclusively works with boutique lifestyle brands with the sole purpose of empowering small business owners to leverage the power of digital marketing and create success on their own terms.
Together with her team, Maddy has worked with over 600 clients over the past 5 years to deliver results-focused, customer-centric campaigns which prioritise authenticity and connection between brand owners and their customers.
Maddy is also a wife and mother to two young kids. When not reading books to expand her knowledge, Maddy loves diving into the world of interior and landscape design (and doesn’t mind a sneaky margarita).
One of the biggest misconceptions or fears around building a million-dollar business is that it’s going to mean working a lot more. Today’s guest, Maddy Avery from Birdcage Marketing, who is a client of mine, is coming on to share her story about how the complete opposite can actually be true and how earning more can actually mean working less.
Hello and welcome to the Clare Wood Podcast, where myself and incredible guests share about money mindset, financial successes, and how to manage your money in a fun and practical way to create wealth and abundance in both your business and your life. I’m your host, Clare Wood. I’m a business coach and a money mentor. I strongly believe that money has the power to positively change the world. I can’t wait to help you transform your mindset around money, create a love of numbers, and build the business of your dreams so you can live a life of financial freedom, giving, and global impact.
A big warm welcome to the podcast, Maddy. Maddy was a client of mine for most of the year 2020, and I wanted to bring her on because there’s been some really cool learnings that we’ve had from our time working together. A big warm welcome to the podcast. Maddy, would you like to do a bit of an intro to who you are and what you do?
Sure. Thanks for having me, Clare.
My name’s Maddy Avery and I’m the founder and director at Birdcage Marketing. We are a digital marketing agency that works primarily with lifestyle brands to scale through paid ads, social media, website, conversion rate optimization, Google ads, and basically, anything that we can do to really get your brand out there and get seen and get connecting with your customers.
And you guys must be really good at what you do. I know this because of the massive growth that you’ve experienced this year, which is one of the reasons that I wanted to bring you on and have a bit of a chat with you today. If people are listening, going, “Wow, this girl sounds amazing,” who are the main kind of clients that you usually serve?
We work mostly with e-commerce clients. We can accommodate service-based clients as well, but mainly in the form of websites. Where we say our biggest success stories do come from our e-commerce clients, mainly through the Facebook ads and digital sales funnels that we put together for them. We mainly work with lifestyle brands. So, that’s like mom and baby fashion, accessories, pet brands do really well, homewares and yeah, anything that sort of constitutes what you’d want in your lifestyle.
Yeah, incredible. So, if you do want to connect with Maddy, stick around to the end. I’ll be getting her to share some of the details of her business at the end of today’s podcast.
Maybe if we can start back at the beginning of our journey together. So what made you reach out to me early in 2020?
Starting a business, only to reach breaking point
So, the business has been in operation for its sixth year now. I started the business when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, and I also got an auto-immune diagnosis, which pretty much changed my life from that time forth. I was slaving away at the business pulling 40 to 60-hour work weeks on top of having young children at home. So, when I reached out to you, I was in a place where I just knew I couldn’t possibly keep going the way that I was. I was working massive hours dealing with a lot of stress. I had a few team members, but I was doing a lot of the work myself and the pay just wasn’t there even to justify the hours that I was pulling. So after the birth of my second child, I was kind of just like, “That’s it. I need some help” And yeah, that’s why I sort of reached out.
Were there any beliefs that you had? When you came to me, you were working so much for a mum with a young baby. What do you think was going on in your head at the time? Was there some sort of belief that you had around inputs and outputs in your business?
Definitely. My parents are successful small business owners as well. They’ve always instilled in me the importance of hard work and I’m not saying it’s not important. I definitely hustled for years leading up to this point, but I think there comes a time when you have to sort of assess, are you being productive when you’re working or are you just busy working? Are you just slugging yourself for the sake of it? It was definitely a belief that I had that if I’m working hard, I must be doing something right, which I’ve since just proven wrong.
Your business was really quite successful when we started working together. But at that point in time, the success felt like it was coming at a price, perhaps?
Definitely. So at the time when we first started working together, it would be a miracle if I cracked $20,000 worth of revenue in the month. That was with me and two or three other team members and some contractors in the mix as well. That isn’t a huge amount if you’re paying staff and paying running costs of the business as well. I was doing the massive hours and it just wasn’t paying off. If I was working for someone else charging hourly, I should have been rich, but it wasn’t looking like that for me. So the trade-off was I was losing out on time with my newborn daughter. I was losing out on time with my four year old son. My poor husband had to not just pick up the slack at home as much as he could, but he was also getting the shell of a wife to interact and talk to, and I wasn’t able to support him in what he was doing either. I was just massively losing out on all fronts, I felt.
I think that everyone reaches that point where they sort of just say, “This is enough,” and they, whether it’s reach out to a business coach or reached out to someone for help in another way, it’s actually a really, really brave step to do that and I commend you for doing that. I’m really, really glad you did, obviously, because I’ve loved working with you.
Over the time that we’ve worked together, there’s been some pretty incredible transformations that’s happened in your business, but also in you as a person. So would you like to share a little bit about what that looks like?
Why personal growth is so important to being a successful business owner
I’ve come to realise that to be a successful business owner, you actually need to be a successful person internally. As a small business owner, my personal growth and success is directly what impacts my business growth and success. If I’m not developing personally and feeling in tune with myself and protecting my energy, my business doesn’t grow. It goes backwards. My team doesn’t work at its optimal level. I’m attracting the wrong type of clients that aren’t what I need as a business owner to be able to do our best work.
Since I’ve really taken time to spend on myself and taking care of myself, I’ve been able to triple the business. So we’re now, our monthly revenue is sitting at about $60,000 per month. The team has tripled as well. So I think we’re a team of eight staff at the moment. Then we have a few contractors which support us as well. Our client base has grown as well, and it’s not just the number of clients that we have, but it’s the type of clients that we’re working for. They are 100% in tune with who we are as an agency and who our team love working for. The personal transformation, I think, has been the main point and the business stuff has just all fallen into place.
If people are thinking, “Well, what is personal transformation even mean?” Maybe you could elaborate on that a little bit because for some people, this is a completely new concept.
Absolutely, and that was me. 12 months ago, I was riddled with anxiety. I’ve always suffered with depression, anxiety, my whole life, and the anxiety got super bad over the last few years, especially having so much stress through the business. It would literally paralyse me to the point where if I got a slightly displeasing email, I would be unable to continue doing what I needed to do the rest of the day. I was not taking time for myself for exercise and for eating right. I’ve got type one diabetes and I also got diagnosed with an underactive thyroid in the past 12 months. So there’s a lot of health issues for me as well.
So what I’ve really started to do is get really into my spirituality, which I was raised a good Catholic. I’d never thought about looking into crystals and meditation and the universe and all of that kind of stuff, I didn’t think that that was going to directly impact how I was as a business owner. It just seemed too disconnected when in fact, it’s exactly what I needed to be able to level up my belief systems and challenge what I’ve grown up thinking is the right way. So, we’re all kind of conditioned to have these belief systems and to have these thoughts, which is how we frame our world. It’s not until you start challenging that framing that you actually see the possibilities that exist.
Yes. I love that. Okay. So if people are listening and thinking, “Okay. Maddy, so what exactly does this mean?” You’ve spoken about crystals, about doing meditation is something else I know that you do a lot of. Journaling is another big practice that I know that you’ve lent a lot into. So there’s some really practical tools that people can take away and actually start to explore themselves.
I don’t know your thoughts around this, but when it comes to self-development and personal development, I think it really has to be a very personal journey and what works for some people might not necessarily click for other people. But to your point, when you just start to question things and try different things, that’s how you can start to experience growth that feels aligned for you. Thank you so much for sharing so openly about your journey and myself and the listeners really appreciate your honesty there.
Breaking through the “I can’t be a millionaire” pattern
I would love to take a bit of a segue here to talk about my favourite topic, money. Now, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this on the podcast, but in one of the very early calls with each other, I just got this sense that this woman is just incredible. You had started just taking on board so much work around embracing the development of yourself and some of the practical changes in your business as well. And I said to you, “You’re going to be a millionaire.” And I said, “Your name now is millionaire Maddy.” Do you remember what your response was at the time?
No. I was probably like, “Yeah, whatever.”
You sort of looked at me like I was a bit crazy and then you said, “I bet you say this to all your clients.”
I was about to say, I think I was probably a little bit like, “Yeah, whatever. It’s just a pet name.”
So at the time when I had said to you, “What are your thoughts about building a million dollar business?” what was going on in your head that you seem so, not maybe resistant, but a little bit unsure that that was even a possibility for you?
I think it was this pre-conceived notion that a mother with a business at home could never create a million dollar business without having to sacrifice enormously. Whilst I had been sacrificing the past four years, I really wasn’t willing to sacrifice what I thought needed to be done to have a million dollar business. Since then though, and I think this is something… It’s about exposure. So what I’ve learned is that if you kind of want something, you need to dive into people that have achieved what you want to achieve. What you realize is that it’s actually not as hard as you think and that if someone in the next suburb to you with four kids and a seemingly regular life has this amazing online presence and it has a multi-million dollar business, why can’t you do it?
Yes. I think that’s such a powerful, powerful thing. This is why I bring so many seven figure entrepreneurs onto the podcast, so many successful business owners is because I want to show it’s not just that perfect person on Instagram, that sometimes we might perceive that these million dollar business owners look like. They’re just everyday people who are doing amazing things. So I think that’s a fantastic piece of advice is to get around people that are achieving amazing things and normalize it, make it really normal to say, “Yeah, it’s possible that I could make a million dollars in a year.”
I think another luck that I had with regards to creating a million dollar business is it came from my mother as well. Again, I completely respect her and I think she’s done amazing in creating the business that she has along with my father, but I guess it was just a sign of the times as well. Her father instilled in her, “Why are you even bothering with university if you’re just going to have kids.” And now, she’s challenged that pre-conceived notion. So I’m going a step further and saying, not only can I have a business, but I can have a million dollar business working three days a week.
How to work less while earning more
So let’s talk a little bit about that. So we spoke about where you’re at financially with the business. So you’re now averaging $60,000 a month, which just incredible, which if the business wasn’t even to grow any more, means that you’re on track for $720,000 over a 12 month period of time. But of course, given the growth that we’re seeing last year, I can imagine that you’re much closer to the million dollar mark in revenue than you were previously. So let’s talk about though, what you have had to sacrifice to get there. Are you working crazy long hours? Are you under a lot more stress now? What does that look like for you?
No way. My kids have been in daycare either three or four days a week since I had my business. We don’t have much family where we are, so daycare is the only solution that we have. My kids are now in care three days a week, sometimes less and I literally only work those days. Whereas in the past, they might’ve been in care, but the days that they were home, I was constantly fighting… They were fighting for my attention between my laptop and my phone and playing with them, which it’s not a nice feeling. It was me constantly, if my husband was around, I’d be ducking off and being like, “Oh, I’m just going to sort this out,” and he’d just be left okay, “Sweet. Well, family time’s just gone.”
Now, it’s literally like I have my three work days. On occasion, there is always something that pops up where I might quickly respond to a team member on our chat. But generally, if I don’t want to work on the days that I’m not supposed to work, I’m not going to. And if anything, having really strong boundaries over this Christmas period where I’ve really decided to take two or three weeks off, I literally did not check my emails, which is the first ever for me. The amount of personal development I was able to do in those few weeks, it’s been more than, I think, I’ve grown in the last 10 years prior. It’s really shown to me how important it is to make space for myself. When I’m able to do that, that’s when the genius moments happen and that’s when everything kind of falls into place.
Yeah. Amazing. So you’re working less now?
Yes. I’m working less.
And making more. I remember the very first time that you’d said to me, “Oh, I just took a weekend off.” And you go, “I didn’t work the whole weekend,” and you were so proud of yourself. Then it was only a few months later that you’re like, “Oh yeah, I just took Friday off and went away for the weekend.” I was like, “Who are you?” I’m so, so proud of the growth that you’ve experienced, not just in terms of the numbers, but in terms of how you can show up as a mum, as a wife.
But I bet people are listening to this and thinking, “Oh yeah,” What did you really do, Maddy? What did you and Clare really do that has helped you triple your business in terms of sales and profit, I believe, as well? What exactly have been the practical things that you’ve done?” Because I know that a lot of people are like, “You need to grow your list. You need to grow your social media following. You need to run all the Facebook ads.” What are your thoughts about what has caused the big shifts for you?
In a practical sense, the biggest changes have been growing my team, which has been a challenge. It is really hard to find people that are 100% right for your business. We have now a core team of eight and they are just on fire. They are my people. They are the people that our clients love. Literally, I almost tear up just thinking about how much I appreciate and value them because without them, we couldn’t be delivering what we do for our clients and they are so supportive of me having time off as well, which I always feel bad when I say I want to take time off, but they’re all for it. We completely respect each other. I respect them so much. So if you’re in service-based, team, that is your greatest asset, I feel.
The next thing is I have raised my prices and not just raise prices, but actually stuck with my guns about that as well because I was always the type of person like, “Oh, this is our package price for social media management,” for example. But if a client came along and I felt like, “Oh, I do really want to help this person, but I know that I don’t have much money. So I’m just going to drop my price for them so that I can work with them,” … You are not just doing yourself a disservice, but you’re doing the rest of your clients a disservice by doing that because you are essentially working for less. Sometimes I would have been working for free or I’ve actually had to pay my team to work on client campaign before. I’ve literally lost money working for clients. When that happens, you just spiral into resentment and just all of that, and it’s just not good for your current clients because you’re not able to deliver at the optimal level that they expect you to.
The other big thing that I’ve done in terms of attracting more clients is showing up on social media. Obviously, as a marketing agency, we know social media works, yet I never heed my own advice when it came to social media and I still have a big gap to go, I feel, to really feel like I’m getting the most out of my socials. You don’t need to be perfectly groomed. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to say. What people want to see is the authentic you, and the biggest thing is just being consistent about it.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s really interesting hearing all of this because if you’re a regular listener of the podcast, I bang on about this so much because people always think to have a seven figure business, you to have all the Facebook ads, triple your list, double your social media following. You haven’t really done any of those things. The real growth for you has literally happened through the mindset shift and yes, of course, how you’re showing up. But a lot of it has just been how you’re showing up differently to your existing audience and how you’re charging your existing client base and doing it in a confident way.
Definitely. I do need to give full disclosure that we have very good SEO on our website. We are ranking for some very competitive lucrative keywords in spot one and two. So our search presence is a big asset that we have, but again, we haven’t necessarily upped our game on SEO. It’s just the inquiries that are coming through, we are converting more of them.
That’s a testament to the work that you’ve done around your onboarding process, screening the right kind of clients and converting them, which is something that I think is an amazing skill that you have because people can see what you can do and how you can help transform their business.
Coming back to the money mindset work, it’s something that you and I have worked on together a lot. If you were to go back and have a chat to an earlier version of you in your earlier stages of business, what would be your advice? If someone’s listening and thinking, “Oh my gosh. I’m not even at $20,000 revenue months yet. This all seems so unachievable, far away, something that will never happen to me,” what would be your advice to someone in the earliest stages of business or yourself, an earlier version of yourself if you knew then what you know now?
Maddy’s best business advice
So I’m just visualising myself probably two years ago on the phone to my bookkeeper crying because I just don’t want to do it anymore, or calling my best friend and crying because I can’t deal with anymore clients treating us like this. I think the biggest advice I would give is first of all, don’t give up. Keep pushing, but really set clear boundaries and get some. I would to tell myself, get some respect for yourself because people won’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself.
Respect what your time is worth. Respect how much you are worth. When I came to you, I was at a point where I’m like, “Hey, I will try anything. I will try the meditation. I will try the journaling. I will try the crystals,” and now, our favourite crystal brand is now a client of ours and I just can’t get enough.
So yeah, I just want to hug all the people that are in this position because it is so hard but I feel like I am proof that you can be in a terrible, terrible place or your business, on the verge of wanting to shut it down and if you get the right people in your life and if you get the right advice and you just keep going, you can turn it around.
It’s just been incredible how much you have really leaned into your business, leaned into the personal development work because I really do believe that is where the shift happens. Doesn’t it? It happens from within. That was all I really wanted to chat to you about today, unless there’s anything else that you wanted to share with the listeners today?
I also wanted to mention what I want to say to myself two years ago is, hire Clare now, because you should have had a business coach years ago. Yes, the investment seems scary. Even at the point when I pushed the button and sign the contract and did it, I remember saying to my husband, “What am I doing? This is terrifying,” but if I hadn’t have taken that step and put myself on the line, there’s no way that 4 months later, I would have been in that position that I was, where I was just working less, earning more, living my best life and now, we are looking at cracking the seven figure mark for 2021. You need the right people on your team, whether that’s internal, but then also you need the right person on your team. You need it for your mind and for your business. As a leader, if you don’t have the support, you can’t support your clients and you can’t support your team.
I can totally relate to that. I find it scary to invest in my business as well. It’s one of those things that when you actually go and sign a contract or put the money down, because there are no guarantees when you invest in your business, but you’re totally right, that it might just be that thing that just changes everything for you.
I think that when you do it, though, you need to be all in. I remember after each session, I would be exhausted after our first few calls. I’d lie on the bed and just be like, “Oh my God.” I felt like there was so much like going through my mind and some of the suggestions and advice that you’ve given me, it completely challenged everything that I had previously thought that that’s how things work. And I was like, “I’m not doing that. That’s not going to make a difference, blah, blah, blah.” And I was very resistant with a few things, but then I’m like, “Hang on. I’m paying Clare all this money to advise me how to best move forward. I’m going to do it and if it’s not right for me, I can stop doing it or I can go back to the old way,” but I think that you have to actually try and you have to actually break free from your current routine.
I needed you as a business coach to be able to come in and inject a new perspective and challenge what I’d been doing previously so that I could move forward and it’s paid off for the best.
Maddy, thank you so much for coming on today. The transformation that you have shared is just so inspiring. What’s really exciting is that I know things are only just getting started for you and that the million dollar business is only around the corner for you, and there’s so much more coming that looks like more freedom, other projects that will be revealed in time.
If anyone is listening to this podcast and they would love to work with Birdcage Marketing, can you please share the best way for them to get in touch?
Our website is the best way that you can book an appointment directly with me into my calendar. So that is birdcagemarketing.com.au. Otherwise, find us on Instagram. Again, our handle is @birdcagemarketing, and I’m also on TikTok and loving it. So again, our handle is @birdcagemarketing.
Yeah, that’s kind of seeing a little bit more about behind the scenes content, but yeah, I’d love to connect with you.
You are a Queen on TikTok and on the reels. I need to take few tips out of your book because you’re showing up in such an amazing way.
Maddy, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today and look forward to seeing you again very soon.
Thanks so much for listening. If you love this episode, please share it with your audience and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @Clare_Wood_Coach. And also make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss an episode. Have an abundant week, and I look forward to talking to you again next week.
About your host
Hi, I’m Clare Wood – I’m a numbers geek, a travel lover, a reality tv addict, and a passionate business coach. I’m here to empower you to create an extraordinary business and an amazing life; because I believe you don’t have to choose between the two.