She Was Once in Bankruptcy Court. Now She Runs an Online Business That Makes Over $100,000 a Quarter

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Is it still possible to turn a new side hustle into a thriving online business? According to this entrepreneur, the answer is a resounding yes.

Nicole Barham is the founder of Design Your Wealth. Her main offer is a membership program called 5 Minute Bookkeeper™, in which she provides simple finance tracking tools, support, and accountability for women entrepreneurs to stay on top of their finances in just a few minutes a day.

“I started the business after my own experience of not managing my finances properly landed me in bankruptcy court. I have a background in accounting and spent years taking care of my employer’s finances, so it was particularly heartbreaking that I was in this position.”

Barham says the rebuilding process – and empowerment that resulted from it – inspired her to start a side hustle that quickly evolved into her full-time career.

“I decided to use my skills to turn my finances around and teach other women how to do the same so they can actually build wealth in their businesses.”

How watching your money builds momentum

The buzz around personal entrepreneurship as a means of achieving financial freedom is bigger than ever. From the United States Trademark Office seeing a record number of new applications to millions of people exploring side hustles, professionals are capitalizing on trends like online business and the creator economy to increase their income and build wealth.

As your side hustle or online business begins to build momentum, bookkeeping is one of the first things you’ll want to square away. But as Barham notes, many newbies avoid getting in the trenches with QuickBooks or other finance tracking calculators and tools because they feel overwhelming.

“I’ve learned that the reason most of us don’t have our finances together is a lack of simplicity in the tools and platforms we have available to us,” she says. “That and the absence of support and accountability.”

Top-line revenue usually gets all the attention in entrepreneur success stories, but these sexy numbers don’t always paint a complete picture. Often, new entrepreneurs don’t even know whether they’re turning a profit or a loss. They sometimes take out loans or other financing to bring in capital, but then avoid tracking their numbers consistently, which tends to make matters worse.

Barham notes how she sees this avoidance – and her past experiences – in many of her clients.

“I saw so many women entrepreneurs like myself who weren’t on top of their finances, didn’t know if they were making a profit or a loss, weren’t setting income goals and tracking against them, weren’t creating budgets, and were scrambling right at the tax deadline to get all their numbers together.”

“But even more, I saw myself in them. I had been in their shoes and knew that I had the expertise and tools to help them.”

“A personal trainer for money”

To blend together financial know-how with accountability and community, Barham created 5 Minute Bookkeeper™, a membership program that provides women entrepreneurs with simple, intuitive finance tracking tools/software and access to a private group of other entrepreneurs and tax/accounting experts who provide ongoing support. The membership also has weekly “Money Dates”: Co-working sessions to help clients stay on top of their finances. 

“This is our secret weapon to getting amazing results for our clients,” Barham says. “It’s the difference between just having a gym membership and having a personal trainer. I wanted to ensure my clients get the results they desire.”

Barham clearly wasn’t the only entrepreneur who wanted a money tracking solution. Her offer was an immediate hit, and led to some notable milestones in 2021, including $100,000 in sales in a single quarter as a solopreneur.

“I also had a month last year where I made more money in my business than I would have made in an entire year at my former full-time job. It’s definitely challenging, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges.”

Advice for people considering a side hustle or business

The term “side hustle” has been around for nearly 70 years, but as research from DollarSprout notes, 2021 was a game changer. According to their annual survey on side hustles:

  • 41% of side hustlers rely on that income to cover monthly bills, a 50% increase from 2020.
  • The percentage of people spending over 15 hours per week on their side hustle(s) more than doubled in 2021, increasing from 12% to 27%.
  • 76% of respondents predict that side hustles will become even more popular in 2022.

Barham agrees. She emphasizes that her foray into entrepreneurship began as a side hustle as well – just 18 months ago.

“I started by working with just a few people while maintaining my full-time job, and I learned along the way,” she says. “I constantly tested and tweaked.”

Pro Tip

She started with a side hustle and validated her idea fully before taking the leap.

For creators, side hustlers, and online entrepreneurs, the testing and tweaking never stops. According to a 2009 report from IBM, 98% of CEOs interviewed confessed that they were iterating and tweaking their business models. If publicly traded companies can experiment and tinker in real time, we can too.

“Even though my business is now my main hustle, I’m still testing and tweaking. My advice [for aspiring entrepreneurs] would be to just start, because it will never be perfect.”

Barham also notes how being an entrepreneur has enabled a level of financial flexibility that lets her be at home with her family more.

“Being an entrepreneur is the single best decision I’ve made in my life both personally and professionally. It has afforded me the freedom to work out of my home and be there for my autistic son.”

As the employment landscape continues to shift, more professionals are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to their financial future. Barham encourages it.

“Stop waiting and just go for it.”