How to savvy up your biz model.
5 phases of my biz and how to grow on YOUR terms.

written by Bari Tessler October 23, 2019
How to savvy up your biz model. 5 phases of my biz and how to grow on YOUR terms.

I LOVE the creative entrepreneurs in my community.

Not only do you get the importance of doing your money work (both outer and inner), you ask the smartest questions! And one I hear most often is:

“Bari, what’s your business model? And how did you land on it?”

The truth is, I have revamped my business model multiple times since first hanging up my shingle over 20 years ago.

Like all things money-related, I believe our business model must grow and shift and evolve along with us. I’ve gone through different life phases over the past 20 years. I’ve recreated my business model multiple times to align better with my shifting priorities and energy levels and goals.

A successful business model is one that evolves with you.

I’m extremely transparent about how I run my business and many financial aspects of it, including even sharing real P&L numbers within my Art of Money community. (The Art of Money 2020 is now open for early bird registration, by the way! Click here to get early bird prezzies.)

You see, I am a huge advocate for breaking through those taboos, pulling back those curtains, and having more direct, open conversations about money. Because honesty dissolves shame. And the only way we can get savvier about money — in biz or personal finances — is by first dropping our judgments, dropping our resistance, and letting ourselves get curious enough to learn.

But before I share the different phases my own business model has gone through over the years, I want to emphasize a few things:

1. Be true to YOUR journey, nobody else’s.
I’ll be sharing what’s worked for me. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to creative entrepreneurship — or anything money related, for that matter. The key is to know what matters most to you: what your values, priorities, dreams, and preferences are. And then craft a business model around those. So please take what serves you, from what I’m about to share. But most of all, I hope this inspires you to find your OWN answers.

2. Getting intimate with our numbers is incredibly empowering, as entrepreneurs.
Don’t be in too big of a rush to hand off that bookkeeping! Get support learning, if you need it, but please don’t ignore the practical side of your finances. The education I gave myself doing my own books has been invaluable to me as I’ve grown my business. Please empower yourself by learning the language of money. This is essential, as an entrepreneur.

3. Honor that money is never just about the numbers.
Whether you’re breaking through a money ceiling or grappling with a “money koan” about how to balance work, life, health, and money … we must remember both the practical and the emotional sides of money. Inner and outer. Yin and yang.

4. Let your growth be nonlinear.
Some years, I consciously chose to pare down my work and income, because I wanted to focus on health and family. That’s still success and growth! We have to inhale and exhale, in life, and success and happiness don’t always mean earning more every year.

5. Be careful about comparing.
Every business is different because every life is different. I officially started my business when I was 32 and had no children and tons of energy: so it was easy and fun for me to work a crazy amount of hours each week. Things would have looked totally different if I’d started my business at 56, with two children and a chronic health issue — or at 24 as an internet-savvy Millennial. Please, avoid the temptation to compare your journey with others’. Honor your timing and the whole context of your life when it comes to your business.

As CEO of your own business, you have a responsibility to regularly ask yourself:

What are my values and priorities now? What phase of life am I in? And what phase am I growing into?

So. For the sake of learning and compassionate transparency, here’s a glimpse at how my business model has shifted over the past 20 years (and the phase I’m growing into next!).

Phase #1: Hanging my shingle as a solopreneur

(Year 1)

I spent my twenties training to be a somatic therapist and working in the mental health and hospice fields. I had a lot of emotional and somatic tools, but I had zero business experience! So when I hit a “money ceiling” and realized I’d probably never be able to make the kind of income I wanted to thrive, I started thinking outside of the box.

My foray into entrepreneurship was hanging my shingle as a freelance bookkeeper for creative types. At the time, I was still working two part-time jobs: in an accounting department and providing overnight care for the elderly.

So, for a couple of years I was growing my business, reputation, and network as a freelance bookkeeper, while keeping my other side jobs and income. Some people dive right into full-time entrepreneurship, but it was important for me to build a bridge into this.

Phase #2: Conscious Bookkeeping

(Years 2-3)

Over time, I built up enough steady bookkeeping clients for my “bread and butter income” that I could quit my other jobs. I was also developing my Art of Money methodology (called Conscious Bookkeeping back then).

As my Conscious Bookkeeping work grew, I let go of more and more bookkeeping clients. I also moved from individual clients to teaching my methodology to groups: starting with small groups of 10 people. I was also training folks on QuickBooks and offering private Financial Therapy sessions to women and couples.

I was doing everything myself, eager to build connections and relationships. That included a ton of flying and word of mouth marketing, as well as offering free, 90-minute talks anywhere that would have me.

But by the last 18 months of this phase, I felt like, while my work was bearing fruit, all the apples were getting eaten by someone else. I knew my business model wasn’t sustainable yet, and I couldn’t figure out what that would look like.

So I reached out to people I respected and asked if they would be my Board of Advisors to help me grow my mission and business. They all said yes! We met monthly for six months, and thanks to their amazing insight and support, I was able to expand into the next phase.

Phase #3: The Team

(Years 3 – 7.5)

Thanks to all of that relationship-building and networking I did in Phase 2, a number of people began reaching out to me, asking to join my team. I hadn’t considered this business model, but I wanted to earn more and spread my message further. So I created a team of bookkeeping trainers and financial coaches under the umbrella of Conscious Bookkeeping. I also made one of them my business partner.

This was a huge upgrade and made for much more sustainable cashflow. Conscious Bookkeeping received one third of the income from our trainers, while they kept two thirds. I loved this arrangement, because it allowed me to do more of what I loved: oversee the team and share inspiring introductory talks all over the Bay Area. I also kept up my Conscious Bookkeeping groups (3 classes per week) and did some private Financial Therapy.

But, since 99.5% of what I offered was in-person, I spent a ton of time driving. Then, suddenly and surprisingly, I turned 38 and knew the only next step on my path was becoming a mama. It didn’t occur to me that I would want my business model to shift, but that all changed when I got pregnant with Noah.

Phase #4: Mommypreneur

(Years 7.5 – 11)

After a healthy pregnancy, I had a big complication during labor (a placenta abruption). My boy and I came out healthy, but we had a long, hard road of recovery in front of us. My life suddenly became extremely simple: rest, feed my boy, rest more. My priorities had completely changed, and my business model needed to accommodate them. It was time to pare down.

I let go of my entire team: 2 Virtual Assistant’s, bookkeeping trainers, and financial coaches — and parted ways with my business partner of 3.5 years. I became a one-woman show again, this time as a mommypreneur. I asked myself some important questions to clarify what this new phase of business would look like:

What do I love doing the most? What is the most lucrative? How can I work ten hours a week or less, without leaving home, while recovering? How can I stay connected to my work and provide great value to my students without the stress of Big Picture Visioning?

The solution I found was going online with my services. I began teaching my group program online two or three times per year, with around 50 students, in a very simple format. Then Forest helped me move all of this content online into a private membership area, which launched me into a whole next phase.

During this time, my income took a big dip. I said “no” to almost every media and speaking invitation, stopped working with private clients for awhile, and didn’t leave my house for work. We had to adjust accordingly, trust, and embrace simplicity.

Eventually, as Noah began growing and sleeping more and I healed from my labor, I was able to start visioning a new phase to leap into.

Phase #5: The Art of Money

(Years 11-19)

When Noah turned 4 and my 44th year was on the horizon, we were recovered and resourced and ready for another big shift. I began asking new questions:

How can I be the most generous with my content and serve my community in the best way by using my favorite skill sets and creating my most lucrative, sustainable business model to date?

Is it possible to create something from a more open, feminine space, instead of the intense, masculine, push-push-push of a “launch”?

After contemplating these questions for a full year, I had a clear vision: I was ready for a year-long program. With guest teachers, TA’s, and so much more. I envisioned The Art of Money, which has since become my favorite teaching model and business model, to date.

I went from teaching 50-60 students in my final 6-month Conscious Bookkeeping telecourse to welcoming 320 students for the first year of The Art of Money, from a dozen countries. This was a huge leap, and also meant more sustainable income without the constant stress of launching and registering folks 3, 4, or 5 times a year.

This also freed up my time so I could be more generous with my free content throughout the year. I also learned to have more fun during registration periods, creating wonderful content like my Money Memoir series, the Art of Money Roadshow, and Money Mochas (like this one!). I was also able to fulfill a lifelong dream: writing and publishing a book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness.

We just opened our doors for early bird registration for The Art of Money 2020: the 8th year I”ve offered this program. It only gets better each year, and I am so grateful to be able to touch so many lives this way!

Coming soon … Phase #6!

After the big push of writing my book and going on tour to promote it, I needed some full-blown rest mode. I spent a couple years focused solely on guiding my Art of Money community and directing my support team. I went internal again — and declined a number of opportunities so I could allow and open to the vision for the next phase of my business-and-life journey. Soon, I’ll be sharing this next phase with you, which includes a second book and other projects on the horizon.

All while guiding the largest group of students I’ve ever welcomed, in The Art of Money 2020 — now open for early bird registration here.

As a creative entrepreneur, you get to define what success means to you.

For me, being a successful entrepreneur is about serving as many people as possible while enjoying a beautiful lifestyle with my family and being generous with my team, my community, and world. And, yes: it’s also about creating a thriving, sustainable income that supports all of this. And honoring that this will shift over time, along with your life-phase, priorities, and values.

Every time I’ve jumped into a new phase of growth, I’ve had support. Whether from my dear husband helping me vision business strategy or my mentors and coaches or my wonderful team or my Board of Advisors many years ago: I’ve actively sought guidance and support, and that has made a huge difference. (While always returning to my own truth and inner compass, of course!)

That’s one reason I’ve infused The Art of Money 2020 with so much support for you creative entrepreneurs in our community.

We need input from people smarter and more experienced than us!

If you join The Art of Money 2020 as a creative entrepreneur, you’ll have so much beautiful support for your life-and-money-and-biz journey.

From Money Healing to Money Practices to Money Maps, every single phase of our journey has support especially for creative entrepreneurs, from the perspective that your business includes your personal money work — yet also transcends it.

I’ve brought on incredible, biz-savvy guest teachers including Hiro Boga, Rachael Baxter Cook, Mikelann Valterra, and many more. You’ll connect with many kindred-hearted ‘preeners in our global community, and get support from my beautiful team of TA’s.

And of course, you’ll get guidance from me!

I’m there to answer questions in our private Facebook group as well as offer laser coaching in our monthly community calls.

Want my support as you enter a new phase with your life-and-business journey in 2020? Join The Art of Money.

I’d be honored to support you and your work in the world.

With my dearest wishes,

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