Sarah Li Cain is a financial storyteller who weaves practical tips and strategies into her client’s work so that those trying to change their money mindset can see themselves in the starring role. She advocates that financial resilience is the key to a happy and productive life. You can find her over at highfivingdollars.com, where she’s either on camera answering reader questions or writing about how to love your money like you mean it. Read our interview with the lovely Sarah below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
It came quite by accident actually. I had moved to the US (I’m a Canadian citizen) so while waiting for my papers to come through, I couldn’t legally work. So I started Googling for things I could do and I stumbled upon paid guest posting on blogs. I pitched to a few and the rest is history.
Tell us about your business.
I am an author and content marketer. That means I help businesses and brands come up with a content strategy, create content for them and set up systems for them to gain momentum. Many of these companies are in the finance industry and I help them use storytelling as a way to connect with their audience and customers. I’ve also written a book set to be published in March 2017 called “The Authentic Budget.” The book is about using your personality and values to create a money management system that works, so that you’re less stressed and can finally make time for more fun things in your life. The writing and feedback process has been so positive that I’m planning on publishing a few more before the year is over.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
I’ve got a few things:
- I’ve teamed up with two finance experts (both wonderful ladies) to run a 21-day challenge. We’re making it so that people who complete all the tasks actually get half their money back! We just want as many people to be empowered with their money, so we’re hoping this would be a great way for them to get off in the right foot.
- The other thing I’m doing is launching my book for 99 cents on March 17th. Again, I’m just so excited about the launch I want to get it into as many people’s hands as possible. It comes with a free companion workbook to guide you alongside the material in the book.
One of the highlights of starting this business is being able to connect with so many great people. Last year, I had the opportunity to be on stage with Jean Chatzky from NBC Today and have her interview me about my story. It was in front of about 1,000 people and a completely surreal experience.
Where is your business based?
I run a remote business, and used to be based in between Hong Kong and Pittsburgh. Now I’m in North Carolina and will most likely be moving to another state soon!
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The very first thing I did was sign up for an account on Contently so I could get my writer’s portfolio up and running (I used my published guest blog posts). I then signed up for a domain name, got an email address and set up my writer website. After that it was just practicing writing cold pitch emails and learning how to track them and seeing what worked and how I could keep improving. Since I didn’t have a brick and mortar business or had any physical inventory, it was super simple.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
In the beginning, it was just lots of pitching! I used my expertise in the education field to show them that I was able to create content that resonated with people. I also gave some companies a discount on trial work (for a very short period of time) and if they liked what I did, then they would hire me at my regular rates. That worked well since I was still building my credibility at the beginning. Now, I ask clients for referrals and testimonials and use those to help land new clients. I do have to cold pitch, but less since I get more referrals and am able to pitch a new company based on a recommendation from a past client. If you want to cold pitch, the best thing you can do is not just showcase your expertise, but how your expertise can help the company. I always include information I know about the company and how my skills are a perfect fit for them. Trial periods can work, but you don’t need to rely on those as you grow your business from referrals and past client case studies.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
The biggest one that pops up time and time again is just having the confidence to try new things or take risks in my business. I remember when I first started I didn’t pitch as much as I could because I was so scared people would think I was a fraud. And when I started getting referrals I was worried about asking for testimonials. I was never intimidated by technology or learning about new tips and tricks, it was more having the confidence to try them and be ok with failing.
How did you overcome these challenges?
One thing a good friend told me was to treat each thing I do as an experiment. So instead of thinking of everything like it was either successful or a failure, I would track what I did and saw it as an experiment. I usually have a hypothesis and when my assumptions don’t work out, I see how I can tweak my “experiment” the next time I do something.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I knew that I wanted to eventually quit my full time job and stay at home with my son, and I wanted a more location independent career since my husband and I Iike to travel. So whenever I would get overwhelmed, I would keep reminding myself why I’m doing all this in the first place. It doesn’t make it easier, but at least it gave me a purpose for the hard times I was going through.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
There’s been a big shift to make finance more personal and use people’s stories to help connect customers and brands. I’m not simply a writer, I’m a storyteller. I use content in a way that not only helps to connect, but allows the potential customer to see the potential in their own journey and how the brand I’m working with can be the solution to their challenges.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
One of my friends told me I had to take a day off every week, where I don’t think about anything to do with my business, including my personal social media feeds (I have a lot of biz friends that share helpful resources there, so I’d get sucked in). I take that time to do something fun and spend time with my family. Then the next day I would write down everything that I thought stressed me out.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Definitely don’t compare where you are to somebody else’s entrepreneurial journey. In other words, don’t compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle. If you’re looking at my success and you’re just starting out, you’re going to get intimidated and give up. Don’t do that. We all started from zero.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
I’m pretty obsessed with Google Drive and Asana to organize projects and tasks. The blog Careful Cents is a great resource to check out how to organize your finances for your business and other productivity tips.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I LOVED “The Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. It’s a great read for business or life.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m currently learning about leveraging what I already do on my blog to create more courses and books to help people. As for help, I want to work with more graphic designers because as much as I love design, it isn’t necessarily my zone of genius.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goal is to work on another book. I have a goal to write 1500 words daily and will reflect on my launch for this upcoming book to see what I should do next. I’m also going through a challenge I set for myself to take 6 weeks to try as many different ways to market to brands for my content marketing business to see what I like and what is the most effective for me. As for achieving that goal, I’m working with an accountability partner and setting up small tasks each week so I can make it more manageable.