Just typing that sub-title freaks me out a little bit. I still can’t believe I made it this far considering just 5 short years ago I was a hairstylist in a salon in a mall in Northern Ontario Canada and here I am today, writing this to you from sunny Mexico.
What a ride.
Grab your beverage of choice. This may be a long one.
Sudbury, Ontario 2012
I had just left an abusive relationship, just closed up my salon business and declared bankruptcy. To say my life was an absolute mess is an understatement.
I was 51 years old. Alone and terrified out of my tree.
With my tail between my legs, I went to see my former boss hoping to get my job back at her salon. She was more than happy to rehire me. Phew.
I spent most of 2012 and part of the next year desperately trying to rebuild my life. I had no direction, no focus and very little hope. I was depressed most of the time and so frightened about my future. The future I wasn’t so sure even existed. Suicide crossed my mind a lot. More than I care to admit.
I read self help books and blogs until my eyes bled. I watched motivational and inspirational videos on YouTube until I knew them all off by heart, word for word. I desperately needed to get my life back on track.
I even started writing about my self help journey on an old website I had. I blew off the dust, killed the crickets and started blogging. To no one but myself.
And then this happened…
One day I was talking to an acquaintance and they were telling me how they volunteered at the homeless shelter twice a month and would I like to join.
Oh hell ya. I needed something to look forward to. I needed hope. I needed a distraction from my miserable existence.
What I found changed my life in ways I never thought possible in a million years.
I volunteered every second Saturday, feeding dinner to 200 broken, lost, alcoholic and drug addicted souls, all of whom I fell in love with in a very short period of time.
Each and every lost soul brought me so much joy and made my heart explode with immense love.
By the end of my first year there, I became team captain and was there almost every dinner. Some days just to go visit and say hi.
And then I had a crazy idea
While I completely and fully enjoyed my time at the homeless shelter I wanted to do more. More on a grander scale and experience homelessness and mission work in Central America.
I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip and now I wanted it even more. Now keep in mind I still didn’t have two cents to rub together and was desperately working my ass off at the salon just to stay afloat.
I did some fundraising and within months I was packing my bags and jetting off to Costa Rica on my first solo trip.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about volunteering and homeless people and what’s that got to do with millions of followers. You’ll see. Sit tight.
But I still want more
Not more in a greedy selfish way but more in an improving my life kind of way. When I came back from Costa Rica I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I needed to do that again and for longer periods of time. I discovered that serving and helping the less fortunate was my calling, my passion, my purpose.
But how was I going to be able to do this again and for longer? I knew I would still have to support myself somehow, some way. But how?
I put my thinking cap on and came up with the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had in my entire life. Figure out how to become a freelance writer. It can’t be that hard. Can it? I was about to find out.
I spent a better part of 2014 trying to figure this out.
I have absolutely no professional writing experience. In fact, the only writing I’ve ever done in my life was writing letters to ex boyfriends behaving badly and my daily journaling. That’s it, that’s all.
But I knew if I wanted to venture off to Central America for a much longer stay, I would have to work my butt off to become a freelance writer and make this happen.
So off I went reading eBooks and blogs about how to become a freelance writer, how to make money doing it, and determine how much work it was going to be. I started writing up and submitting articles to high authority sites in the personal development self help niche. It was the only niche I was comfortable in seeing how I’ve just spent the last almost two years absorbing everything I could get my hands to improve my life.
I knew enough about self help to write about it. So I did. An awful lot, Write an article, submit, get turned down. Write another article, submit, get turned down. This went on for about 6 months.
I worked 8–10 hours a day at the salon and then another 3–4 hours at home writing, for free, just to get my foot in the freelance writing door.
And then finally a break
Finally one site picked up a blog. I was elated! I jumped up and down and cried in joy. For real. Then they asked for more. And then another site said yes.
Slow but sure, it was coming together this freelance writing thing.
I continued to do it for free for a few months until one day I got ballsy and asked one site owner for a writing job. They said no. I wasn’t surprised. I’d ask again in a few more months.
And I did. I didn’t get a full no this time. They said they would think about it. Ah, a glimmer of hope. A few months passed and, you guessed it, I asked again and this time they said yes.
It was a part time job to start but I was happy just to have that. It gave me hope. So I wrote part time, while still cutting hair and still writing for free for other sites and still writing on my dead website that no one could see.
Yup, I was a busy girl. Determined, but busy.
It was also during this time that I launched a Facebook page of the same name as my website and started building a following. I shared inspirational quotes and some of my blogs.
My entire life was work (salon and now freelance writing) and volunteer work and I had never been happier in my life. I was getting one step closer to realizing my dream of leaving the salon behind and heading to Central America for longer than 3 weeks.
Another big break
Then one day my writing client called me and told me he had another job for me. A big job. He would only offer it on one condition. That I leave my salon job. HELL-O!!!! I was freaking out.
I didn’t even have to think about it. Yes came out of my mouth before he was even done his offer.
I finally made it. It took almost a full year but it happened. In July of 2015 I hung up my cutting shears for good and officially became a full time freelance writer.
My next step was to leave Canada.
Winter was coming fast and sticking around for yet another brutal Northern Ontario winter didn’t interest me. I was planning my escape for October 2015. Not sure where I was headed I did what any right minded normal person would do.
I called up a local lady who happened to be a tea leaf reader and I asked her to please tell me where to go. And she did.
“Pick the country with the funkiest name” she said.
The next day I booked my one way ticket to Guatemala for October 3rd. Just like that.
Building my business while basking in the sun
After two years of working with two different freelance clients it was time to go off on my own and become a solopreneur. I had worked on my website, and all my social media accounts hard core while still working for clients and it was getting to be too much for me.
Virtual hugs and kisses were had and we parted ways. I was off on my own to build my empire (cue dramatic music).
Ok so wait. I wasn’t exactly basking in the sun either. I just didn’t have to deal with Canadian winters anymore. Yippee!
By the end of 2019 I had over 600K followers on Facebook, over 10 million monthly views on Pinterest and close to 200K monthly visitors on my website.
My earnings are mid 4 figures a month. Can you colour me happy? Any colour will do.
What I left out
While trying to tell my whole story without boring you senseless I had to leave out many parts like:
- The financial difficulties I faced after I left my clients
- How my son had to help me pay some of my bills
- How I fell in love and lost love in the same year
- The depression I went through when my mom died and my family ostracized me (you can read more about that here)
- And how I moved from Guatemala after 4 years to Mexico to work on my business more
My whole journey wasn’t so cut and dry. There were a ton of trials and road blocks. I had to learn many things about running a successful and profitable website (remember I was just a hairstylist).
Some hurdles were so high I wasn’t sure I could get over them.
But I did.
When people say “oh Iva you are so brave and badass and ballsy” I cringe. I’m not any of those things.
All I am is a woman who was determined to better her life no matter how hard it was going to be. And I did.
So can you.
My underlying message here
So often I hear people say I can’t. Yes you can. You can change your life. You can have a life of freedom. You can have whatever life you want as long as you are prepared to put in the hard work to have it.
Fear often holds us back from realizing our dreams. If I stayed stuck in fear I’d still be in Canada, working in a salon in a mall for shit wages and freezing my ass off. I was no longer interested in this life and I was prepared to face all my fears, push the envelope and blaze a goddamn trail.
Was I scared? Of course I was!!! But I couldn’t let fear run my life anymore.
Don’t let it run yours. Take back control of your life, pull up your big girl/boy panties, chase your dreams and smash your goals.
Here are 3 powerful things you can do right now to help you make the leap from mediocre to magnificent:
- decide you want a better life
- figure out what you have to do to have the life you want
- go do it.
Ya, it’s really that easy.
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. What’s your passion? What fires you up? What brings you immense joy?
Your destiny is up to you.
If I can do it, anyone can.
I love you
xo iva xo