I’m a millennial who went from earning $30,000 a year to earning $30,000 a month by launching my own business. Here are the 5 steps I took to bring my income to the next level without fancy marketing.

Celinne Da Costa, age 28, earned $32,000 a month through her brand-consultancy services.

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Celinne Da Costa, age 28, earned $32,000 a month through her brand-consultancy services.
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Courtesy of Celinne Da Costa

  • Celinne Da Costa, age 28, went from earning $27,000 a year after taxes to earning $32,000 a month in just six years.
  • She quit her New York City advertising job to travel the world – in one year, she couch-surfed across 100 homes in 20 countries.
  • She made a name for herself by promoting her journey on her social channels and in the media.
  • When she returned from her trip, she began freelancing for a marketing consultant at $150 an hour. Nine months later, she had earned $100,000.
  • Today, she helps entrepreneurs create powerful brands.
  • Da Costa didn’t use fancy marketing tactics – she took her business to the next level by focusing on five key areas: her standards, mind-set, self, offers, and sales approach.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I used to look upon the posts of people claiming to have made their yearly salary in a month with such disbelief. Until that person became me.

It’s hard to believe that I just rang in a $32,000 month when, a few years ago, I accepted my first job at an advertising agency in New York City making just $35,000 ($27,000 after taxes) a year.

Considering living expenses (rent, electricity, food, etc.) in New York added up to about $2,000 a month and I was earning about $2,200 after taxes, a significant portion of my day-to-day consisted of pinching pennies, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and stressing about money.

I was miserable – sharing a crowded apartment with three strangers in a room so small I had a loft bed to fit my things, working 60-hour weeks, slapping hummus onto crackers when I got home because I was too tired to make dinner (and too broke to buy it), and watching reruns of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix until I passed out.

Was this really the American dream I’d signed up for?

In 2015, I went on a volunteer trip to Cambodia – and everything changed

A public figure stumbled on my travel blog (which had only a couple hundred followers at the time) and invited me to spend two weeks teaching at an orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and document my experiences.

The first day I arrived, I found out my grandfather died. The combination of my already broken heart, learning about the country’s traumatic history, and witnessing innocent people suffer from poverty and an unjust system snapped something inside me. I realized how little I was doing to contribute to anything other than my own misery.

The day after I got back to New York, I made a decision: I would not spend another minute of my life consciously living in fear. I had to change.

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It’s the start of August and I’ve just celebrated a $32K month, all while living my best life from one of my favorite spots in the world here in Greece. . It’s still so crazy to think that just a few years ago I was making this in a YEAR, and now I get abundantly paid to do what sets my soul on fire. . I’m not sharing this to brag, as a matter of fact, I’ll spare you the whole speech about how you need to believe in yourself and put in the work. You already know that’s true. . What I want to share are the key changes I’ve made that are now taking my business to the next level, including: . RAISING MY STANDARDS – I decided to dramatically raise my standards for the quality of client I’m willing to work with, what I earn, and how I spend my precious time. I let go of a bunch of distractions and people who were holding me back. .
RUTHLESSLY COMMITTING TO MINDSET – As Tony Robbins says, 80% of success is psychology and 20% is mechanics. I’ve religiously focused on maximizing my wellness routine, meditation practice, and filling my mind with information that improves me. . INVESTING IN MYSELF – I spent over $20K on coaching, events, and masterminds in the past month and made it back almost instantly. I’m serious about being the absolute best at what I do, and that means learning from the best. Plus, when you put your skin in the game, you’ll be more motivated to show up and do the work. . STRENGTHENING MY OFFERS – I did an audit of my packages and asked myself: “what do my clients need to get the best possible results?” I increased the value of my services to ensure my clients get all the support they need from me. . APPROACHING SALES WITH LOVE – I used to be scared shitless of selling. I reframed my perspective: instead of “selling,” why not have genuine conversations where I actually listened to what people needed and offered them the perfect solution? I have no doubt of my ability to deliver, so selling is an act of service. . There’s plenty more that I did, but these were the most important insights to share. I really hope you’ll draw inspiration to apply in your own life and business! . What do you do when you’re feeling stuck and need to uplevel? Share below!

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I needed a project I could be proud of to keep me busy while I figured out my next steps. I’d always wanted to travel the world, but I couldn’t backpack around aimlessly without any purpose.

I came up with a social experiment, in which I challenged myself to circumnavigate the globe by couch-surfing using only human connection (no website): This meant staying in the homes of friends, friends of friends, and strangers I’d meet on the road.

Over the course of a year, I stayed in the homes of 100-plus people (mostly strangers), in 20-plus countries across five continents … and spent less than $8,500.

I learned how to share my story in a compelling way, which led to earning 5 figures a month

I leveraged my background as a brand strategist and writer to grow my social-media channels – specifically my Instagram and Facebook pages – document my journey on my blog, and get myself in front of the media and publications. Every day, I wrote a story about the people I met, the experiences I was going through, and the changes I was making.

From the beginning, my goal was to create a powerful brand that was so captivating, compelling, and relatable that people would have no choice but to pay attention. Refining and mastering this skill were what set the foundation for my business.

As I’d predicted, people started to notice – my community started growing by the thousands, and I was invited to document my journey on Forbes, and my story was featured on large publications including Matador Network, Business Insider, and Intrepid.

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“What story did Oprah have to tell to become Oprah?” this question I recently heard completely took me aback. . To become the unforgettable icon she is today, Oprah first had to tell us a story: of overcoming adversity, believing in her potential, and rising to astronomical success despite all the odds. . What about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, and all the other titans? . It’s not their business we remember — they have many — it’s their STORY and how they made us feel. They’ve inspired us through their feats. They reminded us of what we are capable of when we believe in ourselves. They’ve rallied millions of loyal fans who consistently eat up their message, buy their products, and support their business… all because they created a bigger-than-life story around themselves and their vision. . Your life is a collection of stories and the way you string them together could make or break your future. . What are the old back stories running your current habits and beliefs? What are the shiny front stories that you’re showcasing to the world? Do they align? Do they feel authentic to you, and most importantly, are they strategically pushing your vision forward? . Pay attention to your story. It’s how you’ll get people emotionally invested in you and build your legacy. If you don’t have a story, you don’t have a real business. . What you do have is a boring-ass “brand” that will fall flat on its face the moment your product or service becomes irrelevant or priced out (which, considering today’s competitive landscape… it will). . WITH a story, you get to weave your way into people’s souls and stay connected to them no matter how often you change or reinvent your work. . What story do YOU need to tell, to become the version of you who truly has it all? . When you’re ready to answer that, book a Story Clarity Intensive with me — in this 1-week coaching experience, we go DEEP. We’ll extract your “why,” your vision, core values, and ideal client avatar. Basically, the foundational work you MUST do to create a powerful brand and give direction to any and all the stories you tell moving forward. Now booking for end of Sept, link is in bio ????

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About halfway through my journey, I started getting approached by entrepreneurs, publications, and even boards of tourism. They’d heard about me through word-of-mouth. They’d read or watched my stories. Some of them wanted to know how I was getting visible so quickly so they could do it, too. Others just wanted to take a part of my project. They came to me because they saw in me something they saw in themselves, and they wanted to learn what that was.

That year after leaving corporate, I focused on doing what I loved without worrying about the consequences or money. I was smart and strategic about growing my online presence and used storytelling as the glue to create a powerful personal brand.

When I returned from my trip, I started freelancing as a marketing consultant for $150 an hour and quickly grew from there. My clients were people who’d heard about me, who I’d collaborated with during my trip, or whom I’d helped for free before.

Within nine months of officially launching my business, I’d hit my first $100,000 year. This evolved into what I do now, which is working with entrepreneurs to master their story to create powerful brands that grow their reach, visibility, and sales.

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Did you know that you’re naturally conditioned to repeat your stories? It’s literally in our DNA to package our past experiences into stories and replay them in loops that determine our behavior. That’s why it’s so important to get a grip over the narratives that are 1. running through your head and 2. Flying out of your mouth or onto the keyboard. Your story shapes your reality, and once you learn to master it — instead of letting it control you consciously *and* subconsciously — you will call the shots in your life. Deepak Chopra once said: “What makes a person extraordinary is that he or she finds a way to find a new story.” Your challenge is to break the patterns that your past story has over you: the old habits, beliefs, and expectations you keep playing into. When you look back at your past, what is the story that you’ve allowed to play out? Is it an accurate reflection of what you really want right NOW? Remember… you can’t change your past experiences, but you have control over how you choose to perceive them. That’s what masterful storytellers do — they don’t change the WHAT, they change the HOW. Look at your new story as the bridge between your current life and the life you desire. What are the new beliefs and perspectives you must adopt to turn that story into a reality? Your story will determine the direction of your brand. It will connect with your tribe, turn you into a recognizable and memorable figure in your space, and magnetize people and opportunities that will grow your business. Your story = your money-maker. If you’re struggling with sharing a powerful story around yourself and letting go of old beliefs… It’s not your story that’s the problem. It’s how you choose to tell it. What do you struggle the most when it comes to sharing your story? Comment below! P.S. If you’re looking to beef up your story like, yesterday, make sure you download my free guide sharing 10 hacks to unapologetically share your story. Link is in the bio and in today’s stories! ????: @kathrynaime

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Fast-forward to today, and I’ve just earned in a month what I used to earn in a year – no crazy launches, no big marketing pushes, nothing fancy outside my regular marketing activities.

I earned my $32,000 month from one of my favorite islands in Greece, waking up in a cozy bed and breakfast overlooking the ocean, working from my laptop from charming outdoor cafés, and spending my precious time and energy on projects that I choose and that set my soul on fire.

Here are five key steps I took to grow my online business to the next level.

1. Raising my standards

I decided to dramatically raise my standards for the quality of client I’m willing to work with, what I earn, and how I spend my precious time. Before, I’d work with difficult clients because I “needed” the money. I’d settle for $10,000 months because I thought it was enough.

I would spend a lot of energy doing free work and letting people who weren’t actually serious about my work waste my time, instead of focusing on my own projects. No more. I let go of a bunch of distractions and people who were holding me back.

2. Ruthlessly committing to mindset

As Tony Robbins says, “80% of success is psychology and 20% is mechanics.”

I’ve religiously focused on maximizing my wellness routine, meditation practice, and filling my mind with information that improves me. All the strategy in the world won’t save you if you don’t believe in yourself and aren’t maximizing your focus, expertise, and mental well-being.

You need to be able to handle the shit that life throws at you with grace and patience instead of stress.

3. Investing in myself

I’ve spent over $20,000 on coaching, events, and masterminds in the past month and made it back almost instantly. I’ve invested over $50,000 on my self-development this year because I’m serious about being the best at what I do, and that means learning from the best.

Plus, when you put your skin in the game, you’ll be more motivated to show up and do the work. I’ve yet to meet someone who earns six figures or more who hasn’t invested in themselves somehow.

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Ok, I can’t contain myself. I thought I could wait for Friday to share with you the crazy Black Friday deals coming your way, but nope ????. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ One of the realizations that hit me hard after coming back from Nepal is just how lucky and grateful I am to have a community of amazing people– a.k.a., you –supporting and growing from my work. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ So, in the spirit of giving back, I’d like to offer you the most affordable opportunity to work with me yet. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ Starting Friday, I’ll be running special discounts on my courses as well as my 1:1 private coaching… like, up to 50% off which I have never done before ????. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ My mission as a life design & brand story coach is to teach you how to design your life into an epic story in a way that feels freaking amazing AND is more prosperous that you can imagine. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ With my mentorship, you’ll learn exactly how I’ve gone from being a broke corporate dropout to building a life that allows me to travel full-time, set my own schedule, spend my days pursuing my passions, and serve others in ways that inspire me… while making dem moneys ????. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ My Life Design Mindset course, for example, is the answer to how I did that, and what steps YOU need to take to design a lifestyle that you love waking up to, every single day. ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ Anywhoo… promotion is launching in less than a day and spots are limited, so comment below or DM me if you want in! ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ And make sure to check my Stories tomorrow for the promo codes ????. ????: @dereksimpsonphoto ⠀⠀ ⠀ ______________________________________________ #liveonpurpose #bossladiesmindset #beingboss #soulpreneur #intentionalliving #womenpreneur #womenwithpurpose #successminded #womeninbiz #locationindependent #remotework #businessandpleasure #makingalivingliving #livingoutofasuitcase #entrepreneurlife #entrepreneurmindset #entrepreneursofinstagram #lifedesign #storytelling #branding #personalbranding #brandingstrategy #brandingcoach #brandingidentity #branding101 #brandstory #brandstorytelling #smallbusinesstips #brandstrategy #socialmediabranding

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4. Strengthening my offers

I did an audit of my packages and asked myself, “What do my clients need to get the best possible results?” I increased the value of my services to ensure my clients get all the support they need from me. It’s not just about what you want to sell, but rather about what your client wants and needs. Pay close attention to that … without happy clients, you can’t have a thriving business.

5. Approaching sales with love

I used to be scared of selling because I thought it was slimy and unethical. I learned that selling is as good or bad as your intentions.

I reframed my perspective – instead of “selling,” why not have genuine conversations in which I actually listened to what people needed and offered them the perfect solution? I have no doubt of my ability to deliver, so selling is an act of service. If you genuinely believe that your product or service will transform the lives of your clients for the better, then selling is an act of love.

We are so scared to do what we love because we think we will fail. But think of the consequences if you don’t take action – for me, I’d still be in some miserable corporate job somewhere in New York City, in my nicer but more expensive apartment, wondering “what if?” I actually followed my dreams instead of being CEO of my own company by age 27.

Don’t allow fear to run your life. Believe in your future earning potential, and, most important, believe you will show up for yourself when life calls you to rise. And then, just do the damn thing.