Tracy Jo Smith is an online business strategist. After graduating from the University of Florida in 2010, she wanted to earn a full-time income online, but had no idea how, and no one to show her the ropes. Now, after building her own online Entrepreneur Girl ® brand from the ground up, she shows others how to do the same. Determined to stay home with her family and have more time, money, and freedom, she became an expert at marketing, and a real nerd when it comes to designing and branding.
When and how did you realize exactly what you wanted to pursue?
I wish there was one beautifully, poetic moment that I could share with you… but the truth is, it took several months of self-reflection and five whole years of hard times, to think about what I really wanted out of my life, and to realize that I really did have the power to create a life I was excited about living. Since freedom to travel, time to be with the people I love, money to have the means to do both of those things, and passion about what I was pursuing and working towards… were at the top of my list, I started by brainstorming careers that would incorporate these goals. What type of job could I have while traveling? What am I passionate about? How can I make enough money working from home, so I can be home with my kids? These are all questions I asked myself. Questions that led me towards my perfect career.
When and how did you start going after your dream?
Once I got fed up enough with my current circumstances, I became very motivated to create a life I loved. My first steps towards making this dream a reality, was starting my e-commerce business in 2012 and my Entrepreneur Girl ® YouTube channel in 2014. Even though I graduated from business school, I knew nothing about platforms such as eBay. I learned as I went, totally out of my comfort zone the entire time. Yet gradually, I grew one eBay store into three, and started branching into other platforms such as Amazon, Etsy, Poshmark, and Walmart. After the YouTube channel gained some success showing other people how to do what I had done, I created a website where I offered products, services, training, and a community to support people who also wanted to change their life.
What were your biggest fears and how did you manage/overcome them?
My biggest fear was (and is) the fear of failure. I kept thinking that once I arrived at a certain financial point, and/or learned a specific skill, I would no longer fear failure because I would have “arrived”. I didn’t understand that you never really “arrived” anywhere. If I made more money, it could still be lost because my income depended on more products and services selling. Every single month I was worrying about my quota. Even learning new skills and feeling scared and unsure of myself… never stopped. As I was continuously growing into the next level over and over again… which you guessed it, had new techniques and processes to learn, which made me feel scared and unsure of myself once more.
What I learned over time, was that fears never completely go away. They may change. They may lessen. You may swap out one fear for another. But the one consistent in your life, is that fear will always be your companion. I learned that living alongside fear is not really a bad thing. Fear pushes me to work when I’d rather marathon watch my favourite TV show. Fear forces me to read books, get coaches, attend seminars, and stay on top of my game. Fear has made me a better person and a better business owner.
But fear stinks, I get it. But each time I pushed through fear and found success… it would stink a little less and have a little less hold on me. The irony with fear is that the more you avoid dealing with it, the larger it becomes; and the more you rush head first into the thing you want to avoid, the smaller it becomes. So, I have learned to not deal with my fear. He can hang around, I don’t care. I am too busy working on myself and pushing through scary situations like a BEAST … to even notice.
What did you have to sacrifice in order to work on your dream?
What wouldn’t I sacrifice for my dream?!? All of the things that are truly important to me are factored into my dreams and goals, so everything else, all the distractions of life (television, internet roaming, reading the daily news, deep cleaning my house every week) have all but disappeared. There have been some tough cuts, too, like friendships that I enjoyed, but had to let go of… or a big trip I had planned for months, only to find an unexpected and important deadline in the way. But the way I look at it, my goals are leading me to my exact place I want to be. I don’t want to get distracted and end up someplace else. Sure, saying no to a wine tasting vacation with my girlfriends might be hard, but not writing that book that I’ve been dreaming about for 15 years, that would be harder still.
How did you/do you deal with the naysayers?
Isn’t it funny (and awful) that when you finally figure out your life and get motivated to make it a reality, people suddenly appear out of the wood work, to discourage you? Yet, that’s the way it happens. After coaching hundreds of people, I can say with certainty that if this is happening to you… you are doing something right and should keep pushing through on your path. People are seeing your growth, your power, your change, and it is threatening to them. For whatever reason, they react. I don’t know why our growth would threaten others, but I suppose the ‘why’ is unimportant for this conversation. After all, we aren’t going to give up on our dreams because someone is dealing with a choice they made in their past, or because you won’t be going with them to the annual office BBQ.
When I first experienced naysayers, it hurt… a lot. But over time, as I was explaining myself and my vision, I was forced to clearly define all the miniscule details, and in doing so, cemented my belief in my myself and my path. I was able to answer their questions clearly and with certainty. As my skin grew thicker, I realized I didn’t need a sea of people to agree with me, I just needed one person as my island, a place I could swim to when I felt overwhelmed or needed advice. I found a trusted friendship, that was both supportive and encouraging, and let all the naysayers fade into the background. Hold onto the fact that all these people not supporting you right now, will suddenly tell you, “I knew you’d make it all along!”. As you stare at them in disbelief and shake your head, you will be grateful that you never listened to them in the first place.
Start first, perfect it later OR perfection from the get-go?
This is where I struggle… a perfectionist at heart, I never want to release until I feel a project is “right”. Of course, the danger here, is that it’s never really and completely “perfect”. Hence, the books that never get published, the companies that never get past the logo, and the dreams that live in our heads instead of our realities. The best decision I ever made came to me in 2016, when I committed to launch an idea the second it came into my brain. Not that every idea I had was a good one, but no idea would ever be a lost opportunity. I launched and then re-evaluated later. Heck just last week, I was changing my services page again, getting rid of ideas that didn’t take off and adding details to the ones that did. We all cringe at our first attempts. I look back at my YouTube channel and want to delete half my videos. My first website is laughable when compared to my new website. Oh, and my first live interview, where I stumbled around my words and looked like an idiot? Ugh. I’m fairly certain that whatever I am doing today, will be equally appalling to my future self.
But here’s the thing, I have a company, a website, a YouTube channel, and 100,000 social media followers because I did get started… and continued… on a less than perfect path. Just do it! And then when you look back, have a good laugh and a solid pat on the back, at how far you’ve come.
Are you a part-time or a full-time dream chaser?
When I first started, I was part time. Gradually, however, I learned that part time hours equaled part time income, so I started working full time and sticking to a schedule. My business boomed after I made that decision, but I knew I needed to remain intentional about the lifestyle I was living…after all, that was the whole reason for starting an online business in the first place.
My motto became, “Build business. Love your life. Balance both.” so I could remind myself that I never want to work so many hours, that I am missing out on my child’s childhood, but I also don’t want to work so little, that it takes me a million years to achieve my goals, and I will be too old to enjoy them anyway. The balance for me was found in recognizing when I needed to be hyper-focused on a work project that would really grow my business (maybe working as much as 80 hours a week!) coupled with periods of time that I would travel for a whole month reflecting on my company (growth in a different way) and enjoying my family. I don’t define my hours any more. I simply understand my next goal, working hard, and giving myself permission to enjoy the ride while obtaining it.
What is your daily routine?
My schedule is key to everything I have achieved. Every summer I re-evaluate and tweak my schedule for this reason. There’s a lot that goes into creating a schedule: a list of everything you must do in all areas of your life, an understanding of when you work on what tasks best, and striving to push yourself (get up at 6 am) while still taking care of yourself (8 hours of sleep and daily exercise). For me, I am most creative in the morning when my house is quiet, and I am feeling fresh (I am writing this article first thing in the morning, for example). I get up early, so I have a couple of hours to write courses, books, and blogs. Then I switch into mommy mode when the kids wake up. I spend a couple of hours on tasks such as breakfast, house cleaning, and grooming. This is how my day unfolds… chunks of time dedicated to work tasks, blended with chunks of time committed to playing and my family, with hours of living a healthy lifestyle and home maintenance sprinkled in. Everything is clearly defined in my schedule so that at the end of my days, and years, and life… I end up precisely where I want to end up.
How does your dream life look like?
Could I not sit across a Starbucks table from you and swap stories of our dreams for hours? Dreams are how it all starts. I used to get mad at myself for spending more time in my head, then outlining the ways to make those dreams a reality. But now I realize, it was a necessary step. How do I know how to get someplace, if I don’t know where I am going? Dreams are important. They are the juice that drive us when it gets rough. They are what we cling to when we have doubt. Dreams are everything…. but, only if we do the work to carry them into our reality.
I have many, many dreams. And as I conquer some, and change others, I am always, always keeping my eyes squarely on my goals. At any moment, if you were to ask me what my goals are, I could answer you in five minutes or less. I know where I am going. I know what I want. I know my future (even if I don’t know exactly how yet) will consist of the things I am about to share with you. I have BIG dreams and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Just to name a few, I plan on finishing my book and buying that warehouse (and dream farm) in the North Carolina mountains. My monthly financial income number is set to double next quarter as I launch my course… oh, and Oprah?…. I hope we chat on her TV couch some day!
What advice would you give someone who feels stuck? (They either don’t know what to pursue or they do but are too afraid to start)
We all feel or felt stuck. Get used to it, it’s part of rockin’ it! Feel it and push through anyway. Be afraid and start anyway. You don’t know what you want to pursue? Do something and figure it on along the way. I don’t know about you, but I would rather try and fail, then never try, never live, and sit on the sidelines my whole life.
When I started, I told everyone I knew, “Look, I am going to try this for a year without giving up. I am going to spend this much money without apology. I may fail miserably, but I am going to give it all I have. I am going for my dream. Do you support me?”. Luckily, they all said yes. Magically, by my asking, by verbalizing my fears upfront, and by getting their commitment… everyone put forth their best foot forward and we started Entrepreneur Girl ® as a committed tribe.
Failure wasn’t an option. I knew I would find a work-around if needed. I knew if one door shut, I would open a window. I knew that I was never going back to a 9:00-5:00 cubicle taking one-week vacations and living with my alarm clock (I hate that thing!)… I just knew it.
I’m pretty sure you know it, too. You - are - a- Dream - Chaser.
Happy chasing! I will be rooting for you!!
Tracy Jo Smith