Influence, authority and setting rates you won’t be resentful of
Lissette Calveiro shows people how to find their influence. As a marketing consultant and business coach for Fortune 500 companies, social media influencers, and personal brands, she teaches content creators how to build and monetize their presence through her Influence with Impact platform. We were lucky to catch up with the Denver-based dynamo about her first year in the consultancy business.
The Leap: You were Director of Influencer Marketing at Ogilvy for nearly a decade before getting a career coaching certification in 2018 and taking the leap in 2019. Can you paint us a picture of what was going on?
Lissette Calveiro: Well, to contextualize, one benefit I had [while working at Ogilvy] was that I was always working on the brand side, so I was seeing the earning potential of influencers before it became mainstream. What I realized was that earning money working with brands can sustain you but the real business opportunity is when you’re building community and authority.
What was going through my head in 2018 was that I celebrated earning my first year salary and brand partnerships as a side hustle. But that still wasn’t what helped me quit! What made me quit was wondering, if I had my time back, what else could I do under my brand umbrella… I thought, ‘Hmm, I have all this experience, I’ve always sought to have authority, why not just let go of the nine to five and take the leap, to give myself space?’
One immediate service was being expert in influencer marketing, since that’s what my platform was always really about. So why not also offer consulting to some brands? I had my coaching certification and I had learned the skills of a career coach, which is funny because I coach influencers. But it translated… It’s a unique career path that influencers are fulfilling.
I did not take the leap with a business plan. I did not leave knowing, you know, where my next client was coming from. I just said, ‘I need space.’ But what’s crazy is that, as soon as you make that decision, as soon as you make space, something happens. I immediately had an ex colleague reach out and say, ‘Hey, any chance you’re doing consulting?’ I had more brand deals than ever without even having announced that to the world. The idea of giving yourself space and putting yourself out there energetically does make a difference.
That sounds like a pretty great start to year one!
Yeah, I always say year one was ‘WTF’ because it was really just figuring it out. I was trying different revenue streams and services but, of course, always being authentic to myself. I was never the type of person that throws spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, but I really tried to build off of my experience and authority and caring about what my community said they wanted. So 2019 was this year of experimenting. When the pandemic came, I already had a few consulting clients but my biggest client who was basically replacing my salary was in the travel space. In March, 2020, we had to cancel the project that we worked so hard on and I remember thinking like, ‘What have I done?’ But I just kept leaning into my community and asked them what they would find value in.
Can you talk about any of your other firsts? Maybe your first coaching clients or your first videos? I know that you have posted about your ‘failed’ YouTube channel before…
Oh my gosh, I had so many failures. But I always say that failure or rejection is a redirection. I did not make that quote up! I don’t know where I heard it but it’s always stuck with me because, even at times where I feel like I’ve messed up, I’m not stressed. I think about the lessons I’ve learned. It’s so funny because when I started YouTube in 2019, I was like, ‘Oh, this could be a great way to grow a new platform.’ TikTok wasn’t as popular at the time. But because I was a curious social media person, I tried to do YouTube. But man, it took me like a week to edit a three minute video because I just suck at editing videos. I remember thinking I should be doing that for discoverability and blah, blah, blah. But if you aren’t passionate about it, you’re never actually going to get to it.
And it’s okay to fail. Gosh, I’m thinking about that across the whole scope of my business and another big ‘first’ was also the month I went without income because, yes, there are slow months, especially when you are a full-time entrepreneur. These days my business is sustainable and earning income every month but, in the beginning, in April of 2020, I had a month with no income and it was scary. Because you ask yourself, ‘Is this how it’s going to be?! Is this going to be the trend?’ And then finally May rolled around and things were good again. May was when I finally offered my first group coaching environment. I used to do one-on-ones but the group coaching environment was such a good move, not just financially but it is something I really enjoyed offering. And then that ended up setting the stage for consistently making income.
What did you struggle with in your first year?
To be honest, it was finding the right support. The problem as a full-time entrepreneur is that you don’t have much time in a day. Yes, you can figure out accounting and you can figure out this, that and the other things but you can’t do it all. My issue was that I kept hiring virtual assistants whenever I could, here and there, but they were basically fresh out of college and didn’t have much experience. So, while I was paying someone minimum wage to save money, they were spending more time on the tasks. I remember there was a point where I had six contractors at a time, I had like a copywriter, the website person, someone who was just like one-off helping me with my consulting projects, the virtual assistant, the branding, design girl… And eventually, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I literally just need one person to be able to be consistently inside my business as much as I am!’ I found myself super burnt out all the time that first year because I was trying to do everything myself or hiring one-off help that wasn’t really helping.
I ended up hiring my first professional virtual assistant at $30 USD an hour. As an entrepreneur, you’re like, dang! But that $30 an hour was well spent on someone doing four times the amount of work that the recent college grad earning minimum wage was doing. That was a learning curve. I was too afraid to take the leap and believe that if I got support, more business would come. Or believing that professional support was the right investment in my business. At first, I wasn’t doing that correctly. I was just finding the best way to save money. So the lesson is to invest in the right support. Don’t be afraid of putting the money where you can generate more in the long run.
You also have to actually figure out not just what takes up time but what’s taking up your energy. For example, I love building websites even though I’m not a website designer. I made my website myself and it was super fun to do. But when it comes to something like editing videos, I hate doing it so much that, after doing it, I’ll spend like four hours literally being a vegetable in bed because I’m so exhausted by having done that task. So you really have to figure out: where’s the best place that you like being in? For example, I love my coaching calls. That’s where I thrive. I finished those calls and I’m energized, versus if I’m doing something else, even if it seems like an easy task. If I hate it, I’m going to spend a lot of time recovering.
Time is one thing. But can you talk about money? How do you set rates and have the confidence to ask for what you are worth as an entrepreneur?
Well, when it was just a side hustle, I wasn’t earning as much. My rates have quadrupled, just because of my eventual understanding about what goes into it. Even though I was working on the brand side and knew how much we’re paying other people, the real reason why I wasn’t charging as much or valuing my worth is because I had the other income. I had this attitude, like, I don’t wanna be too greedy. And I feel a lot of people don’t want to ask for too much and that was the energy I used to have. That it was “just” a side hustle, But when it’s a full-time hustle, some people can slip into even worse of a scarcity mindset because you’re freaked out, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I’m not gonna have money, so I’m gonna take whatever!’
Honestly, I had to do a lot of mindset work around money, by working with professional coaches, and people who really helped me through these blocks. I had to make sure I was seeing money as an energy and value exchange and not as something that was a need. Of course, you have to fulfill basic needs, the hierarchy of needs, pay your rent and feed yourself, but I was very big on trying not to dip into that scarcity mindset of, ‘Oh, shit! Since I didn’t make money in April, I gotta take whatever comes my way in May.’ Because what happens is you end up being exhausted, overwhelmed, burnt out, and not able to work in June. Before taking the leap, I had an emergency fund ready so that I wouldn’t slip into this. If I was literally zero in the bank, then that’s a big problem, right? Not earning money is one thing but having $0 in your bank account and no savings is an even bigger problem. I definitely made sure I saved up six months of my survival expenses, which allowed me to give myself more of a runway for the times when I didn’t make money.
I think asking and advocating for yourself becomes easier with time. If I compare my consulting rates, I think I was charging like, $50 USD an hour when I was freelancing on the side. These days, no one has paid me less than $300 USD an hour for consulting. And I’m able to say no, because I’m an authority and people expect to pay someone of my expertise that much. I also know that if I did take the $50 an hour, I would be super resentful, super burnt out and I would hate it. You become resentful when you know what you could be earning. The amount of resentment you can feel and being burned out from not advocating for yourself is real.
if you could go back to your first year business and give yourself some advice, what would that be?
To start before you’re ready. Oh, that is number one. So much of what we think we need to be doing before launching or before starting something is not even necessary. For example, I really thought I couldn’t quit my job unless I had a business plan. Eventually I just said to myself ‘I’m just doing it’ and it worked out. There’s many other examples of moments where I’ve just done something — some people call it ‘messy action’ – but for me, it’s just starting before I’m ready and tweaking along the way.
Another big thing is that you also have to build services and build a business off of what people trust you on. One of the biggest mistakes I see creators do is follow what’s trendy or what seems cool. There are a lot of creators who pivot into creator tips but like, if you’re a travel blogger people don’t trust you on merch or creator trips, they trust you on travel. So what if you had a wonderful concierge service for building a dream trip? Would that sell? Figuring out what people trust you on and honoring that will help you build your business.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.