Ever opened your closet door, stared at a bursting rack of clothes and thought, “Ugh, I’ve got nothing to wear”?
I know I have.
But what if instead of seeing the same ol’ boring weekday-wear, you saw a whole new wardrobe?
Caitlin Skidmore found a way to do just that. After a yearlong breakup with shopping, she realized she already had everything she needed to wear a new, fashionable outfit every day.
She learned a ton, saved time and money — and launched a five-figure business to help other women learn to do the same.
“Breaking Up” With Shopping
Although her shopping habit wasn’t destroying the young couple’s financial life, Skidmore knew the money she spent on clothing could be better spent elsewhere. The expense wasn’t serving her well.
“I was always buying stuff, but I felt like I had nothing to wear,” she says.
Skidmore worked full-time at a nonprofit that helps families break the cycle of poverty, and her work made the superfluity of her shopping extremely clear.
“As I sat across the table from a young dad who wept, telling me how he’d sold everything they had to try to keep food on the table for his wife and babies, my heart was broken,” she writes.
She wanted to recapture the time and energy she spent on getting dressed so she could spend it helping others instead.
So a few weeks later, when her pastor challenged the congregation to “give up something good for something eternal,” she and her friend Kat had an idea: They’d stop shopping.
For a whole year.
So she did. And in the process, she discovered something amazing: 365 “new” outfits already hanging in her closet.
“What I learned changed my entire life,” Skidmore says.
And suddenly, she’d found a unique way to help others change their lives, too.
From Blog to Business
Each day, she’d “shop” her closet for a “new” outfit. Then, her husband Troy would take a photo and she’d write a post about what she was learning.
But after the year was over and she’d learned how to wear and style every piece in her closet, she wasn’t sure what to do next.
She knew she had valuable information that would help others. Her blog had attracted attention from women around the world who wanted to learn how to remix their own closets.
But she wasn’t sure how to get her knowledge out there. She’d always loved fashion, but she didn’t have any relevant work experience as a stylist or personal shopper — the closest she’d come was the obligatory retail job so many of us take when we’re young.
Then she discovered Zero to Launch — an online course from financial advisor and best-selling author Ramit Sethi that teaches everyday people how to launch extraordinary online businesses from scratch.
She’d already learned a ton from signing up for Sethi’s free newsletter, so she had faith in his knowledge and technique. She took the plunge and bought the course in spring of 2014, two years after her year without shopping.
By fall, she’d launched her business — and earned $5,000 before the year’s end.
Building a Successful Business from Scratch
After completing Zero to Launch, Skidmore’s blog blossomed into a newsletter and a set of e-courses.
It also became a networking tool and earned her one-on-one “luxury” clients, speaking engagements and publication in local papers.
Her courses come in two tiers (with a third currently under construction), priced at $17 and $49 — but she makes about $1,000 every time she does a lecture.
And when a woman hires Skidmore to do a one-on-one closet review, she could earn anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
And even though she hasn’t done much targeted advertising yet, she’s doing quite well.
“This year, I’m on track right now, to do about $15,000, but the end of the year is always bigger for me,” Skidmore explains. “I think I’m going to get closer to $20,000.”
How to Start a Business Doing What You Love
Skidmore credits the bulk of her success to Sethi’s course.
“I haven’t really taken any other courses or classes or whatever other than Zero to Launch,” she says. “I use what I learned from it… in all the different pieces of my business.”
She says the course made it simple to start earning: By simply following the steps laid out in the course, “at the end, you will have an automated product.”
“It gives you a really easy road map,” Skidmore explains. Every other week, she’d get a new piece of the “map” to work on, from determining the product itself to making sure she could find an audience.
For instance, one lesson suggested searching Amazon for books in your prospective business category. However, instead of looking at the five-star winners, Zero to Launch suggested looking for ones with three to four stars.
“Look at what people are saying,” Skidmore says. “What did the books not have that they really wanted? Or, what were the things that they really liked?”
By understanding what products are already available — and what pain points aren’t yet being addressed — you can craft a business that fills a verified hole in the market.
But the most important thing Zero to Launch did for Skidmore? It gave her the confidence that her product was worthwhile.
“Honestly, after that year of blogging, I was like, ‘Do I want to do this? It feels so shallow to always talk about clothes,’” she says.
As a result, she felt even more uncomfortable when faced with the prospect of selling her advice.
But through Sethi’s course, she learned that “sales” doesn’t have to automatically mean “sleazy.”
“If you have something that you know will help people and you don’t offer it to them, you’re doing them a disservice,” Skidmore says.
“You need to be honest,” she explains. “You need to make something that’s amazing and then offer it to people. If you allow your fear of selling to hold you back, you’re not really serving the people that need it.”
By following that advice, Skidmore was able to transform her hobby into her livelihood. After seeing her mounting success, the couple decided to move to one income so she could work on Greater Than Rubies full time — although she remains on her nonprofit’s board.
Now that Skidmore spends the bulk of her time unabashedly talking about clothes, she’s realized how dressing well directly impacts her students’ lives.
“It literally impacts everything,” she says. “It impacts your energy. It impacts your finances. It impacts how you feel about yourself. It runs the gamut. If you can do it a little bit better, you impact every area of your life.”
And helping people “do it a little bit better” is Skidmore’s favorite part of her job. Even though fashion might seem nonessential, her advice makes real changes in these women’s lives.
“I love seeing women get so excited: Oh my gosh! There are so many things in my closet. I just never thought about how to put those together,” she says.
And since Skidmore followed her passion, had faith in her ability and worked hard to realize her dreams, she gets to see and experience that thrill every single day.
Your Turn: Which of your hobbies would you turn into a full-time business?
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.
Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her writing has also been featured at Word Riot, DMQ Review, Hinchas de Poesia and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.