I make up to $13,000 a month from my digital-marketing business and still have the flexibility to travel and snowboard — here's how I built it

by Anna Munhin Mar 24, 2023 News
I make up to $13,000 a month from my digital-marketing business and still have the flexibility to travel and snowboard — here

Elizabeth Nelson is the owner of a digital-marketing agency in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She has verified her income. For clarity, the following has been edited.

I moved to Colorado in 2016 and lived out of my car, travel trailer, and condo before buying a condo at a ski resort. I run my digital-marketing agency, Snowmad Digital, from Jackson Hole during the winter.

I worked for an agency that specialized in wine and tourism. I earned my certifications to become a firefighter. The PR agency I was working for fired everyone when the Pandemic hit and I started fire fighting. The Creek Fire happened in California.

a woman in front of a fire
Nelson firefighting.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Nelson

My original plan was to become a smokejumper, a type of firefighter who enters the fire by parachute, but I decided to focus on my digital-marketing agency.

Our head web designer is Jesse Hall. He was a diesel mechanic and a snowcat mechanic. We were able to make around $180,000 in our lifetime.

Here's what inspired me to shift careers

After inhaling poison oak in the Creek Fire, I came back to Durango and almost couldn't breathe because I had eaten trail mix and slept on the ground for a long time. I went for a hike up the steep Hogsback Mountain in October of 2020 and was sick from the fumes. Jesse had been fighting fires for three summers.

I worked as a ghost web designer for several wedding-industry speakers after I replied to a cold-calling ad on the internet. I was asked if I could work on their websites after my clients realized I was more than just cold-calling. I said yes because I was eager to take on more work and teach myself from there, mainly from researching on the internet.

woman snowboarding
Nelson snowboarding near Durango, Colorado.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Nelson

I knew I wouldn't get the freedom I wanted to travel, skydive, snowboard, and create healthy relationships with clients if I worked under other agencies. They own your time when you work for another agency.

Even though I was never paid as an employee for the agencies I worked for, I was treated like one, with set hours and no compensation for overtime. I didn't like ghost designing. I wanted the money back. I wanted to give results to clients.

a camper van
The camper van the couple moved into.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Nelson

We moved into a camper van during the winter of 2020 to travel while we worked on our agency remotely and chase powder storms at ski resorts.

In the spring of 2021, we came back to the area. Jesse told me to work on my email outreach to get customers. I was hesitant to grow the business because I knew I would have to sacrifice my free time, but I was also eager to prove my worth.

In 2 1/2 years, I've worked with more than 70 clients

My own agency is where I do web design, digital marketing, web hosting, and consulting for wedding venues.

The owner of Mountain House Estate found me through another wedding-industry professional. John referred me to other venue owners because he had faith in my work. He told me to speak in a less technical way to business owners because of the advice he gave.

My network grew and I gained more clients because of the content I posted on my website about controversial topics such as The Knot losing its shine in the wedding industry and the decision between Squarespace andWordPress.

I earn between $8,000 and $13,000 a month. We work our own schedule, with Jesse and I only taking off time to ski in the winter or go on vacations in the summer. Depending on the weather, I work up to 10 hours a week.

My pricing is transparent. I charge between $2,500 and $6,500 for responsive design and between $1,000 and $3,000 a month for marketing.

These are the strategies I use to attract and retain clients

A video testimonials from clients is more powerful than anything you can say about yourself. One of my newer clients just hired me because they saw the video and saw it as a reason to hire me.

woman speaking on a stage
Nelson speaking at WeddingMBA.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Nelson

I spoke and exhibited at WeddingMBA, which catapulted my brand recognition.

I don't allow my work to be done by other people. I see this as a positive work-life balance because I enjoy doing the work and not managing others.

I set boundaries with my clients and partners. My partner and I sometimes work alone. Communication courses and individual therapy have strengthened our relationship. It's important to understand each other's needs and boundaries in order to have a good working relationship.

I work with clients all over the world, and I don't work with my competitors. I'm loyal to my client when they hire me. I've always had a client. I try to make my clients more money so that they can improve their work life balance.