As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Golden. Lauren is the fearless leader of The Free Mama Movement and a thriving community of tens of thousands of women who don’t want to choose between family and financial stability. Her mission is simple: Lauren wants to ensure that no mother ever has to sacrifice time with her babies in order to provide for them. Lauren is also a 2 Comma Club Award winner and a #1 International Bestselling Author. In her book, The Free Mama: How to Work from Home, Control your Schedule and Make More Money, she shares her own story — along with plenty of practical advice for anyone looking to leave the 9–5 behind and make a real living from home.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iam a wife and a mom of three, marketing nerd and iced coffee enthusiast (half sweetened with soy milk). I am also the founder of The Free Mama Movement where I help mamas work from home on their own terms and live a totally awesome, guilt-free life. You see, I’m on a mission to make sure no mother has to choose between family and financial stability.
So, how the heck did I get here?
About five years ago, I looked around and realized I was working a decent paying job that I didn’t love while my two babies were in daycare and my husband was off building a business. I wasn’t showing up as the mom I wanted to be after working my full-time job, then tackling a brutal commute and housework. I wasn’t showing up as the wife I wanted to be, partially because I resented my husband for getting to pursue his dreams and also because I was so, so tired. But it wasn’t until after I suffered a miscarriage a year later that I had the courage to do something about it.
It sounds a little woo-woo, but I heard a voice in my head that asked me what the heck I was waiting for. And at that moment, I knew I was ready to live life on my own terms. Actually, do it, not just talk about it. I quit my job 1 week later and have never looked back.
I spent two years creating a very successful freelancing business from home. I learned a lot of lessons about self-employment the hard way — like the importance of contracts, pricing, and crystal clear communication around expectations and boundaries. I was quickly making more than I had been at my previous job. Plus, I was working fewer hours, and on my own timeline. At the risk of sounding cheesy — I knew I was onto something and that if I could do it, other people could do it, too.
In 2017, I launched The Free Mama Movement, a thriving community of tens of thousands of women who don’t want to sacrifice time with their babies in order to provide for them. I’ve taught hundreds of mamas on how to build a freelancing business from home with my online courses and group coaching programs. Last year, I achieved a lifetime goal of becoming a #1 international bestselling author, and this year I received the Two Comma Club Award for surpassing one million dollars in revenue.
It hasn’t been a straight and narrow journey, but it has been a quick ride to make a lasting impact and I’m so incredibly proud of what I have built with the support of my husband, my business coach and my team (4 of whom are former students of mine!). And if I’m honest, we’re just getting started.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
There are external challenges — like the time my Facebook ads account was disabled for a month and it felt like the world was ending. Of course, it was not, and it gave me the opportunity to diversify my traffic sources for my business, something I wasn’t previously doing very well. These external challenges are tough, but they happen and are often completely outside of our control. Instead of letting them break you down, try to figure out the lesson and keep moving.
But the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my business have been internal …what we like to call “mindset”. I am a recovering people-pleaser and as a result I made poor decisions with regards to hiring, product development and even pricing. I’ve struggled with wanting to help out friends or “save” a struggling student. This never ends well. In fact, it ends with me having to fire people or lose a lot of time and money. I’ve learned that I cannot help everyone in my business, nor is it my responsibility. By focusing on those who are willing to show up, pay for my services, and do the work, I’m able to be more in alignment with my mission, in flow with my work, and ultimately have a bigger impact.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
There have certainly been days where I wonder if it’s all been luck. Right time, right place kind of feeling. The truth is, I worked hard and intentionally to build this business. If I had to humble brag, here’s why it worked for me:
Focus. Discipline. A willingness to fail forward. A solid, proven idea in a hungry market. The ability to get out of my own way. Tech and marketing savvy. A brilliant mentor. Not being afraid to spend money to make money. A genuine love for my audience. Testing and tweaking. An “above and beyond” attitude towards my clients. Belief.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Model someone who has done it before. For years I was discouraged from starting a business because I thought I had to have something totally unique — a Shark Tank idea. Those are great, but in the business world they are also rare. Stop reinventing the wheel. You’re making it harder on yourself. Buy a program, get a course. Do something to speed up your results. Then be different — better — than everyone else out there.
2. Your business is only as strong as your mindset. The bigger my company grew — team, revenue, following — the more responsibility I acquired as a result. I’ve had to evolve as a result, which means that things like self-care, exercise, personal and professional development have become top priorities. My business can only continue to expand if I do. I learned that who I am is what got me to where I am today, but to get to the next level I have to change and grow and improve. This doesn’t happen by accident.
3. Money won’t bring fulfillment. Two weeks after my very first 5-figure month I had a five-figure week. A few months later I had a 5-figure day. The cool thing about challenging yourself and achieving goals is that you start to believe anything is possible. But there’s another shift too — money becomes less and less meaningful. A lot of entrepreneurs start a business because they want to make more money and make more impact — make sure you’re feeding the second one first. Find what fulfills you so that when you hit your financial goals you still find purpose in your business.
4. Entrepreneurship is lonely. Entrepreneurship is a bit like a pyramid — wide at the base and narrow at the top, meaning the higher you climb the fewer people you’ll find around you. I remember when I made my first million dollars in sales — I only told a few people. These aren’t accomplishments you share with just anyone, because it feels uncomfortable, like bragging. But it’s important to have people rally behind you — you worked hard to achieve this level of success! Being a part of masterminds and investing in coaching and networking intentionally will provide you with the support you’ll need to continue to develop as a leader.
5. Keep it simple. More isn’t always more. In business, less is more. Keep things simple. Don’t build for the sake of building, or, in my case, boredom. Focus on dominating one thing at a time and practice marketing stamina with that one thing. A lot of stress is self-induced. Keep it simple.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Stop trying to do everything. Outsource to buy back your time. There will always be more work to do — always. Once you value your time more than money, your entire business — and life — will transform.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Hiring my business coach is the scariest decision I’ve ever made. And it changed my life.
I invested the money I didn’t have (read: credit card) to work with Liz Benny, because I knew in my gut that she would be the person to help me create an online business that helped tens of thousands of women. Since then, I’ve been a part of two other coaching programs and here’s what worked well for me:
First, hire someone who has already achieved the goal in front of you. This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of people out there who are coaches or mentors and they may know a lot of great strategies and have wonderful advice, but there is something special about walking the walk. Liz is the real deal, and her brilliance made me more brilliant.
Second, make sure they’re “your person” on a personal level. This is a chemistry thing. Do they understand how you tick? Would you want to be friends with this person? Make sure they get you well enough so they know when to push you, when to let up and when to cheer you on. After about 6 months of working with Liz, I knew she’d be in my life forever. She’s become one of my most treasured friends even though she lives halfway around the world.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
In the last few years we grew so quickly. I hit so many goals that — if I’m honest — I didn’t really know if I’d achieve in my lifetime! From paying off over one hundred thousand dollars in debt, to writing a bestselling book, to helping over 1,000 students, to hitting the million dollar revenue mark. I certainly have some (totally arbitrary) financial goals, but I’m more concerned about what those financial goals will represent — the number of people impacted by the work my team and I put out there in the world. Right now I’m focused on making sure I’m in alignment with my own brand — yes, building something profitable I’m proud of, but not without putting my family front and center. Our number one goal at the moment is living the nomadic life and traveling around the country together in an RV this summer. We hope to show our kiddos a few things they cannot learn in a classroom. I’m sure I’ll learn a few things along the way, as well.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
My mission is to make sure every mother knows that she doesn’t have to choose between family and financial stability. I want women to know that if they don’t like the options in front of them, they are capable and worthy of blazing their own path to a totally awesome, guilt-free life. I laid it all out in my first bestselling book, The Free Mama: How to Work From Home, Control Your Schedule and Make More Money. There is so much more I hope to give back, but this book — and my 3 beautiful children — are certainly a good start!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I’m humbled to be living it! The Free Mama Movement teaches women how to have a life many have only dreamed about: one where they can make good money AND be there for their families — without sacrificing one for the other and without the guilt. Our action-taking tips, unparalleled support and motivation have inspired a community of tens of thousands of Free Mamas to become more confident and fulfilled.
How can our readers follow you on social media?