When marketing guru Ali Brown decided she wanted to run her own business, she was flat broke.
Now she's got millions in the bank and posse of loyal followers, with budding entrepreneurs handing her fees of up to $65,200 ($US50,000) to teach them how to do the same, news.com.au reported.
"When I got out of college I was going through many jobs in a short space of time and I thought something was wrong with me because I always felt lesser," the US-based Brown told news.com.au ahead of her upcoming talk at the Director Institute in Sydney.
"Then I learned that I could do the same thing that I was doing in a job, but working for myself."
Having worked as a copywriter, she decided to go freelance, but was in for a rude awakening.
"I didn't know anything about business, or marketing, or money, the things that you need in order to get a business off the ground," she said.
But it was the late 1990s and internet marketing was about to take off. Through trial and error, Ms Brown taught herself how to get clients and build a profitable online business, eventually stunning her parents - who "didn't really understand what I did for work" - by becoming a millionaire at age 35.
That was 10 years ago and Ms Brown's net worth now dwarfs that sum, but she had to push through some tough times to get there.
There was a moment, about six months into her freelance life, when she almost gave up.
THE POINT OF NO RETURN
"One night I went to the ATM and I couldn't even take out a $20 note," Ms Brown recalled.
"I was meeting some friends for drinks, and my balance was $18.56. I had to call them and cancel and go home."
She'd maxed out her credit cards, pouring every last dollar into trying to build her business.
"I remember thinking at that moment: 'This is where everyone else stops. I'm not going to stop. I'm going to figure this out, I may not have dinner tonight, but I'm going to figure this out'."
And figure it out she did.
The next day, she put on her "one good suit" and fronted up at the networking event she'd organised to attend, putting one foot in front of the other.
Before too long she had a thriving copywriting business, and other budding entrepreneurs started to seek her advice.
Ms Brown started sharing what she knew about how to find customers online in a newsletter, blog and eventually online courses and one-on-one coaching, which are now the focus of her business.
Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurial women across the globe follow her social media accounts, looking for tips to accelerate their earnings.
For those willing to fork out her daily consultation fee of $US15,000 or her VIP Strategy Package - priced at A$65,200 ($US50,000) - she promises big results.
Ms Brown's website is filled with testimonials of devotees who say they have pushed their turnover past the $1 million point, using her strategies.
A LUCRATIVE NICHE
Sydney entrepreneur Chantelle Bruinsma Duffield, who built a successful performing arts business at the age of 19, now runs an online training program for dance, music and acting studio owners looking to boost their enrolments.
She's one of a growing number of women making a living on the internet, many of them in seemingly obscure niche markets that are more lucrative than you might think.
Remember Kayla Itsines, the personal trainer whose online "bikini body" programme propelled her onto the BRW rich list, with a net worth of $46 million? Well, she's not the only one making a living through targeted online marketing.
Ms Duffield started with just six clients when she launched her program three years ago, and now has thousands of studio owners enrolled from around the world.
She signed up for Ms Brown's one-year coaching program - yep, the one that costs as a bomb - last year, and doubled her income within months.
While she charges a five-figure fee for one-on-one coaching, her Studio Expansion signature program costs $1000, so Ms Duffield just needed to scale up her enrolments.
"What Ali's given me is a road map of how to create greater influence and to really step up to leadership," she said.
"One of the biggest changes was hiring a team, because I started out doing everything myself."
Now Ms Duffield has seven employees, freeing her up to focus on strategy - and developing industry connections to broaden her reach, such as consulting on dance curriculums and studio software management systems.
Her greatest satisfaction comes from helping stressed and overwhelmed studio owners attract more students and free up their time.
"The trend I see so often is they're actually burnt out," Ms Duffield said.
"They're teaching 25 hours a week, trying to keep up with paperwork and put dinner on the table."
Often former dancers without any business training, she said, many just needed to be taught the systems to put in place to take off the pressure.
"We put them back in touch with their passion, because when you're burnt out you don't have any creativity to bring the to business," she said.
"They're just such beautiful women to be able to help, and that for me is the greatest joy."