Are you selling 1-1 services to clients and want to grow and scale your business? You’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’re going to give you the roadmap from trading hours for dollars to scaling your income beyond your time.

But first, there’s an important distinction we need to clarify and that is…

The difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur

We think Seth Godin defines it best:

“A freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. She charges by the hour or perhaps by the project. Freelancers write, design, consult, advise, do taxes, and hang wallpaper. Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.”

Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.”

Which one are you? Which do you want to be? Maybe it’s not clear?

The reality is, that “entrepreneur vs. freelancer” is not an entirely black and white thing. You can be one, or the other, or something in between…

  • Some freelancers aspire to evolve into entrepreneurs 
  • Others want to reach higher (paid) levels of freelancing

Seth Godin describes himself as a “freelancer” despite being a top marketing authority and author of countless books everyone in his niche can quote by heart because he still “does the work.” 

The goal for an entrepreneur, on the other hand, is to no longer “do the work.” (That’s not for everyone and that’s… ok!)

For example, we know many service providers who find immense pleasure “in the doing” and have no desire to stop doing those things – but that does NOT mean you can’t scale your business.

We actually consider ourselves hybrids — something in between. We love helping people 1-1 and rolling up our sleeves and doing the work, but we also make money while we sleep. ?

(What can we call people like us?  Maybe Freelancepreneurs?

This is the journey from serving 1-1 to 1-many

Whether you aspire to be an entrepreneur or simply to add passive revenue streams to your “done for you” services in order to scale, there are four distinct stages self-employed business owners must go through. 

In each, there are common characteristics, problems, objectives, and opportunities. What you need to focus on to level up to the next phase will depend on which stage you’re in. 

Let’s dive in so you can see where you’re at and how to move forward… 

Stage 1: Explore

In the explore stage, you’re transitioning from conventional employment to working for yourself. Or maybe you’re right out of school and the thought of working for “the man” isn’t an option, so you set out on your own and look for clients rather than a job.

(Just a pause here to say HECK-YEAH-RIGHT-ON-YAY!)

You have marketable skills and expertise and you view self-employment as the path to living life on your own terms.


At the explore stage, your first order of business is to get clients — any clients — who need your skills.


Your first move will be to tap into your personal network and tell everybody about what you do. You also might use a freelance marketplace (e.g. Upwork) or job boards to get gigs.

Once you book your first clients, if you do a great job for them, they’ll tell other people about their experience and you’ll start getting client referrals. 

You’ll start building a portfolio, testimonials, and case studies and that will lead to more work.

But, you’re not in full control of who you attract and you don’t always feel 100% confident you know where your next client is going to come from. Because of that, you say yes to most of the opportunities that come your way.

You probably have some basic marketing assets — social media accounts, a website or portfolio, business cards, etc. But you don’t have much time or energy to do all that much with them. Mostly they exist so you can look profesh and so people have a way to find and get in touch with you.

You spend very little time doing marketing tasks and as much time as you can doing billable work.


At this stage, you may not have strong client boundaries and instead, are focused on making them happy (so you can get referrals). 

You’re likely learning lessons about all the ways clients can test your boundaries and struggling with things like scope creep, texts and phone calls on the weekends, and not getting feedback or payment on time.

You probably commiserate about crappy clients with your colleagues.


If you are capable of doing it and somebody is willing to pay you for it, you are putting it on the menu and saying yes. You likely have a laundry list of services and deliverables on your services page. You create custom project quotes for each client or you bill by the hour for tasks you do for them. 

Leveling Up from Stage 1 to Stage 2

Get clear about your zone of genius

Start thinking about the work that really gets you into a state of flow. When you’re making money and feeling fulfilled in whatever it is you’re doing — when time seems to fly by — what are you doing exactly? 

This is what we call “the work you’re meant to be doing.” 

Get better at describing your expertise

Think about ways you can be more specific in the way you talk about what it is that you do.

Take a look at your marketing messages and think about the words you use to describe your work with people you meet — then make sure you’re communicating in clear language the type of work you want people to come to you for. 

If you can’t describe it in the time it would take you to travel between floors on an elevator, they’re not going to remember it and come to you when they need it…. so work on that.

Get clear about your ideal client

Think about the clients you enjoy working with most. What are their common characteristics? What about them makes the working relationship satisfying? Then, think about how you can get in front of MORE of these people.

Set boundaries and enforce them, this is important

In order to be efficient and profitable with what you’re doing, “people-pleasing,” “going above and beyond,” and “letting things slide” are not good ways to go about things.

Create good contracts, keep track of what you’re spending your time on and create some rules around that time, and don’t be afraid to say “no” when something doesn’t serve you.

And most importantly: Make time for marketing and market your business with consistency. If you are not planting seeds and building awareness and trust, you’ll never be able to pick and choose who you work with and the type of projects you take on.

Choose a content type: written, audio, video, or visual (whichever plays to your strengths and comes easiest for you) and create as much as you can.

Then, choose a social media platform and share that content consistently. (Check out our Content Calendar System which will help you do that in a fraction of the time)

If you’ve not been consistent with marketing, this is going to feel like a distraction from your billable work — but in order to level up, you need to start putting your own business first on your priority list.

Grab this free download to have tons of ideas you can take action on. ?

Stage 2: Master

You’ve been at it a while and you feel pretty confident this self-employment thing is gonna work out for you. (Hurrah!) You’ve learned some lessons and you’re starting to think about which direction you want to take things.


You’ve had some experience working with lots of different types of clients and you’re beginning to notice patterns — some of your clients light you up and work feels effortless and others are a pain in the arse and more trouble than they’re worth.

You’re at the stage where you’re starting to get clear about who your IDEAL client is and who you DON’T want to work with. You start recognizing red flags and run the other way when you spot a “bad apple client.”

You may find that you’re most happy working with people from a particular vertical and you start to network with people from specific industries.


Because you’re getting clearer about who your ideal client is and the type of work you want to do for them, you become more focused with your marketing messages.

You’re creating content designed to attract a specific type of customer and showing up on social media consistently. You also take steps to make sure your content is discoverable in search — whether that means Google, YouTube, Itunes, or Pinterest.


You are beginning to understand that establishing and enforcing boundaries is a huge aspect of doing client work.

You have processes in place, you’ve established policies, and you work with contracts always.

You have a system for vetting clients — you know what questions to ask and what to look for before saying yes to the work.


Because you’re getting clearer about the work you want to do and who you want to do it for, you begin creating packages that describe this work. Your bulleted list of capabilities is replaced with more specific offerings.

The way you speak about your work starts moving beyond “WHAT” you do and starts focusing on “HOW” you do it — the benefits of your offers and the special sauce you bring to the table. You create a unique value proposition.

Leveling Up from Stage 2 to Stage 3:

A lot of freelancers make a respectable living in stage 2 – in fact, you might coast here for quite a long time before even thinking about making a change. 

Just a word of advice about that: it’s easy to get stuck in the “it ain’t broke, so why fix it?” trap. 

Remember things can EASILY change out there — your competition can change, your marketing platform algorithms can change, and you may find yourself in a situation where what always worked before doesn’t work anymore. 

Make marketing a priority.

Even if you’re so busy you think you don’t need marketing.

Create a clear vision for your future

This is a stage where burnout can easily creep up on you. You get busy reacting to what’s in front of you and get stuck on the feast or famine roller coaster.

If you’re not steering your business ship toward work that fulfills you, you may wake up one day and your exciting self-employment adventure feels more like a job you’d rather avoid.

If you feel BLAH, uninspired, exhausted, or you’re questioning what the heck you’re even doing, this is just a signal that it’s time to level up and everyone goes through it.

You may invest in courses and books and coaches to try to find your way forward and get unstuck — and while all of these things are good, and can even help you get the clarity you need, ultimately it will be up to YOU to take the leap.

What we’ve found is that people get STUCK trying to find answers outside themselves rather than having a good, honest gut check and accepting what’s not working and creating a clear vision for the future. We’ve seen people circle around themselves for YEARS

Get outside your comfort zone

Moving past your stuck points at this stage requires doing some serious mindset work and getting comfortable with going outside your comfort zone.

Think about the things you need to let go — whether tasks (yes, it’s time for you to hire a VA), clients, service offerings, or something else. We all do things that aren’t serving us anymore (it’s a moving target!), and leveling up is as much about recognizing that as adding new strategies and tactics to the mix.

Most of all, work on feeling confident in your highest value — really get to the bottom of what that is, and when you do, OWN IT.

Stage 3: Expert

This is one of the most EXCITING stages of being self-employed. 

When you’re ready to move past being an order taker and doing anything you’re capable of doing for any-ol’-body and start designing service offerings that attract the right people to you to do the right work, you’re in the EXPERT stage.

You are focused on getting to the bottom of where your HIGHEST value is so you can create offerings that will reward you personally and financially.

You begin to design your marketing, offers, and messaging around your ONE THING: that one thing you want to get famous for. And people start coming to YOU because for them, there can be no substitute — it has to be you.

This means you are finally operating in your zone of genius which means you’re fulfilled in your work and able to command more money in less time.


You are VERY specific about your target customer and you know everything about them. You know what keeps them up at night, you know what they desire, and you know what they need.

When you create marketing messages, you speak directly to them — you speak to their pains, obstacles, struggles and you talk about the transformation they want too… and you’re the one to help them get it.


Your marketing gets more focused and you’re connecting the dots between your content and sales.

You create a system to attract clients on autopilot, and they come to you because you have the solution they need and you’ve been building trust at every step of their journey.

You’re creating sales funnels that guide people to your offer using conversion tools like webinars, email sequences, and free courses.

You feel confident you know your client pipeline will always be full and marketing becomes soooo much easier because you’re focusing on your strengths, the people you want to attract, and the offers you’re guiding people to.

The content you create revolves around establishing your expertise and building authority: you might write a book, host a podcast, write guest articles in high-profile publications, run webinars, and/or give speeches.

You move beyond social media and focus hard on building your email list because you know this is where trust and sales are won.


You narrow down your service offerings so you’re exclusively operating in your zone of genius and switch from hourly to fixed/value pricing. You create systems and processes so you’re becoming more expert and more profitable the more you do this work.

No recreating the wheel with each and every client and no spending time doing custom proposals or doing the long, drawn-out sales process of back and forth emails and free discovery calls. You have a bullseye offer and people come to you for it.

You stop trading dollars for tasks and start selling solutions and pricing those solutions based on their value, not time spent.

At this stage, you may create a product (digital course, book, etc.) to not only attract high-ticket clients as a low-risk way to take the first steps with you but to make passive income.

You may reinvest that additional revenue in larger-scale marketing campaigns or growing your team — you’re thinking like an entrepreneur now and foregoing short-term gains in order to scale.


At the EXPERT stage, your business is your #1 client. You know that every minute you spend serving clients 1-1 that you are not being compensated for is an opportunity cost for your business… so you stop giving things away for free.

You spend that time instead on tasks that help you grow, scale, and create consistency such as improving your processes, training your team, and creating marketing systems that keep you moving toward making more money in less time.

You’ve got crystal clear boundaries in place and you know how to enforce them. You feel empowered to say NO. A lot. And you do.

And once you get a taste of being more in control of your business? You might not want to stop there… ?

Leveling Up from Stage 3 to Stage 4

In order to transition from serving clients 1-1 to scaling your business by creating 1-many services and digital courses and products, it’s imperative that you become very protective of your time — you will need it so you can devote a large percentage of your time to marketing and product development.

Grab our free Value Ladder Planner to help you rock the Expert stage!

Stage 4: Scale (Entrepreneur) 

At the SCALE stage, you’re ready to stop trading hours for dollars and move from serving 1-1 to 1-many. If you do continue 1-1 work, you now charge much more for less time spent

You’re focused on creating systems to become more efficient and profitable, and you’re pivoting to selling more 1-many programs and/or digital courses and products. 


Your target customer MAY shift here, and you’ll likely need a strategy for reaching more than one audience.

You’ll find that a client who wants a done-for-you or done-with-you service and is willing to pay a premium price is not the same customer who’ll sign up for a course or group program so they can learn how to do it themselves. 

At the scale stage, you’ll need to recalibrate your thinking about your target audience and marketing strategies to reach more people.


By now you’ve fully embraced the fact that strategic marketing is where you must put a large % of your time and attention in order to scale. 

Your focus moves toward paid traffic, product and/or service launches, and setting up evergreen funnels. Your focus is on authority-building (getting famous for your one thing ramps up) and building your audience and visibility online and of course, your email list.

By this stage, you’ve got a pretty great marketing machine already in place, but you’ve got some gaps you need to fill and you’ll actively seek out programs or experts to help. 

You’ll focus heavily on watching your numbers and optimizing every step of your funnel to maximize conversions and margins. 


You’re continuing to improve your process for delivering your services and packing them with loads of value so you’re able to charge more in less time. 

Because you’ve created systems around delivering these services, you’re ready to train others to implement (or at least help).

You’re making the kind of choices that free you up in order to keep the business moving forward. 

At this stage, that means much of your time is spent creating and/or launching digital products or hosting 1-many programs and automating the sales process around those offerings. 


At this stage, your business is your #1 best client and you’ll streamline customer service. 

You’ll create policies for things like how you’ll handle refunds, complaints, or questions and outsource those tasks to your team. You’ll have onboarding and offboarding processes in place, and every step of your client’s journey will be predictable and as much as possible, automated. 

Even if your goal is to stay a one-person business or keep your consultancy small, you’ll know when a task is better outsourced and where your time is most valuably spent.

Once you have a system to scale, the sky’s the limit!

So, where are you in the entrepreneur journey? 

Freelancing, self-employment, entrepreneurship — whichever word feels right for you — is a journey. If you’ve spent time comparing YOUR journey to someone else’s, we hope this has helped you realize that evolving from one stage to the next is a process and it’s okay to be where you are.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there! Don’t try to leapfrog — take a look at what needs your attention TODAY and make one change at a time. You got this!


Have you wondered how your colleagues are able to find clients with a snap of a finger the minute they have a gap in their schedule? If so, you’ve probably wondered how you can do it too…

It turns out there’s no real mystery to it, it just takes having the right strategies at your fingertips for those “gulp… I have no work lined up! Now what?!” moments.

Before we get into our favorite ways to get clients in the door pronto, it’s important to resist the temptation to start a blog, set up a sales funnel, grow your Twitter following or your email list, or optimize (fiddle with) your website…

Don’t get us wrong, we teach all those things for a reason – they’re all part of setting up a client attraction system and to create leverage in your schedule and income consistency in the long run… but they don’t work like a magic bullet.

Realistically there’ll be times when you just need to get work lined up, like, yesterday… so for the times you need to find clients fast, you need a short game too. 

Read on to discover five free and easy ways we’ve used to find clients fast… 

1. Tap into your personal network

This is the lowest hanging fruit but don’t underestimate its power. Your friends, family, and colleagues want to support you, so make sure they understand what you do and the types of clients you’re looking to attract.

Reach out to them and give them your elevator pitch! Tell them you’re looking for clients and you need their help (you would be surprised how helpful people can be when you just ask).

Then – and don’t skip this important step! — ask them to take a specific action. 

For example:

  • “Do you know of any [description of your ideal customer] who [has the problem you solve]? I’d really appreciate an introduction!”
  • “Would you be willing to share my website link on social media and ask your followers to contact me if they [have the problem you solve]?”

2. Put your “connectors” to work

Reach out to your “connectors” and get them on a 1-1 call or invite them to coffee or lunch.

Who are the “connectors” in your life? You know the ones: they’re always in charge of organizing events and parties and spend their time at those events introducing people to one another. They love creating connections.

They’re also people who are very well connected themselves: they know everybody. Reach out to them, give them your elevator pitch, and tell them you’re on the hunt for clients.

Again, ask them for help and don’t feel shy about that because this is what they live for. Their brains will start spinning with ideas about who they can connect you with.

If you’re in close proximity, invite them out for lunch. I can’t tell you how many clients I landed in the early days of my business by just inviting my connector-pals out to lunch and buying them a sandwich.

3. Find your industry allies

Reach out to people who work in complementary fields who also work with your target customer.

One of the fastest ways to get your dream clients in your pipeline is by forming a referral network of allies you can collaborate with or with whom you can refer clients back and forth.

As a designer just starting out, I also bought a lot of sandwiches for developers, copywriters, marketers and public relations professionals. This led to quite a lot of referrals and collaborations too.

When I moved abroad, I used Zoom to schedule “let’s get to know one another” meetings. People who don’t know you well may not trust you with a client referral, but getting on a video chat is a great way to form a real human connection and establish trust.

If you feel shy about this, approach it in the spirit of service. You’re helping their business by getting to know them so you can refer your clients to them too.

People are generally very open to these types of pitches and bonus – you might just make a new friend.

4. Share the results of your work

Share the results of your work on social media. You can also ask your clients to share the story with their followers too.

Don’t be afraid to shamelessly self promote and brag and boast when you get results for your clients! When people see real-life examples of the outcomes you create for others, that’s one of the best ways for people to instantly “get” your WHAT you do and WHO you do it for. 

5. Get in front of someone else’s audience

Before you have a large audience of your own, look for ways to get in front of audiences that are already established. Identify influencers your target customer is likely to follow and offer to write a guest blog post, be a guest on their podcast, or do a joint webinar.

If you don’t have a Facebook group of your own, find ones where your dream customers are likely to be and introduce yourself (again, elevator pitch) and be helpful. Answer questions and point people to resources you’ve created and let them know you’re available to help them further if they want to DM you for more details. 

Even if they don’t, keep in mind that lots of people in these communities are just “lurking” and may want to learn more about your services when they see you have expertise in an area they need help with. That means make sure your profile is optimized to make it easy for people to find you. 

We hope you found this helpful! If we missed something or you have other ways to find clients fast that work for you, let’s help each other in the comments!


If I were to ask you, “What do your customers need?” could you answer quickly and clearly? Identifying customer needs is crucial if you want to create offers they’ll gobble up–because if you’re not selling something your customers need, good luck getting them to buy it.

This is where a lot of business advice goes wrong: it’s not enough to figure out what you love doing and what you’re great at and then telling people you sell it.

Having a dream of finding your true passion and then hoping and praying there’s a market for it is not the same thing as having a business strategy that will reward you both personally and financially.

Yes, you must figure out your unique strengths in the market and play to those strengths, but you must also create offers that customers need.

Where it gets tricky: the way you’re thinking about it is most likely not the way they’re thinking about it.

If your marketing messages are not designed to join the conversation that’s already going on in their minds, they won’t listen.

You’re intimate with the things you know will benefit your clients the most, but if they don’t already know they need it, they won’t recognize your solutions as something that’s for them.

So how do you figure out what your clients need? Let’s start with the basics:

Getting To The Bottom Of What Your Clients Need

What every client needs and wants

When I was in college I studied communications, and in just about every class, we were presented with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. I memorized it, but it took me a long time to figure out why it’s relevant in my work.

If you’ve never seen it, or you need a refresher, it goes like this:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

What this theory aims to teach us is that human beings all have the same needs, wants, and desires. It starts with basic needs―like, if you don’t have a roof over your head and you’re starving, you need to satisfy those needs before you can start worrying about finding true love or winning awards at work.

At the top of the pyramid are the things we should help our clients get. People want to be seen, understood, valued, respected, and to find a way to become the best version of themselves.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a life coach, a designer, a copywriter, a blogger, or a virtual assistant … what they buy from you is part of their master plan to get what they need, and those needs are basic to all humans.

Understand what that means for your clients and help them get there.

Ask Better Questions to Determine Customer Needs

It all starts with asking better questions than “What do you want?” and “When do you need it?” These are questions an order-taker asks, not a go-to expert.

Instead, ask probing questions that will help you understand where they’re coming from. They all have obstacles standing in their way of climbing up Maslow’s pyramid, what are those things?

  • “What change (in life/business) do you hope to see?”
  • “Looking back a year from now, how will you know our work together was successful?”
  • “What is the future you want, and what’s standing in your way of getting there?”
  • Then listen, really listen.

Over time, as you come to understand your clients better, you’ll start to recognize patterns: common fears and common expectations. By listening and learning from your client, you can improve your process and the outcome you promise them in your marketing messages.

Always Be Looking for Clues to Reveal Your Client’s Hidden Needs & Desired Outcomes

Clients will tell you what they really (really, really) need, but usually not directly. So always be on the lookout for the language your target customers use when describing their problems.

I recommend keeping a document where you can store questions, turns of phrases, and descriptions of their frustrations.

Here are some of my favorite ways to find customer insights into their problems:

  • Join Facebook Groups that include members of your target market and pay close attention to their questions, complaints, and frustrations
  • When you’re on an initial sales call or consultation, record the session (I recommend Zoom) and play it back so you can really listen
  • Initial emails with new clients will provide you with a treasure trove of words and phrases that describe how they’re thinking about their problems
  • Look at online forums, blogs in your niche, comments on your competitors’ social media accounts to see how your target clients are describing things

Create a Bullseye Offer That Meets Your Clients’ Deeper Needs

Once you uncover how your clients are thinking about their problems, you can create offers that will help achieve the outcome, result, or transformation they desire.

A bullseye offer, or a signature offer, is one that plays to your strengths, offers clients something they already know they need, and is something they’re willing to pay enough money for that you can meet your income goals.

Solve root problems

Customers are very good at describing external problems, but a stronger brand message is one that speaks to deeper internal problems.

Say you’re a health coach, clients may come to you and say something like “I need to lose weight and get in shape” but when you uncover the deeper reasons why, you discover they lack confidence in social situations and feel left out when their friends participate in athletic activities.

In this scenario, which marketing claim aims for the top of Maslow’s chart?

“I can help you lose weight and get fit” or “Show up to your life with more confidence, strength, and energy.”

I don’t know about you, but the idea of losing weight and getting in shape sounds hard, but I’ll raise my hand to have more confidence, strength, and energy all day long. Make sense?

Sell The Transformation

When you can do that, the people interested in the transformation you can help them get will come to you. People will be loyal to you because you helped them get the outcome they’re after―you’re not interchangeable with every other service provider offering a solution to the surface-level problem.

Move beyond being an order taker by asking better questions, discovering what your clients really need, and then sell them the outcome they want.

Recommended next step: The Brand Story Blueprint will help you get crystal clear about your customers’ needs and the story they need to hear from you. Investing in mastering your message is the most important thing you can do to build your brand as a go-to expert that meets the needs of its customers.


One of the most frustrating aspects of running a creative or consulting business is the amount of time wasted writing custom proposals.

If you’re offering any kind of client service that starts with “How much would it cost to____?” and your answer doesn’t come instantly, you know exactly what I mean…

Hours and hours spent doing a dog & pony show for anyone who requests a quote only to be ghosted… ouch.

In this post, I’m going to share my secret for getting off that hamster wheel with a lead service instead.

But first, tell me if this sounds familiar…

The Problem with Responding to RFPs & Creating Custom Proposals

For years I squandered my most valuable business asset (my time) jumping through hoops trying to convince people to hire me…

Only to find out that all they really wanted was to “get a sense” of how much they should expect to spend if they decide to go forward with their plans.

I call these people “tire kickers” which sounds like an insult, but consumers should be able to kick tires before they buy.

The problem is in the process: when there’s a variable scope of work, there’s no quick and easy way to quote a price.

And then there were the Requests for Proposals (RFPs)… ooof.

It took me a while to figure out that some of the more challenging RFPs were written by people who didn’t know how to go about it, so “played it safe” by copying and pasting from big corporate or governmental RFPs.

The result is RFPs that are overly complex and demanding to respond to, taking exponentially more time than necessary with no guarantee of work.

Some were rigged against me from the start, which I realized when a big nonprofit organization wanted to hire me for a gig but they were required “go through the motions” and issue a public RFP…

All the other poor suckers didn’t have a chance, and that rang a big huge bell for me.

One particularly excruciating experience was a proposal process with a “big fish” client that lasted for an entire year:

  • Back and forth emails
  • Phone calls
  • Project research
  • Soliciting quotes and recommendations from subcontractors
  • Schmoozy lunch meetings
  • A proposal that took me a week to write

To make matters worse, all that work I put into courting them informed an RFP they issued at the 11th hour, despite months of assurance it was “in the bag” for me.

In the end, I “came in a very close second place” to a larger firm and lost the gig (which was the equivalent of an annual salary).

I was done.

The opportunity cost of investing all of that time to benefit someone else’s business rather than my own was a game of chance more costly than I could afford.

I knew there had to be a better way go to about this and that’s when everything about my business took a huge pivot for the better.

It was then that I decided to create a “lead service”… one that would allow me to get compensated for all the value that’s provided during the initial steps of the process of any project.

What is a Lead Service?

A lead service is one that allows you to monetize the discovery process while providing standalone value to your clients. It discourages tire kickers from picking your brain for free and frees up your time so you can invest it in your own business rather than someone else’s.

A lead offer (1-1 service) is part of a larger value ladder — which is simply a series of offers that increase and price and value. The lead offer is the step that comes right before your more premium offers, whether those are value-based, fixed packages or custom engagements.

The Benefits of a Lead Service

1. Helps Establish Clear Client Boundaries

Of all the steps of the value ladder, the lead offer is my favorite and I think that’s because I sometimes have a hard time setting and enforcing boundaries with clients.

I’ve always struggled with responding to people who ask me to meet with them to “pick my brain” … I want to help! ?

Honestly, if I could just help people all day long without having to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills I’d happily give value away for free all day every day.

But that’s not the world we live in and it’s no way to run a business. #truthbomb

If I’m spending my time (my “product”) on behalf of a potential client and helping them solve business problems, I deserve to be compensated.

So do you.

My lead service was the first steps of working with me packaged up with a fixed price and scope of work.

That means I can quickly move the conversation from “Can I pick your brain?” to “Absolutely! I have the perfect thing for that — here’s more information about [insert service name here]. Let me know if you’d like to move forward and I’ll send over next steps.”

No more…

  • Awkward conversations and feeling like I’m being put on the spot…
  • Feeling resentful about people expecting me to invest my time for free…
  • Worrying about whether all that time will even lead to a paying gig…

Just a simple back and forth and it’s all prepared in advance.

They either see the value and say “let’s do this!” or they don’t… either way, there’s no more risk of time spent without compensation.

2. Creates a Better Client Experience

We go into this in more detail in The Bullseye Offer Formula, but here’s the thing: good clients want you to lead them through your process. They appreciate that you’re prepared and have the steps for “how it works to work with you” all laid out in advance.

It may feel a bit ungenerous at first if you’re used to doing free consultations prior to signing up a client…

But it actually signals to your potential clients that you’re professional, you know what you’re doing, and you’re here to run a serious business. And that can only instill confidence that you can help them with theirs.

3. Attracts Higher Quality Clients to You

Bad apple clients who are only interested in “picking your brain” aren’t going to appreciate this and that’s okay. They can go kick someone else’s tires — you’ve got an empire to build.

Great clients expect you to charge what you’re worth, set boundaries around your time, and demonstrate you know your value.

4. Frees Up Your Time to Work on Your Business (Rather Than Just in It)

Rather than re-creating the wheel with each and every client, your time can be much better spent working on your business.

Take this email exchange between me and a client as an example of what I mean…

They were interested in hiring me to rebrand their online presence to prepare for a big upcoming launch. 61 emails were exchanged over a two-week time period and about a third of those were written by me.

Let’s break down the math…

Say those 20 emails took me 15 minutes each to write. That would have amounted to 5 hours of my time spent in the sales process.


This is something we normally chalk up to “the cost of doing business” but there’s usually a LOT more time slipping through the cracks than most business owners realize.

In order to recoup that cost, I’d have to build it into their costs and let’s face it, that’s not always so easy to do when you’re working with price-sensitive small businesses, especially if you have a lot of low-balling competitors.

But I didn’t spend five hours answering their questions. I had a lead service to offer them!

This cut the back and forth to a short conversation — I kept directing them to the lead service where I would address the advice and recommendations they were asking for.

This saved me five hours of my time in this one client conversation alone.

So think about…

  • How many of these back-and-forths do you have each month?
  • What is that costing you?
  • What percentage of those pre-sales conversations result in paid work?

In the end, this client didn’t hire me — they went with someone cheaper. And that’s perfectly okay, but what they didn’t get to do is take advantage of my brain stuff and pass along my expertise without paying for it.

I quickly got in and out of the discussion and spent my time doing things that benefited my business.

5. Helps You Scale Your Business Without Growing a Team

When you’re running a small service-based business, your most valuable business asset is your time. Unless you have a dedicated business development person on staff, recreating the wheel with custom proposals or responding to RFPs is likely going to be your biggest business expense.

Even though it’s not costing you in dollars, it’s costing you time.

By monetizing the sales process and charging for your discovery process with a lead service, you’ll immediately get cash flowing in when working with new clients.

The time you free up can then be invested in streamlining your processes (to make them more profitable!), adding passive streams of income (as part of your value ladder!), building a client attraction system (a.k.a. marketing), and even leveling up your skills so you can charge more.

Ground Rules for Creating A Lead Service

1. Free Advice Belongs in the First Rung of Your Value Ladder Only

I provide as much free value as I can in the form of blog posts, emails, tips I share on social media, free masterclasses, and so on. This is the first rung of your value ladder or the “top of funnel” content and it can include anything that allows you to serve 1-many rather than time spent 1-on-1.

  • Email newsletter
  • Podcast
  • YouTube videos
  • Social media posts
  • Blog posts
  • Webinars
  • Free courses
  • Lead magnets
  • Public speaking
  • etc.

Free value is how we market our businesses and establish our expertise, but it isn’t a very smart thing to give away to one person who may or may not ever reciprocate that value (in the form of payment for your time).

That means I no longer offer free consultations, respond to RFPs, or build custom proposals for clients and I invite them to take the first steps with me by purchasing a lead service instead.

But there’s a trick to this because they won’t see the value in paying you for discovery or consultations that your competitors probably do for free…

2. A Lead Offer Must Provide Standalone Value

It’s not enough just to start charging for something you’ve always offered for free in the past… you must describe it and package it so your potential clients will see the value.

That means you must solve a problem with your service.

If you just charge for a gab session to explore possible solutions or “how it works” you’re actually creating a problem: they’re no further ahead but their wallet is a bit lighter.

That’s why I don’t recommend things like “assessments” – for one, they’re a tough sell (even though they can be incredibly valuable). Nobody really wants to buy a summary of all the stuff they’re doing wrong or need to fix.

What we want to buy are solutions.

So think about how you can create something that feels tangible that moves their piece forward on the board…

Maybe that’s a…

  • Plan
  • Checklist
  • Roadmap
  • Playbook
  • Blueprint

And this is key: it must contain value whether your client takes the next steps with you or signs up for your more premium offers.

3. Fixed Scope & Timeline

Once you have your lead service figured out, you want to do as much upfront work as you can to “fix” the scope of work as well as your time.

At first it may take you a bit longer and it may take a bit of experimenting. Some things to think about:

  • What scripts need to be prepared? (What will you say to “pitch” your lead service to people who ask you for a quote?)
  • What steps will you ask them to take to initiate the work? (Will you need to write up instructions? Create a contract? Set up a calendar for scheduling?)
  • How will you respond to objections and questions? (What can you create in advance for this? Think FAQ sheet or “How it works” document.)
  • Will you need any templates for your deliverables?

The more you can “templatize” in your process the more efficient you’ll become (and more profitable!).

In Summary
If you’re looking to scale your service-based business and get away from the time-sucking custom proposal process, a lead service can help you better leverage your time while creating a better experience for your clients.

Will you implement a lead service? If you have any questions hit us up in comments!

And don’t forget to grab our value ladder planner below to brainstorm ideas for creating your lead service as well as the other offerings in your value ladder. 🙂


10 Businesses You Can Start for Less than $1K | Wondering how to start an online business so you can make money from home? Make sure you choose the right niche! Here are 10 side hustle ideas plus a step-by-step business plan template to help you get started. #startup #businessideas #onlinebusinessLooking for new business ideas?

Back in the day, the only way to achieve your dreams was to:

  • Find a job working for a company
  • Stick with it through long hours and hard work
  • Save up your paychecks until you could fund your dream, whether it was buying a home, traveling, or retiring altogether?

Fortunately, technology has changed all that. The internet has opened several pathways for brave and resourceful people to work toward their dreams by starting their own business.

If you’ve ever thought about being your own boss or living beyond paycheck-to-paycheck, this may be the perfect time to go for it. You don’t even need much capital to start an online business today.

To make it extra easy for you to get started, I’ve created a business plan template you can customize for your biz! Just click the button below to grab it.

Grab Your Creative Business Plan Template

PLEASE NOTE: In order to be able to edit and customize it yourself, when you’re viewing the template go to File and Make a copy, or you can simply download it as a Word doc or copy and paste it to your favorite program!

Grab your Creative Business Plan Template so you can get started mapping out your freedom biz and reaching your goals!

Here are ten new business ideas you can start for $1,000 or less:

1. Consulting Services

A consulting business can be lucrative once it takes off. And it’s the perfect type of business to start if you have expertise and skills to share.

Many businesses rely on consultants to supplement their in-house staff, provide organizational training, or identify problems and provide solutions. Businesses aren’t the only ones who need consultants either. Consumers also seek out expertise.

Some high-demand niches include:

  • Accounting, taxes, and payroll management
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Home design and color
  • Gardening
  • Green living
  • Spatial organization and efficiency
  • Career counseling
  • Human resources
  • Insurance
  • Public relations
  • Home security

Since you can perform consulting from home, or even your smartphone, there isn’t much overhead involved.

Depending on the type of consulting you’ll do, you might need specialized software, or samples to show your work. If your niche requires certification, be sure to obtain it before launching your business.

So think about the marketable skills you have and offer up your knowledge. The opportunities for consulting are endless!

2. Dropshipping

Imagine that you want to start a business selling T-shirts online. You might think that you’d need to own a warehouse filled with inventory first — but if you use the dropshipping approach, that’s not necessary.

Instead, you buy products from third-party vendors, sell them via your website, and have your vendors ship the merchandise directly to buyers.

Dropshipping doesn’t require a lot of startup capital; in fact, you can build and run it from a laptop. This booming business model offers a number of benefits, including minimized risk, lower costs, and the ability to offer your customers greater convenience and a wider array of products.

There are downsides, of course. A lot of preparation is required on the front end to build sales infrastructure and market the business to potential customers. You also might need to try several methods to locate wholesale suppliers, like contacting product manufacturers, ordering from the competition, participating in trade shows, or even using a good old Google search. Networking is paramount, especially at the beginning, so start connecting!

Related: How to Start an Amazon FBA Business: A Step by Step Guide

3. Blogging

In the early days of the internet, blogging was looked upon as a hobby. Today, bloggers can make a full-time living and support their families and lifestyles. Other bloggers use their blog as a side gig to bring in extra cash.

Blogging takes both time and effort, and the payoff may not come overnight. So don’t quit your day job just yet. Wait until you get a better feel for blogging and your niche. Then see if you can gain enough traction to turn it into a full-time gig. One huge advantage of blogging is, you can start one for less than $50.

Related: How to Start a Business with No Money, a Laptop and An Idea

4. Pet services

Many people need someone to check on their furry companions while they work or travel. So they hire pet sitters to come and feed, walk, and/or groom their dogs and cats.

To get started in the pet care business, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What services do I want to offer?
  • Will I need office, storage, or kennel space?
  • What licensing or certifications are needed in my state or county?
  • Do I need or should I obtain insurance?

You can typically get started for around the $1,000 range. One plus about a pet service startup is that it can start small and grow as demand or services require, making it the perfect business for either a full- or part-time commitment.

It’s also the ideal business for animal lovers. What could be better than getting paid for doing something you love?

5. Tutoring

A great low-overhead business is tutoring. If you have strong math or language arts skills, you can tutor children or college students. Want to share your music, art, or craft talents? These are subjects that students of all ages want to learn.

A tutoring business doesn’t require much capital or logistical prep to get going. You can do this in your home, from a rented space or online.

6. Jewelry design

Do you spend your free time designing and making jewelry? If so, for under $1,000 you can start your own business doing what you love! You’ll have to put some effort into marketing, but you can showcase your work in a low-cost fashion by setting up a website and/or opening a shop on Etsy.

Make sure you create a strong social media presence on Instagram and Pinterest to help spread the word.

And remember: Protecting intellectual property is a necessity for designers, artists, craftspeople, and other makers. Before you put your designs out into the world, be sure to protect your legal rights to them.

7. Handyman services

If you’re comfortable with tools and have a knack for fixing things, why not turn it into a business?

Take advantage of apps that can help you with bidding, scheduling, and invoicing. Get visible on online forums and social media to promote your services. You can even use your smartphone to film and post tutorial videos of the work you do. Virtual help is another viable avenue, using video chat to coach DIYers through their own jobs.

8. Event planning

Do you love throwing parties? Use your passion for it to build a business.

Most people think of wedding planners when they think of event planning. But there other events that a cool head and methodical mind can help make happen.

For example:

  • Educational conferences
  • Artistic and cultural events
  • Corporate seminars or shareholders’ meetings
  • Any large social gathering

Keep in mind that events can take up space. If you don’t have room to store things like tables, chairs, gifts, tableware, and other miscellaneous items, you can always rent a small storage unit and write off the cost on your taxes.

9. Graphic design

A lot of businesses and organizations need professionally designed marketing materials. If you’re familiar with the latest graphic design software, and are good at creating graphics in a reasonable time frame, you’ll likely always have clients.

If you currently have a full-time job, you can always test the waters first with freelance work. Reach out to friends and family and let them know you’re interested in picking up some extra work. You never know who they know!

As with any business, you’ll want to start with a clear business plan to identify target markets for your graphic design biz before you jump in full-time.

10. Virtual assistant

If you’re conscientious with details and great at prioritizing, you could try your hand as a virtual assistant. The range of duties can include scheduling, social media, research and data mining, email marketing, and much more. Use your accounting, technical, and marketing experience to provide administrative support for executives and companies.

There you have it…10 new business ideas you can launch for next to nothing!

There are so many different types of new businesses to start, and so many ways to get started. The first step is to decide what you excel at and love, and then see how you can make money as an independent.

So if you get a windfall this year in the form of a bonus, insurance settlement or other *gift*, take it as a sign. Launch your new business and experience the thrill and freedom that comes from being your own boss! In most cases, you can run your biz right from your laptop.

Psst…don’t forget to grab the business plan template so you can narrow down your new business idea! Just use the button below to grab it.

Grab Your Creative Business Plan Template

Grab your Creative Business Plan Template so you can get started mapping out your freedom biz and reaching your goals!


How to Plan Your Schedule with Time Blocking (Plus a Video Tutorial!) This post includes time management tips and time blocking template, plus a step by step planner and video on how to use time blocking to plan your schedule and increase productivity. Click through for the template! #timeblocking #timemanagement #productivityHey there, friends!

You know what we all struggle with as entrepreneurs?

We have way too much to do and not enough time to do it. It gets even harder if you’re juggling a full-time job, school, a family, and other *life* things on top of running your online business.

So today, I’m sharing five quick time blocking tips to help with time management. This post is a follow-up to my original post on time blocking, where I explained:

  • What time blocking is
  • How to use a time blocking calendar
  • A simple process to break down high-level goals into smaller ones

Here’s a link to that post in case you need a refresher:

How to Increase Productivity and Get a Massive Amount of Stuff Done

If you’re curious, time blocking is a process where you create a visual calendar of your to-do list. Here’s an example:

The Time Blocking Template

Now, since my original time blocking post still seems to be popular, I know you’re like me and wrestling with a growing to-do list (probably tired of feeling defeated by it too, amirite?).

So in this post, I’m sharing simple time management tips to help you use the time blocking calendar effectively.

I made mistakes at first and had a hard time sticking to my schedule. A few of those mistakes are:

  • Underestimating how long things would take
  • Planning too many tasks back to back (aka task-shifting)
  • Trying to get everything done in a week

My hope is that these tips will help you follow through and feel excited about everything you’re getting done!

If you want to use the Time Blocking Template I created for you, you can download it right here: 

Download my Time Blocking Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

These tips will be super quick…you can probably do them in less than 10 minutes each…

1. Plan your week ahead of time so you can hit the ground running.

You know what will make you feel great on Monday morning?

Having an action plan and a clear focus on what you need to get done.

So every Sunday, set aside some time to plan your week.

It won’t be set in stone, don’t worry. Think of it as more of a high-level view to make sure you can get everything done. And that you’re focusing on the stuff that matters.

You’ll be updating things as you move through the week…

2. Focus on 1-2 work-related tasks a day.

If you’re using the time blocking calendar the way I recommend, you’ve got EVERYTHING on there…biz time, family time, school, work, meals, errands…all of it.

And that’s great! They need to be in there.

But sometimes we think we can do things faster than we can.

(Write a post in an hour, anyone?)

And you may be tempted to schedule more than you can do – partly because it looks good on paper, partly because you’re not sure how long it will take, and partly because you just want to get it done.

But there’s only so much time in the day! We can’t get to everything…

You may even have a full-time job or family to take care of outside of running your online business! And there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re falling behind on things. Bleck.

So don’t try to be a superhero when you plan your week. Schedule just one or two “work” things a day and then immerse yourself in getting them done.

Oh, and make sure the things you plan will grow your business, not just eat up your time.

Which leads me to…

3. Cross off things that eat up your time each day.

When you think about it, there are only a handful of things that will really impact your business. Those are things like:

    • Creating content (free and paid)
    • Client projects and meeting
    • Creating products
    • Planning workshops and events

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

Ahh, if it weren’t for those sneaky time-crushers…

The Facebook ping you have to check…
A message you forgot to send…
An email that just popped in…

But let me ask you a question:

When is the last time you read an email that positively impacted your business? (except for mine, *wink)

The thing with emails is, most come with their own agenda.

So if we’re being totally honest, you only need to check it 1x a day, and that’s just for sanity’s sake.

Which means you can block out time for email + admin stuff, say, on Fridays. Or first thing in the morning. Or whatever.

Then after that…

Shut it all down and get to work. Don’t let distractions stop you from growing your business.

4. Take 15 minutes to plan your day tomorrow.

Make sure you block out 15 minutes a day to review your progress.

(should be the last thing you do each day)

That’s when you cross off things you got done, reschedule things you didn’t, and update tomorrow’s schedule so you can crush it again without wondering where the heck you left off.

And here’s the REAL magic of reviewing your day…

Once you see what you achieved (vs what you planned), you start to become a ninja planner. The best part is, you get real about how you’re spending every minute of your day.

For example:

Sometimes I’ll *pretend* to start working at 8:30am but not really do much until 11.

That’s two and a half hours, friend…

We can’t waste time like that!

5) Quick Recap

Plan your week on Sundays. Then, at the end of every day, review and update tomorrow’s schedule.

Cross off things that are time-suckers. And don’t worry if you don’t get to something. Or if something needs to drop off your list completely

Because the goal of time blocking is to help you get better at:

  • Estimating how long things will (really) take
  • Planning enough time for complex projects
  • Squashing multi-tasking
  • Working in your passion zone
  • Getting more of the right stuff done

One last tip before I sign off, make sure you block out 15 minutes between tasks. Every time you switch gears, your brand needs time to catch up, and that will help. 🙂

Here’s the Time Blocking Template again if you want to grab it: 

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!


How to Start an Online Business While You're Working Full Time, plus grab the free business plan template. I've got 10 ways to start a business and creative business tips to help you make money online. Side Hustle Tips / Creative Business Plan #startup #makemoneyBuilding an online business is hard work. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s on you to push them all forward so you can grow and scale quickly.

So you’re always on the look-out for marketing tools that can save you time and help you get more done.

Here are seven marketing tools that can automate many of the tasks involved in promoting your business. Read on for the best-of-the-best and start putting tedious marketing tasks on autopilot.

1) Blogger Outreach Tools


When it comes to growing your blog or business, blogger outreach can help you increase your SEO rankings, build backlinks to your website, and find influencers and joint venture partners to promote your products and services.

Problem is, link building and blogger outreach can take a serious amount of time. You have to do things like:

  • Find interesting blogs
  • Search for contact info
  • Write a personalized pitch (not a must, but you should)
  • Manage responses
  • Follow up with non-responders

Every single one of these steps can take hours, which is why a lot of people give up. For an outreach campaign to work, you have to reach out to hundreds of blogs and publishers. Without tools to speed up the process, it can be hard to hang in there and follow through to get results.

Outreach tools can help by automating the process of finding websites, scraping them for contact info, sending emails, and following up.

Try these tools:


Pitchbox will help you find and send customized emails to bloggers, publishers, and influencers. Pitchbox pricing starts at $95 a month, so make sure you’re serious about blogger outreach before using it.

(Looking for a more affordable alternative to Pitchbox? Try Outreach Ninja.)


BuzzStream is another outreach tool worth trying. It’s a relationship and outreach CRM that lets you manage and grow a huge list of outreach campaigns. Be ready for a learning curve though….it can take some time to master.

For more on outreach tools, read this complete review of best blogger outreach tools for marketers.

2) Social Media Tools


Social media marketing can be hugely effective in promoting your business.

If only there weren’t so many channels to tackle! Nowadays, people use at least three social media channels. To reach your target audience at the right times on each, you’ll need to be sharing on multiple platforms throughout the day.

But let’s face it, you’ve got more to do than be *social* all day…

Just imagine trying to manually post to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, AND LinkedIn…every day. You’d have to create two to three posts for each channel. Plus, design each post to grab people’s attention quickly.

If you’re already sharing posts regularly, you know how hard it can be to find content that resonates with your audience.

That’s where social media management tools come in.

Social media management tools can make you look like a ninja marketer, sharing custom variations of your posts on each platform – around the clock.

Tools to try:


Buffer is the perfect tool to use if you’re just starting out with scheduling.

And when you combine it with IFTTT, it can be a powerful way to fill up your Twitter queue with an endless stream of tweets.

What makes Buffer so popular is how easy it is to use. Want to rearrange your posts? No problem. Set a custom posting schedule? You can do that too. See which posts have the highest engagement? Head over to the analytics dashboard and you’ll see.

The best part is, Buffer is free for one account (up to 10 scheduled posts). From there, pricing starts at $15 a month for 8 social channels (100 scheduled posts per channel).


SmarterQueue is another popular scheduling tool that makes it easy to share original and user-generated content, all from one place. Import your Feedly bookmarks and RSS feeds, create categories for each type of content you share, and monitor your schedule with SmarterQueue’s weekly calendar.

SmarterQueue pricing starts at $25 a month (up to four channels).


DrumUp is a content curation and social media management tool that does the heavy lifting of finding content for you to share. If you feel like you’re spending more time than you have each week managing social media, DrumUp can save you hours.

Just enter a list of keywords and topics, and DrumUp will scour the web for interesting articles. From there, you can customize your posts and tweets with hashtags, emojis, mentions and GIFs.

Pricing starts at $15 a month.

3) Visual content creation tools


Many bloggers and entrepreneurs struggle to create stunning graphics – it’s one of those things that can really make you feel stuck.

Truth is, if you want to build a stand-out brand, your visual content has to have impact. You can’t get by with ho-hum graphics that blend in with the others.

And while there’s no simple workaround for creating visuals that make people want to swerve over, there are tools that can save you from hours staring at a blank screen, *gasp.

Tools to try:


Canva is an all-in-one design tool for creating social media graphics, ebooks, opt-in promo graphics, and more.

With Canva for Work, you can save branding elements, organize and manage projects, create shareable templates, resize designs, and more. Canva also has a huge library of elements, photos, and overlays to get your creative juices flowing.

Canva for Work costs $12.95 a month.

Psst…Check out these design templates and tutorials that will help you quickly create graphics that stand out and get noticed with Canva.


PicMonkey is similar to Canva, minus the pre-made templates. So while you’ll have to start from scratch, you can quickly build a library of custom templates from your own designs.

What makes PicMonkey unique are the photo editing features. Need to tweak a photo to match your brand? No problem. Just use one of PicMonkey’s effects to change the color and create a custom graphic that is uniquely you (a great way to breathe new life into old stock photos).

PicMonkey basic pricing starts at $5.99 a month.

Want to see PicMonkey in action? Here’s a step-by-step tutorial.


Want to really speed up things up? PromoRepublic may be the answer.

It’s a content creation, curation, and scheduling tool with 100,000+ pre-designed posts for just about everything…motivational quotes, trends, holidays, events…and more.

All of the designs are done for you and ready to share. Just tweak your posts using the graphics editor, then schedule them to social media. PromoRepublic can even automate Facebook and Instagram promotions to help you generate more sales for your business.

PromoRepublic pricing starts at $9 a month.

Headline Analyzer

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer tool will help you improve headlines and titles so you get more clicks.

For example, my working title for this post started out as:

7 Time-Saving Marketing Tools Every Savvy Blogger Needs
(score of 57)

After plugging it into the Headline Analyzer and following their tips and prompts, it became:

7 Powerful Marketing Tools You Should Be Using Right Now
(score of 72)

The best part? Headline Analyzer is 100% free.

4) Content Promotion Tools


Creating engaging content is only part of the equation when it comes to building an audience and driving traffic…

The harder part is promoting your content and getting it in front of your audience. You need a strategy for how and where you share your posts.

That’s where automated content promotion tools can help.

Content promotion tools are similar to social media management tools. They allow you to schedule and post to multiple channels at different times for increased visibility on each platform. Plus, you can see what your competitors are posting and use that to inform your content strategy.

If you need to drive even more traffic, content promotion tools can point you in the right direction by showing you the types of content that perform best in your niche or industry.

Tools to try:


Quuu is a content curation tool that hand-picks content for you to share on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

It also has a sister site, Quuu Promote, that works in conjunction with Quuu by promoting your posts (as suggested content) through their community.

Quuu pricing starts at $15 a month.
Quuu Promote costs $40 a month for one piece of content.


If your niche is marketing, Zest is a Chrome extension that can boost your traffic. Just submit a post, wait for the Zest team to review and approve, and start promoting.

Zest is free to use.

5) Keyword Research Tools


(not an automation tool but a must to grow your business!)

Since you’re already doing the hard work of creating content on the regular, it makes sense to take an extra step and optimize your posts and pages so that people can easily find you on Google.

Keyword research tools can help you optimize your existing posts, plus understand what your audience is actively searching for. You can use this intel to create future posts that address their queries.

In this way, keyword research is good not only for SEO, but for attracting more of your ideal customers to your business.

Tools to try:

Adwords Keyword Planner

The Adwords Keyword Planner has gone through changes recently but is still a strong keyword research tool, especially for bloggers who aren’t ready to spend money for keyword research (it’s free).

You’ll have to create an ad account and keep your credit card on file to access. Still, you can easily work around this by simply “creating” an ad campaign and pausing it.

Even when you add other SEO marketing tools to the mix, the Keyword Planner is helpful for finding related keywords to include in your posts.


KWFinder is a relatively new keyword research tool that is gaining popularity due to its ease of use and accurate data. You can also see the top ranking domains for each keyword on the same dashboard, which is convenient. Most paid tools offer keyword difficulty scores so you know what you’re up against, and KWFinder is no different.

One thing to point out with any tool, competition and search volumes for any keyword tend to be a moving target. So even though you may find a keyword with great ranking possibilities today, that may change tomorrow. Make sure you check each keyword in real time (vs. keeping a spreadsheet), so you know how much work you’ll have to do to rank your page or post.

KWFinder starts at $25 a month for 100 searches a day.

6) Email Marketing Tools 


Almost half of all customers are more likely to buy from a brand that stays in touch with them through regular emails.

And of course, you’re not going to manually email your subscribers one by one! You’re going to use tools to automate your campaigns and broadcasts.

At their most basic level, email tools allow you to send different emails to subscribers based on their engagement and behavior.

But they can do much more…

More advanced email tools can integrate with your e-commerce platform and send emails based on purchase or browsing history. They can help you improve sales by segmenting your list and sending emails based on actions your subscribers take.

They can also show you statistics to help improve the ROI of your email campaigns (subscription rate, unsubscribe rate, open rate, click through rate, and more).

Tools to try:

MailChimp is a great tool if you’re just starting to build your email list. You can send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free each month.

MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers.

ConvertKit has sophisticated features that allow you to create tags, rules, and segments for your subscribers so you can build highly targeted and effective sales funnels.

For a complete tutorial on how to use ConvertKit for your business, read this post.

ConvertKit pricing starts at $24 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers.

7) Analytics Tools


You may be thinking that one marketing strategy is all you need to grow your business.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

You need to test multiple strategies to find the ones that work.

The reason is that your customers’ behaviors and needs are constantly changing. What they want today may not be what they want tomorrow. And the platforms they use today may not be where they hang out tomorrow.

Which means that what’s working for you today may not be as effective tomorrow.

Automated analysis tools can help understand what’s working where, how people are engaging with your pages and posts, which channels are most successful, and where there’s room for improvement.

A good analysis tool will track and display things like conversion rates, engagement, sales, refunds, and more.

The idea is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the success of your efforts so you can make decisions going forward.

Tools to try:


Mixpanel tracks the actions or steps people take on your website, landing page, or sales page (watch a video, share a post, click a button).

Because it tracks more than pageviews and length of visit, it can help you learn which pages you need to optimize to drive more sales.

Mixpanel is free for up to 2 data points.

Facebook Ads Manager Tools

Facebook ads can burn a hole in your budget quickly, but with over 2 billion users, you can’t afford NOT to use them, especially if you host things like webinars and workshops.

To avoid exhausting your budget too soon, be sure to test your ad copy, images, targeting, objectives, and more.

Within the Ads Manager, you can create reports to measure number of leads, registrations, purchases, CPM, CPC, costs, and more.


LuckyOrange is a website conversion tool that will help you understand which pages people visit, how long they stay on your site, and where they drop off.  You can also use it to discover keywords and referrers that drive traffic to your site.

LuckyOrange pricing starts at $10 a month.

For a complete list of analytics tools across social media, read this post.

Wrapping it up

Why do the hard work when software can do it for you? Use the automated marketing tools listed here to free up your time so you can focus on everything else you need to do to grow your business.

What marketing tools are you using to promote your blog or business?


Wondering how to start a business while working full time? I've got 9 side hustle ideas to help you make money online as quickly as possible.Are you finally ready to launch your freedom business? I’m so excited for you! Entrepreneurship is one of the most enriching things you can experience in life, and I can’t wait for you to start your journey…

Now, I totally get that you can be wildly thrilled about starting your new business and STILL have a hard time staying motivated with a 9-5 gig weighing you down.

Maybe you’re wondering if it’s even possible to start a business while working a full-time job…

Or, maybe you’re wondering how to go about it in a way that sets you up for huge success today and tomorrow

Lately, I’ve been getting start-up questions from the wonderful members of my Facebook group (and from you guys). Here’s what I’ve been hearing:

  • How do I manage going to school, starting my business, and a social life?
  • I work a full-time job and then come home and spend time with my three children. By the time they go to bed, I’m wiped out. How do I squeeze in the time for my business?
  • I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my business idea. What should I do differently?

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been struggling to launch your side hustle, you’re in luck! Today, I’m sharing strategies to help you carve out the time (and stay motivated) to make it happen, f’real.

Before we dig in, what I’m covering here can apply to just about ANYTHING you want to launch…a new business, a new product, or a new service.

So whether you’re just tossing around business ideas right now, have been at it for a while, or are gearing up for a new product launch, I’m hoping you’ll find something of value in this post. 🙂

#FULLDISCLOSURE My only stint as a 9-to-5’er was the year I launched my temporary tattoo business (my most successful business to date). I’ll be using that experience as a reference, plus what I’ve learned from starting up businesses while running a full-time business.

Believe me, I feel your pain. It can be hard to find the time. Hard to juggle everything. And, most importantly, hard to know when you should ditch the 9 to 5 for good.

Before we dig in, I created a business plan template you can use to create a roadmap for your new biz! Just click the button below to grab it.

Grab Your Creative Business Plan Template

PLEASE NOTE: In order to be able to edit and customize it yourself, when you’re viewing the template go to File and Make a copy, or you can simply download it as a Word doc or copy and paste it to your favorite program!

Grab your Creative Business Plan Template so you can get started mapping out your freedom biz and reaching your goals!

So let’s dig in and see if we can make heads or tails of it all, k?

1) First, hold on to your day job for as long as you can.

There’s no way around it, you’re going to need a cashflow. The last thing you want to do is to jump ship on your job without having financial security.

You’d be walking into a train wreck:

  • You’d start feeling desperate
  • Go into “survival” mode
  • Make the wrong business decisions
  • Scramble to look for another job

The good news is, there’s A LOT you can do to start your business while you’re working full time. At a minimum, aim to have these things complete before you sign off on your job:

  • Market research – make sure you understand your target audience and what they want
  • A working brand identity – the bare essentials are all you need (logo, business card, website)
  • An online presence – be active on at least one social channel
  • Your first 10 blog posts – you want to launch with a handful of posts
  • A minimum viable product – can be a physical product, digital product, or service offering

2) Next, save your money.

Try to put aside at least six months of income before you leave your day job. This will help you make objective decisions and give you enough time to navigate earning an income from your business.

If you can save a year’s worth, even better.

3) Start with the right business idea.

This one’s a biggie.

In fact, it’s such a biggie that I’m going to create a workshop on business ideas – how to weed out the duds, sort through the noise, and choose the right one…

Here’s why:

Your business idea ALONE can literally make or break your success.

Take it from me on this one! I’ve been *around the world* when it comes to launching businesses and can finally tell the difference between a good business idea and a bad one.

The last thing I want is for you to put in the hard work upfront, only to lose your enthusiasm when the ROI takes longer than expected and you can’t sustain an income.

Besides, nothing spells buzzkill faster than not making money.

Let’s say you’re married with two kids and a demanding job – one that requires your full-on attention. At night, you like to spend time with your kids before they go to sleep, which gives you two hours to work on your business idea before you clock out. You decide to spend that time learning how to code so you can start your web development business.

Can you see what’s wrong here?

Starting a business is SOOO hard! Don’t make it even harder by learning a new skillset before you even start!

Here’s the thing:

You probably have about 15 hours a week to work on your business. In that time frame, you’re going to need to see REAL progress to stay motivated. Otherwise, overwhelm and defeat will start to creep up on you. Slowly at first. Then bam. Like a ton of bricks.


It’s much easier to start a business based on what you already know. Look at your skills, research the market, and find the place where they intersect. That’s your success path.

4) Be all in.

Total immersion or bust, that’s my motto…

You’ve got to be “all in” on your business idea and make a conscious decision to succeed with that vs your job. Then shift your mindset to make it happen.

Here’s how that plays out in the real world:

  • You stop being an over-performer at work.
  • Let others get promoted instead of you.
  • Work on your logo during lunch.
  • Design your website when you have downtime.
  • Set the alarm an hour early to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Write your business plan instead of reading emails and texts.
  • Create a Facebook page instead of “socializing.”

You get my gist. When you’re all in, every minute counts and you get to work…

5) Forget about Plan B.

Now, I know this may go against every grain in your body. But it’s true.

Back-up plans make you lazy. They keep you fearful and second guessing. They make you settle for so much less than what you were born to do in this world.

If you really, REALLY believe in what you’re doing, there will be a tipping point…

When every bone in your body screams I can’t do this anymore!!

When your future’s in limbo and you’re stuck between your day job and your biz…not getting anywhere with either one.

Now, I don’t have a specific date or milestone for you, but it will be sometime after you create a foundation (step #1 above). When you’re ready to make real money and can’t possibly do it in your current situation.

That’s when it will be time to leave your 9 to 5.

6) Establish clear priorities.

Starting a business takes deliberate focus and attention. If you back-burner it, you’ll risk not reaching the finish line.

But hey, when you really, REALLY want something, you don’t back-burner it, right? You make it a priority.

You inherently *get* that you won’t be able to have your cake and eat it too. Not today, anyway. So you start de-prioritizing other things.

Maybe you don’t go to every party. You hang with your friends less. Or, you get your spouse to help with the kids. Can you cut down on the number of hours you work? Heck, maybe you can look for part-time work rather than full-time!


You say No more than Yes.

(I’ve been saying no for a looong time now, *wink.)

But you know what? You’re EXCITED to make the sacrifices today in exchange for your FREEDOM tomorrow.

#HEADSUP Your friends and loved ones may not be keen on your newly-found priorities at first. But if you can hang in there, they’ll get on board. Promise.

7) Develop a routine that you can follow.

Set a minimum number of hours each week that you will work on your business idea. Then use a time blocking calendar to set specific time slots each day.

(Don’t forget to look for “hidden hours” you can squeeze in, say, during or after work.)

Now, when it comes to sticking with your routine, I’ve got two strategies for you! These will be especially helpful on days when you feel extra stressed and ANYTHING BUT motivated.

First off, plan your week every Sunday.

When you’re crystal clear on what you will be doing and when – down to the tiniest details – you’ll be more inclined to show up and execute on them.

But when it’s Wednesday and your brain is fried already, THEN you have to figure out what the heck to work on, you know what happens?

You put it off ’til tomorrow.

And then…

You stop seeing consistent progress…

Which makes you less motivated to work on your business idea…

So you put it off again…

Then you’re off to Procrastinationville! Don’t go there, friend. Plan ahead and stay on track.

Psst…What can really help with time management is my time blocking template below. If you want, you can use it to create a *visual to-do list* and block out your entire week.  Include everything…work, kids, school, social, and your biz, so you know exactly how much time you’ll have to focus on your business idea each week. Totally helps beat procrastination because you can see how much time you really have available!   

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

Second, understand your work patterns and when you feel the most creative.

For example:

Instead of trying to do your deep work during the week, plan simpler tasks like:

  • Designing your logo
  • Creating a social media image
  • Drafting a blog post

Set aside Saturday or Sunday for projects that require more brainpower (like products and content).

It also helps to develop rituals and “pay-it-forward treats” to help you get in the mood to work.

Do you like meditating first thing in the morning? Staring at your computer with a cup of coffee? Watching TV? Give yourself that treat BEFORE you start working. During this transition time, visualize WHY you’re going to haul yourself up and work. Imagine what things will look like on the other side.

For me, listening to my music gets me all pumped and fired up to work.

What’s your thing? Think about what excites you to do the work, then do that every day before you get started. When you follow the same routine and consistently put in the work, you’ll be motivated to do even more.

8) Spend more time doing and less time planning.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-planning and under-executing.

To avoid that, give yourself a time slot for planning (preferably on Sundays). Leave the other time slots for doing. Then hold yourself accountable to show up and get them done.

It can also be tempting to think Since I won’t get much done in an hour, I’ll wait until the weekend when I have more time.

This is dangerous territory for so many reasons (step #6 above).

When you put it off today, the next thing you know you’re blowing off an entire Saturday or Sunday. I mean, if you didn’t make it a priority on Monday, why should it be a priority on Sunday, right?

Wrong. You’ve got to make it a priority e’erday.

Even if Monday morning all you do is stare at your laptop for an hour, the fact that you’re sitting there reinforces your commitment to your business. Plus, trust me. You won’t be able to stare at your screen for an hour! You’ll get bored in 15 minutes and start digging in.

9) Focus on the process.

It’s easy to feel defeated when things take five times longer than you expected (which ALWAYS happens!).

Instead of focusing on the end goal, focus on your daily progress. Keep a journal or use the time blocking template so you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

When you review your progress like this each day, something else starts happening…

You know what you REALLY need to work on the next day.

(which can look a lot different than what you planned on Sunday.)

More often than not, we *think* we can do A, B and C when we can really only do A. Then we get bummed and feel like we accomplished nothing!

Setting unrealistic expectations usually comes from being fuzzy about how long A, B or C will take in the first place. When you start tracking your progress daily, you’ll know how long things REALLY take and be able plan your time more accurately.

Then you keep on doin’.

10) Find ways to get less (other) stuff done.

There are things you need to do and things you don’t need to do.

For example:

When I get the urge to create a family picture wall in my hallway (something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now), I think about how long it will take. Then I ask myself if I really need to do it now. Or if it can wait.

Calculate how much time it will take you – door to door – to go shopping, run an errand, and so on. Do you have that time to spare? Does it really need to get done? What could you accomplish in your business in that time?

Plus, let’s be real for a sec. Every time you switch gears, your brain has to play catch-up. You’ve got this delay thing happening that turns four hours into six.

You know what your brain says next, right?

I’ll just work on my biz tomorrow…

And it’s off to Procrastinationville again.

The good news is, you can use these steps to get back on track quickly. 🙂

That’s a wrap! What strategies have you used to start a business while working full time? I’d love to hear them!


Have you found gorgeous styled stock photography to use in your blog? Need some inspiration to create branded blogging pictures? You’re in luck! I’ve got an amazing Picmonkey tutorial that shows you how to edit free stock photography to fit your brand so you really stand out on social media. It even includes a free downloadable set of ULTRA beautiful, creative photography you can start using today. stock photo resources / stock photography ideas / feminine stock photosBy Aminta Demadura

Have you ever come across styled stock photos you absolutely love, and then wondered how you could make them fit with your brand?

I wondered the exact same thing.

And as it turns out, adding your own branding to modern stock photos is really easy!

Branding and customizing stock photos is a super important step in creating a unique business that your readers and customers absolutely love. This type of branding helps your followers relate to you, form a connection with you, and in the end, purchase from you.

So it’s important that your visuals represent who you are and what you do.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to create social media graphics that stand out above the rest using styled stock photos (and my favorite tips to customize them and make them your own).

Before we get started, let me show you the original styled stock photo we’ll be working with below:

super high resolution stock photos

If you’re curious, styled stock photos are created with entrepreneurs, bloggers, and business owners in mind. I like to think of them as “startup stock photos.” They’re incredibly handy when you’re starting out and don’t have the time, expertise, or space to take your own photos.

Styled stock photography makes use of props (office supplies, household items, plants, stationery, flowers, mugs, and so on), and can range from flat lays, to mock-ups, close-ups, and still lifes. And with the rise of free feminine styled stock photos, there are new sources popping up every day.

Let’s have some fun and see how you can make this image fit your brand.

1) Use Fun Filters to Brand Your Photos

My favorite free image editor is Picmonkey. If you’re a Canva fan, that’s fine too (I won’t hold it against you!), but I find Picmonkey to be more intuitive, easier to work with, and I love that it comes with SO MANY features.

In the images below, I added a simple filter to each of the photos. Specifically, the Yester-year filter and the HDR filter.

how to create social media graphics free

As you can see, a filter can really change the mood and vibe of a photo, which is perfect if you’re trying to add your own style to a stock photo. Picmonkey has many, many filter and effect options, so spend a little time going through them and find out what works best for your style and the photos you have to work with.

(If Photoshop is more your style, you’re gonna love this tutorial.)

2) Use Effects to Make a Photo Instantly Unique

Have you checked out Picmonkey’s effects yet? If not, you’re seriously missing out. Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo that really makes it your own. In this image, I used the sunglow effect to add a radiant center with a vintage tint to the original image.

startup stock photos

I love using these types of effects for social media, especially Instagram. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than finding a ton of other accounts using the same feminine stock photos as you in their feeds (hint: It’s not good for branding!)

And if you want to get really wild? Try layering two or three effects and see what you get. Many combinations look really cool together.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo and really make it your own.” quote=”Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo and really make it your own.”]

3) Gradient Overlays Are In

Here’s a fun one. If you want a super fast way to add your brand colors to an image in a unique way, try adding a gradient overlay, like this:

free open source stock photos


I always hear bloggers complain about how hard it is to find styled stock images that fit their brand colors. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be!

With a little creativity you can take almost any image you love and customize it to suit your brand style. Make the gradient as light or dark as you want to get the right look, and know that if using a lighter photo, it may work best if you’re not going for that Lisa Frank look.

4) Take Horizontal and Vertical Crops of the Image

Depending on how detailed the original image is, you can easily squeeze another 10-20 images from it by cropping it in different parts of the photo:

feminine stock photos

Vertical crops are great for Pinterest and square crops are best for Instagram. You can also take horizontal crops like the one shown above to use in your blog posts and tweets.

On top of that, you can also create header images for Facebook, Twitter, and your blog by taking super wide but short crops of your image. How cool is that?

And if you want even more options beyond just cropping, try flipping, rotating, or changing the angle of your cropped versions.

5) Create Pinterest Pins that Stand Out from the Crowd

If we’re being honest, we all know it takes some amazing looking pins to really “make it” on Pinterest. They need to be bold, beautiful, and easy to read. They need to entice people to click through to your blog.

This is where making some savvy edits to free styled stock images can really help you make attention-grabbing pins.

how to create a pin in Pinterest

In the pin above, you can see that I added a filter to the cropped image to make it a little more artistic. Then I added a transparent white box, my brand fonts, and my logo to complete the pin.

BAM. You’re done.

6) Make Inspirational Graphics to Connect With Your Audience

Inspiring your audience and encouraging them to return to your blog over and over is a big part of any blogger’s job. You need to motivate and inspire your readers to really form that connection, and inspirational graphics can be a great way to do just that.

Thankfully, making inspirational graphics is easy and quick.

In the photo below, I simply added a darkening filter to the vertically cropped image that I extracted from the original. Then, I added a large white script font over the top of the darker areas to create a unique and attractive, inspiring image.

how to use PicMonkey for free

If you aren’t already, I highly recommend you try out this tactic on Pinterest and Instagram. Both platforms are super visual and people loooove inspirational images on them. Give it a shot – I promise you’ll see a little boost in traffic and engagement.

7) Feed the ‘Gram with Some Branded Squares

Does the thought of having to come up with yet another amazing photo for Insta ever give you a little anxiety? Yeah, me too. It takes so many photos to really grow a large Instagram following, and most of us just don’t have the time to plan, shoot, and edit that many photos.

If that’s your predicament, this tip will help. I recommend taking a bunch of square crops from different parts of your original styled stock photo (step #4, above).

Then, make them even more unique by flipping or rotating them in new directions, and adding filters and effects to really amp up the style. There are seriously hundreds of different possibilities you could make here, so spend about 30 minutes tinkering in a free image editor. You’ll be creating your own Instagram styled stock photos in no time!

8) Create Promotional Graphics that Make People Click

Once you have a product for sale, you’ll need to start spreading the word. Promotional graphics (used sparingly) on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts will let your followers discover your new products and will help give you some social cred.

amateur stock photos


You can see from the image above that not only did I crop it, I also rotated it to a completely new angle. After that I added a pretty script font on top of an overlay to help promote the sale.

9) Make Twitter Images that Stop the Scroll

If you’ve been on Twitter more than once or twice, you know that tweets with pictures are waaay more noticeable than text-only tweets.

Standing out is an important part of gaining Twitter followers and encouraging your current followers to actually click through and read your blog posts. Images play a huge part in catching the eye and enticing the reader to click through. Not only that, but they also help to establish your brand and your professional image.

Lucky for us, making Twitter images is a cinch. I use Picmonkey’s Hub to save templates for each of my graphic types.

instagram styled stock photos

Once the template is there, all I have to do for each new image is go in and change the text and background image. Three minutes, tops.

Where Will You Go from Here?

Is your brain overflowing with ideas on how to doll up your own free styled stock photos? Once you’ve gone through the editing process a few times, you’ll quickly find that it’s really easy and makes a huge difference to the visual appeal of your business.

I highly recommend creating branded templates for Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter using an editor like Canva or Picmonkey. Templates will save you so much time, and they’ll also help keep your branding on track. Good luck!

Before you go…

Don’t forget to grab your free styled stock photos pack right here! This pack is perfect for blog posts, Pinterest pins, Instagram posts, tweet images, and more. And of course, you can customize the photos as much as you’d like using my digital photo editing tutorial above.

Click the image below for your free high-resolution stock photos download:

free high resolution stock photos download


How to make your opt-in forms GDPR-compliant.Can we talk about the new European data protection regulations (GDPR)?

Because I think we need to.

I’ve been trying to put the whole GDPR thing off as long as possible, but it’s time to dig in, guys. And in case you’re late to the party like me, the regulation goes into effect this Friday, May 25th.

We have to catch up real quick.

Now, I won’t be doing a deep dive on what GDPR means for the future of email marketing or anything like that. I just want to help you understand what it is and share the changes I’ll be making so that my opt-in forms are compliant.

Disclaimer: These are only my interpretations of the regulations. This post is not legal advice. Please make sure you consult with your own legal counsel to help you make the right decisions about GDPR.

First off, what is GDPR?

GDPR isn’t really about email marketing, and yet it is…

Here’s why:

The GDPR is really about regulating how the personal data of EU citizens is handled. And since email marketing contains data in the form of email addresses and other contact info, GDPR most definitely applies to email marketing.

The regulations will give EU citizens rights about their data regarding:

  • What will happen with it (before they submit it)
  • Providing explicit consent before it’s collected
  • Knowing what data will be collected
  • Knowing why you’re collecting their data and how you plan to use it
  • The right to modify, update or remove their data completely

What do we need to do to be compliant?

For email marketing, the regulations translate to:

  • Tell people what you will do with their email address before they sign up
  • Let people see the data you’ve collected about them
  • Give them a way to modify their data and unsubscribe
  • Remove all data you have if they request it

Next, how can you make your opt-in forms compliant?

It’s no longer enough to say “Hey! Grab this awesome freebie” and then send people emails. That’s not GDPR-compliant.

The reason is that people are not explicitly agreeing to receive your emails. All they’re explicitly agreeing to is the PDF, so that’s all you can send them. And nothing else.

From here on out, we need to be more transparent with our opt-in forms and let people know we’ll be sending them emails.

Now, you could add a checkbox that says something like this:

[ ] I agree to receive the weekly newsletter.

BUT HOLD UP. What you can’t do with that checkbox is have it pre-checked by default! People will have to manually check it, which we all know is a pain.

Here’s what I’m doing to make my forms GDPR-compliant:

I’m not a big fan of checkboxes and prompts, so I’m going to tweak the copy on my forms instead. I’ll make it clear that people are signing up for my newsletter first and foremost, and the PDF as a bonus. Plus, I’ll add a link to my privacy policy.

As an example, here’s one of my current opt-in forms:

See how there’s no mention of a newsletter or regular emails? It’s all about the PDF.

Here are the changes I plan to make:

Here’s what makes this GDPR-compliant (as far as I can tell so far):

  • People know they’ll be “signing up”
  • My newsletter is mentioned in the text.
  • The main call-to-action is to sign up for my newsletter – the freebie is a bonus.
  • There’s a link to my privacy + terms.

A few other things I’ll be doing:

  • Adding a “modify my subscription” link next to the “unsubscribe” link in emails (so that people can easily update their info)
  • Double opt-in forms. It doesn’t look like this is required for GDPR…just feels like a best practice thing to do from here on out
  • Sending re-engagement emails to current EU subscribers
  • Applying similar copy changes to landing pages
  • Experimenting with the above form changes vs. segmenting EU subscribers (I may prefer to leave the opt-in forms as is, deliver the PDF, and ask for consent to my newsletter in the delivery email.

That’s it!

Again, this is just my interpretation of the regulations and how I plan to be compliant. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking my forms, landing pages, emails, and website as GDPR rolls out and things become clearer…

…and I’ll keep you posted on it all.

Over to you! What changes will you make to comply with GDPR? Are you all set? Or, is your brain still feeling a bit woozy from it all?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and tips. Let me know in the comments so we can all benefit and make sense of the new regulation.

I’m off to change my forms. 🙂