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!

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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.

FOR FREE.

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. 🙂

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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.

YOUR CUSTOMER

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

MARKETING

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.

PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARIES

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.

YOUR OFFERS

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.

CUSTOMER:

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.

MARKETING:

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.

PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARIES

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.

OFFERS: 

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.

YOUR CUSTOMER

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.

MARKETING

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.

OFFERS

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.

PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARIES

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. 

CUSTOMER

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.

MARKETING

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. 

OFFERS

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. 

PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARIES

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!

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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.

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Step by Step Guide to Amazon FBA for Beginners | Want to start a business from home, or just looking for side hustle tips and ideas? In this post, I’m breaking down the steps to all things Amazon FBA. Click through to learn the best ways to get started, source products, and brainstorm Amazon products ideas so you can start an online business that makes money. #makemoney #makemoneybloggingWant to know how to get started with an Amazon FBA Business?  Looking for a good Amazon FBA course?

Have I got a surprise for you guys!

Today, an amazingly talented member of my Facebook group, Paige Cole, is giving you a peak behind the curtain of her Amazon FBA course.

Amazon FBA whaa?

It stands for Fullfilled by Amazon and is an e-commerce business model for selling products on Amazon.

We’re talkin’ real, physical products. Things like cups and pens and magnetic clips and holders. Remember those? 🙂

Here’s the perk:

Instead of you warehousing and shipping out products one by one, Amazon will store your products in their fulfillment center and ship them out to customers as they order.

In a nutshell, an Amazon FBA business entails:

  • Sourcing products
  • Private labeling / branding
  • Storing products in Amazon’s fulfillment center
  • Marketing and selling

Read on for Paige’s guide on how to set this up.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended.

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It’s been said that 2018 is the year of private-label products.

In fact, Digiday and CNBC both posted articles about 2018 as the breakout year for private label.

I began private labeling on Amazon last year!  So, you could say I jumped in before the craze. After experiencing my own trial and errors in launching private-label products, I’m breaking down how to get started with Amazon FBA step by step.

1. Rifle through the Amazon “Under $25” bin

The first step is to decide what to sell on Amazon.

You know that “under $25” bin some retailers have? Amazon FBA has its own version. If you enter any ‘ole search term in the Amazon search engine, you will be presented a list of products. Mozy on over to the left of the product list and you will see a list of categories and subcategories.

Let’s say Liza is an up and coming Amazon seller. She enters a search term to narrow her search.  Let’s say she is starting from scratch, though, and is selling based on niche market and opportunity.  In that case, she hits “Today’s Deals” under the search bar.

A list of items will pop up running the gamut of kitchenware to electronics. Liza clicks “Under $25 on the left hand column under “Price.” PRESTO! Now her search is limited to items that are more generic and less brand-name oriented.  She scrolls a couple of pages and finds yoga mats. There’s a lot more that goes into selecting products to sell on Amazon. You can read all about it here.

You can buy an inventory order of yoga mats, on the cheap, and give them an edge over the other Amazon yoga mats with your specialty design.

VWALLAH!  You have a private label product. But wait there’s more . . .

2. Contact a manufacturer

If you are selling a high volume of product for an affordable price, you are going to need to negotiate with an international manufacturer.  Why? International manufacturers simply offer exponentially more competitive prices for affordable goods.

Alibaba.com is the most common platform but here is a list of some additional manufacturers to check out:

You’ve heard the term “fake it til you make it?”  Even though you’re a first-timer, just express confidence and remember to come across professionally. Remember this is a business relationship we are trying to build.

3. Branding is everything

Let’s face it, you are selling something generic. The way you bring value, then, relies on how well you brand yourself and design your product. Let’s return to the example of Liza and the yoga mats for a moment. Liza is selling yoga mats. A lot of people are selling yoga mats. The way Liza can add value, is to hire a designer to create specialized graphic designs for the yoga mats or maybe choose a softer more padded slip resistant material.

If she is creating seasonal yoga mats, she might have a graphic designer add a personal touch to summer, winter, spring, and fall themes (which she can stamp or sticker onto the yoga mats along with her logo).

Fiverr is a great place to hire a freelance designer. Freeeup.com is also a hidden gem because of the level of vetting the company does. With FreeeUp, you get personalized attention throughout every step of the hiring process, and its still affordable!

4. Create an Amazon FBA  listing

An Amazon FBA listing is the last step between the product and the sale. It should deliver four high-value touchpoints:

  • Upload high-resolution product image
  • Include product specifics
  • Deliver a unique value proposition
  • Create a company page

What is a unique value proposition?

A value proposition is marketing speak for “answer these 4 questions”:

  • Why is your brand better and different than the competition?
  • Who specifically does your product target and what type of specific topics, words and phrases appeal to them?
  • Where did your company come from & how does your company’s context put you in a unique position to provide this product?
  • Why should the customer trust you to be an expert in this particular category of product (aka niche)?

You should write the answer to these four questions out in paragraph form and then use them to inform your crisp, bulleted product description and paragraph on your brand page describing your context and vision. Remember to incorporate your targeted keywords here as well!

5. Link up with Amazon

Thanks to the boom in private label business, Amazon offers Fulfilled by Amazon as a service. They’ll do everything from packaging to providing special exposure to the Amazon prime market.

FBA covers:

  • Customer delivery
  • Returns
  • Customer service

This will save you much sweat and furrowing-of-brow as some of the intricacies of the delivery process are curated for you!

6. Spread the word

There are 3 main ways to promote your products:

Amazon advertising

You can sign up for Amazon advertising here.  By integrating your advertising directly on the Amazon site—you will reap the benefits of special access to built in resources, exposure, & analytics you wouldn’t otherwise.  Also—experience shows that ranking increases with use of the Amazon advertising platform.

Email marketing

Email marketing via ConvertKit gives you higher status in the Amazon ecosystem by bringing leads from the interwebs back to Amazon!  You can send a welcome e-mail when customers sign up for your newsletter or buy a product. Then follow up with a drip campaign that shows off your expertise in your product niche! Here’s a complete tutorial on ConvertKit to help you get started.

Social media marketing

It’s free to set up an Instagram & Facebook account. Reaching out to Instagram influencers via Direct Messages and email is a great way of raising awareness for your product. And hey, add-on tools like ShopTab (only $10 a month) make a storefront with clickbacks to Amazon immediately available and visually appealing on your Facebook page.

???? Ready to start selling on Amazon? Click here to find out more about Paige’s Amazon FBA course. (affiliate link)

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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!

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How to Write a Business Plan | Plus why you need one and how creative entrepreneurs can rock your business just by getting all your ideas down on paper and in one place. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, just a simple road map for where your business is going so you know what to do and WHEN to get there faster.This blog post is about how to write a business plan for your blog or small business. And of course, why you need one and HOW to create one that you will actually follow and use to achieve your goals.

A business plan is important because it gives you a road map for your business, so you know exactly what to do and where you’re going. I waited two years to write one and definitely wish I had done it sooner.

Here’s why they’re important:

  • They help you visualize your future business. It’s kind of like writing a script for a third act in a play, and your business is the star. What role do you want it to play?
  • Validate your concept
  • Set realistic expectations about your resources and your budget
  • Give you a clear picture of how you will market your business and get to the next level
  • See the exact steps you need to take in your business so you can accomplish your goals
  • Foresee future challenges so that you can plan ahead for them
  • Develop repeatable processes for your business and your brand
  • Set a benchmark to analyze and evaluate your growth
  • See gaps in your business model and refine your strategy

There’s a lot in this list and it may seem overwhelming at first and that’s okay. Take your time as you go through each step and have fun with it.

What I do when I write a business plan is give myself a time frame to work on it, and what gets done is what gets done. Kind of like saying This window is open right now. At 5pm it’s going to shut and it’s not going to open again. Great way to make sure you don’t get stuck in planning mode too long. The thing that will stop you from achieving success faster than anything else is NOT STARTING, so give yourself a cut-off to get it done and move on.

Here are the steps to write an effective business plan:

1) Create a document for your business plan.

Before we look at what to include in a business plan, keep in mind that planning your business is a fluid process. The first thing you want to do is to create a document in your favorite computer program. Two important things to point out here:

  1. You want that you can modify the document throughout the year as you learn more about your biz, your goals, and your audience. You’re going to view your business plan every 3 months, because that’s how you’re going to work your goals and track your progress. So every 3 months you’re editing, tweaking, and updating your goals and steps.
  2. You definitely want to keep the doc somewhere you can easily get to it, like Evernote or Google Docs. Don’t tuck it away where you can’t find it again!

Is this what you want to say?

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

free 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!

small business plan template

2) Client Summary

One of the hardest things can be identifying your one ideal customer. Everyone from solopreneurs to the biggest brands and corporations struggle with this one.

I think what makes it hard is fear:

  • Fear that if you focus on one ideal customer, you may actually lose business
  • If you let go of trying to be all things to all people, you’re going to wind up being one thing to no one
  • The customers you really want won’t want to work with you

But in reality, the exact opposite is true. When you zero in on your ideal customer, you naturally become a magnet for them. They know right away that you’re a good fit for them and start seeking you out vs you hunting them down.

You probably have a good idea who your target audience is. Most of my clients can say things like, “I’m targeting professional high income women with children.”

Well ok.

What do you do with that? You say it. Write it down on paper. Make a mental note of it when you need clarity. And then you completely forget about it. Because it doesn’t really MEAN anything.

If you’re going to catch the attention of your ideal customers, you have to be besties with them. That’s just the way it works. Beyond their age, title, gender and all the basic stuff, you have to know things like:

  • The way they see themselves
  • Issues they struggle with
  • Problems they have
  • How they feel
  • What their average day looks like
  • Things they want to achieve

For help with your one person, check out this video.

Need help with this? I’ve got a free customer avatar template right here that will walk you through exactly how to get clear on your ideal customer and the true value you provide!

sample business plan pdf Click here to download the customer avatar template so you can get clear on your ideal client!

3) Brand Summary

Now that you’ve gotten clear on your ideal customer, it’s time to create a summary of your business. You’re going to want to create two “statements”:

A vision statement (the long term vision you have your business)
A mission statement (how you plan to achieve it)

The vision statement is part of your strategic plan and it’s just for you. This is where you dream big. Where do you see your business going? What difference will you make for your customers and for your own life? Make it passionate and emotional. Visualize your success, what your day looks like, what car you’re driving, what kind of customers you have, all of it.

Here’s what mine looks like: My vision is to create a clear and direct path for business owners and entrepreneurs to build a profitable online business.

The mission statement is about how you’re going to achieve your vision statement. Here’s where you want to document why your business exists, meaning:

  • What specifically do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Who do you do it for?
  • What value are you providing?

My mission statement looks like this: I support this by providing education and training about growing an online brand, supplemented by creative and marketing support to achieve it.

Next steps
In case you want to know, your next step from here is to take these two statements and create a value proposition. Think of it like this: your mission and vision statements are for you. The value prop is for your customers. It’s your 30-second pitch and the message that gives people a reason to choose you over a competitor. If you need help with this, check out this post.

Here’s something I need to point out because it’s easy to get stuck when you’re writing brand statements:

Vision and mission statements will get you absolutely nowhere without the right product/market fit, which we’ll cover later on. People have to want what you have. What I mean by this is that your business will be shaped more by how people perceive it, not by how you perceive it. So until you test the waters, you won’t know if your vision aligns with what they want or need. Or you may realize that you have to adjust how you deliver your vision.

Point is, don’t spend too much time wondering how to write a business plan or perfecting “statements” until you validate your concept.

Brand look and feel
All strong brands are consistent and strategic with their visual identity. So think about how you want readers and customers to feel on your site. What do you want your brand to say about you? What voice do you want to write in? What will you show people? What types of pictures will you use? What graphic elements or fonts will you use? Take all those notes and turn them into a brand style guide, so people will recognize your brand. All your brand elements should have a cohesive look everywhere – blog, website, email, signatures, business card, sales pages, social — all of it.

4) Validate your idea and your market

Two things you need to dig into here:

Market size: The market you’re targeting must be large enough to sustain your revenue goals.
Product/market fit: There needs to be a sufficient demand within that market for what you do.

When you can place a check next to both of these, you’ve got market validation. If you can’t, save yourself the headache and move on to a different market. I’ll give you an example:

For my design business, I was all set to target health clubs. Since there’s literally a gym on every corner where I live, it seemed like a no brainer. The problem? Turns out that gyms don’t care so much about marketing. For whatever reason, it’s just a not a priority for them. So it would have taken me a ton of work to get even one gym customer. And since the market didn’t inherently value my services, I wouldn’t be able to charge enough to meet my revenue goals. What this means for gyms is:

Size of the market: Check.
Product/market fit: X.

You need to do the same for your business. Spend some time researching potential markets before you start going after them. You just need to know that there are enough people who need what you have and are willing to pay for it, so that you can meet your revenue goals in a time frame that works for you.

5) Competitive analysis

Whew! You’re doing great. We’re just about done creating a business plan step by step…

Now, this next step can pull you into a rabbit-hole if you’re not careful! Like the brand statements I mentioned earlier, the problem with competitive analysis is that the focus is on competitors instead of your customers. What I’ve learned is that there are a ton of people out there doing a ton of things, and how you stand out is really a matter of how much (and how) you put yourself out there.

Still, you want to be aware of who else is in your space. Who do you like, who you don’t like? Don’t copy other people, but even the best artists take inspiration from other artists and then make it their own. That’s what you should do with competitor analysis.

Take a look at their pricing, their offers, their processes, how they move people from the “get to know you” stage to becoming a customer. You can use what you learn to model your own offers and services.

Be careful not to compare yourself to your competitors. You’re starting out and they’re probably halfway to the finish line. Just take a look so you have a better idea of where you fit in the market and how you want people to perceive your brand.

6) Business Goals

So now it’s time to move past the warm and fuzzy side of planning and get your hands a little dirty. If you’re going to be in business, you need to know what breakeven and profitability look like.

How much do you need to make right now, so that you can be in business at all, and how much do you want to make tomorrow, when you scale your business beyond startup?

To figure it out, first make a note of all your operating and overhead costs (rent, utilities, supplies, support, hosting fees, cost of goods, travel, payroll, marketing, and so on). Yes, you need a marketing budget – doesn’t have to be huge, but you need it.

Write down everything you can think of around maintaining your business. You’d be surprised at how costs can creep when you’re not looking! Make a note of variable costs vs fixed costs. It’s good to know where the floor is and how much wiggle room you have.

What you’re going for is to establish a breakeven point first, and then project how much profit you want to make in years 2, 5 and even 10.

How will you hit your goals?
Now that you know what your financial story is, you want to map out specific tasks to achieve your goals. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know there’s a big difference between saying I want to lose some weight and I want to lose 5 pounds in one month.

If you’re going to hit your goal, you need to reverse-engineer it. What specific tasks will help you achieve it? Hold yourself accountable and write down specific numbers. What exactly do you want to achieve and in what time frame? Do you want 20 subscribers? 100 Twitter followers? 3 new clients? In 2 months? One Year? You get the idea.

Click the button below to grab a copy of the business plan template so you can start reaching your goals!

effective business plan template

7) Services and Products

Making money online is all about having sales funnels. And the best way to create sales funnels is to have some idea about the products you are going to offer, both today and tomorrow. Ideally, you want to manage the way people experience your products and services, AND how quickly you meet your revenue goals.

What services do you offer right now? What about down the road, do you have ideas for that? Will you sell products? Make a list of your current and future products. Your goal is to tie both your content and your process together into a sales process that lets people get to Know, Like and Trust you, and then Try and Buy. Basically, you want to create a process for how people will experience your products and services.

A good way to do this is by bundling them into packages. For example:

  • Intro Package: Free Consultation, Strategy Call or Freebie. Your goal here is to introduce people to your brand with tons of free info.
  • Trial Package: Low-Cost Analysis, Masterclass, Bootcamp, Ebook – get them to commit to an inexpensive transaction with you.
  • Standard Packages: Basic, Premium & VIP based on scope, needs, and budget
  • Recurring Packages: Nothing beats guaranteed monthly revenue. What services/products can you offer on a recurring basis now and in the future?

Bottom line, different customers will have different needs, interests and budgets. A solopreneur or small business owner is not going to be able to afford the same price structure as a larger corporation. By lining up your packages ahead of time you can meet their needs and your goals at the same time.

8) Pricing

If anyone knows how crucial pricing is, it’s yours truly! In the early days of my design business, I was throwing estimates out there that were all over the place. Some were super low and some were outrageously high. What I did was start out with high pricing and then I’d just drop them for customers with smaller budgets.

There’s nothing wrong with this, except that I would deliver the same exact end product, regardless of whether my price was high or low. So most of the time I wound up doing way too much work for very little income. I didn’t think ahead for different price points and budgets.

Part of this comes from needing customers. There’s a tendency to do whatever it takes to make a sale, and when you’re on the spot a lot of times it can come down to price. Which is why you need those packages.

Each package reflects a different scope of work. Basic and premium packages will require less work than a VIP package and should be priced accordingly. Fewer people will have the budget for VIP and that’s okay. At higher price points, it’s not a volume play. What you don’t want to do is sell customers a basic and deliver a VIP.

Make sure you price each package so that it:

  • Makes both you and your customers happy (not just one or the other)
  • Accurately reflects the true value of what you’re providing
  • Has a decent profit margin so you don’t hit burn out
  • Provides you enough income to help meet your revenue goals

Another thing to keep in mind is how you’ll produce each package. Will you hire people or will you do it yourself? How long will it take to deliver and at what rate? What things will you outsource? What things will you do yourself? Factor those rates into your pricing.

9) Marketing Plan

The universe wants you to succeed! People want and need new services and products like yours. So when you think about it, all you need is visibility so the universe knows you exist.

I stumbled on this quote the other day and it’s so simple but sooooo true:

Startups don’t fail because they don’t have a product, they fail because they don’t have customers.

I’ve seen many people put time and effort into developing their brands, their products, throwing money at things like infrastructure, inventory, materials, and staff, and then have absolutely no plan for sales and marketing. Just a few months ago a friend of mine closed her fashion design business after years of developing her line, getting line sheets together, working with printers, the whole nine. In all that time, what she never did was contact stores, send samples to bloggers, blog, dig into Pinterest or Instagram. Nothing.

href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship”>Being an entrepreneur means you need to follow all the steps to starting your own business. And one of those steps is to become an expert at marketing. Period.

I’m not saying you have to become a full blown marketing expert or excel at every technique. But you do have to commit to rolling up your sleeves, testing out a few tactics, and then leaning on the ones that work. This post on 100 different ways to market your business will give you some great ideas to get started.

Think about how you’ll structure each day so that you carve out time for marketing and lead generation. Your mindset should be to split your time equally between product development/client work and marketing.

Quickest way to get customers today. How can you set yourself up for success today and in the long term? What will you do right now to spread the word about your brand? For example, you could email or call people you know, do local speaking events, connect with people on LinkedIn, join Facebook groups. Think about the easiest, fastest path to getting customers now. Write down every possible strategy you can think of, and then choose the least expensive, quickest path to test out.

Future growth. What else will you do in the next 6-12 months to spread the word out about your brand?

Social media/content strategy. Based on what you know about your ideal customer, what are the best channels to reach them? Write down what your strategy will be for each. For instance, you could write something like, “spend 10 minutes a day liking, interacting and comment on Pinterest and post at least 1 pin a day.” Look at how other brands are presenting their content and think about what types of content you’ll share. Do you notice some posts that stand out more than others? Write down how frequently you’ll blog and what you’ll write about. You should check out this post for some great ideas!

Your email list plan. If you don’t have a list, it’s time to start growing one! Start making a plan to grow your list. Think about things like content upgrades, webinars, email marketing providers. This post will help you get started with building your list.

10) Workflows

Workflows, baby, that’s where it’s at. They’re such a time saver! With so many things to juggle, setting up systems and workflows will help you automate those tasks that you do over and over. You might be tempted to skip over this, but please don’t. It will save you pain and frustration down the road, plus it’ll make things run smoother, I promise!

Automating tasks. Think about things that you do over and over again, like email marketing, outreach, billing, presentations, proposals, blog title images, editing photos, social media, blog posts. Walk through your workflow for each of these. Can you create templates for your photos, proposals, and presentations? How can you schedule your posts ahead of time? If you’re emailing prospects, what software can you use to automate it so that you can reach more people quicker?

Social media + blogging. Come up with a plan for blogging and posting on social media. How often will you post? What will you write about and how frequently. Consistency here is what’s going to make your readers trust you and help you build an audience.

Your process. Branding your processes is a huge time saver in the long run and ensures consistency. Take some time to write down each and every step of your different processes. Examples of processes include how you onboard a new client, and the exact steps you take with them from start to finish.

Your schedule. Consistency and taking action are really important for growing your business! Try to schedule your day so that you’re doing the same things each day so you get into a routine. For instance, schedule time for client work, time for marketing, blogging, and time to develop future products. Try to stick to it as closely as possible.

There you have it! I hope these steps cover everything you want to know about how to write a business plan. Remember, don’t get stuck. Keep movin’ forward! Time to build a life you love and enjoy the thrill of being your own boss!

Grab the business plan template below to get started!

free business plan template small business plan template
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Weekly planner printable and tips to help you increase productivityThe other day I reached for my notebook and realized something big:

I’m 100% notes-free!

I don’t write things down anymore. I don’t scribble frantically the way I used to. And I don’t make to-do lists.

It happened organically. It wasn’t like I had an Aha moment where I thought I’m not using lists anymore. More like I just got tired of my list.

It always seemed like I added things to it faster than I could check things off. I was tired of feeling overwhelmed by what I needed to do. I just wanted to feel good about what I DID do.

Plus, my list was seriously messing with my focus.

I’d sit down to write a blog post, bang out the first few sentences, and then off my mind would go to a lesson I needed to create for my online course.

Then, while I was working on the course, I’d remember a video I wanted to record. When I switched gears to work on the video, I’d remember a pin I needed to create for last week’s blog post.

The struggle is real.

You’re all set to dive into a given task. Then your brain goes into overdrive on your list. Gotta shoot Michele an email real quick. Oops, forgot to regram @PinkDiaries. Lemme text Blake about dinner while I’m thinking about it.

Let’s flip the switch on all that! Let’s take back control and plan a week that plays out exactly the way we envision it, where we feel calm, centered and in control. I want to help simplify your schedule and free your focus so you can spend more time doing the work you really want to do.

My hope is that this design will make you feel excited and energized about the things you’ve already accomplished and the things you can’t wait to do.

Now, if lists are still your thing, I’ve got you covered! These posts will help you manage your list and plan your week effectively:

Bonus: If you want to get a jumpstart on planning, you can use the 90-Day Planner I created. It’s got sample milestones, goals, and tasks for each stage of your biz. Click on the image below to access.

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

PREPARATION

1) Tap into your Passion Zone.

Your Passion Zone includes those things you can do relentlessly, effortlessly, and repeatedly with a big smile on your face.

To help you tap into this, think about the tasks that make your heart soar. What in your work are you most passionate about? What sets your spirit free?

Once you know what those things are, your next step is to clear out your day so that you can spend more time in your zone.

Head’s up: It may take planning to weed out the tasks you shouldn’t be doing so you can open up your day for the right things. Start by putting the wheels in motion to outsource, delegate (or even drop) tasks that lie outside your Passion Zone. You may be surprised at how quickly things drop off your list as your re-prioritize.

2) Give yourself permission to focus.

Want to know what my success formula used to be?

Juggling a million things at once. In fact, the more things I had up in the air, the more successful I thought I’d be.

In reality, success comes from tackling one small task at a time.

The reason is that even the smallest tasks require intense focus, depth, and concentration to complete. You need to go all in to reap the rewards of your hard work.

But going all in can be scary, right? It takes moxie to focus on one thing and forget about everything else.

Here’s where a little faith can go a long way. Give yourself permission to be wildly, amazingly brilliant at one thing (and one thing alone) this week, k?

I’m pretty sure all the other stuff will be waiting for you next week. 🙂

3) Be present.

When you’re in the middle of writing a post and can’t stop thinking about the images you need to create for it, or the landing page you have to design, it might be time for a gut check.

Is writing a post really your top priority today?

Maybe not. It might be on your calendar, but your gut could be steering you toward something else, say, that course you started.

It’s hard to be present with your work if you’re fuzzy about what you should be working on in the first place.

When this happens, there are two things you can do:

First, trust your instincts.

Feel something tapping you on the shoulder? It’s a good thing, friend! Your instincts are like an inner guide nudging you in the right direction.

Gentle nudges usually mean big things. Maybe you’re ready to take a huge leap in your business. Or, maybe it’s time to shift gears and start a new project.

Whatever that big thing is, go with it. Your inner voice is talking to you and it wants you to listen.

Which brings me to:

Follow your instincts.

We’ve all done this.

We play a game with ourselves where we ask the same question twice, hoping to get a “no” instead of a “yes” the second time around.

If writing a blog post passes your gut check, you’ve got your answer. Time to roll up your sleeves, put your head down, and follow through with it.

You’ll be on to your next task before you know it. Pinky swear.

 

ROCK THE FREEDOM WEEK

4) Throw away your list!

This is what I’m talkin’ about. No to the lists, yo.

My hunch is that to-do lists are doing us more harm than good by blocking our ability to stay in our Passion Zone.

Here’s why:

Having a list = spending time managing it = less time crushing it.

See where I’m going here?

We spend so much time managing lists and juggling all the tasks on them that list management is about all we have time to do. You wind up with a list that gets so long you can’t get to everything. Then, instead of feeling great about the things you ARE accomplishing, you feel like you’re failing.

This is why I think lists are slowing us down instead of driving us forward.

So go ahead, friend. Do it. Right now! Toss your list in the garbage.

Done?

Great! Let’s keep going…

5) Pick 3 priority tasks for the week.

Three is the perfect number to set your week free.

I started working with three tasks when I quit my list, and let me tell you, it’s magic. No more clutter. No more noise. No more hopping around from task to task. Just a wide-open canvas and a huge playing field to do my deep work.

You probably know a handful of things that you (and only you) should be working on that will:

  • Have the biggest impact on your business
  • Keep you in your Passion Zone
  • Make you feel energized about your work

You’ve just designed your Freedom Week. Bump. Without a huge list of things to do, your mind will now be free to dive into the work you love to do.

6) Commit to one hour.

This one’s pretty powerful.

When I go running, the first mile is always a bear. I want to stop. Turn around. Go right back inside and call it a day.

But, if I hang in there and get past the start, I can tap into a zone and forget about everything else.

Tacking projects that seem overwhelming is like waiting for that runner’s high to kick in. You have to give yourself enough time to get past your own resistance and into your zone.

Give each task one uninterrupted hour.

That means no email. No Facebook. Shut them down. No texts and no calls. If you have to, turn off your phone.

You may find that your first 20 minutes has you staring at a blank screen. Keep staring, even if you start feeling squirmy at this point. It takes at least this long to context shift, which is a fancy pants way of saying “task shift”. Your brain needs time to shift away from previous activities and process the task at hand.

Whatever you do, please resist the temptation to go do something else! When we have big projects or things that overwhelm us, we tend to want to do things like:

  • Run to the girl’s room real quick
  • Clean up your desk area
  • Poke around social media (a HUGE one for me)
  • Check your email
  • Count your Instagram followers
  • Text a friend
  • And more

One hour, friend. That’s all you need to get past your resistance. After that, you’ll be fully immersed and crushing it.

7) Develop a routine.

My husband and I went on vacation this summer and after four days, I couldn’t wait to get home. I missed my routine.

Sounds boring, right?

There’s something about doing the same thing every day that gives you a sense of purpose and reaffirms your ability to achieve your weekly tasks.

Here’s my daily routine:

Every morning I get up, make a cup of tea, straighten up my apartment, and get myself together. Doing these simple things every morning gives my brain time to gear up for the day.

I take a half hour to read through email before I dive into my deep work, which is most often content creation.

Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, I go for a run around lunchtime to shake off the morning and gear up for the afternoon.

Later in the day, I meet with my team to coordinate projects. Then, I recap where I’m at so that I can pounce on the next day.

From there, it’s rinse and repeat.

See how doing things repetitively like this can give your day a sequence? There’s little room for guesswork because there’s not a whole lot to think about.

Doing things habitually is like strength training for the mind, in my book. Because your brain already knows what to expect, it can fire on all cylinders right away.

How’s that for a super productive week?

Don’t forget to grab the 90-Day Planner so you can start crushing your goals:

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

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After months of experimenting and preparation with social media and blogging, you’re finally starting to get some traffic to your website!

A Seriously Simple Website Tweak That Will Double Your Website Revenue | Feel like you’re spinning your wheels with marketing? It’s not your fault! Your message just needs some tweaking so that it grabs the attention of your perfect clients and readers. Here’s a simple, effective way to make your website work harder to bring in leads and sales. Click through to find out how!Whether you’re a veteran or just starting out in the online business world, increasing sales on your website can be challenging even with increased traffic.

Aside from creating quality content regularly, leveraging social media and using the highest quality images for your blog, often times we need a little something more to give us a boost.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to give potential customers that push. And it’s a simple tweak you can make right on your home page.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you want some advice on how to manage your money so that you can save for the future and still enjoy all the things you want to do today, like go on vacations.

So you decide to look for someone who can give you some guidance. You search Google for “financial planner” and find these two websites:

Weak Value Proposition Example

 

Strong Value Proposition Example

Which one makes you want to find out more about what they do?

I’ll bet it’s the second one. Because the reason to do business with you is the first thing you see, with an image that reinforces the value you’ll experience.

Contrast that to the first one, where the first thing you notice is their logo and then some bullet points about them, followed by a lot more text about them.

Now compare these examples to your own website. When someone arrives on your home page, is it immediately clear what your business is about? Will visitors know right away the value they can expect?

So many entrepreneurs overlook this step when they’re building their websites. And then even though they start getting traffic from organic search, social and email campaigns, that traffic doesn’t translate into more leads or customers.

If you find you’re getting decent traffic but no targeted leads, it’s the message (or value proposition) on your home page that may be at fault. In this article, I’m going to show you how to create a strong value proposition that will convert clients and bring you more sales.

Here’s what I’m going to cover:

  • What is a value proposition?
  • What goes into creating a value proposition?
  • How to create a winning value proposition
  • An example of a strong value proposition
  • A value proposition worksheet

What’s a value proposition?

Using the earlier example, if you’re a financial advisor and someone searches Google for “financial planner” and they land on your site, you want them to stay.

So this is your chance to communicate your value in 30 seconds or less and pull them deeper into your content.

Your value proposition tells people why they should do business with you. It should clearly state what you do, who you do it for and how it helps.

Being very clear on these three things is what’s going to convince people not to hit the back button and search for another trainer.

In a nutshell, a value proposition is a clear statement that

  • explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (shows relevancy),
  • delivers specific benefits (aspect of value),
  • tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (point of differentiation).

It should pass the word of mouth test

Your value proposition should be so simple that even a 10-year-old can tell his friends about your offer and how they would benefit.

But it shouldn’t be so simple that it forgets the value mention. A statement like “We provide financial advisory services,” doesn’t mean anything to people. There’s just not enough information here for people to remember you, let alone tell their friends.

On the other hand, a value proposition that people can’t understand enough to explain to their friends what your offer is and how they can benefit is equally damaging.

Take this example:

Bringing together military and industry veterans in the relentless pursuit of our clients’ success. We understand that the financial industry is first and foremost a service industry and we seek to be consistently recognized for exceptional client service resulting from teamwork and living by our principles.”

Do you have any idea what they do? Ready to run and tell your friends about it? Didn’t think so.

Your value proposition isn’t the place to impress people with how smart you are. Technical jargon-propositions like this will kill your chances of converting clients. Stay away from them at all costs.

Remember to keep the focus on your customer:

  • What do they want?
  • Why are they here?, and
  • How do you help?

Use the right language

Your value proposition needs to be in the language of your ideal customer and join the conversation that is already going on in their minds. You need to speak in the words your customers use to describe your product and how they benefit from it, not your own.

Don’t try to guess what that language is. The way you speak about your services is often very different from how your customers describe it. You need to find out by either interviewing your customers and your sales team or through social media.

What goes into a value proposition?

The value proposition is usually a block of text (a headline, sub-headline and one paragraph of text) with a visual (photo, hero shot, graphics).

While value propositions come in many forms, here’s a basic formula you can use:

  • Headline
  • Sub-headline or short paragraph
  • List of key benefits or features
  • An image

The headline is your attention grabber and the most important part of the value proposition. It’s what people will spend the most time looking at. Give them one short sentence here summarizing the end-benefit you’re offering.

You sub-headline is where you add more detail about what you do, who you do it for and why it is useful. This should be no more than 2-3 sentences.

Use bullet points to show benefits and features people can expect.

An image is worth a thousand words, so be careful which image you choose.  Show your product or some image that emphasizes your main message. An irrelevant picture will confuse people and won’t do much to emphasize your message.

Evaluate your current value proposition by checking whether it answers the questions below:

  • What product or service is your company selling?
  • What is the end-benefit of using it?
  • Who is your target customer for this product or service?
  • What makes your offering unique and different?

Use the headline-subhead-benefits-visual formula to structure the answers.

How to create a winning value proposition

The best value proposition is clear: what is it, for whom and how is it useful? If those questions are answered, you’re on the right path. Always strive for clarity first.

If your value proposition makes people squint their eyes and tilt their head, you’re doing it wrong. If they have to read a lot of text to understand your offering, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, a sufficient amount of information is crucial for conversions, but you need to draw them in first before you get in to all that.

Here are some steps to help you come up with a winning value proposition:

1) Create a Customer Avatar

You need to know what motivates your ideal customers in order to craft a message that’ll make them take notice.

The best way to get this kind of insight is to create a Customer Avatar, which is a profile of your ideal customer.

Do you have a favorite client that you love working with, one that just happens to be a highly profitable client? Use that profile for your customer avatar.

If you don’t have clients yet, think about who would value most from your products or services. Why would they want to choose you over someone else? Think about what problems they have and how you can uniquely help. Then just update your avatar later one when you know more about your ideal clients.

Here’s what you need to include in your profile:

  • What do they do?
  • What are their basic demographics: background, age, income, gender?
  • What’s the biggest challenge they face?
  • What are their aspirations?
  • What would make their job/life easier?
  • Are there any other people involved in the decision-making process (spouse, boss). If so, you’ll need to create an avatar for each.
  • Have they used other products or tools similar to yours, and how did they like them?

You may discover some things you didn’t expect.

Don’t be afraid to focus solely on this one profile. You really want your avatar to reflect highly profitable clients only, and let the others fall off. It’s time to get laser-focused on your ideal customer (the ones that are super easy to work with, love what you do, and bring in the most revenue).

(NOTE: Want my easy 3-step process to create your customer avatar? Get my Customer Avatar Worksheet.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

 

2) Define what makes you truly unique

When I think about what separates me from other marketers, the first thing I think about is why clients pick me.

And then I think, “I’m good at what I do, I have a great service and I provide a great value.”

But here’s the thing. These are the same exact things that everyone else can can say. Service and value are a given today and something that customers expect. These claims will get you a seat at the table, but they’re not tipping points.

You really need to reflect on the one aspect of value that you excel at over your competitors. This is the secret to creating a strong value proposition, especially if what you sell isn’t all that unique.

In my case, I’ve learned that my tipping point is that I’m a marketing team in-a-box, kind of like a CMO on steroids. When clients work with me they don’t have to shop for a separate writer, designer, business strategist, SEO person or IT person. So my real value is that I make marketing easy for companies by saving them time and energy and holding their hand through the process.

You might discover that it’s the little things that really matter to customers, like all the things you overlook and are already doing that absolutely thrill them. For instance, as a remodeler it might be how clean and tidy you keep the project site that matters most to your customers and not your craftsmanship or attention to detail.

Knowing these little things will make all the difference in the way you market yourself. When you clearly communicate them throughout your website, you’re going to immediately attract the exact customers who want to work with you.

Here’s an example of a great value proposition

Check out Wix’s homepage:

Wix value proposition

There are tons of website builders out there, so how does Wix stand out from the pack?

They focus on how easy it is to create a beautiful website.

Which makes sense, because if you think about it many people looking to build their own website are entrepreneurs like you and me who have a million things on their to-do list.

Chances are their background isn’t in technology, so being able to easily build a website is super important to them.

Do you know what’s super important to your customers? Make sure they see that message right away.

If you’re saying too many things, or you’re saying them in ways that confuse people or don’t convey value, it means your value proposition is unclear. And if it’s unclear to you, it’s definitely going to be unclear to visitors.

Value proposition template

It can be tricky to know where to start writing your value proposition, so I’ve provided a template to help get your creative juices flowing. First write out your responses to these questions. Take your time and try to answer them as completely as possible.

  • What product or service are you offering?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What do they need or desire?
  • What problems do they have?
  • How do you solve their problems?

Then plug in your answers here (you don’t have to follow this template exactly, but it should have these basic components).

For_____________________(your ideal customer)

Who____________________(what does your customer seek or need)

(Your product) is a ________________________ (describe you or your product)

That____________________(your solution/key benefit)

 

Examples:

For non-technical marketers
Who struggle to find return on investment in social media
Our product is a web-based analytics software
That translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.

For businesses and enterprises
Who want to stay ahead of the competition
Sales Cloud is the world’s #1 sales application
That helps salespeople manage accounts, contacts, and business opportunities, and collaborate instantly from anywhere on any device.

 

A good way to test your value proposition is to create two home pages and run Google ads to see which one performs better. You won’t be able to test your actual ad conversions this way because there are other factors involved, but you’ll be able to tell which value proposition is stronger. Keep testing and refining your message and product/market fit until it’s solid.

(NOTE: Want my easy 3-step process to create your customer avatar? Get my Customer Avatar Worksheet.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

 

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Online Business Blueprint | This post includes a blueprint to help bloggers and entrepreneurs prioritize and focus your time on the specific things you should be working on right now to grow your business. Click through to see the blueprint!

If you’re a bit stumped with what to do right now to grow your blog business, this post is for you! I break down the exact things to focus on so you know what to prioritize and when. Click through to see the blueprint!Hi friends!

We’ve been tackling so many aspects of making a full-time income from a blog, I thought it might be cool to take a little breather.

I really want you to step away from the minutiae of DOING for a minute. Let’s look at your business from a different perspective so you can see where you’re at right now, and more importantly, what your unique success formula looks like moving forward.

No specific action steps today. More like a bird’s eye view, k?

Here’s what I’m covering in this post:

  • How to know what you should be focusing on now
  • How to “work” your stage to get to the next level
  • Setting high-level goals for each stage
  • Breaking those down into bite-sized goals

Let’s dig in…

What should you be focusing on now?

This is a great question! It’s so easy to feel a kind of push and pull between what you think (or even know) you should be doing, what the experts say to do, and what other brands and competitors are doing right now.

Should you be doing those things too?

It depends.

First things first, you need to pinpoint what stage of business you’re in.

This is massively important because there are certain things you need to focus on at each stage of your business. Knowing where you are right now will help you build a platform for your next stages. Think of it as a road map for getting from Point A to Point Z with your blog biz.

Now, you’re probably wondering about these stages of business. I’m going to break them down for you right now.

Bonus: If you want to get a jumpstart on the stages below, you can use the 90-Day Planner I created with sample milestones, goals, and tasks to help you get started. Click on the image below to access.

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

Stage #1 – The Launch Stage

FOCUS ON: BUILDING YOUR BLOG + PLATFORM

Time to get your blog up and running. Your focus is on narrowing down your passion/niche, validating your profitable idea, laying the foundation for your brand, and getting your first few subscribers. This means writing your core message, identifying your target audience, designing a logo, launching your social networks and writing your first posts.

Whew! It’s a lot. You’ll definitely need some time to implement everything.

In case you’re curious, you’re in the Launch stage if…

  • you’re still in the process of validating your business idea.
  • you’re a bit unsure about how to pursue your idea and turn it into a business.
  • you don’t have a website or social presence just yet.
  • you’re on a tight budget and need to launch your biz as affordably as possible.

If you feel a bit flustered and overwhelmed during this stage, that’s completely normal, so don’t worry. This is a time of major uncertainty. You have ideas about what to do and are battling with a little bit of fear about whether it will all work out. This is perfectly ok and how you should be feeling right now (even though it’s not fun)! If you hang in there with me, your vision will come together. Promise.

 

Stage #2 – The Hustle Stage

FOCUS ON:  GROWING YOUR AUDIENCE + TRAFFIC

High five! Your blog is up and running and you’ve built a platform for your business. Now it’s time to hustle.

While you’re in the hustle stage, you’re going to be building your audience, driving traffic, and generating initial sales. You’ll want to focus on social media, building a following, growing your email list, and of course, creating original content on the regular.

You’ll also want to follow these steps to optimize your website so that it generates leads, subscribers, and sales. Psst…You can also grab the handy Lead Generating Website Checklist below:

Want to know how to drive and convert incredible amounts of traffic to your business? Download this web optimization checklist so you can turn your website into a 24/7 sales machine!

How do you know if you’re in the hustle stage? I’m glad you asked!

You’re in the Hustle stage if…

  • you have 2-5k email subscribers.
  • you’re publishing original content on your blog or video consistently.
  • your combined social media following is between 100 – 10,000.
  • you’re generating revenue (or close to generating revenue) but it’s not enough to replace your salary just yet.

If you really want to build your traffic and grow your social media following, grab my blog promo plan. It will help you create a plan for what to share and where, and how frequently you should share your blog posts to get the most traffic to them.

In the Hustle Stage, focus on building a following, growing your list, and creating original content.Click To Tweet

 

Stage #3 – The Growth Stage

FOCUS ON: CREATING COURSES + FUNNELS

This is where you’re really going to start seeing some traction in your business, where all your hard work spent building your platform and audience will start to pay off.

During this stage, you’re going to focus on streamlining your sales process, building funnels and setting a foundation for scalable growth. Your goal now is to move beyond selling 1-to-1 services and toward a “1-to-many” business model. The best way to do this is to create online courses and digital products. These will allow you to free up your time and prepare your online business for success, which is up next in stage #4.

You’re in the Growth stage if…

  • you have more than 5k email subscribers and your list is growing on autopilot.
  • you’re starting to generate enough revenue to sustain yourself and pursue your biz full time. Woo!
  • your business is gaining momentum month after month.
  • you have more than 10k social media followers.

 

Stage #4 – The Profit + Scale Stage

FOCUS ON: AUTOMATING YOUR BUSINESS

You’re ready to take your biz to the next level! In stage #4, your business is growing consistently, and it’s time to add more team members and implement even better business systems. Buut, you may not have the resources just yet to do all that. You may need to increase your revenue first.

I’ve got the solution right here!

In this stage, your goal is to start scaling the things you’ve already created so you can generate even more revenue and profits from them. Your focus is on automating your sales process and offers so you can sell more with less effort. You also want to start streamlining and organizing the work you’ve done, so you scale with ease.

You’re in the Profit + Scale stage if…

  • you have 15k email subscribers or more.
  • you’re generating at least 50k a year.
  • you’re selling courses and offers that free up your time every day.
  • you’ve completely moved away from offering 1-to-1 services.
  • you have 2-3 sales funnels that are converting consistently.
  • you’re ready to hire at least two staff members (even if they’re part-time).

 

Next up, how to work the stages

Here’s where you start identifying what you should be working on right now so that you can get to the next stage as quickly as possible. Before we dig into specific goals though, we need to know what we’re aiming for.

For example, let’s say you’re in Stage #1 and just launching your blog. Or, maybe you’ve been at it for a while but want to shift your blog’s focus, which means that your blog is “new”, inasmuch as you’re rebranding or charting a new path with it.

What you want to do is to create high-level milestones that you plan to achieve during this stage. I love working in 3-month time chunks because that is far off enough that I have something to work toward, but not too far off that I can’t see my end game, make sense?

Here’s what your milestones for stage #1 might look like:

  • Launch blog and brand
  • Publish 9 blog posts
  • Complete social media profiles
  • First 100 subscribers
  • 500 combined followers

This means that at the end of stage #1, you will accomplish each of these milestones. If we look at it another way, these are going to be your focus areas until you get to stage #2.

Phew! Now we’re getting somewhere. From here you’re going to specify goals and tasks that will help you accomplish them.

Don’t forget to grab my 90-Day Planner – I’ve even got a sample plan you can follow. Woo!

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

 

Next, create high-level goals

Now it’s time to break the milestones down into goals. We’re not getting super granular with these just yet. Right now all you need to do is set high-level goals for the next few months. Make sure you account for each bucket in our Blog Profit Plan:

  • Content
  • Traffic
  • Subscribers
  • Profit

Now, I know you’re probably thinking How am I going to get it all done? I have a hard time focusing on just one of these buckets!

I get it.This is one of those things where not all of the buckets will have an equal focus each month. Still, it’s important that you try to address each bucket, ev’ry month.

Why is this so important?

The reason is that addressing each bucket will give you a direct route to your next stage. Think of it as if you’re driving down a superhighway going 100mph. It’s a beautiful sunny day…you’ve got the sunroof down and there are no cars, lights, or speed bumps up ahead to slow you down. Just you and your destination.

That’s how we’re gunnin’ here. We’re tossing all four buckets in the backseat and hittin’ the highway. The point here is to get into a habit of constantly juggling the buckets.

Using our same example above, here’s what your goals might look like:

  • Evaluate my niche for profitability
  • Finalize logo
  • Pick a theme for my blog
  • Write my first 5 blog posts
  • Create my social profiles
  • Share content each day on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook
  • Choose an email marketing platform
  • Send my first 5 broadcast emails
  • Create one freebie
  • Create my first welcome email sequence

Your goals may look different than this depending on which stage of business you’re in.

 

Finally, break down your goals

This part is pretty straightforward. Usually, one goal will precede another, meaning that in order to tackle the next goal, you need to do “x” first. For example, if you’re in stage #1, your order of things may be to tackle these first:

  • Evaluating your niche
  • Researching products
  • Setting up your blog
  • Writing your first few posts
  • Choosing brand elements – logo, colors, fonts

Then move on to:

  • Creating social profiles
  • Sharing content each day
  • Creating your first freebie
  • Setting up your email marketing platform

In the two examples above, the items listed would be your priorities for the month. What this means is that no matter what else is happening, these things get done. When other things pop up, you reschedule them or put them aside to make room for your must-do items.

This is easier said than done, I know! But there’s a way to make sure you stay on track, and that has a lot to do with how you manage each week and each day.

Here’s that 90-Day Planner again:

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

I like to use the planner with this time-blocking template to help prioritize my time each week.

Trust me, this dynamic duo is a powerhouse for helping you stay on track, avoid distractions, and ultimately, rock your to-do list.

What’s your plan for your blog biz? Have you created one yet? Let’s hear it!

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