Ready to turn your to-do list into a Get-It-Done Action Plan? This post will help! It’s a simple guide for entrepreneurs and business owners to help you prioritize goals and identify specific tasks to achieve them. It also includes my secret “increase productivity” weapon – the Time Blocking Template. Use it to create a visual calendar so you know exactly what to do to each week. Click through to see the whole guide!I used to think I was super productive every day in my business until I realized that no…not so much.

If that sounds confusing, hang in there with me.

I was getting stuff done for sure, just not the right stuff.

I’d start writing a post and get briefly distracted by an email. Then I’d get up, go get a drink, come back, log in to Pinterest, check my feeds, log in to Skype, check my junk mail…

…and back to writing again.

Then a text would come through and I’d get sidetracked. Again.

Sound familiar?

Being an entrepreneur is tricky business. It’s easy to feel flustered and even a bit scattered. There’s so much we have to do, so many reasons to procrastinate, and tons of shiny bright things to take our attention away from the one thing we should be doing.

Oh, and by the way, how do we even know what that one thing is? How can we tell if what we’re working on right now is a must-do or if we’re just spinning our wheels?

I’ve been spending a lot of time on this and think I finally nailed it…

Here’s a short list of things that have helped me stay laser-focused and finally (finally!) get tons of the right stuff done. I hope they help you increase productivity and rock your To-do list too.

With me? Let’s dig in.

1) Get serious about your biz

I know this for sure. It’s super easy to put something down on paper, up on a wall, in Asana, Evernote, or whatever your project management tool is… then let it slide until the next day.

No big deal if you don’t get to it, right? You just start a new list. At least you’re doing something. 

Be honest, how many times have you started to write a post but didn’t finish it? Or it was on your list but somehow you didn’t get to it?

Me too…

It feels good to see a whole mess of things you have to do…makes you feel proud and accomplished. Look at how busy I am! Kinda reminds me of the way I hang out in my workout gear all day and think about going for a run. 🙂

At some point along your entrepreneurial journey, though, you’ve got to buckle down and start taking your business (and yourself) more seriously.

I know this is true. It happened to me. Just a few months ago, something shifted and I got serious about my business. I stopped making lists, at least for a while. I stopped checking my junk email 10x a day and spending hours on Pinterest.

The only thing I wanted to do was get things done. And I knew exactly what those things were, even without my list!

When your business really, really matters to you, you know what you have to do. It’s crystal freakin’ clear, friend.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When your business really, really matters to you, that’s when you start getting things done.” quote=”When your business really, really matters to you, that’s when you start getting things done.”]

So my question for you is: What’s stopping you from taking your business seriously? In my case, it was lack of confidence. If this is the same for you, please know that you got this. I’ve got your back. Let’s do it together…

Let’s get super serious. Let’s trust our instincts.

This post is set to publish on Friday. I wanted to put it off because well, it’s been a crazy week and I’m beat. But I’m all serious business over here, what about you? Got a post due tomorrow? Shut down your email, stop surfing, conquer your FOMO, and block off the time to do it. We’ve got work to do! Let’s get it done…

2) Set the right priorities

You know I love my phases of business. We’ve got the early phase, the growth phase, and the blow-up phase.

Knowing what to do starts with looking at which phase you’re in, and then working back from that. This is because your goals will be different for each phase.

Let’s take a look.

In the early stage, your goal is to set a foundation and create a platform for your business. If this is you, your priorities are:

  • Brand development
  • Website, social profiles
  • Blogging
  • Building a following
  • Growing your email list

In the growth phase, you’re getting traction in your business and making some money. Your goal in this phase is to start shifting your business model from one-to-one, to one-to-many. Your priorities here look like:

  • Course creation
  • Webinars
  • Influencer marketing
  • Outsourcing non-core tasks

In the blow up phase, everything’s clicking. You’ve found your sweet spot, your courses are hugely profitable, and your webinars are converting off the charts. Your goal at this phase is to scale your business, so your priorities are:

  • On-demand webinars
  • Building a team
  • Advanced tools + automation

After that, the sky’s the limit! Now that you know your priorities, you can break them down even more and start taking action, which leads me to…

3) Turn your priorities into an action plan

There are a few ways you can do it.

1) Use the Eisenhower method

Named after former President Eisenhower, of course!

If you’re curious, this is just a simple box Eisenhower created to organize his own enormous to-do list. It’s become hugely popular because it works, and maybe it’ll work for you too. I actually prefer another method which I’ll share next, but I do like the way the box shifts my thinking.

Here’s what it looks like:

Use the Eisenhower box method to increase productivityHere are my big takeaways from the box:

  • Only do what you need to do right now – nothing more or less
  • Stop watching TV and wasting time
  • Always be thinking about what you can delegate

To be honest though, just about everything in between the Dos and Don’ts is where I get tripped up with this. I’m the kind of girl who has to know exactly what my week looks like. I’m always thinking After today, then what? And what about this HUGE list I have here:

Turning a scattered list into a To-do list on steroids will drastically increase productivity.

Here’s why I prefer this second way…

2) Use my Time Block Method

If your list looks anything like mine, it kinda sorta makes you want to take a nap. The problem with this list is that everything is a priority. How do you know what to do first?

Enter confusion and procrastination.

Let’s not get caught in that trap, k? Let’s break things down into manageable blocks of time.

The Time Block Method uses a simple Excel template that turns my scratchy list into this:

Increase productivity with my Time Block Template and guide.

Related: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do Next

See how I’ve included even more things on the spreadsheet? That’s because I’m keepin’ it real, yo. Nothing derails my day faster than things that come up out of the blue.

It’s usually the stuff I know I need to do but pretend I don’t, until of course Wednesday comes and yep, I do have to run to the bank! So now I make it a point to include both personal and business tasks on the spreadsheet.

If you’re curious about the parentheses, all it means is the number of times a task needs to be performed. For instance, let’s say you estimate 4 hours to pitch a guest post, but you don’t want to do it all at once. Instead you want to work in smaller blocks of time. You’d put a (2) next to the task, which means do it twice. In this case, each time block would be 2 hours, for a total of 4.

Want to grab a copy of the template? You can download it here.

We’re almost there, just one more step to go…

On a separate spreadsheet, you transfer your time block onto a visual calendar so you can see your entire week at a glance.

Here’s what that looks like:

One of the best ways to increase productivity is to create a visual calendar with all of your week's tasks on there.

In this example, I bit off more than I can chew with my scratchy list. Some things are going to spill over to the next week. But the difference between a scratchy list and my Time Block Template is that things gets very specific. You know exactly what you plan to accomplish and how much time it will take. You also get a feel for your work habits this way and start to plan your time according to the way you like to work. Plus, you can re-prioritize tasks based on your must-do’s and how much time you really have each day.

Tip: I added Asana to my toolkit a few months ago and absolutely love the way I can assign tasks and track everything. What I do is enter the tasks/time-blocks from my calendar and then assign them to either myself or my assistant, with deadlines for each task. Asana even sends me reminders, which helps me increase productivity even more by keeping me focused and on track with projects. I highly recommend checking it out!

If you’d like to use my Time Block Template to be more productive than you already are, you can download it below.

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

I hope these tips help you get a massive amount of stuff done! What productivity tools do you use?

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How to Choose Colors That Will Make Your Brand Stand Out | Do you love creating mood boards and collecting colors, but then find yourself a bit stumped with how to apply them to your brand? This post will help! It includes tips for entrepreneurs and biz owners to help you select and apply your brand colors with purpose and intention. Click through to see all the color tips!!Color is such a huge part of how we experience the world. Everything we experience is made up of different colors. Some inspire and excite us and others can make us feel a bit down.

So what does this mean for your website and brand?

I think one of the hardest things with color is knowing how to apply it so that your brand stands out without being a freak show of colors. There are so many sites where you can get ideas for color palettes, but then what do you do with them?

I put together a quick guide and free printable color scheme kit that will help you choose your brand colors with intention and purpose.

Choose a primary color

The first thing to do if you want to build an epic brand (and of course you do!) is to identify your brand tone. This really means deciding how you want your brand to look, feel, and sound to people.

Once you’ve done that, simply assign a color that matches your brand’s tone. Whichever color you choose will become your brand’s primary color. To help you decide, here’s a list of some colors and the moods they evoke:

  • Red: strong, powerful, fun, youthful, confident, exciting, loud, vibrant
  • Orange: friendly, energetic, unique, positive, upbeat, spirited
  • Yellow: happy, sunny, enthusiastic, positive, cheery, warm
  • Green: calm, refreshing, healthy, green, abundant, natural, motivated
  • Blue: open, airy, calm, credible, reliable, safe, serene, trusting, modern
  • Purple: creative, lush, luxurious, mysterious, regal, romantic, seductive, sumptuous, wise, powerful, strong, safe, timeless, edgy
  • Gray: neutral, boring, depressing
  • Beige: neutral, picks up traits of surrounding colors
  • Ivory: neutral, clean, simple, easy

Red gets more clicks

You know how a red top makes your shoulders look bigger and a pair of black pants makes your hips look smaller? Color has a lot to do with our visual perceptions of size.

If you play with color like this you can make certain elements stand out and grab people’s attention, even when they’re smaller.

Red and orange are like this – they get noticed online. They’re “action” colors. They look bigger than they are and grab your attention pretty quickly. People want to click on red and orange.

Just look at your Pinterest feed. Which color stands out to you the most?

Turn your primary color into an action color

Got it, red stands out more. Buut, what if red or orange doesn’t match your brand personality?

Great question! Let’s say your primary color is blue. You can still make it stand out so people notice and click it. You just have to be more careful with how you apply it.

When you look at this shopping list, which word do you remember?

  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Banana
  • Pineapple
  • Lemon
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Melon
  • Kiwi

Pineapple, right? This sounds pretty obvious, but when you have the same colors on a page and then one that’s different, that element is going to stand out more. This is called the “isolation effect”. You’re isolating that one color so it stands out more.

You can use the isolation effect to turn your primary color into your action color. This is just another way of saying that it’s the color you want people to click on. If you choose your color scheme with intention, which I’ll get into next, you can train people on your action color. Basically, your action color needs to stand out from your other colors.

Compare color palettes

I love creating different color combinations. So much fun! Before you choose your brand’s color scheme, play around with some different color palettes for inspiration. Here are a few sites that I like:

  • Kuler  – Want to know what colors go with purple? Use the Kuler color wheel and select a rule (complimentary, shades, compound) to create different color schemes. It will give you the Hex code and RGB values for each color. You can also explore their library for ideas.
  • COLOURlovers – A community of creatives from around the world who share their color palettes. What I love about this site is that you don’t have to know a color’s Hex code to start getting ideas. If you want an orange color scheme, just search for “orange” and you’ll see tons of different orange color palettes.
  • Coolors – This one is probably my favorite.  It’s a color scheme generator that gives you an entirely new set of colors every time you press the space bar. Once you see a palette that includes your primary color, you can tweak the hue and saturation or even choose a different shade to see how that new color looks paired with the others.
  • Pictaculous – Super cool and tons of fun! Want to create a color scheme based on a photo or an image? Upload it to Pictaculous and it will generate a color scheme from it, plus additional color combos from Kuler and ColourLovers. Here’s the palette it generated from my image:

Pictaculous - color palette generator from an image

Create your own color scheme

Now that you’ve got some ideas for colors to pair with your action color, the next step is to create your brand’s color scheme.

First, a note. It’s fun to experiment with different colors and that’s perfectly okay. At some point, you’ll want to narrow it down to 3-4 colors so your brand doesn’t look all over the place. The most successful brands are strategic and cohesive with their brand elements, and you want to be successful too! So when you think color, think strategy.

Some more thoughts on color schemes:

  • Every color should have a specific purpose. Don’t just choose colors because you think they look pretty together. Of course you want that, but what’s even more important is how you apply colors to your brand elements, e.g. headings, titles, text, icons, buttons, and links.
  • As I mentioned before, your action (primary) color is the one you really want to pop. Save this color for your links and buttons.
  • Choose 1-2 neutral tones for backgrounds. Neutral tones aren’t necessarily exciting, which is exactly what you want. Neutral colors make your action color stand out. They’re similar to white space in the way they open up your page and break up contrasting colors.
  • Choose a contrasting (and darker) color for backgrounds, headings, and text.
  • Ideally, your heading color should be different than your action color. This can be tricky depending on your color scheme but is definitely something to keep in mind. If you use the action color only on buttons and links, your readers won’t be confused about what to click on.

If you want, you can download this as a printable kit to help you choose your brand colors. Click on the image below to download the color scheme kit.

 
Download the free color scheme kit to help you choose and apply colors to your brand!

Psst…Colors are just ONE of the many brand elements we cover in The Build My Brand Toolkit. With this kit you will create an entire branding system that includes all your visual elements (logo, colors, fonts, social media templates, style guide) PLUS brand copy (About page, Home page, messaging, blog tone and style) so you can build a brand that makes you smile. Click on the image below to learn more!
The Build My Brand Tool Kit gives you everything you need to brand yourself like a pro! Click here to learn more.

Was this post helpful? What’s your brand’s color scheme? I’m happy to take a look and provide some guidance if you need!

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How to Create a Brand Style Guide for Your Blog or Business | A style guide for your blog will help you be consistent, cohesive and harmonious with all of your important elements, plus save you time because you won’t have to stop and think about how to design your Instagram image or how to format your next blog post.Hey there! A brand style guide is just one of the many elements I cover in the Build My Brand Tool Kit, which is a ridiculously in-depth, step-by-step system FULL of everything you need to build an epic brand that attracts your dream customers. It may be just what you’re looking for! Learn more about the kit.

I get it. And I’m sure you get it too. How important it is to really know your brand on a deep level. Things like:

  • Your mission and what you stand for
  • Who you are speaking to
  • How you want your audience to feel when they experience your brand

So. What’s next? What do we do with everything we know? I think maybe first, we should step back and take a minute to realize how incredibly amazing it is that we have the power to define how people experience our brands. And that the only thing that stands in between us knowing our brand and our peeps knowing our brand is…

…the way we communicate it to them.

That’s where having a brand style guide can help. A brand style guide is like a brand guidelines template that will help you document your important elements so that your brand is consistent and harmonious everywhere. It covers how you plan to treat things such as fonts, colors, images, icons, tone, messaging, and more. As I mention in this post, a style guide will save you time because you won’t have to stop and think about how to design your Instagram image or how to format your next blog post. And it will make it easy for people to recognize your brand online.

Before we dig in to how to create a brand style guide, I have to say one more thing because this is so very important and I don’t want to forget.

Let go of being perfect

Creating a style guide template is usually one of the last things I do when I launch a blog or a business. Why, you ask? Because I know me. I can get pulled into a design rabbit hole really, really quickly. I’m the world’s biggest perfectionist and I can get hung up on every last detail, the kinds of things others don’t even see. I’m a Virgo and that’s what we do, right?

The practical, business side of me doesn’t like falling into rabbit holes. That’s why I wait to create a style guide template for my blog until I have more information. There’s a lot that can happen in a year, especially if it’s your first:

  • Your audience can change
  • Your vision can change
  • Your products can change
  • Your tone can change
  • And more

So here’s the big question:

Do you need a brand style guide now or can it wait?

The short answer is Yes, you need one now. As I mentioned, it will save you time. But…

…how much time you spend creating it should be directly related to how long you’ve been in business.

If you’re just starting out, don’t spend a ton of time on a style guide. It’s too early in the game for a deep dive. Give yourself a certain amount of time each day or each week, depending on your schedule. Building a blog brand is important, but please don’t get hung up on things like finding the perfect font or the perfect colors. It is so much more important to get out there and start to interact with and build your audience! You’re going to learn so much about yourself and your peeps, and then you can bring that information back to the table and tweak and refine and edit your brand style guide until your heart’s content.

If you’re in a momentum or growth stage, congrats! You’re starting to establish your brand and really know who your readers are on a personal level. You’ve developed things like your tone and your blogging style, maybe you’ve pivoted your brand position once or twice and tweaked your offerings to get them where they need to be. You’re probably due for a complete style overhaul. In this case, you can and should spend more time on your style guide template.

For this post, I’m going to assume that you’re in the early stages of your blog. I really want you to get that things don’t have to be perfect to build a strong brand foundation, so I’m structuring this post as a quasi-challenge. If you’d like me to turn this into more of a formal challenge, where we break it all down and get things done each day, just let me know in the comments, please.

Day 1: Create a Mood Board

This step is easy and fun! Gather inspiration. Don’t edit your ideas. Just find things you like. Create a private Pinterest board where you gather everything that inspires you on to a “mood board”. Pin anything that grabs you, especially:

  • Colors
  • Fonts and font pairings
  • Images and photos
  • Icons and graphics
  • Textures
  • Interiors, workspaces
  • Fashion styles
  • Anything else that grabs you

So week one is about igniting your creativity…

Day 2: Edit Your Mood Board

Look at your mood board. Do you see any common themes emerge? Is there a specific color you’re drawn to more than others? How about textures and fonts? Maybe it’s a certain contrast of colors that really grabs you. Or maybe the images make you feel a certain way. Try to get specific about why each element captures your attention. This will help you to recreate that mood/tone in your brand.

And! There’s no right or wrong answer when you’re doing this other than to identify the images, titles, colors, elements, and so on that make you feel the way you want your readers to feel. One of the biggest things that will help you create a brand for your blog is to edit. Narrow down and delete any elements/colors/styles that don’t connect with you or your brand. Continue refining your mood board and delete anything you have on there that doesn’t feel like you.

Day 3: Choose Your Colors

Pick 2-4 colors from your mood board that you will use for everything on your blog – headings, subheadings, text, images, icons, accent colors, background colors… all of it. Commit to using these colors and no other ones! The point of creating a style guide is to stick with it. Your brand will look inconsistent and fragmented if you choose a different color for your website than on Pinterest and Instagram.

To find out the Hex code (e.g. #000000) for a specific color in one of your pins, save it to your desktop and then upload it imagecolorpicker.com.  Once you have it, document the Hex code in your style guide so that you can make sure you’re using the exact same colors everywhere. If you need additional ideas or want to find colors that compliment others, use a site like coolors.co to generate color schemes. They even have the Hex code listed right there to make it easy.

 

brand style guide colors

 

For general guidance with colors, use black or dark gray (#333333) for text, a bright color for headings and subheadings, and then one or two accent colors for social media, Ebooks, and other uses.

Related: How to Choose Colors That Will Make Your Brand Stand Out

Day 4: Choose Your Fonts

brand identity guidelines

Do the same thing you did in week #3, only for fonts. Decide which fonts from your mood board best reflect your brand’s personality and tone. You want to choose 2-3 fonts that compliment each other. Here’s a quick guideline for choosing fonts:

  • Text: The font you choose for the text on your website should be very easy to read at a font size of 16-20px. Make sure it also feels true to your brand. Sans-serif fonts are best for legibility.
  • Headings: If you choose a font like Open Sans for text, you just need to change the font size and weight and then you can use it for headings as well. Or you choose a different font, perhaps one where you can showcase your personality a bit more. Note: blog titles are considered headings and can sometimes run long. You want to make sure your heading font reflects your brand without distracting people or making it hard for people to digest your title.
  • Featured or emphasized text:  Here’s where you can have some fun and throw in some contrast! This is really to give readers some eye-candy and break up the page a bit. Think about choosing a jazzy hand-written type or whimsical script font for featured text. Of course, only do this if it’s appropriate for your brand!
  • Play with font pairings: It’s amazing how you can change your brand’s tone simply by pairing different fonts. If you combine a serif font like Playfair Display with Open Sans, you’ll get an entirely different mood than when you pair it with a narrow, bold type like Oswald.
  • Social media: Just a note that you will be using these same fonts for your blog title images and on social media. Make sure they all work together and will be easy to read when you overlay them on images and background colors.
  • Downloading fonts: Google Fonts and dafont.com are both good sources to download free fonts. Just be sure to check the license on dafonts.com to make sure it’s not limited to personal use.
  • Font weights: I recommend choosing font families with more than regular and bold font weights. This will give you some flexibility to be a little creative with some parts of your text so that they stand out from the rest. A font like Open Sans will have light, regular, semi bold, bold, and extra bold font weights. You’d be surprised at how much you can bring your page to life with all of these weights to choose from!

Once you’ve decided on a few fonts, write them down in your style guide and then stick with only these! Remember that every time you create a blog title image, you want to use these same fonts so that people begin to recognize your brand.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to experiment with each new image! Part of the reason we’re creating these brand identity guidelines is to save you time. All the high-level creative choices are being made and documented in your brand style guide now so that you don’t waste oodles of time deciding which fonts, colors, and images you want to use later on. Make sense?

Related: Free Fonts and Font Pairings for Web, Social Media, and Blog Images

Day 5: Choose your social media platforms

Based on what you know about your readers, where do they hang out? Which social platforms are they on? Choose 2-3 (max!) platforms that you will dig into and really build your following. While you’re at it, write down two other brands in your niche that you like based on their social activity. What strategies have they used to build their following? What types of posts and images are they sharing? Which ones have the most repins, retweets, and shares? You don’t want to copy your competitors…instead, use their strategies as inspiration and a jumping off point for your own images and themes.

Document everything from here in your blog style guide.

Related: Why You Need a Social Media Strategy and How to Create One That Works

Days 6-8: Choose Your Image Style

You know where I’m going. Based on your mood board, decide on the style of images you will use for your blog posts and social media.

First, decide if you prefer to DIY your photos or use stock ones. If the latter, spend time on these free stock photo sites to see which ones best suit your brand. I find that even though there are many great sites out there, I tend to use the same ones over and over simply because they reflect my aesthetic more.

Based on your mood board, colors, and fonts, decide if your image style will be earthy, bold and vibrant, muted and serene, whimsical, with lots of contrast, or maybe none at all.

Once you decide, document it in your blog style guide (you get the gist!).

Next, hop back on to your preferred sites and download your first ten images to Dropbox (or your desktop) inside an “Image Library” folder. Or if you prefer to DIY them, take your first ten photos and save them.

You’re doing great! We’re just about there…

Now you need to decide your image styles for these uses:

  • Featured blog post images: What sizes and styles will you use? Will you overlay text onto images or a color background? If you need some direction with share sizes, this post will help.
  • Secondary post images: The ones that are in the content of your post. What size will they be and how will they look?
  • Content upgrades: What image style will you use to feature content upgrades within your posts? You want these to stand out from your text so that your readers notice them.
  • Social media images: Will you watermark your images with your logo and colors? How will your Pinterest images be different or similar to your Instagram images? Is there an Instagram filter you like here?
  • Other image types: What about other images and graphics on your site? How will you differentiate them and still remain cohesive?

Day 9: Create Your Image Templates

This is a huge time-saver! Create a template for your featured blog post images (that’s all you need to start) using either Canva or Photoshop. Select your size, add your colors, fonts, and a branded watermark so all you have to do is simply update your image, change your title and you’re done!

 

Whew! You just created a killer brand style guide template for your blog and business. Plus, you made it easy for your audience to recognize your brand because from here on out, you’re going to present one consistent and cohesive brand presence everywhere. Great job!

Psst…A style guide is just ONE of the many brand elements you’ll create with the Build My Brand Tool Kit. With this kit, you’ll have an entire done-for-you branding system that includes your visual elements (logo, colors, fonts, social media templates, style guide) PLUS your brand copy (About page, Home page, blog tone and format) and worksheets to help you track each element. Click the image below to learn more.

The Build My Brand Tool Kit gives you everything you need to brand yourself like a pro! Click here to learn more.Have you created your brand style guide yet? I’d love to hear about it!

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19 Must Have Online Business Tools For Savvy Entrepreneurs | If you’re building your online business and not sure what tools and resources you really need and where to spend your money, this post is for you! It includes 19 tools that will help you build your platform, grow your audience and your business, and then automate and accelerate to scale it beyond start up. Click through to check out all the tools!If you’re like me, at some point in your entrepreneurial journey you’ve asked: Which tools and resources do I really need for my online business?

There’s a tendency to invest in more than what we need, simply because we’re trying to get to the bottom of things and figure it all out. What happens next is all that “over-purchasing” starts to get you stressed out on a whole other level, am I right? You’ve got all of these tools and no idea how or when to use them.

In this post I’m sharing must have online business tools that will help you scale your business without pulling your hair out! I get into more detail about some of the tools in this post, but today I want to break it down into 3 different stages for your business.

Stage 1:
The Early Years – Building Your Platform

These are the years of major overwhelm and uncertainty. You have ideas about what to do and are battling with a little bit of fear about whether it will all work out. You’re probably unsure about which tools you need right now. And you’re on a tight budget so you don’t want to overthink what you need.

Let me help. At this stage your focus should be on building a platform for your business and getting it ready for serious take-off.

The tools you need right now are ones that will help you:

  • Optimize your website for gathering leads, because your website is the hub of your marketing
  • Create consistent content, because content is the cornerstone of your business
  • Build your email list, because, well, it’s is a must-have and you need it

1) Bluehost

This might seem like the most basic step to take, but many people don’t have a website yet.

Your website is the #1 must have online business tool. It’s the soul of your business and the cornerstone of your brand and all of your marketing. It’s where you:

  • Show the world what you sell, your mission, and what you stand for.
  • Drive traffic and start building real relationships with your visitors
  • Build your mailing lists (a must-have for every online business!)
  • Gain clarity on your business model and your message

Have I sold you yet? I hope so, friend! Your website is seriously the Swiss Army knife of your online business.

I recommend WordPress and Bluehost for hosting. It’s affordable and you can always get reach tech support, which is a huge deal when your site breaks and you need to fix it, like, now!

2) Leadpages

You need a way to collect names and emails for your content. That’s where landing pages come in. Landing pages are different from other web pages in that their goal is to do one thing: gather names and emails.

Leadpages is pretty much the go-to for landing pages. You can choose from hundreds of high-converting templates from their page builder library and they even show you the highest converting ones. They’ve got everything from squeeze pages to webinars, lead magnets, sales pages… it’s all in there. Just pick a template, change the colors, text and images, hit publish and you’re done.

If you have design and coding skills, one downside has been the lack of customization features. Their new drag and drop builder addresses this and I can’t wait to try it.

3) Thrive Leads

I use Leadpages for the forms on my landing pages and Thrive Leads for all the other opt-in forms on my site.

Thrive Leads by Thrive Themes has the same functionality as SumoMe (plus more) without the monthly subscription. You pay once for Thrive Leads and its yours. I use it to for welcome mats, pop-ups, sidebars and content upgrades throughout my site. One of the things I love most is the “states” feature where you can show different content to people who have already subscribed.

I’m such a fan of Thrive Leads that I’m going to check out their page builder to see how it compares to Leadpages. I’m also going to do a detailed tutorial to show you how to use it, so keep your eyes open for that soon.

4) Drip

When it comes to email service providers, I recommend choosing a platform that has the features you need today, plus others you can grow into as your business and your list grow. You want to be able to stick with your platform once your list reaches 1K and beyond without having to switch.

I actually use Infusionsoft and find that it has a bit more features than what I need (and a hefty price tag too). If were to start over my choice would be Drip and here’s why. Drip looks super easy to use and you can still get robust features, like the ability string multiple campaigns together and create trigger events similar to Infusionsoft. It also integrates seamlessly with Leadpages.

5) Canva

Finally, we can dig into the art of things! Canva is a great tool for non-designers to create amazing visual content. You will feel like a pro, but you don’t need to be one (yet) to use it. Create eBooks, cheat sheets, workbooks, and checklists selecting from the huge library of over 700 templates. Just pick one, add a cover image, masthead, images and overlays for only $1, style your headline, add text, branded colors, fonts, and links. The interface is user-friendly so you can just jump in there and start creating.

If you’re more familiar with Microsoft Word or Powerpoint, you can use those for digital freebies too. Some other tools are Adobe InDesign (my favorite), PicMonkey, and even Google Docs.

6) Tripod Kit + Light

I recommend placing a focus on video right from day one. Video has definitely become a major player in the content game so it makes sense to get in on the bandwagon.  Plus, it’s so much easier to record your content than it is to write it as a blog post! Articles that take me hours to write literally take me 45 minutes to record from the minute the idea pops in my head to my final take. Here’s another perk – you can take that video and turn it into a post in less than an hour. It’s all about repurposing content, am I right?

This diva ring light will make it look like you’re in natural light regardless of the time of day or location. Even when natural light isn’t available, it will seem like daytime and you’ll feel (and look) like a pro on camera. While you’re at it, grab a tripod for your iPhone. You can set up a video station and be ready to record whenever!

Stage 2
The Growth Years – Course Creation

So you’re a few years into it and you’ve got some revenue coming in, your list is growing, and maybe (just maybe!) you still feel a bit overwhelmed about what to do next.

Now it’s time to move beyond selling one-on-one services and into a “one-to-many” business model. The best way to do this is to start creating online courses. These tools will help you do that:

7) Powerpoint

If your course is content-rich, you’re going to want to create a slide show for it. Even though I’m a mac person, I’ve used Powerpoint for as long as I can remember from my days as the “graphics girl” at a corporate gig. So it just works for me. If you’re a Keynoter, feel free to use that instead.

You can actually record your whole slide show from Powerpoint and Keynote, audio and all. It’s actually pretty simple to do. If you’re on a really tight budget or just getting started with courses, you might want to save yourself the extra expense of a separate app for that.

If you want to edit your videos, that’s where you’re going to get stuck. Powerpoint and Keynote do not have video editing capabilities. Which leads me to my next tool…

8) Screenflow

Screenflow is a video and screencasting app that will record your screen and is super easy to use. It will record audio from your external mic and even video from your webcam. And it’s got great editing features too. You can add text overlays, graphics, splice your video, and remove background noise, and more. If you want an even simpler solution, use Quicktime for free.

9) Blue Yeti Mic

Hah! I remember my music days when I would hole up in the studio recording vocals, switching mics, changing placements, getting all crazy about it and you know what? Sometimes a mic is just a mic. All you really need is a microphone that’s easy to use at a decent price that cuts out ambient noise.

The Yeti Mic is all of that and will make you sound like a sweet songbird for around $110. Just plug it into your laptop and you’re good to go. There’s also the Blue Snowball for about half the price. Really any mic made by Blue will give you great sound.

10) Vimeo

Once you’ve created your videos, you need to upload them to Vimeo, which is pretty straightforward. Just create an account, select your plan, and upload our videos. Depending on the size of your videos and how many you have choose the Plus or Pro plan.

11) Teachable

You made it! You’re almost there. Next you need a place to house all of your content behind a protected wall so people have to login to access it. That’s where Teachable comes in.

The interface is really simple, they’ve got a great design, you can customize and brand your school and they’ve got tutorials for how to create your first course. They even have an affiliate program which can help you get even more exposure for your courses. You can set up a school to house all of your courses, so as you go from one to many they can all site under the same roof. Everything is really well organized for a seamless and easy experience for you and your students.

Stage 3
Scaling Your Business – Automation

You’re ready to take your biz to the next level. Maybe you want to add more team members, but you still need to increase your revenue before you do that. The solution is to start scaling what you’ve already created. This is the stage to focus on automating your sales process so you can sell more with less effort.

The tools you need at this stage are about streamlining and organizing the work you’ve done so you scale quickly and easily.

12) Webinar Jam

Webinar Jam is pretty easy to use and works with Google Hangouts. There’s a one-time fee, which beats the monthly fees on other platforms like GotToWebinar and Crowdcast. Since it works with Google Hangouts you can have unlimited attendees and people will be to access the webinar on any device or browser (some of the other platforms have limitations on mobile and Safari).

The only downside is that because WJ is recording your live broadcast signal into a streaming video, there can be a delay of a few seconds. The delay is seen only on the presenter’s side. It can take a few seconds to see the questions people type in the chat box, but it’s easy enough to adjust the pace of your presentation to accommodate for the delay.

13) EverWebinar

Next, get set up to run live and automated webinars with ease! After you run your live webinar a few times and it’s working for you, the next step is to turn it into an “on-demand” webinar. That’s where EverWebinar comes in. It’s a powerful combo of webinar software and WordPress plugin that houses all of your webinars in the cloud. You’ll still have the same personal touch but your webinar will be automated.

Before you jump into automation, make sure you run through your webinar live a few times first. You want to get feedback first and tweak it until you feel like you’re really providing the value your audience needs. Also experiment with how you offer your product at the end so you can find that balance that sells without being overly salesy or icky.

Note: One platform I want to try soon and is worth mentioning: Webinar Ninja. It seems super easy to use and you can run live and automated webinars all in one, so you don’t need to buy two products. I’ll update this post once I give it a try.

14) Click Funnels

Click Funnels is like Leadpages’ bigger sister. It’s more like a funnel builder than a landing page builder. You choose a funnel and it will set up a sequence of pages for you (which you can add to, edit, or delete). So let’s say you’re hosting a webinar, it will create every page you need for that webinar. It’s easy to put sophisticated and high-performing pages together so that your campaigns convert at a high level.

15) Infusionsoft

I know I said earlier that Infusionsoft has more features than I need. It’s still a platform that totally rocks! It integrates a CRM, eCommerce and marketing automation all in one. Basically, you can automate your entire business there. Once you have the basics down with Drip (or Mailchimp or Aweber), it’s worth looking into.

Every Stage – Organization

16) Asana

A tool like Asana will help you manage your projects and get tons of stuff done. I’ve used other project management tools like Basecamp but this one is so much better! Plus, It’s free for up to 15 users! My virtual assistant and I know exactly what we’re working on and I can easily view tasks in their calendar, so I k now if what she’s working on and if she needs more to do! I can also prioritize tasks so she knows what to focus on each day.

Working this way also forces me to think through each task involved with a project, so inside of a Course project, for instance, I have itemized tasks and an estimate of time needed to complete.

17) Dropbox

This is a must for any business. Dropbox is a cloud-based server that will house all of your project files. You can assign access to different folders for any person on your team so that everyone is working from one central place. Files sync automatically as they’re updated so there’s version control. You can also easily restore deleted files or prior versions.

18) 1Password

You memorized your password, now you can’t remember what the heck it is, am I right? I’ve updated my password so many times on sooo many different sites, there’s no way I can keep track anymore! 1Password is a password management tool that solves all of that for you. All you need to remember is one password and that will unlock the vault to all the others. Total time-saver.

19) Evernote

Evernote is awesome! At first I had a hard time using it. I thought maybe I’d write my posts in there to keep them organized, but that didn’t work so well for me mainly because I like to see the files and have multiple pages up on my screen when I’m writing. Plus, the formatting can be sticky. But I DO love it as a way to store articles, post ideas, passwords, email sequences. Basically, anything I know I’ll want to reference but don’t need right away. I save keywords, fonts I like, tracking pixel codes, that sort of thing. And the Evernote Clipper is a fast and easy way to save and tag articles I find interesting but may not have time to read right away (so much better than bookmarking!)

What are your must have online business tools?

 

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How to Create a Brand System for Your Blog and Your Business | Here’s how to start branding yourself and your business so that all your brand elements work harmoniously together and are consistent everywhere. So that more people recognize your brand!Let’s talk about branding!

I remember when all you had to do was pick a logo and a color palette. Maybe you’d even create a tagline, but that was about it.

Anything more than that was for the big brands like Coca Cola. They had (and still have) 50-page style guides for everything – logos, fonts, images, graphics, placement, scale, proportion, ads, brochures, storyboards, radio, TV, web, print…all of it.

But a style guide for a small brand? That was just redundant. As a small business, your marketing was maybe a trade show booth, a brochure and a quarter-page spot in a local magazine.

Building brand awareness on a massive scale just wasn’t affordable for smaller brands.

Now everything has changed. Today every single brand is a publisher.

Can you see how amazing that is? We are publishing companies. Doesn’t matter if we have a team of one or a team of one hundred. We have the potential to reach the exact same audience as Coca Cola and get massive exposure for our brands.

What this means is that we need a whole lot more than a logo and a color palette. We need an entire brand system for everything so that all our brand elements work harmoniously together and are consistent everywhere.

If you look at all the places where people will experience your brand: your website, emails, landing pages, sales pages, CTAs, ads, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… It’s a lot. And you need a documented system for things like social media posts, images, content, calls to action, web copy so that you’re not chasing these types of things at the last minute.

Here’s what you need in your brand system:

  • Tone. How do you want people to feel when they experience your brand? Loyal? Creative? Bold? Humorous? Pick three words you want to be known for and use them to set the overall tone of your brand.
  • Logo. Your logo should be simple, bold, and instantly recognizable (especially on profiles and favicons). It should work equally well in color and in black and white. For more on designing a logo, check out this post.
  • Fonts. Choose a font or font pairings that speak your brand. Think about what fonts you want to use for your logo, and what fonts to use for headings, body copy and emphasized text.
  • Colors. What colors support the tone of your brand? Bright and airy, warm, vibrant, dark and edgy, neutral and balanced?
  • Image library. What types of images and textures reflect your brand personality? Smooth, soft, edgy? Start creating a library of images so that you have them handy. There are tons of free or inexpensive stock photo sites with amazing images. A few of them are listed here.
  • Graphics. Same thing for graphic elements. What graphic elements will you use for your brand? Circles, squares, icons? Freepik and Flaticon are great sources for icons and graphics.
  • Blog. Think about your short term and long terms goals for your business. How will you use blogging to achieve them? What types of content will you share? What content themes will you work with to provide the most value to your audience? I drill down on 14 ways to grow your blog audience in this post.
  • Social media. Who is your target audience and what channels will you build a following on to reach them? Create profiles on each and mark down specific goals. For social media profile and cover image sizes, check out this post.
  • Share images. Use Photoshop or Canva to create image templates for social media. Make sure you brand the share images with your logo, fonts, and colors so that people can instantly recognize your brand.

To make it extra easy for you to pull all of these elements together, I created the Build My Brand Toolkit. If you want a ridiculously in-depth, step-by-step system FULL of everything you need to build an epic brand that effortlessly attracts your dream customers, the Build My Brand Toolkit may be just what you’re looking for! Click the image below to learn more:

The Build My Brand Toolkit gives you everything you need to create a personal brand system.While you’re brainstorming your brand system, spend some time researching other brands that stand out to you. Look for quotes, images, textures, fonts, and so on that catch your eye. Pinterest is great for this. You can create a private board where you gather and refine your visual inspiration.

Once you have your brand system together, your next step is to document it in a style guide (yes, you need one!). Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But at some point you will, and here’s why:

  • Posting on social media will take you minutes instead of hours.
  • Your ideal customers will easily recognize your brand.
  • Your image library will make creating blog title images effortless.
  • You will know exactly what to blog about, why and for whom.
  • You won’t get caught using off-brand colors and fonts. You will know exactly which fonts to use, how you want to juxtapose them, and what colors to use for each element.
  • You’ll have the confidence to hit the ground running knowing that your brand is consistent everywhere and that everything works seamlessly together.

A brand style guide is just ONE of the many brand elements we’ll cover in the Build My Brand Toolkit. With this kit, you will create an entire branding system that includes your visual elements (logo, colors, fonts, social media templates, style guide) AND your brand copy ( About page, Home page, blog tone and style, and more). Learn more about the Build My Brand Toolkit.

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Follow these steps for creating a logo that reflects your brand tone and aesthetic.Branding is definitely about more than your logo and brand identity, but let’s face it, your logo is going to symbolize your brand more than anything else. So it pays to ask yourself the right questions before you start creating a logo.

Keep in mind that a logo isn’t supposed to be a fancy, ornate statement that describes what you do. The purpose of a logo is to identify rather than to explain, which simply means that what’s important is what the logo represents — your brand.

Here are five steps to creating a logo that does that:

1) Know what you’re looking for

Before you start working with a designer, ask yourself these questions:

  • What product or service do you sell and who are your customers?
  • How do you want to portray yourself to others? Friendly? Professional?
  • How do you want people to feel about your image? Inspired? Happy? Energetic?
  • Where will you use your logo? Just your website and social media, or on flyers too?
  • Will you need it for signage? On t-shirts? Will you need merchandising or tags?

This is where a bit of due diligence can really pay off and save you money. By answering these questions you’ll get an idea of which fonts to work with and whether to keep the design simple or more graphic. And you’ll get designs out of the gate that are closer to what you’re looking for.

2) Make it instantly recognizable

The shapes, colors and fonts used in your logo design should be unique and noticeably different from other logos within your market. Look at your competitors’ logos and make sure you’re not infringing on any copyrights. If you think your logo design is too close to that of your competitor, make sure you make the adjustments you need to differentiate it. The last thing you want is to find out that a health club down the road has a logo that looks just like yours. Taking the extra effort to create a unique, instantly recognizable logo will pay off in the end.

3) Keep it simple

Simple is the way to go, especially when you look at your brand from a high level. A logo represents your brand, but there are other elements that weigh in. If you make your logo too ornate, you don’t leave much room for your content, posts and images to do their part. You want everything working together to tell your story, so keep it open and leave room for other elements to do their part.

Simple logos are also easy to read. If you keep your design simple and bold, it will be just as readable as a favicon as it is on a trade show banner. You want it too look good in black and white and in color, so stay away from gradients and textures.

4) Focus on one main graphic element

Designing a simple logo doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice creativity. Experiment with typographic treatments like Verizon and bold designs like FedEx. If your company name fits, you can play with a graphic design like Starbucks. Whichever direction you decide to go in, keep in mind that your logo shouldn’t have more than one graphic element, whether it’s incorporated into typography or integrated as a separate mark. Too many graphic elements will not only make your company look confused, it will also it be difficult to work your logo in with other branding and marketing initiatives.

5) Choose an appropriate font

Choosing a font for your logo can be just as important as the overall design itself. If you’re in finance, for example, your font should convey trust, credibility and confidence. So you would choose a sans-serif font that is simple and elegant. You’d also want to choose a font family with different weights, such as light, medium and heavy so you can play with it. And your color palette would be more sophisticated rather than bright.

 

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How to really use LinkedIn to get clients. These are the exact steps and tools I used to land my first $32K client.I love LinkedIn. I love its simplicity. I love that it’s all business. I also love that I can leverage it to win new business, because almost half of its user base is C-level executives.

I realized just how powerful LinkedIn is after trying other databases like Google, InfoUSA, SalesGenie, and data.com. I always found myself coming back to LinkedIn.

Here’s why:

  • My prospects are on LinkedIn.
  • Members keep their profiles up to date, so the information is accurate, unlike other databases where the info is often outdated.
  • It’s easy to perform and save searches.
  • LinkedIn mirrors live networking in a social setting.

Today, I’m sharing my system for getting high-paying clients with LinkedIn. Here’s what you will need for this system to work:

  • Sales Navigator account – starts at $75
  • SalesTools – $35 per month
  • Sellhack – $10 per month
  • An email emulator + Vibe – free (or a VA to do this part for you)
  • QuickMail – starts at $39 per month

What I’ve done with these tools (except for Sales Navigator) is keep them active when I’m in deep prospecting mode and turn them off when I don’t need them. With SalesTools, it’s easy enough to create an account later on, and QuickMail will let you go in sleep mode for $5 a month.

Here’s a quick rundown of the tools:

  • SalesTools is a search extractor tool that will save your searches to an Excel spreadsheet. There are others out there, this is just the one I prefer.
  • Sellhack and Vibe are both Chrome extensions that will help you gather email addresses for your list. I use them both. Sometimes Sellhack will find an email that Vibe can’t, and vic versa.
  • The email emulator is an Excel formula that creates email variations based on your prospect’s name and domain (firstlastname@domain.com, flastname@domain.com, firstname.lastname@domain.com, and so on).
  • I found an amazing VA to help gather email addresses.
  • With Quickmail, you can automate your outbound emails in batches, rather than manually one by one.

There are two ways to go about using LinkedIn to get clients:

Prospecting within the LinkedIn platform

You can make 1st degree connections and message prospects directly through LinkedIn. In this case, you won’t need SalesTools, Sellhack, Vibe or Quickmail. This is because you can message anyone you have a first-degree connection directly on LinkedIn. You also have access to their email.

Prospecting outside of LinkedIn

You perform searches with Sales Navigator, save to a spreadsheet and prospect outside of LinkedIn. This is the method I used. You will need all of the tools mentioned above for this method.

There are pros and cons to both approaches

With the first method, you’re building your LinkedIn network while you’re generating leads, so you can continue to engage your connections with new content and products. You also have access to their email, which is a huge plus. All you need for this approach is a spreadsheet to track your connections and messages.

The downside is that you have to message people one by one, which is time consuming. You may hit LinkedIn’s limit of invitation connections using this method. In that case, you’d have to hold up for a while. You also can’t save searches, so it takes a bit more admin to keep track of your progress.

With the second method, you’re working offline (meaning outside of LinkedIn). You’re not building your network, but you still have their data saved in your spreadsheet. It takes some time to gather email addresses, but once you do, you can set up sequences in QuickMail and automate your email outreach. I’ve found that with this approach, I can be a more direct in my emails.

Whichever method you prefer, here are some things you’ll want to before you begin:

 

PART ONE: SETTING THE FOUNDATION

1) Make sure your profile is up-to-date

Make sure your profile reflects your purpose and your message. What a lot of people do is to treat their LinkedIn profile like a CV or resume, when really you should treat it more like a mini personal website for you and your business. After all, you want to use it for lead generation and to grow your business, so you want to make sure you frame it around your value proposition, products and services.

This is especially crucial if you’re using prospecting method #1, where you’re networking within the LinkedIn platform. When you invite someone to connect, they will first visit your profile before accepting.

What they’re going to see first is your profile pic, headline, and your Summary. It should go without saying that you want a professional-looking picture for your profile a headline that clearly conveys what you do.

The area you want to pay special attention to is your Summary. It’s the first substantive section that people will see, and they’ll make a decision based on this to accept or decline your invite. What I like to do here is to tell a bit about myself and my business, with a focus on who I help and how. It’s also a good idea to list your specific services. You can check out my Summary to get an idea of what to include here.

LinkedIn profiles take more time to complete than Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. For my tips on how to optimize your profile, check out this post.

2) Create a prospect avatar

Next up, create a prospect avatar. Think about who you want to reach. If you’re unsure, take a look at your existing clients. Which ones do you wish you had 5 more of? Which are most profitable? Use those to create your prospect avatar.

Here are some things to include in your avatar:

  • Target industries: what specific industries do you want to target?
  • Location: What geographic regions do you want to focus on?
  • Revenue: LinkedIn doesn’t actually list revenue as a search criteria, but it’s still something you should know.
  • Company size: LinkedIn uses number of employees as a measure for company size rather than revenue. The breakdowns are 1-10, 11-50, 51-200, and so on. What size is a best fit for you? To get an idea of how revenue translates into company size, data.com will show you both for any company.
  • Titles/positions: Who are the key decision-makers for your product or offer? Do you want to reach marketing managers, presidents, CIOs?

Then take this info and document it on a worksheet so you can refer to it.

3) Export your current connections

Your current connections are a perfect place to start prospecting. You probably have connections with friends, co-workers, family, colleagues, and friends of friends. Some of these may fit your prospect avatar.

Here’s how to export your connections:

  • Under My Network in the top brown bar, select Connections. This will bring you to a page where you’ll see all your connections.
  • On that page, select the gear icon in the upper right.
  • On your Manage Connections page, under Advanced Settings on the top right, select the “Export LinkedIn Connections” link.
  • Export as an excel file.

Then go through your spreadsheet and make a note of anyone on there who fits your prospect avatar.

4) Use the Advanced Search tool

LinkedIn’s Advanced Search is an amazing tool. If you use it right, you can get pretty granular with your searches.

You want to focus your searches on 2nd and 3rd degree connections and group members. 1st degree connections you already have access to, so you don’t need to include.

All accounts, including free, have access to the filter criteria in the left and middle columns. The right column has two very important filters that you need in order to narrow down your searches and those are only available with a premium account.

Here are the filters you’ll use the most:

  • Location
  • Company, if applicable
  • Industry
  • Seniority level (requires premium account)
  • Company Size (requires premium account)

Once you fill out your desired fields, you can run the search. There’s a bit of an art to conducting searches and after a while you’ll get the hang of how best to use it to get the results you need. Try to narrow the results down to between 200 and 600. Any more than that and you’re probably not being targeted enough. You also want a number that’s manageable.

One thing is for sure. Upgrading to a premium account (at least for the duration of your prospecting) will get you more targeted results than a free account. You will literally get thousands of search results with a free account and it’s impossible to narrow it down further without access to Company Size and Seniority Level.

Two fields from the left column that may also be helpful, depending on your search, are Keywords and Title.

 

PART TWO: PROSPECTING

Now that you have your foundation set, you can start prospecting. I’ll be going into detail on the method #2 in this post.

Here’s what I will point out about method #1 before I get into it:

  • Start with the current connections that you downloaded and send a message to any profiles who look like they fit your avatar. Try to get in the habit of using your connection spreadsheet like a CRM. Make sure you make a note of the date you sent your first message, with a follow up date at least 2 weeks out.
  • Once you’ve messaged your current connections, then run a new search. Look at any profiles that seem like a good fit and send them a connection request. Note: Don’t use the default I’d like to add you to my network message. It’s much better to say something like I hope business is good. I came across your profile and thought it might be good to connect…
  • Try to send about 20-40 connection requests a day, or do something like 300 requests within a one or two-day period. Remember, with this method you can’t save your searches, so you need a way to track each search you perform and where you left off so you can pick back up the next day.
  • After a couple of months, go in and export your connections again. This is where it gets a little tricky because you need one master spreadsheet for all your connections.  You need to merge the two spreadsheets and get rid of duplicates so you can get your new connections into your pipeline and start messaging them.
  • Repeat these last few steps every couple of months

Now on to method #2.

5) Extract your search results

With the search results still open in your browser window, open up SalesTools and enter the URL for your LinkedIn search. SalesTools will save up to 1,000 profiles (which is another reason to narrow down your searches). It will take some time to process, so just let it run while you do whatever else you need to do. Once it’s done, save the Excel file.

You’ll see in the spreadsheet that you have a whole lot more information than you need, so you’ll need to clean it up a bit. The only sections you need are Name, Title, Company, URL, City/State (if needed). Get rid of everything else.

Next you need to start scraping emails, which leads me to the next step:

6) Gather the email addresses

You can either do this next part on your own or hire a VA with lead generation experience to help, which I highly recommend. It’s a monotonous process and you’ll want to stick a needle in your eye in no time (but the pay-off’s worth it!) Someone experienced with lead generation will have access to their own databases, such as data.com and more. I’ve found some great VAs on Upwork.

If you do it on your own, here’s what you do (use Chrome to do this):

  • First use Sellhack because it’s easier. Just enter the name, company, and domain for each prospect into Sellhack. Let it run and it will come back with an email and accuracy rating. If I get a 50% or better accuracy rating, I’m happy. Sometimes it can’t find a result, which is when you need to turn to Vibe.
  • Vibe works with the emulator and your Gmail account. An emulator is a simple formula made in Excel that will spit out common email variations based on your prospect’s first name, last name and domain.
  • Open Gmail and start composing an email. In the “to” window, start entering in different emails from the emulator. As you hover on each email, Vibe will hunt through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn until it finds the email address. When it does, you’ll see the profile appear on the right and that’s when you know you have the right one.

You can see how tedious this step is. But once you have it down, it’s easy enough to train a VA to do it for you or find someone who has access to their own databases (meaning that they have paid accounts with SalesGenie, data.com, etc.)

7) Import your list into QuickMail

Once you have the emails you’re ready to start the outreach, which is where QuickMail comes in. QuickMail is a tool that lets you automate outbound emails and make them look like you sent them each personally, like the old fashion manual way.

The first step is to connect QuickMail to your Gmail account. You can specify another email address to send from, but you’ll lose some functionality if you do this.

Here’s what I mean: when you use your Gmail address to send from, any prospect who replies to your email will be removed from your sequence (not removed from your list, just your sequence). This means that if you have a 4-step email sequence and John Doe replies to the first email in your sequence, he won’t get emails 2, 3, and 4. But if you use a different email as your “from” you will need to manually go into the sequence and remove him. And that’s very easy to forget to do. It’s embarrassing to you and insulting to your prospect if you send follow up emails when he already expressed or declined interest. It totally kills the personalization, too. It’s happened to me and it’s mortifying!

Now that you’ve connected your Gmail, it’s time to import your list. QuickMail categorizes leads with Prospects and Groups. When you import your spreadsheet make sure you assign it to a group. I usually name my groups by niche or company. You can go back in and assign prospects to groups later, but it’s better to do it right away during the import. This way as you import new spreadsheets you have them grouped accurately.

Before you import your list, you need to make sure you follow QuickMail’s naming convention for the header row (Fname, Lname, Email).  If yours doesn’t match, the import won’t work.

And for an extra $10 or so, you can have QuickMail verify your email addresses, which I recommend you do. It will move any unverified email addresses to a new group so you don’t get high bounce rates or send to invalid email addresses. This step is to keep your sender reputation high so you don’t wind up in the junk or spam folder.

8) Craft your emails

Decide how many emails you want in your sequence and write them ahead of time (I usually send at least four). You’ll find that the follow up emails will often get you a better response than your initial email. This is because people are busy and may not have time to respond right away. Most will eventually reply, even if it’s to say No, which is fine because it will help you to focus your efforts on qualified prospects.

When it comes to what to say in your emails, there are a number of schools of thought. What I do is to quickly introduce myself, what I do and firms I’ve worked with (if you have a well known brand you can mention, it goes a long way). Then I list out how I help and how it will benefit them. I always close by asking if they have time to speak on a given day, say Tuesday, of the next week. It’s good to give people an option to choose another day or time that works best for them.

My follow up emails are even shorter – 3 sentences max. I mention my previous email and recap my value proposition and how I can help. I phrase each follow up email it a little differently. And again, I ask for a call. Some people add humor in their follow-ups and say things like I haven’t heard back from you so that means you must have fallen through the cracks like these ducks. This isn’t my style so I’ve steered away from it, but am still curious as to what kind of response a funny email like this would get.

The bottom line with email outreach is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Make sure you pick a day rather than “some time over the next few weeks”, so that all the recipient has to do is reply with a Yes.

9) Schedule your sequence

Now that your emails are ready, you can add them to QuickMail. You’ll need to create a new sequence to do this.

Note that Quickmail refers to individual emails in a sequence as Steps. So on the left side of the dashboard, select “1st Step”. You can then enter your email in the window on the right side. Don’t forget to add a subject line. Check out this post for how to write subject lines that stand out and get opened.

Below the main window you’ll see a list of merge tags you can insert, like Name and Company. These tags will pull the data from your list and merge it in your email. And this is how you get “Hi John,” and make it personal.  Use these tags to add the person’s first name and/or company as you see fit. Do the same for the 2nd and 3rd Step, and so on.

Make sure you test each email before finalize it so you can catch any typos or bad links.

Once you’ve entered your emails, you’re ready for the last and final step. Let’s start scheduling!!

Actually, scheduling is the easiest part in all of this. Just select the Schedules link from the left side of the QuickMail dashboard (under Sequences). You can specify the days and times you want to send your emails. You will also need to specify the number of prospects to pull from each group and which sequence to send.

It’s a good idea to start out with smaller batches so that your emails don’t get red-flagged as spam. You want it to appear as authentic as possible. I usually send 40 emails per day and break that down into batches of 10 prospects and 4 different times. So I’ll email 10 prospects at 8:00am, 10 at 11:20am, 10 at 4pm, and 10 at 5:30pm. As my campaign progresses I will increase the number to 60 or 70 per day. This will helps you avoid getting red-flagged as spam.

In terms of best days and times to send, I’ve found that I get better responses when I send emails either earlier in the day or later in the afternoon. And Tuesdays and Thursdays are hands-down the best days to send. You’ll need to test to see what’s most effective for you.

That about wraps it up. Happy prospecting and good luck with it! I know this is a lot of info – let me know if you have any questions or have used LinkedIn in other ways to get business. I’d love to hear!

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One of the biggest things that affects open rates isn’t your subject line - it’s whether or not your newsletter ever makes it to subscribers. Here are 6 tips to help entrepreneurs and business owners craft emails that land in the inbox instead of junk folder or Gmail promotions folder. Click through to see all the tips!You know that if you want more subscribers to read your emails, you have to become a bit of an expert at writing persuasive copy. So you spend hours comparing subject lines and preheaders before you publish. Then you track the number of subscribers who opened each one, because you know that those open rates are the holy grail of email marketing.

But what happens when your email doesn’t make it to the inbox? Both you and your readers miss out. It’s hard to track open rates accurately when your emails go straight to spam, so how will you really know what you need to improve? Your subscribers miss out too. They lose an opportunity to learn and grow from your communications.

I ran into this issue with a newsletter campaign recently. I use Constant Contact for my health & fitness business. Not because it’s my email marketing tool of choice, but because it integrates well with a member portal we use and I can automate communications with new member sign-ups.

I ran a slew of tests on our newsletter and noticed that emails were landing in Gmail’s promotion tab more than a few times. This is basically Google’s way of marking your email as junk mail. So if you’re noticing a significant decrease in open rate, it may be directly related to the way this filtering works. And it isn’t limited to Google – some emails were going straight to Outlook’s junk folder also.

After hunting down answers and doing some A/B testing, I finally got them out of the promotions folder and into Gmail’s primary folder. Here’s what one email looked like initially:

gmail-promotions-tab

 

We had an image in the top to capture people’s attention right away. And further down, I added a link to the post, my brother’s image and bio with more links, and prominent buttons going to our website:

gmail-promotions-tab2

 

It turns out that we had to ditch those creative elements and calls to action in order to make it to the primary inbox. Here’s what it looked liked after editing, reshaping, tweaking, and testing:

email-after

 

That’s it. A plain text email and bingo – it was in the inbox on both Gmail and Outlook. When I stripped away everything else but text and one simple link, the email had a much better chance of landing in the primary folder.

Two other things seemed to make a difference:

It goes without saying that you can’t remove the Unsubscribe link because email marketing tools must conform to spam laws. But there’s a difference between using one simple unsubscribe link at the end of your email, and a whole slew of links that Constant Contact includes. Here’s an example:

unsubscribe-link

That adds a total of five links to my email instead of just one. In Google’s eyes, multiple links are an indication that your email is promotional. How many links would you really send to a friend, right? At the same time, you need to include a link to your post or product in your email. Bottom line, your emails will have two links when they’re published: your link and the unsubscribe link.

What you don’t want is your email marketing platform to include more than just that one unsubscribe button (without giving you control to edit and remove them). I think the five links in this case are unique to Constant Contact because it’s not the case with MailChimp or Infusionsoft. Both of these marketing platforms will allow you to include one simple unsubscribe link and that’s it.

The other thing that seemed to make a difference was the subject line itself. All things being equal, changing the subject line from “Here’s a Delicious Way to End Your Summer” to “Checking in to see how you’re doing” increased the likelihood of it making its way the primary folder. This was a quick subject line I used to test, and it’s interesting to note that the first one seems more formal with the initial caps. The second one seems more like something you’d say to a friend and uses the sentence case.

This shows you the influence subject lines have on:

  1. open rates from email recipients
  2. landing in the primary inbox of subscribers

It’s just one more reason to A/B test your subject lines. Not only is your ability to persuade readers key if you want them to open them, but it looks like it’s a factor in whether or not your emails are seen at all. Check out this post for tips on writing killer subject lines.

Based on this test, here are my quick tips for getting your email read and opened (aka stay out of the junk folder):

Personalize your email

This is pretty straightforward. Use the mail merge tool in your platform to add the contact’s first name so that it seems like you’re already a connection. After all, you’re a person talking to another person and not a business. When you address someone by name they’re more likely to pay attention. And it makes Google happy.

Use the standard letter format

Keep your emails looking personal, as if they came from a friend. Make the reader feel like you’re talking directly to them. This will gets you higher open rates, plus you stand a better chance of converting readers when your email doesn’t come across as being a sales pitch or deal.

Don’t use images

Images make your email look pretty, but Gmail sees them as a sign of a promotion. It makes sense, because you really wouldn’t be inserting a photo into an email you shoot off to a friend or colleague. You’ll definitely increase readership by dropping pictures. The old ways of using email newsletters go against Gmail’s policies, so keep that in mind if you want to stay out of the promotions tab.

No more than one link

The point of the email is usually to drive traffic to your website, right? So, the prudent thing to do is write an exclusive email and give the reader reasons why they should click that link. Make it all natural and smooth of course. Now don’t get me wrong, you can get away with more than 1 link, but it’s not guaranteed you will survive the Google filter.

Watch for links in your preheader and signature too. The more links you have the more chance you have of winding up in the spam or promotions folder.

Shorter is better

Keep the email short and to the point. The longer it is, the less likely it is to make it to the primary folder.

Don’t sound salesy

If you want the email to go to the inbox, stay away from anything that sounds salesy. Terms like these are a red flag to Google that you’re promoting something:

  • Free
  • Help
  • % off
  • Reminder
  • Weight loss
  • Make $
  • Explode your business
  • Deals
  • More like this…

These types of buzz words will definitely increase the likelihood of the email landing in the promotions or junk folder.

How important is all this, really?

This is a trade-off between readership and conversions in my opinion. Ultimately, you need to decide based on your content and your business goals. You may prefer to stick with their branded newsletter format. If your business is highly visual and images will have a big impact on your readers, it probably makes sense. On the other hand, if you’re sending links to your blog posts, you may not need anything more than a commentary and a link.

After all of this testing, I’ve decided for now to toss the dice on some (not all) of our emails. There are times when using the standard newsletter format works best and we have to cross our fingers that Gmail recipients will open the promotions tab. When I’m promoting a new blog post, I’m fine with the all text format. Since they’re content driven, all I need is a commentary and a link to the article.

Keep in mind that you may not see a difference in open rates at all, or you may find that the branded format actually performs better. Some of it will depend on what percentage of your subscribers are Gmail users and the platform they’re using to read their emails. They may use an email reader to access their email rather than the Gmail interface, in which case the promotions tab isn’t an issue.

Just another reason you need to test. And test. And test again. That’s really the only way to determine whether  branded or faux plain text emails perform better.

 

 

 

 

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Here’s a 6x1 formula for entrepreneurs and business to help you close the loop on building a base of perfect clients who are hugely profitable for your business, so you don’t have to worry about where your next client is coming from. Click through to find out about the six Ones! The ultimate goal of any business is to get a solid base of customers who are hugely profitable for your business AND who you absolutely love working with. We all know this. But if you take it a step further, the way you convert customers is really more about coaching them to become your clients.

Think of yourself as a teacher and a mentor who has the best interests of your customers at heart. Your job as a business owner is to make people feel empowered to shape a better version of themselves.

How?

The formula for attracting and converting high paying clients is what I’m covering today.

I call it the 6×1 formula because it really is just that: a formula. It focuses on the six “ones” that you must implement in order to take your business to the next level. They are:

1) One person
2) One problem
3) One solution
4) One package/offer
5) One webinar
6) One marketing system

Getting into the mindset of your ideal customers

The first part of the formula will help you shake off the fuzzy, unclear or uncertain ideas you have about your target audience. We’re going to uncover the real value you provide and paint a picture of your ideal customer.

This involves getting into the mindset of your ideal customers. This will help you know how to speak them and what they need to hear. Getting into the mindset of your ideal customers forces you to get out of your own head too. We all have ideas about what we think customers want, and it’s largely based on the conversations we’re having inside our own heads. This is especially true for entrepreneurs who build a business by creating a product that was missing in the marketplace. There’s a reason you came up with your idea (because you wanted it and couldn’t find it), but you still need to validate it. Validating it means understanding what your customers think about it. You have to communicate things for them in a way that they really feel that you get them. They need to feel that you’re talking directly to them and you’re saying exactly what they need to hear, not what you want to hear.

In order to do this, you must forget everything you think you know about your brand. You’re going to step out of the conversations you’re having, and into the conversations that your customers are having.

Ready? Here we go:

Your One Person

We’re digging into your target audience, and more importantly, your one ideal customer. The reason you want to narrow it down to only one is because you don’t want to get caught trying to be all things to all people. When you do this, you confuse yourself and others. When you’re confused, there’s no way it’s going to translate into a clear message for anyone else. Worse, your ideal customers won’t think that what you do is for them because your value won’t be immediately clear to the people you most want to attract.

Think about your favorite client, or someone you’d love to work with. Do you have a really profitable client who you dream of getting 5 more just like? This is your one person.

Now you may be thinking: I sell to more than one person – I sell to businesses, individual people, and even referral partners.

That’s okay. That simply means that you have three different target audiences, which means you will have three people. You need to pick one person to be your primary person.

Note that the mindset of each person will be different. You need to speak to each person differently. You don’t want to have three different conversations going at the same time, any more than you want to jam them all into one conversation.

The goal here is to gain clarity on your one person so that you become a magnet for them. Walk through the entire 6×1 formula for your primary person, and only that one person. In this process you’ll build assets that you can use over and over again to convert your ideal customers. And best of all, it will run virtually on autopilot.

Once you are straight about the outcome for your one person and have your process down tight, go through the 6×1 formula again. This time do it for the secondary person, and then again for your third person.

When you get this part right, you’ll know exactly who your ideal customer is. You’ll also know exactly where to find them so you can focus on the next step.

Their One Problem

Here’s the magic of this step: When you can articulate the problem your ideal customers have better than they can, they’ll automatically perceive that you have their solution. To get to the root of their problem, ask yourself these 4 questions about the state of your one person today:

  • How do they feel?
  • What do they have?
  • What is their average day like?
  • What is their status?

For example, the current state of my clients generally looks like this:

  • How they feel: Overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused. Nothing they’re doing with marketing is bringing in new clients.
  • What they have: Scattered, fragmented marketing that doesn’t work.
  • Their average day: A horrible experience with marketing. Maybe they write a quick blog post, send out a newsletter or share a post on Facebook. They scour online resources and guides desperately looking for a quicker ways to gain traction with their marketing.
  • Their status: A stressed entrepreneur hunting down customers, worried about their business and future income.

When you can answer these questions like I did here, you’ll be able to communicate that you understand exactly what your one person is feeling and the pain points they have. Your one person will get, on an intuitive and emotional level, that you can genuinely help.

When you really get this, you will be able to draw your ideal customers into your marketing message. You will speak directly to their pain points and you’ll know exactly what to say to convert them into customers. Now let’s get them from their problem to your transformation.

(NOTE: Want my easy 3-step process to getting clear on who you’re selling to? Get my Customer Avatar Worksheet.)

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

Your One Solution

Now that you’re clear on your One Client, One Problem, it’s time to deliver your solution:

Part one: the picture
Part two: the how

Part one involves painting a picture of what people will experience in the after state, once they work with you or purchase your products. Take those same questions you just asked and illustrate the transformation you provide so that people visualize it.

For instance, here’s the after state for my clients:

  • From feeling overwhelmed and frustrated to feeling excited and confident.
  • From having scattered, fragmented marketing to having a cohesive marketing system that delivers qualified leads while they sleep.
  • From having an average day with a terrible experience with marketing to marketing being easy.
  • From a status of stressed entrepreneur to being a rock star business owner with a full base of customers.

The next step is to walk people through the how. Briefly describe what you do and the services and products you provide. Show people how you will get them from point A to point Z and be as detailed as possible. Explain the process, timeline and any steps that are involved.

You have to connect with people on an emotional level so that they want what you have, not just need what you have. It’s your job to let your one client know your special blend of talents, and what you’ve overcome or experienced that’s similar to what they’re feeling. Share the things that make you truly unique to solve their problems. Explain how it is that you identify so well with their feelings. What have you overcome or experienced that makes you a perfect fit?

When you really get this, your ideal customers will actually seek you out and you’ll be laser-focused on where you should be spending your time. You’ll know exactly what offers your ideal customers will find irresistible. You’ll officially toss out the window trying to be all things to all people.

Your One Offer

By offer I mean: put a premium price on your one solution. Determine the true value of your transformation and price it accordingly. This is the way you’re going to be able to stop charging for time and start charging for value.

Clients don’t care about hours, or even days. What they’re paying for is the value of your expertise. That’s what you’re selling. Don’t get caught undervaluing your service.

Ultimately, whether your clients pay a premium or a bargain is entirely determined by the price you put out there. It takes you just as much time to work for budget clients as it does for high dollar clients. When you look at it like that, premium pricing is the way to go.

In addition to your one offer, make sure you give people a low-risk way to try your products and services. Let them take a test drive with a free trial, course or consultation.

One Webinar

This is where you start moving out of the art and into the science of converting clients. The hard part is done – you’re clear on your one person and you know exactly what to say to grab their attention. Now you need a vehicle to get it out there.

You can do it the hard way by ­emailing people one at a time and dealing with endless objections and stalls, or you can leverage a platform that gives you the possibility to reach hundreds of people at the same time. Keep in mind that the way people perceive you will play a huge role in how quickly you convert them. And when they perceive you as the go-to authority, they already believe that you have their solution and will seek you out, so it’s a lot easier.

That’s where webinars come in.

What you want to do is document everything from the previous steps – your one person, one problem, one solution, and your one offer – and turn it into a presentation. Since you’ve done the homework, this step should be pretty straightforward. Basically, you’re going to take the research you just did and turn into a visually compelling webinar.

If you follow the steps in sequence, you’ll want to make sure your slides do the following, and in this order:

  • Present the problem
  • Ask people questions related to the problem
  • Share how you identify with their experience and understand what they’re feeling
  • Walk the through the steps of your solution
  • Present your offer

Webinar tools:
To create the presentation, I recommend using Powerpoint and Keynote. WebinarJam and WebinairOnAir are good platforms to host the webinar. When selecting your webinar platform, some things you want to look for are ease of use, reliability, pricing, number of attendees, and ability to playback.

One Marketing System

Successful selling involves actively following up with prospects. It generally takes multiple touch points before people commit to a purchase, even when they’re highly motivated.

Your job is to deepen the trust you built with the webinar. Chances are people will need more nudging before they commit. They’re going to be at different stages of making a decision – some may be ready to buy, some may be gathering information, and others will be in the evaluation stage. And then there are those that aren’t aware of the problem.

The way to turn all of this into a conversion machine is with automation. You need a way to follow up with people, shorten the sales cycles, and extend again your offer. We’re talking about a lead generation system that automates the sales process so you don’t have to follow up manually, reaching out to people one by one.

The beauty of webinars is that people sign up for them. You have contact information and can schedule emails ahead of time so that your sales process happens on autopilot. This process is a little techy, but the payoff is worth it. It can solidify your position as an authority and showcase your expertise. More importantly, it will act as an employee in your business, working while you sleep to generate and convert leads.

As with all marketing, how well you convert clients depends on what you say. Think about how you can persuade people who may be on the fence. What can you say that will help them make a decision and take them from interested to invested? Use the email sequence to dive deeper into the webinar topic, extend the conversation, share obstacles you’ve overcome and how you’ve helped others.

Because it’s all happening on autopilot, this step is what closes the loop on building a base of perfect clients so you don’t have to worry about where your next client is coming from.

 

(NOTE: Get my 3-step Customer Avatar Worksheet to start attracting your perfect clients.)

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

 

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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 that 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!

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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!

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