Letters to New(ish) CEO's

Are You Making These Common New Blogger and Biz Owner Productivity Mistakes?

We all start our blogs and businesses in order to gain freedom and ditch all the rules, but sometimes all that freedom becomes our worst enemy. Click through to read about some of the common productivity mistakes you may be making - and what to do about it if you are.

I've talked a lot about things you don't have to do and things you shouldn't believe about building a successful blog and online business. And I believe so strongly in all of those.

But reality is there are things you shouldn't be doing, and I'd be holding back on you if I didn't point those out. So in the spirit of all sides of the story, here are the most common mistakes I see new bloggers and business owners making when it comes to their own productivity:

Spending too much time on social media

Let's face it: we're all guilty of this one. It's very easy to think you're going to find all of your readers and clients on social media and therefore excuse yourself if you're spending hours a day on your favorite platforms.

But here's the reality: those platforms are incredibly distracting, and you can easily get done what you need to get done in an hour or 2 a day. And when you don't do that you're taking away from time you should be spending talking (live) to potential customers, working on your blog, setting up tech, whatever. 

Not giving yourself a schedule

Here's the deal: there is so much freedom in restraint. When I first started my business I was burned out and had no desire to be on a schedule after spending 20 years having my working hours dictated by employers. Which means I promptly got absolutely nothing done. For a year.

When I finally gave in and gave myself the most basic of schedules (I literally only committed to focused work for 90 minutes a day) everything became so much easier. I worked more. I magically had more time to work out and get outside (because I wasn't spending all day thinking about how I SHOULD be working). I started to find the momentum I'd been searching for. 

Trust me: give yourself a schedule, however tiny. You'll feel freedom in it, not restraint.

Forgetting to make real in-person connection

When you start working online it's tempting to think you'll never have to have a real life conversation again. Wrong. Just like any business you need real human connections to inspire you, connect you with others who can help you and provide valuable feedback.

When I finally started connecting with other small business owners, both online and off, worlds I never imagined started opening for me. Don't shut yourself in - reach out.

Getting lost in someone else's model

It's easy to lust after what's working for someone else. We hear their stories all over the place and the simplest trap to fall into is to assume that what works for someone else will work for you. 

Again, not true. We're all different and we're all set up for different means of success. Experiment with different models and you'll find the one that works for you. 

Waiting too long to invest in tech and thinking this is all going to be free

This is probably the biggest productivity suck of them all. Over and over we invest in our own education and self care to the tune of thousands of dollars but then balk at the idea of spending $100 on a basic piece of software.

Here's the deal: if you're building a business online you need to invest in the best technology you can. When you don't you end up spending hours upon hours trying to figure out how to work around the things you don't have in place, or you miss out on opportunities because you can't accommodate them. 

Invest in your tech and stop assuming it should all be free. Instead be grateful that the technology exists to allow you to do what you want to do. Compared to the costs involved in running a local brick + mortar business and it's a steal.

your turn. what productivity hacks have made all the difference in the world? tell us about them in the comments. 

6 Things You Don't Have To Do Before You Start Your Online Business

There are a lot of people telling you what you have to do before ever starting your blog or online biz. Most of them are wrong. Click through to check out 6 of the most common things you don't actually have to do to get started.

When I started my business I was inundated with information about what I absolutely had to before I dared tell anyone I was ready to accept clients.

And despite the fact I'd been working online for 10 years and should've known better, I still fell for it. Probably lost 6 months of momentum to it, in fact.

So in the hopes of saving you those 6 months (or more) and way too many mind games, here are 6 things you DON'T actually have to do before you start your online business. 

Have a perfect website (or any site at all).

This is one of my favorites: people are told to spend 5-10k on a custom website before they even start their business. Are you kidding me? If there's one thing I can promise you it's that you're going to want a billion different changes to your website in your first year or 2 in business. It's inevitable as you learn more about your audience and more about your business. Save the big website investments until you know what your business actually is.

Wait until you have x number of people on your list before doing something.

I put the 'x' in here because I've seen this advice all over the board: people told they need anywhere from 50-1000 people on their list before they dare launch their business. So not true. I started my business without a list and grew it slowly at first. And had plenty of business. 

Yes, your list is insanely important because it's the only thing you actually own and control (as opposed to your social media followings which the platforms ultimately own). But can you start without it? Absolutely. 

Become a coach.

You don't have to be a coach to make money online. Mic drop. Period. Hard stop. 

I know it's common myth that the only way to make good money online is by charging huge, premium prices for 1:1 coaching packages. This is simply not true.

There are examples all over the place of people making extremely good livings teaching courses, selling products and anything else you want to do. So while it's possibly true that coaching is one of the easier ways to get started (seeing as though you only have to find 1 or 2 clients as opposed to many as you would with courses), it's not the only route.

Use the social networks you're told to use.

Facebook groups, Instagram and its hashtags, Twitter chats, Pinterest, etc. Everyone has a favorite social media network that's worked well for them, and therefore they'll tell you it's a must-have for you.

Again, not true. The only social networks that are a must-have for you are the ones that make sense to you. I happen to love Twitter and Pinterest so I spend a lot of time over there. And occasionally Facebook.

I have friends who have found massive success on Instagram but it's not my thing so I don't worry about it. The same way they look at me cross-eyed when I profess my love for Twitter. Stay in your lane. When you're connecting on a social network that makes sense to you, you can't help but be successful with it.

Know your exact value proposition or who exactly you're going to serve.

This is by far the one that I've seen hold the most people back. They hear about needing to have a perfect customer avatar and know exactly who their ideal client is in order to communicate effectively.

And while that's absolutely true, it's also really hard to know who your ideal client is before you start talking to people. In fact I'd argue that it's near impossible. So start, take a guess who your person is and see if it clicks. If it does, great. Go all in. And if not, don't sweat it. Try another group. You'll find your people eventually. Really the only way to guarantee you WON'T find your people is to never start talking to anyone.

Know what your business model is going to be.

The same way I told you that you don't have to be a coach - you also don't have to know if you're going to be a coach or not. You may decide you want to coach, you may decide you want to teach courses, you may decide you want to support other entrepreneurs, you may decide you want to make physical products.

They're all perfectly fine, and you don't need to know which one you want before you start. Just like everything else, try a few things on for size and see what sticks. You might be surprised.

your turn. What myths did you believe before you started your biz? or which ones are you going to let go of to get started today? Tell us about them in the comments.

What Silicon Valley Can Teach You About Building A Successful Blog and Business

Silicon Valley and the traditional tech startups that reside there can teach all of us bloggers and business owners a lot of valuable lessons about how to build a business. Click through to read about some of the most valuable lessons I brought from my tech career to my current business.

I've called myself an entrepreneur for over 10 years now. From tech to nonprofits to solo biz to higher ed ventures - I've seen (what feels like) all of it. 

And while we all call ourselves entrepreneurs, the differences between the tech startup world and the different entrepreneurial ventures I've been part of

Which means there's a lot for those of us in the online world to learn from how they do things in the Valley. These are the biggest lessons I've brought with me from the Valley to the online world:

Fail fast and learn from that failure.

We talk a lot in the online world about celebrating failure as being inevitable on the way to success. And I agree - you will fail. But what we sometimes miss in the online world is that it isn't just about failing for the sake of failing in order to get it out of the way - it's actually about failing as fast as you can so you can LEARN from the failure and move on smarter.  

It's ok to say you want something, and it's ok to work really, really hard to make that thing happen.

Self care is a huge topic in the online entrepreneurial world, and I get it. When I was in tech I was burned out and miserable. I definitely needed more self care. But just like you can ignore self care and work too hard, I believe you can take self care too hard and never get around to working hard.

Building a business takes work. Hard work. Don't be afraid to work hard. There are seasons of hustle and seasons of recovery and both are important.

Your first customers are everything. Treat them like royalty.

This one's self-explanatory: your first customers are everything. Treat the like royalty and they'll be loyal to you forever. Learn from them, ask them what they want, and never forget they were there for you first.

Diversity is best: women in tech, men online.

The tech world has a well-documented diversity problem, including a serious lack of women. The best tech companies are very serious about correcting this problem, and not just to appear politically correct. They're trying to correct this problem because it's been proven over and over again that diverse companies and diverse ventures perform better than those without much diversity.

I've noticed an opposite phenomenon in the online space: the women tend to only work with women. Part of me gets it: we're told to niche down and lots of us choose to serve women, and therefore our businesses become women-centered. But I see it go too far as well: I see women who don't want to hire or work with men because they're intimidated or don't think men understand their business or a million other things.

This is the reverse diversity as the tech world's dealing with, and you're losing valuable perspective if you're not working with me (even if your customers are women). 

Keep innovating or die.

The best tech ventures are always trying something new. Think about it: love it or hate it Facebook's always doing something to its algorithm in order to stay relevant. Same for the other social networks. This isn't by mistake: Silicon Valley knows that a company is only as good as its latest idea.

In the online world this means if you have one great launch or one successful product, don't assume it will stay that way.  Keep listening to your customers, keep listening to your gut, and keep experimenting. 

Entrepreneurship isn't only a young person's game.

The myth of entrepreneurship is that it's a young person's game. And fair enough, because the Mark Zuckerberg's and Jack Dorsey's of the startup world keep that myth front and center.

But stats don't back this up: most successful entrepreneurs are over 30 years old, even over 40. The years of experience and wisdom do matter. So if you're not 21, don't worry. You can still be a wildly successful entrepreneur.

A person's hustle, passion and ability to get things done trumps smarts everyday. 

This one's hard for me because I have an MBA and lots of traditional credentials, but reality is successful entrepreneurs are the ones who know how to get things done consistently. The act of showing up and persisting means way more than any smarts or credentials you may (or may not) have. Hustle accordingly. 

What do you think? what are the biggest lessons or inspirations you take from the startup world to your online business? tell us about it in the comments.

The Books I Turn To For Business Inspiration, Advice, and Courage

The best business is a mix of art, science and mindset. Click through to see which books I rely on to help me with all 3 sides of my online business.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I firmly believe it takes an equal combination of art, science and good old woo, intuition or mindset (whatever you prefer to call that last category) to create, grow and scale the business of your dreams.

That means it won't surprise you to hear that anytime someone asks me for the best business book recommendations my list includes selections from each of the 3 categories.

These are the books I come back to time and again when I need inspiration, advice and support.

Art

Andy Warhol once said that "being good is business is the most fascinating kind of art" and I couldn't agree more (in fact I even made that quote the tag line of my first business). Business is art and art is business, and if you're only focused on your art, or only focused on hard business, you're not going to get very far as an entrepreneur. You have to become comfortable with both. 

As someone who leans more to the science side than the art side, these books have helped me connect to the art side of my business.

The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

Do The Work, Steve Pressfield

The War of Art, Steve Pressfield

Mindset/Intuition/Woo

I've heard it said more than once that there's no therapy or personal development that can  hold a candle than starting your own business. It's a brutal roller coaster of self doubt, confronting your weaknesses and pushing through despite it regularly feeling like all odds are against you. 

Therefore it's no surprise that entrepreneurs regularly find themselves heading to the self-help section when searching for help. These are the staples that have helped me find my way - and stay on course when the going got tough.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo

The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

Creative Visualization, Shatki Gawain

The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte

Science

I don't hide the fact that I have an MBA from one of the top business schools in the world where I had the honor of studying under Nobel Prize winners in economics, so it should come as no surprise that I turn to - and recommend - books that tackle the more technical and scientific side of business. These listed below are some of absolute best I've encountered.

48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene

Art of Propoganda, Anthony Pratkanis

Blink/Outliers/The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries

Nudge, Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein

Scaling Up, Verne Harnish

 

Your turn: what are your favorite business books? Do you find yourself reading more about the art, the science or the mindset of business? Tell us about it in the comments!

10 Podcasts You Should Be Paying Attention To If You're Starting (or Growing) An Online Business

Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to stay on top of what's new in the online business and blogging world, and to find inspiration and community. Click through to see which are my favorite 10 shows.

When I need a break from actually doing things in my business but I want to keep my brain working, or when my eyes need a break from screen and page alike, I turn to podcasts to keep the learning going.

Podcasts are a fantastic way to stay on top of current industry trends without having to invest time into reading every book that comes out, attending every industry event there is, or purchasing every new course that's launched.

And (bonus for me!) you can listen to them at 1.5-2x speed if you want to gain a ton of learning quickly.

Here are the 10 podcasts I turn to when in need of inspiration, information or #realtalk from entrepreneurs who have been there, done that.

StartUp from Gimlet Media

My favorite podcast, and probably one of the more unexpected of this list, is actually the story of a former NPR producer leaving his safe job to start his own podcast network, Gimlet Media. The first show he creates at his new network is simply called Startup, and it's a first-hand chronicle of his experience trying to start his own company. 

While it's not directly related to online business it's a raw, authentic account of the roller coaster ride that is starting your own business. I used to make it required listening of all of my tech clients, and now that I'm working exclusively in the online space I still encourage my clients, especially those in the middle of scaling, to listen. Everyone laughs, cries and realizes they're not alone.

Check out Season 1 first as it's the season that focuses directly on Gimlet Media.

Smart Passive Income with Pay Flynn

No question Pat Flynn's a leader in the online space, and he got there because his podcast is that perfect combination of beginner-friendly and insanely helpful to anyone at every level.

Pat's been at it weekly for years now (he's recorded just over 200 episodes as of this writing) and he covers a ton of ground around a lot of different niches so I recommend diving into his archive to find episodes directly relevant to what you're currently working on. 

Ask Pat with Pat Flynn

As if 4 years of a weekly podcast wasn't enough, Pat Flynn also hosts a daily, shorter 'Ask Pat' show that runs between 10-15 minutes. This show is insanely helpful for finding quick, fast, actionable answers to just about any question about online business that you can come up with. 

He sources his questions from real readers so you know what he's covering is current and commonly asked.

The #AskGaryVee Show with Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is the author of the social media classic Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook and commonly known as one of the top authorities on all things social media. Similar to the Ask Pat show, Gary hosts a daily A to the Q show that runs anywhere from 7-15 minutes, so easy to find the time to listen. 

If you have a question about social media, odds are the answer is somewhere in Gary's archive. If you're not paying attention to him you need to start. Now. Dude knows his stuff.

Entrepreneur on Fire with John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas is another prolific podcaster, posting a new Entrepreneur on Fire podcast daily (he's up to over 1200 episodes!) His shows feature interviews with online entrepreneurs of all types, so if you're looking to expand your knowledge of what's possible in the online space, or simply looking for inspiration from people who have made it, EOF is the place to go.

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield

Amy Porterfield came on the scene as a Facebook and Facebook ads expert and has since made her name for smart training on many aspects of online business, not only Facebook. Her show is a combination of interviews with other online experts and practical trainings that are relevant for just about anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the online space. It's a staple in my queue.

Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields

Jonathan Fields is a gift to the entrepreneurial world, and his wonderful Good Life radio show is a treat for anyone looking for inspirational stories of entrepreneurs who have figured out how to live the good life (however they happen to define that).

His weekly interviews go deep and touch on just about everything OTHER than tactics. So if you're looking for stories of people who have persevered past entrepreneurial valleys, learned to bare their souls in the name of their dreams and generally live life to the fullest get yourself over to Jonathan's site. You won't be sorry.

I know for myself this podcast was instrumental to keeping me going when I was juggling a job I didn't like with the beginnings of my venture. It gave me hope, made me realize others had made it work before me, and helped me remember there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Grit 'n' Hustle with Todd Herman

Todd Herman is a high performance coach, and his new(ish) podcast highlights stories and interviews with insanely high-performing entrepreneurs and other interesting people. I dare you to listen to an episode without feeling the most inspired and action-oriented than you have in months, maybe years.

Being Boss with Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon

Being Boss is a relative newcomer to the podcast space but has grown popular, quickly. It's a podcast for creative women entrepreneurs and features interviews, real talk and strategies for growing your creative online business. 

THE MOTH

The Moth podcast actually has nothing to do with entrepreneurship but may be my favorite anyway. Why? Because it's a story telling podcast - think people getting up in front of a crowd on a stage and telling true stories about defining moments in their lives. It's funny, heartbreaking, inspiring and intense all at the same time. 

Why am I including it in this list? Because I actually found out about it via Jonathan Fields, who recommends it as a way to learn how to tell your story. As entrepreneurs we all need to learn to tell our stories in ways that grab our audiences, and what better way to learn than to listen to some of the best stories out there? It's much more effective than trying to follow a dry script. Listen to a few episodes of the Moth and you won't be able to help becoming a better storyteller, basically by osmosis. A Sunday morning spent with a cup of tea and the Moth is one of my favorite things in the world.

What about you? What are your favorite podcasts? (or other ways to keep the learning going when you're ready for a mini break?) Let us know in the comments!

 

The 8 Not-So-Obvious Things I Did Last Year To Grow My New Business

I often see and hear new online business owners and bloggers asking (and am asked myself) how to grow their business: what exact steps to take and in what order. 

And while there are lots of tangible things you should do (hint: Build your list! Know who your customer is! Be consistent.) there are lots of not-so-tangible, not so immediately obvious things that subtly happen over the course of growing a business that are just as - if not more - important than the obvious tangible stuff.

Some people might call it mindset stuff. Others might call it leaning into your business and naturally making the shift from freelancer to business owner. 

I call it the not-so-obvious stuff (yep, super scientific name:)

I didn’t even realize I’d done many of these things until I sat back this weekend and really reviewed my 2015 (I know, a month late, but whose counting, really?) And since they’re not-so-obvious, yet clearly what grew my business the most, I wanted to share them here. 

So without further ado, the 8 not-so-obvious things that grew my business last year:

1. I Got Focused

If you know me at all you know I’m all about focus. Focus for projects, focus for growth, focus for everything. I love it. 

Except I realized I wasn’t *really* focused fully on my business. When I was working on my business I was focused on one project at a time, but I was allowing my focus *outside* of my core business wander. 

I took a bunch of projects that I called “scholarship” projects because they were with previous clients and previous industries that I knew well and were easy for me to take on. I called them scholarship projects because I thought they’d allow me to grow this business slow and steady without income pressure. 

Instead they proved massively distracting and my business wasn’t moving forward. At all. So about halfway through the year I quit taking on any scholarship projects and my business started to really fly. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. 

2. I Got Intentional

I left my last company about 18 months ago now in deep, deep burnout (that burnout - and what I learned recovering from it - is a whole other blog post I’ll share soon). That means when last year started I was only about 6 months out of running that company and still deep into recovery.

And what that meant was committing to a schedule seemed totally out of the question. There were days I barely wanted to get out of bed, and other days I just wanted to spend in the mountains around my Colorado home without any hint of responsibility.

While I knew I still needed that time, I also knew I wouldn’t get anywhere if I continued to keep things completely loose.  So I decided to start easing back into a regular schedule. Instead of jumping in and making some kind of unrealistic declaration I knew I’d never keep (New Year’s resolutions anyone?!?!) I made baby (and we’re talking baby) step commitments.

The first week I said I’d spend at least an hour each day on my biz. That wasn’t more than I’d been spending before, I’d just been chunking it all into days I felt like working, but making that daily commitment, even a really small one that didn’t get in the way of anything else I wanted to do each day, helped ease me back into paying attention each day.

After a few weeks of that I committed to 90 minutes. Then 2 hours, 4 hours... you get the idea. I made micro-commitments and consistently upped them. And it worked. By the end of the year I was happily and easily putting in 8+ hours a day and felt totally in flow. And I doubt that would’ve ever happened (or happened as easily as it did) if I hadn’t started small. Really small.

3. I Set Real Goals (& Tracked Them)

At the beginning of last year setting goal felt *almost* as scary as setting time commitments. When thinking about goals all my mind really heard was the time + effort commitment (hello again burnout! You’re a b$tch.) so it was way too overwhelming to go there.

So again I started small. First I started tracking my income - all of it - including random free cups of coffee, anything that represented value. I didn’t set a goal against it, and I didn’t track my expenses. My only goal was to remember how much fun it was to earn money and earn value. 

Once the income tracking felt good + easy + not at all stressful I started adding income goals against it. Modest at first, because I wanted to know I’d make my goal and get some positive reinforcement for the goal setting. Then I started to set higher goals, and finally I started to track my expenses and take proper note of my P&L (profit and loss) each month. 

Again, just like micro steps to a schedule, micro steps to income tracking and goals made it doable and make it successful.  

4. I Surrounded Myself With Biz Buddies

This one wasn’t a conscious effort on my part (although it should’ve been, so if you’re reading this make it one of yours!) but I came out of last year with some cherished business buddies and wow did they make a difference.

Building an online business from home can be a lonely endeavor. Your real life friends and family may not understand exactly what it is you’re building, and they definitely won’t be able to relate to the norms and challenges in the industry.

That means the people who are working towards something similar will become your best day in and day out support team. They’ll cheer you on, offer much-needed perspective and advice that’s on point. 

Last year I can thank my biz buddies for suggesting the baby step schedule commitments I talked about above, for helping me flesh out my brand when I had no idea which way was up and for telling me on a daily basis that I had what it took to make this thing happen. I can’t thank them enough for it.

5. I Found My Sweet Spot Between Hustle & Self-Care 

One of my biggest struggles last year was finding (and accepting) where I naturally land on the spectrum between hustle and self-care. If I haven’t mentioned it enough already I was REALLY burned out at the beginning of last year. Which means I was ALL ABOUT the extreme self-care. 

But here’s the thing: when feeling good I’m kind of intense. Actually a lot intense. I like the hustle: I like to feel like I’m on the edge of performing my best. I’d gone way over that edge at my last company, and that didn’t work. But when I went way over the hustle edge I sling shot all the way to the other extreme of massive self care, all day everyday. And you know what? That felt just as bad. At least to me.

So when I finally accepted that I like to work hard, that I like a little hustle and adrenaline in my life, things started falling into place for me. I learned enough from going over the edge that I still incorporate *way more* self-care into my daily life than I ever have before, which is a really good thing, but I also don’t overdo the self-care, because when I do that I find I start annoying myself with what feels like a bunch of excuses.

Finding the balance was important to me. What’s your balance?

6. I Invested in Tech

This one surprised me when I sat down and looked at my year because I’m a huge tech advocate and would never consider myself as someone who *wasn’t* always investing in tech. Until I realized I wasn’t.

Here’s what was happening: because I wasn’t being overly intentional about my business at the beginning of the year it was easy to look at tech I knew I needed and say “I’ll grab that next week.” Well we all know how that story ends: the next week I’d put it off another week, then another and another until a few months had passed and I still hadn’t invested in anything. No bueno.

In the second half of the year I made a list of the tech I wanted with all associated costs and started picking things off one by one. Not surprisinly the more I invested in tech, the more efficient and easy things became, which means the more interested I became in working (because it was easier to work) and the more clients appeared.

Stop putting off your tech investments. Get ‘em done and they’ll pay for themselves. Quickly.

7. I Stopped Trying To Apply Everything I Saw Going On In The Online Space

This was another interesting one for me. My business has 2 branches: I help established online entrepreneurs (think 200-500k annual revenue) scale up to 7 figures and beyond, and I help new online business owners build their business on a solid enough foundation so they can reach that scaling threshold.

The first branch of that business - the scaling part - requires me to be very up-to-date on all the latest and greatest in the online business world. Which means I consume a ton of content and listen to a ton of industry people. Which is fine - it’s for a purpose, and me paying attention to those things improves the outcomes my clients achieve by a lot. Which means I’ll keep doing it.

What I stopped doing, however, was trying to apply everything I was learning in my own business. This is a typical problem for new entrepreneurs - you buy all the courses, listen to everyone, try to apply everything. Except I thought I didn’t count because I was listening and consuming for my clients. Wrong. Because when I took a step back I realized I was letting it affect what I was doing in my business, and when I did that things got really confusing and disjointed. 

I couldn’t go cold turkey on info like some people do (since I did need to know the info for my higher-level clients) but I DID make the conscious decision to compartmentalize all the info I took in as client-only information, and stopped letting it seep into my own business plans. 

8. I Tried New Things (& Stayed Disconnected From The Outcome)

The last thing I did to move my business forward last year was to get back to my entrepreneurial, experimental roots and start trying new things without being connected to the outcome.

What do I mean? Before I had this business I was in tech start-ups, and in tech there’s constant experimenting going on, and no one bats an eye if an experiment works or doesn’t work. It’s just information to build on.

But when I had my own company all of a sudden those experiements started feeling really personal in nature - they were judgments against ME, not pieces of information about how to build my business. 

To move past that I brought my mindset back to my tech roots and made a conscious effort to disconnect me from what was (or wasn’t) working to build my business. When I did that I was able to start experiementing again with a child’s mind and find the list building, marketing, outreach strategies that worked while letting go of the ones that didn’t without turning them into some kind of judgment of my abilities. Needless to say that helped. A lot.

That’s what I did in 2015 to building my business. How about you? Did you do any of these same things? Maybe something differently? Can you experiment with any of these in 2016? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

"Not Now" Isn't "No" and 7 Other Things Successful Entrepreneurs Understand About Focus

Focus.

Bring that word up to a new entrepreneur and watch what happens. You'll likely be met with rolled eyes, an annoyed brush off or a comment about how focusing isn't possible or necessary when the goal is to experiment and create something new.

And it's understandable. Entrepreneurs tend to be rule breakers and free spirits at heart, so the notion of having to focus that energy they've spent so long cultivating isn't welcome.

But talk to experienced entrepreneurs and they'll admit (some grudgingly) that learning how to focus was one of the most important ingredients in their success.

What have those successful entrepreneurs come to know is true about focus?

1. "Not Now" Isn't "No"

Entrepreneurs are creative, and they tend to have more than one idea and more than one passion at any one time.

Yet too many of these "multi-passionate" entrepreneurs never get any of their businesses off the ground because they become paralyzed while trying to choose which idea to pursue.

Others decide to tackle more than one idea at once and quickly find themselves overwhelmed and ineffective at all of them.

Successful entrepreneurs understand that by focusing on one idea or one business at a time they're not saying "no," instead they're saying "not now."

They choose one viable project at a time, see it to maturity and then move on to their next idea or passion.

2. The Grass Isn't Always Greener

It's true that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

In an environment where it's tempting to change course early and often, successful entrepreneurs know they need to stick with an idea until they have concrete evidence of whether or not it's working.

By doing so they avoid the lure of changing ideas or tactics on the fly because of a hit of uncertainty or a shiny new idea that's come across their path.

3. Being Busy Doesn't Mean You're Making It

The best entrepreneurs have figured out that being busy does not equate with being successful.

In fact it can be the opposite. Entrepreneurs who build quiet time into their day understand that a hike, a swim, or a quick meditation break help sharpen focus.

And when focus is sharpened, solutions to complex and critical problems seem to magically appear out of thin air.

Entrepreneurs who don't embrace the quiet - who constantly filling their calendars with busy work, who are scared to not be working all the time - kill the possibility of experiencing those moments of serendipity.

And their businesses tend to suffer because of it.

4. Revenue Is the Priority

While product testing, customer conversations and brainstorming ideas can be fun, revenue is (or should be) the focus, and successful entrepreneurs know how to keep their eyes on the main prize.

They prioritize all other activities according to their ability to start bringing in revenue. After all, the point of entrepreneurship is to build a business.

And by definition a business exists to make money, which means revenue needs to come first.

5. Budgets are Limited

One obvious reason that revenue is always the top priority is that startups have limited budgets.

Successful entrepreneurs realize that maintaining focus allows them to deploy those budget dollars strategically.

And when that happens, the company will steadily move closer to generating revenue, and not waste budget on aimless experiments or passing ideas.

6. Testing and Learning Matters

To build a strong company entrepreneurs know they need to test ideas and learn from their customers and from the market.

The easiest way to do that is by focusing on one idea at a time and testing it over and over until it's validated or ready to be thrown out. 

Test too many ideas at once and an entrepreneur will quickly forget what any of the objectives were, and all of the tests will prove useless.

7. You Don't Have to Start Lots of Businesses to Join the Club

Some young entrepreneurs think that in order to be labeled a successful entrepreneur they need to start several businesses, and their focus suffers because of it.

Some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs - Mark Zuckerberg being one very high-profile example - have only started one company. 

Quality counts more than quantity when it comes to solidifying a legacy in the entrepreneurial club.

The 10 {Practical} Mindset Shifts that take you from struggling & guessing to Empire-Building Entrepreneur

(P.S. They’re a lot simpler - and lot more practical - than you might imagine.)

10 years in the online world, 6+ years as an entrepreneur and several 7-figure businesses (both as CEO and high level advisor) later have taught me a few things about the mindset needed to build successful online businesses.

It’s also taught me that while the majority of the mindset advice you see out there may do a fine job of helping you understand yourself better, it does nothing to help you understand the super practical and actionable mindset shifts you need to make to become an effective CEO of your business.

That all changes here with my list of the top 10 mindset shifts I’ve made - and see other successful business owners making - in order to build the businesses of their dreams. 

1. It’s All You

Your company, your call. Seems obvious but many struggling entrepreneurs fail to recognize they’re now in charge and no one’s going to show up to tell them what to do or make the big decisions for them.

When you commit to your business, you’re committing to showing up, to being decisive, to being consistent and to being committed. You educate yourself about (and pay attention to) every aspect of your business, even if it’s not your favorite thing in the world (looking at you monthly bookkeeping...) 

You make the conscious decision that you’re in charge.

2. Schedules Equal Freedom, Not Constraint

I’ve yet to meet someone building an online business who wasn’t motivated, at least in part, but some form of freedom, escaping the 9-to-5, or generally crafting a life on their own terms (myself very much included).

But don’t believe the hype you see about waltzing around the world without a care in the world while your biz rakes in the cash behind the scenes: it takes really hard work to build your business to that point, and hard work is *much* easier to get done when you consciously commit to it and put yourself on a schedule to get it done.

The faster you embrace a measure of discipline and organization to your day, the faster you’ll be the one globe-trotting in first class.

(and the faster you’ll realize that the organization and discipline you hold yourself accountable for feels *much* different than any discipline or organization you were forced to adhere to as an employee being paid to create someone else’s dreams).

3. Outsource Smart

This one drives me bonkers: specifically the advice out there to outsource anything and everything “you don’t feel passionate about” in your business immediately and fully.

This it absolutely terrible advice. And not just because of how wrong it is - also because out of all the completely ridiculous and wrong online business advice out there, this one probably poses the most risk to your business. 

Here’s why: When you outsource everything you don’t love about your business immediately and without any knowledge of how to do it yourself, you’re putting yourself at the mercy of who you’ve outsourced it to. 

For example: what if you hate setting up email so you decide to outsource it without giving it another thought. Now what happens if the person you’ve outsourced to gets sick? Or disappears into thin air? (which happens more often than you can imagine) and you’re left without knowing how to email your list, which just happens to be the single-biggest income generator for you? No bueno. No bueno at all.

Another example: if you’re a coach you shouldn’t immediately hire someone to answer your emails just because you don’t like dealing your inbox. Your business relies on relationships so there’s no justification to outsourcing anything that directly contributes to relationship-building until you’ve been booked solid for several months.

Here’s the better way to outsource: Know enough to be dangerous about how to do everything in your business. Never immediately outsource anything. Then take a look at what is the busiest of your annoying busy work and outsource that first. Keep outsourcing all the busy work that takes the bulk of your time and doesn’t directly contribute to revenue. 

4. Numbers Are Information, Not Judgments

This is a biggie for lots of us: learning to view our business numbers as pieces of information and not as judgments of our self-worth. 

Here’s why it’s important: what you focus on tends to grow. And when you’re trying to grow your business that generally means you’re trying to increase your revenue. The fastest way to do that? By paying attention to, and knowing, how much revenue you’re bringing in now.

It always amazes me how many entrepreneurs have no idea how much money they actually make. Start tracking your revenue and start watching it grow. Trust me on this one.

And once you’re comfortable tracking your revenue you’ll be ready to start tracking other important metrics in your business, and it’ll grow even more. I promise.

5. Competition Is Useful

Another myth I love shattering: Competition does, in fact, exist. When other people or businesses offer similar products and services to your own you have competition. By definition it’s a fact, the same way the sun existing is a fact. It just is.

HOWEVER, I also understand the *spirit* around the widely-held belief that if you are yourself competition doesn’t actually exist because no one else can be you. This is also true - but I argue it’s because you being yourself is the greatest competitive advantage you can have (because it’s also a fact that no one else CAN be you), it’s not because competition doesn’t exist.

And yes, this is a subtle point. But it’s also an important one, because once you understand the difference you can also begin to embrace how much you can use your competition to your advantage.

Here’s how: Paying attention to competition means you’re tuned in to market trends, what others are talking about and what your potential clients are responding to. Knowing what’s going on in the market and using it from an offensive position (as opposed to trying to catch up later) is smart.

Want to learn more? I wrote an entire post about hte best ways to use competition to your advantage and you should definitely check it out.

6. Find Support and Ask For Help Before It’s Needed

You heard it here first: mentors, coaches, biz besties and masterminds are your new best friends. Building a business can be a stressful and lonely experience made even more so when your “real life” family and friends struggle to understand what you’re going through because they can’t relate.

Enter support from your new business besties. Hands down my businesses have grown and thrived the most when I’ve made the conscious effort to embrace the support of business friends at or just beyond the level I’m currently at. They hold me accountable, hold space for me when I’m freaking out (which, *real talk*, happens to all of us) and I do the same for them.

If you really want to grow you need support that understands you. Go find your tribe. Pronto.

7. Trends Are Trendy

The quickest way to make sure you build a business that won’t last the test of time? Not understanding the difference between good strategy and trend strategy. 

Having the mindset to see what’s a trend and what isn’t helps you build a diversified marketing plan that takes advantage of trends but doesn’t rely on them. And that’s a big difference that business owners understand and hobbyists don’t.

Why is it important? Because trends, by definition, fade. And when they do you don’t want your business to fade with them. So by all means embrace trends - they can help you accelerate your growth and do it quickly - but also be prepared and ready with other ideas and time-tested strategies you can put in place overnight when (not if) the trend slows down. 

Bottom line: What’s popular today may not be popular tomorrow. Plan accordingly.

8. Don’t Compromise

One surefire way to signal to customers and fellow small biz owners that you’re a hobbyist and not serious about building a real business? 

Compromise.

Compromise on your prices. Compromise on your value prop. Compromise on the kind of work you take on.

Agree to trade services. Agree to barter.

Businesses, by definition, exist to make money. So if you’re committed to your business you need to be committed to knowing your worth, charging your worth and not compromising on any of it. And doing it without apologizing.

It’s not always easy to do so (and it’s definitely scary when you’re first starting out) but that’s what your biz buddies are for! Use them to help hold you accountable to your boundaries, and hold them accountable to theirs. You’ll all come out ahead.

9. Winging It Is Not An Acceptable Strategy

You know what’s awesome about building your own business? 

You have full freedom to play around and experiment to find what works best for you AND your biz. It’s incredibly empowering to be able to find products, services, systems and processes that not only work but also feel good (BIG difference from working in corporate where you’re told what and where to do things).

You know what’s not awesome about having that freedom? The temptation is leaves to never move beyond that experimentation stage and finding yourself in a never-ending cycle of experimenting and winging it.

Scalable businesses (and business owners with scaling on their minds) know when it’s time to stop the never-ending experiment and start to put processes, rules and systems against the things that have worked.

Never stop experimenting cold turkey - it keeps your business fresh and innovative - but do recognize when something works and take the time to systemize that thing so it can run itself while you move on to trying new things.

10. Do The Right Things First

Checking tasks off mundane to-do lists is not the way to make progress in your business. 

Learning to recognize and focus not on the big things or the easy things or the obvious things or the hard things, but on prioritizing the right things, is how you make progress.

Start every day by asking what project or task has the highest potential to benefit your business bottom line, and care for that one first. The rest can wait.

What do you think? What mindset shifts have you had to make in order to grow your business and step into the role of CEO? Tell us about them in the comments!

10 Practical Ways to Bounce Back From a Slump

As entrepreneurs we all go through slumps. Some last a few hours; others can last for days, weeks – even months. And once we finally emerge – after we’ve napped, listened to music, communed with nature, taken a social media break, practiced deep self-care and love – well then it’s time to get back to work.

Except we don't talk a lot about the best ways to get back to work. Ways that'll jumpstart our brains but still protect against another slump.

Here are the top ways I jumpstart my brain once I've recovered from a slump.

 

The List

  1. Tune In. Once you’ve recovered enough to start thinking about your business again, take the time to tune into your own intuition. Resist the temptation to crowdsource ideas, google or sign up for another course. Those things can come later once you know where you’re going next. For now realize that you already know what you need to know – so listen for it and you’ll be surprised how quickly you hear your path emerge.
  2. Solve a Puzzle. Sometimes the worst thing you can do when you’re coming out of a slump is to jump straight into deep business decisions. Instead give your brain some time to warm up – after all, it’s just taken a break and could use the practice. Solve a puzzle game or completing a series of brain teasers. Once you feel the gears starting to turn again you can switch over and start solving your business questions.
  3. Do What You Teach. If you teach something and are having trouble figuring out what to do next, drop the teaching part of the equation and just start doing again. Teach copywriting? Write a page of copy. Teach email marketing? Set up a campaign of your own. Feel like you can’t help people strategize around their business? Plan your own next 6 months. Getting back to the doing will kick your brain into gear of what you need to do to teach.
  4. Revisit Your Original Vision. Lots of people will tell you to get out of a funk by revisiting your big ‘why’. And while that can work, I think it fits more in the recovery/self-care phase of a slump. But when you’re trying to get moving again you need to revisit more than just your why – you need to look at your whole vision. This means also reconnecting with your how. When you first started your business what did you picture? Was it what you ended up creating? If not you might find your answers in what’s next by returning to that original vision.
  5. Journal With A Purpose. During the recovery phase you might journal about how you feel, what you’ve experienced, anything that comes to you in open journaling. But when you need to get going you need to get more practical and journal with purpose. Make a few columns, label them ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ and start listing the pro’s and con’s of what’s been working and what’s not been in your business. After an extended slump a lot of people think they have to scrap everything. This exercise will help you realize you probably don’t need to throw it all away. Instead look for 1 or 2 high impact tweaks you can make around what’s not working, and see things turn around right away.
  6. Expose Your Options. Sometimes a biz funk is simply the result of too many ideas cluttering up your head and overwhelming you. Jumpstart your way out of your slump by getting the ideas out of your head. List everything that’s been on your mind on a piece of paper. Literally every passing thought about your business. When you see everything on paper in front of you, rather than constantly trying to access memories and thoughts and piece them together, the obvious path will appear.
  7. Commit To Focus. “Not now” doesn’t mean “no”. Another form of overwhelm that causes a lot of slumps is an unwillingness to focus on one thing at a time. But focus is where the magic is; focus is where stuff gets done. So grab that list of options you just made and choose which one you want to pursue right now. And give yourself permission to focus on only that one thing knowing that the others aren’t being discarded – they’re just being put in line for when the first idea is complete.
  8. Create Something New. Remember when you were first starting your business and just needed to start somewhere so you just created something – anything – to get going? There’s no rule you can’t do the same thing now as a slump buster. Sometimes remembering that it does’t need to be perfect – it just needs to be created – is enough to get your mojo back.
  9. More Risk = Less Risk. This might seem like an oxymoron, but think about it: the more risk you take, the less risky it is. If you’re stalled because of a risky next step, find more than one risky step to take and take them all. When you take one risky action and your brain is likely to freak out on you, paralyzing you from doing anything. But take several risky actions at once? You’ll be desensitized from any one of the individual risky actions and they’ll all feel easier.
  10. Blow It Up. Warning: this isn’t for the weak-hearted or for the minor funk. This is for one of those “this has lasted 6 months and I’m not sure I’ll ever emerge” funks.  One that’s caused by feeling like you’ve boxed yourself into a corner by creating such a small niche or specific audience and now wanting to branch out. And because you’re concerned your new thing won’t resonate with your old audience or brand, you do nothing. For months. Get out of it by blowing up your business. I’ve deleted entire email lists before, started new Facebook pages, started from complete scratch before just because I knew it would clear my energy to create the something new. Not ready for the full nuclear option? That’s ok. Let yourself stretch from your business identity by testing new ideas somewhere people don’t already know you. Go to a new Facebook group. Jump on a new social media platform. One well known startup I’ve worked with actually tests risky ideas under an assumed name in a different country. It works.

The Encore (5 More)

  1. Learn From The Love. Read your testimonials. But don’t just read them to be reminded you’re awesome (even though you are). Read them with purpose: look for the patterns around what your clients consistently praise you for, and think about what you can create that does more of that.
  2. Help One of Your Favorite Clients. Lots of people will tell you to get out of a business funk by helping people. I think that’s great, but I don’t think you should help just anyone. If they’re not the right people for you it can just lead to even more confusion. Instead figure out how you can help one of your favorite clients. It’ll remind you what you love about her, and inspire you in the direction of what you can create that will help her and more like her.
  3. Do The Opposite. Sometimes all it takes to get started is to act the opposite of what you’re struggling with. Feeling like you’re totally disconnected? Reach out and connect.
  4. Ask Questions About Businesses You Know Nothing About. Sometimes we get caught in the same business circles and that can lead to analysis by paralysis. But there’s a whole world of entrepreneurs out there going through something similar to you in a completely different industry. Reach out to an entrepreneur outside of your regular sphere and talk business. You’ll be amazed at the takeaways you’ll gather for your own business.
  5. Outside Eyes. We all become blind to our businesses at one point or another. So reach out to your business friends, your mastermind, and ask for their ideas. The ideas they come up with will probably have you saying ‘of course!’. Biz friends tend to know what we should do next before we can see it ourselves.

A Surprisingly Easy Way to Find Clarity

When you lose your way (lose your clarity) it’s generally because you’re spending too much time on surface stuff – either doing the same thing as everyone around you without ever discovering whether it’s right for you, or you’re slapping band-aids on your business bullet-holes and then wondering why your problems aren’t going away.

And you probably know you need clarity, but going deep to figure it out sounds hard. Sounds like it would require hours of meditating, lots and lots of tears, 5 journals and probably burning a bunch of stuff.

Who has time for that every time you need to figure something out?

 

What If Clarity Didn’t Have To Be So Hard?

What if I told you asking 5 simple questions – literally asking yourself ‘Why’ 5 times in a row – can help you find exactly what you’re looking for? Or exactly what’s holding you back from having what you want?

It’s called the 5 Why’s Principle (creative, I know) and here’s how it works:

Think about the issue you’re struggling with. Here’s one I hear all the time:
I can’t decide how (or if) I should grow my business.

Now ask yourself Why 5 times and see what comes up.

I can’t decide how (or if) I should grow my business. —> ASK WHY.

Because I don’t know if the type of clients I’m working with right now are right for me long term so I don’t know how to start thinking about changes until I can decide that. —>ASK WHY.

Because I think I might be outgrowing the basic topics I teach but I’m worried that changing things would risk all my momentum because it would be hard to find a new set of clients. —>ASK WHY.

Because I’m known for and good at what I’m doing now. I’m concerned I wouldn’t be viewed the same if I began targeting more advanced clients.
—> ASK WHY.

Because advanced clients won’t hire someone’s whose not already known for having helped other people in their same shoes. —> ASK WHY.

Because they’ll know I’m not really sure if I know what I’m talking about or not. They’ll know this is a huge leap for me.

BOOM. There’s your answer and there’s your clarity: it’s not that you can’t decide how to grow your business – you know exactly what you want to do there. It’s just that you don’t yet believe you’re ready to take the step you so desperately want to take. And with a little mindset work (and my permission to meditate, journal, cry and burn stuff to your heart’s content while you do) you’ll be ready to go.

I used this technique multiple times a day while growing a multi-million dollar start-up, and I still use it everyday as a strategist for online entrepreneurs. Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you!