How to Build A Thriving Network (even if you hate networking, don't know any of the right people and want to gouge your eyes out at the thought of talking about the weather)

I’ve not always been the most publicly visible of business owners, and I often get asked how I’m able to attract clients and run a profitable business without thousands of Instagram followers (I have 376), a huge email list (I’m not even going to tell you how small my list is) or a 50k Facebook custom audience to target.

My answer? While it may feel like we’re all living our lives out loud and publicly these days, there are still some things that happen behind closed doors.

Or, in my case, over personal email and private messages.

The secret is in my network. And if you use the simple system I outline below, you can have the same.

Ready?

Building a strong, thriving network makes building your business exponentially easier. Problem is, it’s also an unfair advantage: people are either natural networkers or they’re not, and when you’re not a natural networker the building of your network can feel like pulling teeth. I know, because it’s pulling teeth to me.

Fortunately I was schooled in all things network building in business school, and not only did that experience teach me how critical it was, it also broke down a system to use for those of us who are not natural network builders. For me that system has made all the difference, taking me from no network to thriving network.


Here’s how it works.

Step 1 :Your Network

For the purposes of this system, your network is composed of 4 categories:

Friends + Family

Clients + Customers

Strong Ties

Weak Ties

The first 2 categories in that list are obvious, but the last 2 may not be, so let me explain them.

Strong ties are colleagues, acquaintances and anyone in your network that you’re strongly associated with but is not a friend or family member. I think of them as the people who know what you’re up to 75-90% of the time.

Strong ties are valuable because they know so much about you, and therefore they’re able to help you because they already know what you need help with.

Looking for a job? Your strong ties already know that you’re looking, so they’ve already sent you any leads you have before you’ve asked for them.

And while Strong Ties are incredibly helpful because they’re helping you all of the time, a network built of only Strong Ties becomes weak as soon as your Strong Ties aren’t able to help.

And since there can only be so many Strong Ties in your network (because it takes an effort to maintain them) you will regularly run into times when your Strong Tie network is tapped out.

Think about it: Have you ever needed something like job leads or prospect leads, and when you read over your list of people to ask for help, you felt like it was tapped out before you even asked?

If you’ve felt that way (and most of us have) this is why: your Strong Ties are not only relatively small in number, but they’re also so close to you and (most likely) the rest of your network that they’re likely all in the same circles. So not only have they probably already helped you as much as they could, they’re all able to help in the same way because they all know the same people.

Return to the job search example: Your Strong Ties will bring any leads to you whether you ask or not, but they’re all likely to bring the same leads to you since they’re all from the same circle. And if those leads aren’t the right fit, you’re tapped out and left wondering where to find help.

Enter Weak Ties

Weak Ties are the secret sauce of any great network builder. Weak Ties are the people on the periphery of your network: they’re acquaintances (or acquaintances of acquaintances) and not friends. They (kind of) know who you are (if they don't, they know someone who knows who you are who recently made an introduction) and they don't know what you're doing all of the time.

And this is what makes them valuable: because they don’t know you well, they don’t know what you’re looking for until you ask them.

When your Strong Ties are tapped out, it’s your Weak Ties who can save the day with fresh leads and new ideas. Because your ties are Weak and therefore don’t take as much to maintain, this group also numbers much larger than your Strong Ties, which increases their power because there are simply more of them.

And more ties = more opportunity.

Let me challenge you: Think of the last time you were looking for a job or even a relatively random recommendation or referral. Did you ultimately find what you were looking for from a Strong Tie? Or a Weak One? I know when I look back at the last 2 proper job searches I went through, I ended up finding each of those jobs through an introduction to a Weak Tie who in each case introduced me to my future boss.

Moral of the story? Powerful networks are built of both Strong Ties and Weak Ties.

Interested in learning more about Strong and Weak Ties? (you’d be shocked at the research, I took an entire semester’s class on this in business school). Start here.


Build It

Now that you know about Strong and Weak Ties, your next question, I’m sure, is how to build out this type of network. There are many different ways to do this, and I’ll share mine below. Feel free to tweak it to what works for you, or google away and see how others have approached the design and building of their own.


Design Your Network

The first thing you need to do is design your network, that is determine who you want in it. I do this by first thinking of different categories I want, and then making a specific list of people (or types of people) I want to fill each category.

My network is categorized as follows:

Friends

Mentors

Strong Ties

Weak Ties

I decided to include Mentors as a separate category outside of Strong and Weak ties because I’ve found that finding mentors takes a different mindset than finding Strong and Weak Ties. More on that below, but again brainstorm your own categories, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments in your categories when you find, like I did, that a certain kind of connection you’re looking for requires its own specific type of outreach and nurturing.

I also don’t have Clients + Customers as a network category because I tend to those leads through a sales nurturing system that is separate from my network nurture system. Again, do what’s best for you and your business.

Build Your Network

Now that you know who specifically you want to reach, it’s time to, well, reach them.

This is broken into 2 parts:

  1. Initial Meeting/Introduction

  2. Ongoing Nurturing

I combine both of those stages into a consistent weekly routine that each day has me reaching out to someone for something.

Here’s what it looks like:

Sunday: Get Smart Day.

More on this below in the authentic engagement section.


Monday: Connector Note.

On Mondays I focus on Connections, and I alternate between making a valuable connection between 2 people in my network and asking for a Connection. When I make a valuable connection between 2 people in my network (especially between 2 Weak Ties) I’m strengthening my relationship to those Weak Ties and increasing the odds that they’ll in turn help me. It’s a win/win.

Asking for a Connection is harder and needs to be done with discretion. When I ask for a Connection I’m looking at my list of who I want in my network but isn’t yet (again, either specific person or type of person) and then I’m reaching out to someone in my network (preferably a Strong Tie or a Weak Tie that I’ve recently been in touch with) to ask if they’ll make the introduction. This is still a little awkward for me, but I find when I’m also making Connections for others karma takes care of itself, and this has been very fruitful for me.


Tuesday: Thank You Note.

On Tuesdays I keep it simple and simply find someone (or preferable multiple someone’s) to say thank you to. Tuesday is my favorite day because these are easy and full of gratitude. And keep in mind, simple is fine! People see Thank You day and assume it has to be a big formal thank you. It doesn’t, this is not thanking grandma for a birthday gift. You can thank someone for making you laugh. Or for making you think. Or for doing a favor for you or for someone else in your network. Thank you notes are the easiest way to stay connected with Weak Ties and make your day so much better. I regularly cheat and send Thank You Notes as many days of the week as I can, and I urge you to do the same.


Wednesday: Mentor Note.

While Tuesday is easy, Wednesday is not so easy. This is the day I’m looking to connect with someone I consider to be a mentor. Sometimes this is a note, but other times it’s leaving thoughtful feedback or a great question on their content. Or sharing their content. Or somehow bringing value to a mentor in a way that’ll make them sit up and take notice. This is not sending an email or leaving a note saying ‘wow great point, needed to hear this today’. They’re likely hearing that 50 times a day. Instead, this is having something smart and insightful to share. More on how to pull this off below in Smart Sunday.


Thursday: Weak Tie Note.

On Thursdays I make it a point to connect to a Weak Tie. This is done many ways, it can be commenting on a post, sending a DM in response to a post or dropping an email. It’s a light and easy interaction designed to remind them that you’re around and paying attention.

Friday: Strong Tie Note.

Friday is the same as Thursday but with a Strong Tie instead of a Weak Tie. I know my Strong Ties well so this interaction tends to be more personal than a Weak Tie one, but it’s light and easy nonetheless. It’s saying hi, checking in, cheering them on.


Saturday: Friend Note.

Saturday is easy as well. This one isn’t necessarily all network building, but it’s my way to end the week strong by keeping up connections with friends who are important to me. They may or may not be able to directly help with my business, but I know enough to know that I’m happiest when connected with those most important to me, and when I’m happiest my business does the best, so I make time to connect with friends. Non-negotiable in my book.


Nurture Your Network

(ie how to always have something intelligent to say)

The feedback I always get when sharing this system is ‘yea that’s great, but how do you know what to say to these people? Especially people you don’t know who are ahead of you, like Mentors?”

Welcome to Smart Sunday. I love to read and geek out on all things business, and the people I want as mentors are writing smart things about business, so I set Sunday aside to read. Throughout the week I save emails to a folder marked ‘Smart Sunday’ and on Sunday morning I dig in to emails, articles, Facebook posts, podcasts, whatever I want to catch up on.

That gives me a sense of what people are talking about, and then when the day comes to connect with a mentor or a Weak Tie, I’m thinking about what I read the Sunday before that had me thinking all week. And just like magic I’m ready to respond with depth because it’s been marinating for a few days.

When I first started this system I’d try and scramble on Wednesday mornings trying to find something someone wrote, and then think of an intelligent comment that would get noticed, and it was a disaster. Didn’t work at all. I’d end up with the generic ‘great post!’ that got me nowhere.

I’ve found splitting the time leads to better interaction from me, which leads to more noticing and more connecting from them. And bonus! Having focused time to read the good work that comes out each week means my own work gets better because I have the time to absorb and incorporate it into what I’m doing.

Wondering what I read? Here’s a sample:

Farnam Street Blog: https://fs.blog/

Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org

Profile: https://www.readtheprofile.com/

Morning Brew: https://www.morningbrew.com/?kid=7a15ab

Freakonomics: http://freakonomics.com/

How to Super Charge Your Lead Generation with a Personality-Style Quiz

“These are all ugly! I would never wear any of them!” is exactly what I found myself screaming at my laptop screen late last week.

The grievance? I’d gotten sucked into another personality quiz, this one promising to tell me what kind of social life I preferred based on my choosing my preferred dress in several categories. (Cap sleeves or spaghetti straps for your little black dress? Tea length or just below the knees for dinner? You get the idea.) 

And when I got to the question that asked me to choose my favorite sundress out of 4 options, I hated all of them so much I couldn’t possibly choose. They were ugly! And why was my laptop forcing me to choose? And instead of exiting the browser and getting on with my day I yelled at the screen and hit refresh hoping to see more choices. 

I’m guessing you know how that turned out for me. 

Why am I sharing this embarrassing window into my life? 

Because quizzes are incredibly effective at grabbing your attention and keeping you engaged. And if you’re an entrepreneur trying to break through the noise online, I bet you can already see the power in being able to hook your audience in the way I was hooked into those ugly sundresses. 

That’s why I’m thrilled to partner with Interact to share with you the easiest software I’ve found (and I’ve tested a lot) to create attention-grabbing (and lead-generating) quizzes for your audience.

And to prove it to you, I created my own quiz for my own audience to walk you through the process from A to Z. 


Why would you create a quiz?

If you know anything about my style, you know I have no tolerance for shiny objects and chasing the next great thing for popularity factor alone. Which means I’d never advocate you creating a quiz just to create a quiz. Before you start, you need a reason and a strategy. 

What was mine?

I work with entrepreneurs who have hit an income plateau and become frustrated their business has stopped growing. When I start working with them I find the reason they’re stalled is usually because they’ve gotten ahead of themselves and are focusing on the wrong thing. Once I get them focused on the right priorities, their business starts to grow again.

That means I need my clients to be aware, before we start working together, that there are different things you need to prioritize at different stages of your business. I also need them to appreciate and care about that. And so I created a quiz that helps them identify what stage of business growth they’re at, and from there what they should be focused on.

It’s an opt-in quiz, pure and simple. I want qualified leads to join my email list, and if someone is intrigued enough to take a quiz that tells them what their priorities should be, they’re a good lead for me.

Once the topic was finalized the next step was to come up with the questions. This step was easy for me - since I already work with Springboard, my 5 stages of business growth framework, and use a standard set of questions to determine what stage a business is in, my work was already done and all I had to do was choose a selection of those questions to include in the quiz. Easy peasy.

Creating the quiz in Interact

Now that I knew the point of my quiz (to opt people into my list), the theme (identify your stage of business growth) and the questions (pulled from my Springboard framework) it was time to create the quiz inside Interact.

This is when things got even easier.

About 4 years ago I created a quiz using different software, and #nojoke it took me over a month to create. The process was not for the faint of heart. This quiz? This quiz I was able to create in less than an hour, start to finish, inside Interact. And using Interact’s tools meant I also looked better and more professional than the quiz that had taken me a month to build. 

One of the ways I made it easy on myself was by using one of Interact’s built-in templates. And here’s a free piece of advice - I didn’t use the template just to save time. I used it because I’m smart. 

When you’re designing for conversion, ALWAYS go with a template when available. Templates are designed to optimize conversion based on what’s worked best for everyone. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel here- Interact provides a ton of templates that have been tested for usability and success. Use them. 

In my case I went to the template page, sorted by highest conversion, and chose the template that converted the best. Done and done. 2 minute decision.

Design

Once I had the template chosen it was time to design the cover page. Again, easy peasy. I uploaded a brand photo of my own that worked well, but I was impressed to see that Interact provided a link to a database of royalty free images so if you don’t have a photo ready to go you’ll easily be able to find one that will work for you.

Access to stock photos and editing tools means it’s easy to create a professional cover for your quiz.

Access to stock photos and editing tools means it’s easy to create a professional cover for your quiz.

Once I had the cover page done I was on to the fun - adding my questions and, the part that makes my geeky heart sing, mapping those questions to answers. 

Setting up questions and answers is quick and easy.

Setting up questions and answers is quick and easy.

Because I wanted flexibility in how I mapped answers to questions, I chose Interact’s Personality quiz. The software also offers Assessment and Scored quizzes, but Personality worked best for my idea because each question and answer didn’t have to map to a specific result. It gave me freedom to have fun with the questions instead of worrying about each of them mapping to a perfect result. 

Personality quizzes give you max flexibility when it comes to pairing questions with answers.

Personality quizzes give you max flexibility when it comes to pairing questions with answers.

Results

Like my questions, defining my results was easy because they’re a set part of the Springboard framework I already use in my business. I did that, rather than coming up with something completely new, because I’ve seen over and over that when entrepreneurs have the a-ha of what stage of business they’re actually in, and how they’re focusing on the wrong thing, they’re ready to hear about how I can help. And since the whole point of my quiz is to bring in qualified leads, that approach made sense.

What I did have to decide was how to end the quiz. Would I end it right there on the screen with a call to action? Or send them over to my email list for follow up?

You probably already know the answer - this is an opt-in quiz, so I wanted to get them on my email list. 

What was surprisingly (but shouldn’t have been, given the rest of my experience building the quiz) was how easy it was to build the integration.

I use Active Campaign for my email and in just a few clicks I had Interact connected to my account. I’m a fan of automation, so the simple connection wasn’t enough. I wanted more and got more. 

I was able to set map my results so that every contact being sent to Active Campaign was sent there with a results tag specifying which result (or in real terms, which stage of business) each quiz taker received. That means I was able to set up automations in Active Campaign to follow up with someone in the Validate stage of growth differently than someone who scored in the Foundation stage of growth. 

Connecting Interact to Active Campaign is a snap.

Connecting Interact to Active Campaign is a snap.

Being able to map results to Active Campaign and market accordingly is a big win because it gave me the ability to follow up with leads based specifically on what stage of business they scored in. In other words, I can speak directly to what I know they’re struggling with right then and there instead of in general themes.  

Interact’s ability to tag results to Active Campaign records means I was able to set up separate automations for each quiz result.

Interact’s ability to tag results to Active Campaign records means I was able to set up separate automations for each quiz result.

Share It

Now that my quiz was complete, I needed to share it with the world. Or in my case, my world. I host my website on SquareSpace so I chose the embed feature in Interact and was able to embed my quiz directly on my website. I then pinned a link to the top of my Facebook page and have begun promoting it on my social channels.

Interact gives you several easy ways to share + promote your quiz.

Interact gives you several easy ways to share + promote your quiz.

I chose to embed my quiz directly on my SquareSpace website while also sharing it on my social channels.

I chose to embed my quiz directly on my SquareSpace website while also sharing it on my social channels.

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 9.08.05 PM.png

Analytics

Interact has an impressively powerful analytics hub, and if you know me and my love of data, you know that’s high praise. 

Beyond being able to view basic conversion numbers as I would expect, I was thrilled to see that you can view the full record of responses for each person taking the quiz. While this may feel like overkill if you’re running a high volume/high lead business, it’s definitely not overkill if you’re running a high end, high touch business like mine. 

For example, I had someone take the quiz and then contact me to speak further. From the Active Campaign record I was able to see what stage her business was in before I spoke to her, and that was helpful. But when I went into Interact I realized I could also see each and every answer she gave in the quiz. 

That wasn’t just helpful, it was a game changer. From that information I could tell a ton about what was going on in her business without having to ask, and our sales conversation was all the more productive for it. 

Analytics include individual account breakdowns so you can see every answer given by each quiz taker.

Analytics include individual account breakdowns so you can see every answer given by each quiz taker.

Final Thoughts

As you can tell I’m a massive fan of using quizzes for your opt-ins. Not only have I seen them work on me (not going to lie, I’m still mad about those sundress options…) but more importantly I’ve seen them work extremely well for clients and friends who need to build a list fast.

Having said that, you still need to take the time to do them right and Interact makes that easy. That means your only job is to be smart about it, and for that I will give you the same advice I give for most every business project you’re thinking about: 

1. If you’re going to do it, take 5 minutes to reverse engineer a strategy first. Like I said at the beginning of this post, don’t create a quiz because it’s a shiny object. Create one because you understand how you can position a quiz as the first step of a lead generation strategy.

2. Don’t overthink it. I’ve had clients who have quizzes go gang busters. I’ve also had clients who spend 5 months trying to get one live. Don’t be the latter. I had this quiz up and running in 1 hour and Interact makes it more than easy to do that while making it look like you’ve spent months on it. Strategic action is the name of the game here, and that means getting your ideas out into the world, not spending 3 months choosing a cover photo.

3. And most importantly, if you do create a quiz, tell me about it! I want to hear all about your experience and how your results compare to other lead generation tactics you try. My guess is the quiz will come out on top.

Please note: this article contains affiliate links for product that I use and love. 

Make More Money: The Ultimate Guide To Why Multiple Income Streams Are Important, 6 Great Ideas of What To Offer & How to Add A New Stream This Week

Any of this sound familiar?

You’ve heard you should have more than 1 (or 2 or 3) ways of making money in your business and you’re ready to add new ways of making money. Now. 

You want it to be easy (don’t we all) so you’re interested in options that allow you to use what you already have - and DON’T require you to create some big, completely new thing. Because seriously, who wants that?

You want your business (at least parts of it) to look like passive income. Or at least more like passive income than what you have now. 

You want to do it all quickly (like this week quickly).

If it does, you’re not alone. All of us want more money, and want it now.

Problem is, most of the advice out there isn’t really helpful because it only shows you one way to do things, or it intimidates you into thinking you have to blow up your entire business and start over. 

I mean, seriously? Not happening. 

Which is why I created this comprehensive guide for you to understand why adding more ways for people to pay you is a good thing (beyond, you know, simply making more money). 

Plus 6 ways to do it.

And a roadmap (in downloadable form even! If that’s your thing) on how to get it all done this week so money can start flowing now.

Let’s get started with the basics.

*Why it’s important to have more than 1 (or 2 or 3) income streams feeding your business*

You’ve probably heard the oft-repeated phrase that the average millionaire has at least 7 ways she makes money. 

No reason you should be any different.

But why 7? What’s so magical about that number?

It’s not so much the exact number that’s magical, but the smart business strategy it represents. 

Here are a few example of what I’m talking about:

1. Tastes and preferences change all the time, especially online. So if you’re only offering one service there’s a decent chance it’s going to go out of vogue sooner rather than later. And if you don’t see that coming you could be in for a world of hurt while you scramble to adapt.

But if you have 7 income streams and one stops works? Still not ideal, but those other 6 will tide you over while you figure out what’s next. And that’s a good thing.

2. You get to meet people at different price points and with different services.

When you successfully build an online business you’re going to gain followers with lots of different financial situations. And while you don’t have to offer solutions for everyone, it’s nice to offer more than one solution.

Think about it: if you only offer high-priced courses you’re cutting out everyone who can’t afford those courses. But maybe some of those people really like you, and maybe they would buy from you if you offered a more accessible product.

And by offering different products at different price points, you’re also giving people the chance to test out you and your services. Because even if someone has 1k or 2k lying around to spend on a course, they may not choose to spend it if they don’t feel like they know you.

By spreading out your offerings you’re allowing more people into your world.

Finally, a note about the flip side: I talked a lot just now about adding a more accessible offer to your high-end services because, frankly, lots of people go for high-end first. But if you’re one of those who only has lower-priced offers, why not try a VIP offer? Some of your audience will go for it, and you only need a few people to make a huge difference in your profit. 

3. Another reason you should have more than 1 revenue stream is because doing so helps you get comfortable being flexible, trying things and figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you.

When people only offer 1 or 2 products they get stuck in a mindset of never offering anything that doesn’t resemble those products. And that really hinders growth. 

When you learn to be flexible you have the opportunity to also get creative when you need to, and that’ll pay off in spades down the line. 

4. You might discover that you like something you had no idea you’d like. This one’s similar to my last reason, but different enough that it was important to include.

When you never try something new, you’re never going to know whether you like it or not. It’s a universal rule that’s just as true for getting 1st graders to try exotic food as it is to your business. So give a few things a try and see what you find. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a whole new direction for your business. 

Buuuutttt. how many income streams do I really need?

Well, I just told you that the average millionaire has 7.

Personally, I have 5 and counting.

I have successful friends with anywhere between 3-10. 

Only you will know the perfect answer for you.

I can tell you this: if you only have 1, you need more. And if you’re approaching 10 or more, you might want to consider slowing down because, focus and all. Don’t get too far ahead of what you can manage on your own. 

When I work with clients my minimum for them is 2-3. And if they’re starting with 1 I try to get them to 4-6 by the end of our time working together (usually 6 months to a year). 

In the end you’ll know what’s right for you. Start experimenting and figure out what feels right!

Now that I’ve convinced you how super important it is to have multiple income streams, I can’t leave you hanging without any ideas, right? 

Here are 6 ideas that I love because: 1) they can all be added this week (more on that below); 2) they don’t require you to create SOME BIG HUGE THING out of thin air and 3) they’re outside the realm of the usual advice you always hear, so they should spark some brand new ideas for you.

So without further ado...

6 Ideas You Can Add This Week

Idea 1: Bundled Products

What It Is:

Product bundles comprised of a unique combination of your courses, books, workbooks, etc that you offer at a discount compared to purchasing each item individually. 

Product bundles can also be joint venture offers where you bundle your product with someone else’s to offer unique value.

How To Create It:

Find a combination of related items you sell (or find someone to pair up with who has a product that complements your own) and bundle them together.

Why It Works:

Product bundles work well for a number of reasons:

1. There’s not much work on your end because the products have already been created, you’re simply offering them in a unique package for a great price.

2. By offering a discount against the full price of each product you’re offering a unique opportunity to get a deal on your products WITHOUT becoming known for discounting your individual products or services.

3. If you choose to offer this as a JV product with another entrepreneur you’ll expand your reach by being introduced to her tribe.

Action: What products/recorded webinars/information do you already have that can be organized around a central theme or need and sold in a convenient, downloadable, savable package? 

Examples:

  • Webinars and opt-ins bundled into themed kits

  • Jewelry bundled into unexpected seasonal, color, etc themes

  • Worksheets bundled into mini self-study courses

Idea 2: Repackaged Tools

What It Is:  

This might be my favorite of all the ways to monetize your business because it involves selling tools you’ve already created to help yourself run your business. 

Anything goes here from shopping lists, checklists and productivity systems - people are always looking to make their lives easier, so if you’ve found a way to make yours better odds are someone would be interested in hearing about it.

How To Create It:

There’s less creating here and more learning to be aware of what you’ve created for yourself that would be valuable to others. It’s easy for all of us to assume those little checklists and productivity hacks aren’t of value to anyone but ourselves, but they are. Take inventory of all the little stuff you’ve created for yourself and see what looks the most valuable.

Action: 

What tools have you developed to use behind the scenes with your clients or students?

Examples:

  • Raw materials shopping lists or quality checklists

  • Patterns?

  • Time-tracking sheets, Productivity systems

  • Social Media Tracking Tools

  • Think spreadsheets, checklists, software hacks, anything that you couldn’t do without and that would be helpful to anyone else who does what you do (but that isn’t central to your specific value prop)

Idea 3: Licensing

What It Is: 

We usually think of software when it comes to licensing, but you can also think of it in terms of products you’ve created that may be of help to others in your field (think a system you can license to fellow coaches) or to colleagues whose clients may benefit from your work.

How To Create It:

Look around at the systems you’ve developed for your clients, or the courses or packages you sell. Which would help others in the same profession as you? Package those up and offer with limited use. 

Action: 

What tools do you have that would be helpful to a specific population, or that you could offer publicly while still maintaining some control over the access people have or the number or type of people who have access?

Examples:

  • If you’re a coach what have you developed to manage your clients that other coaches would kill to have? (Think collaboration, not competition)

  • Makers: Do you have a unique & efficient production system that others would love to know about?

  • Do you have a course that would fit well inside someone else’s membership site? Offer it to them on a licensed basis.

  • Remember: You’re not licensing anything that’s a unique selling prop – just the tools you use behind the scenes.

Idea 4: Train the Trainer

What It Is:  

Train the Trainer programs exist to train others to do the same thing you do. 

How To Create It:

If you’ve become an expert at what you do, consider training the next generation behind you. And remember this doesn’t have to mean you train them only (or even at all) on how to help their clients. It might mean you train them on everything else about the business other than the core work. 

For example: if you’re a designer you may not train someone else in design skill (that’s what art school is for) but you may train them on how to run a business, market themselves, etc.

Action: 

What have you already mastered about your business that would be super valuable and helpful to someone new to your field?

Examples:

  • Mini-apprenticeship or paid mentorship

  • If you’re a maker or service provider what knowledge can you offer outside of the actual skill?

  • How to manage the business side of a creative business

  • How to find your unique style

  • How do you offer value that a generic business coach doesn’t?

Idea 5: Specific & Structured 1-Off Offer

What It Is:  

The specific and strucutred 1-off offer is a speciality offer you can make to solve one specific thing for your clients. It’s best used once you’ve built up the expertise to solve one specific (and common) issue quickly and efficiently.

How To Create It:

Think about specific problems you’ve figured out how to solve for your clients quickly and efficiently. If you have a specific process you follow to solve these problems, develop a structured offer (1 hour, half a day, whatever) that you know is enough time to solve their specific problem. 

Action: 

What problem can you solve for clients in your sleep? If you have one, you can probably replicate it for everyone.

Examples:

  • For Makers: Personalized art offer: Initial jewelry, Limited edition seasonal or holiday offer, Quote art

  • For Service Providers: think audits, calls centered around a common issue that’s solved the same way 90% of the time, Website Checks, Funnel Audits, Email Reviews, Visibility Booster, Block Clearing

Idea 6: Membership Sites

What It Is:  

Membership sites are sites people pay (usually monthly) to access. They’re great because they allow people to start working with you at a (typically) lower price point. They’re a particularly good option for entrepreneurs who love churning out content, because membership sites do need to be kept fresh. 

Action: 

What information do you already have on hand that can be repurposed and expanded upon to offer ongoing value?

Examples:

  • Stock photo clubs

  • Email template clubs

  • Mastermind clubs

The Classics

While I said my 6 ideas were going to take you outside the norm, I’d be holding out on you if I didn’t include the classic online offers because who knows? Some of you may not have considered these before: 

  • Mini-Course

  • Evergreen Course

  • Done-For-You Strategies

  • Borrow My Brain Sessions

  • Paid Challenge

  • Affiliate Marketing

  • Group Coaching Mastermind

  • E-Books

Now for the fun part! I promised I’d show you how to pull this off in week, and I will. Here’s the checklist. (Want it in printable form? Click the button below to grab a copy).

 

Day One: Take Stock & Brainstorm Ideas

  • Re-familiarize yourself with your inventory, tools & knowledge

  • Review the 6 monetizing ideas and eliminate any you’re not interested in using

  • Brainstorm 3 ideas for each of categories you are interested in

  • Eliminate any ideas you have no interest in pursuing (Try to have at least 5 left)

Day Two: Assess the Market & Decide on Offer

  • Research the ideas you have left using social and online tools

  • Narrow down your list to the few that meet the most need

  • Decide on what you’re going to offer

Day Three: Develop Promotion Plan

What channels will you use to promote your plan? Typical ideas:

  • Your Website

  • Your Email List

  • Etsy

  • Facebook Ads

  • Facebook Groups

  • Facebook Page

  • Local Event

  • Where Else?

Day Four: Tech Checklist, Prep Funnels & Emails

Confirm you have:

  • Lead Capture system (if you need it)

  • Shopping Cart

  • Sales Page

  • Payment Processor

  • Membership Site

  • Video Host

  • Digital Document Delivery System

Day Five: Design and Prep the Product

What do you need to prepare for your sale?

  • Combine bundles into single PDF

  • Photograph product bundles together

  • Outline mentoring features

  • Combine videos, webinars, etc in one place for membership site

Day Six: Write Emails, Sales Page, Posts, etc

  • Prep Emails:

  • Write and Launch Sales Page

  • Write Social Media Posts

  • Prep Social Media Graphics

  • Prep Email and Sales Page Graphics

Day Seven: Launch!

Activate Promotion Plan:

  • Send Email

  • Post on Social Media

  • Activate Ads

  • What Else?

So... what are you going to create and offer this week? Tell us all about it in the comments!

 

7 Steps To Your Best Ideal Customer

When I started my business one of the first things I did was start to dutifully fill out my ideal customer avatar just like I'd been told to do.

I searched google for a picture of what she might look like so I could properly visualize her.

I made up names for her and her family and friends. 

I knew what she had for dinner, what kind of computer she preferred (Mac, obviously) and spent too much time deciding what her favorite music, movies and TV shows were.

In my mind I had a perfect picture of her.

And then I crumpled up that piece of paper I'd so painstakingly slaved over and threw it away.

Why? Because I realized that I'd skipped a crucial step and as a result, that piece of paper was worthless. 

I'd skipped the step of deciding whether or not this person I'd made up in my mind was someone who even WANTED my services. 

I'd created an avatar without ever bothering to figure out whether or not this was a person I wanted to market to. 

I'd created a marketing tool before I'd bothered to decide whether or not I even wanted the person that marketing tool was built for to be my customer.

Nothing about that avatar told me whether or not I wanted to work with her.

Or whether she wanted to work with me.

Or - important! - if she could pay me what I expected to be paid.

Oops.

And that, my friends, is what's all wrong with all the advice you get about starting with a customer avatar.

So what's a girl to do instead? 

Throw the avatar away and instead start with the 7 steps below.

1. Who Do You Want To Help?

Step 1 looks a lot like the Ideal Customer exercises you hear about all the time.

Considering I just told you those exercises are worthless you’re probably wondering why I’m not telling you to go through one.

Totally fair.

Here’s the deal: they’re worthless when done in a vacuum as the only thing to be considered when thinking about your ideal customer. But they are valuable when used as the first step of a more thorough process.

So go ahead and think through who your ideal client might be.

(Or, let’s be real, just refer back to one of the 50 times you’ve already thought about this. #amirite?)

If you haven’t been through this exercise before, here are some of the things you should sketch out:

  1. Who is she? How old is she? Who are her family and friends? How does she spend her time?
  2. What does she like? What does she dislike?
  3. What does she do in her spare time? Who and what does she listen to, read, respect?
  4. Where does she spend her time consuming media? Does she spend it online? In print? TV?
  5. What problem is she struggling with that you want to solve? Why is she struggling with it? Why hasn’t she been able to solve it?

You get the idea: Write down everything you know about your ideal customer. If she’s you 5 years ago (which is super common) or if she’s a real person you know, describe her (or you, as it may be). 

If she’s a combination of several people you know, make up a persona for her, name her, and write down everything you know about her. 

Now that you have some idea of who she might be, we’ll use steps 2-7 to determine if she really is your perfect customer.

Hint: For most coaches and service-based entrepreneurs, this person is likely an earlier version of yourself who was struggling with the same problem you now want to help other women work through. 

2. Why Do You Want To Help Her?

WHY do you want to help this woman? It’s important to understand the why because you’re creating a business that you’ll presumably want to run for several years.

And trust me, if you’re going to go through the heartache and trouble of starting your own business, you want to start one you’ll actually like, and that means working with clients you actually like.

Which means it’s important to take the time *now* to make sure you’re seeing more than dollar signs in your why. I promise you’ll thank me in 5 years. 

(Actually probably more like 6 months. That’s how quickly it goes bad if you’re only chasing money).

Hint: Like Step 1, your why is likely a very personal one, especially if you’re going into coaching.

When you go through a personal transformation ourselves, it’s natural to want to share that experience with others who are struggling with the same thing. Don’t be afraid to own that as your why if, in fact, it is.

3. What Do People Already Ask For Your Help With?

Who asks for your help now? And about what? Is there something your friends and family always ask you to help with? What kinds of questions naturally find their way to you?

If people are always asking your opinion about something - whether it be natural skincare routines, home organization or how to lose those last 10 pounds - it means they perceive you as an expert with valuable knowledge to share.

That’s a really (I mean really) good hint as to who you should be helping at a larger scale (and hopefully your answer here has some relation to the problems the woman you met in Step 1 is facing, and to the why you discovered in Step 2. 

Hint: Make sure you actually like doing whatever it is you list in this step.

A very smart person once reminded me “Be careful what you’re good at because you might end up doing it forever.” Sage advice I think about every single day.

And I think about it everyday because it’s SO true -  we become good at something without really realizing it all of the time, and that’s what we become known for. This business is your baby, your creation. Make sure you pick something that you’re good at AND that you like doing. 

If your answer to this last question was no, don’t despair! Revisit the list of things people naturally ask for your help with - I promise there’s something there that you like.

4. Do You See A Match?

Take a look at your answers for Steps 1-3. Is there a common customer that fits all 3 answers? If your answer is ‘Yes’, Congratulations! The woman you want to help, why you want to help her and how you can help all match. 

Move on to step 5 to make sure the flip side of the equation - the financial side - is also a match.

If your answers don’t match up, don’t worry - this is far from the end. Look at what DID match - maybe 2 steps but not the 3rd? Find the commonalities you do see and start looking for ways to build on those to bring everything in line.

Hint: If you’re still having trouble finding a match, try narrowing or expanding 1 or more of your answers and see if you can find one that way.

5. Can She Pay You?

This is both the most important AND most ignored question on this list. Paying attention here will catapault you past 98% of your fellow business owners (I’m not even kidding).

I know you want to help others, but at the end of the day you’re building a business for yourself.

And guess what: when you’re building a business to support you and your dreams, that business needs to make money. 

Please take an honest look at who you’ve chosen as your ideal client, what you’re planning to offer, and decide if she can pay you market rate for those services. 

Hint: I’m not asking you to do a ton of complicated research and financial modeling here. A gut check will suffice. 

For example: If you want to serve non-profits, recent college graduates or low-income populations (all laudable choices) please don’t assume you’ll make money by selling high-price VIP offers.

6. Do Enough Of Your Ideal Clients Exist?

Technology is amazing, and we’re told over and over that running your business online will allow you to serve the most random of speciality niches, and do so profitably.

Well, yes. And also no.

Just because the niche exists doesn’t mean there’s enough interest to fill your calendar. Before you start marketing to your ideal client, make sure there are enough of her engaged and buying similar products elsewhere.

Hint: Take a look around at Google Keyword searches, Facebook’s Audience Insights (if you use Facebook advertising) and other blogs or sites that serve your ideal customer to gauge whether the market’s large enough to meet the needs of your business. 

If you only see 1 or 2 blogs and they don’t seem to get much site traffic, consider that a red flag. If you find 100’s of blogs with highly engaged readership, consider that a green flag (and no, don’t worry that the market’s saturated. Finding no competition is a much worse sign for your business idea than finding tons of competition is).

7. Do You Know How To Cost-Effectively Reach Her At The Scale You Need?

This is another step that’s skipped (or not even considered) way too often because it sounds hard and intimidating. Don’t fall into the same trap. 

It’s all fine and great to know who you want to help, to know that she wants your help, and know that she exists and can pay you. Those are all super important steps to validating who your ideal customer is, and why I included them in this list. 

But none of that info means anything if you don’t look at it through the lens of this final filter. It’s that muy importante. 

Do you know how to find her at the scale you need to meet your income goals?

Take a look at your revenue goals and make an educated guess on how many people you need to reach each month to meet those goals, and what kind of financial investment it’ll take to do so (and make sure that educated guess is doable for your business).

Hint: The outreach required to find 3-5 clients a month for a coaching package can look a lot different than having to find hundreds of customers to buy a product each month. How you plan to deliver your services counts a lot here.

There are countless marketing strategies that work for each model, some paid and some free, so you need to know which ones work for your style, how quickly you want to grow and what resources you’re willing to invest.

Stuck on one of the steps and want my take on it? Tell us about it in the comments and I’ll help you out.

How To Write A Business Plan That's Actually Useful

Business models and business plans sometimes (ok, usually) get a bad rap. They sound scary, complicated and hard, and like something you probably need an MBA to figure out.

And they definitely sound super official, as if writing something down and calling it your ‘Business Model’ ties you down to doing exactly what you write on that piece of paper for the next 10 years. (at least:)) 

Or makes you feel like some super stiff banker in a bad 3-piece suit is about to approach you while you blog away at your local cafe demanding to see your financials.

#amirite?

What they DON’T sound like is a super-effective tool you can use to flexibly shape your business and your blog into exactly what you want it to be.

But I have news for you: that’s wrong. So wrong. 

Business models are the single most effective and flexible tool you can use to help you reach your blogging and business goals.

And that means today I’m challenging you to see business models for what they are: fanstasically useful roadmaps that help you understand what your business and blog needs to run today, and what it’ll take to get you from today to where you want to be 1 month, 3 months, 9 months, even 2 years down the road.

How do I know? Because I’ve used them on my own businesses and client businesses for over 10 years now, and the results speak for themselves:

  • Scaling from 100-200k/annual revenue to 7 figures in as little as a year
  • Uncovering pieces of a model that didn’t align with a founder’s values or interests, and in the process stopping burnout and overwhelm in its tracks  
  • Countless businesses started on a solid foundation built to grow instead of the all-too-common “oh crap what did I build, I can’t scale this” panic that bloggers and online businesses run into way too often.

And don’t worry - no thousands of dollars or months of work is required to create your own and experience the same benefits. Nope. 

In fact you can create a wildly useful one today (really in just an hour or 2) while enjoying your daily cuppa. 

How? 

Because I’m sharing a super simple framework (and printable worksheet) to help you create your own here and now. For free. Today.

Your business is worth that, right?

Right. Good. Let’s get going then, shall we?

We’ll start with the basics:

What Is A Business Model?

I’m going to repeat myself here, because I think it’s a really important point to drive home: a business model is nothing more than a super-helpful (and super flexible) roadmap you can use to guide your business and blog to the next level.

It’s an at-a-glance guide to where you’re at and where you’re going.

And a pocket-sized reminder of all the reasons you’re doing this in the first place.

And mostly an ongoing sanity and reality check for you, to make sure you haven’t gotten off course and that you’re accounting for everything you need to account for. 


The Two Sides of Your Business Model

Business Models have 2 sides to them: the Revenue side and the Operations side.

The Revenue side covers everything that needs to happen in your business to bring in revenue. This includes sales and everything that leads up to and follows sales, including what it takes to  generate those sales and then keep customers happy once the sale is complete. 

The Operations side of your business model covers, well, the Operations side of your business. This includes stuff like technology, fulfillment, expenses (both fixed and variable) and everything else it takes to actually RUN your business. 

Makes sense, right? After all businesses by definition exist to make money, and in order to make money you need to both sell something (revenue) and have a way to sell that thing that delivers the promised product at a profit (operations), so both sides need to be covered in order to really understand what’s going on in your business.

OK. Now that we’re all up to speed on the basics let’s jump in and break down the Revenue and Operations categories further.

And remember, if you want to play along as we go, download your own business model planning worksheet right here.

Revenue Activities

The Revenue side of your business is made up of 7 different categories, all of which help you to sell whatever it is that you want to sell. 

Customers: Who Are They?

This one’s pretty straight forward: Who are your customers? How many different segments do they fit into? What are those segments?

If you’re just starting out you probably only have one type of customer and don’t yet have to worry about different segments.

Larger or more complex businesses may have several different customer segments - for example, an established online business might offer 5 different online courses, and those courses probably each have their own specific customer segment. 

Maybe those segments vary by expertise - there are courses for beginners and courses for more experienced people, or maybe they vary by interest - a photographer might offer one photography course for bloggers and another for new moms who want to learn how to photograph their families. Those are different segments.

Pro-Tip: If you’re just getting started and only have 1 segment now, think about how you might want to expand in the future and jot down any ideas you have for different segments you might want to look at later. This gets you thinking beyond today and into growth and will help you position your blog and business for where you want it to be a year from now, not where it is today. 

 

Value Proposition

Now that you know who you customer(s) is, what problem do you solve for her? This is your value proposition - the hot burning pain you solve for customers.

Note that your value proposition is not what you do, it’s the problem you solve. I know this sounds obvious as you read it, yet it’s probably the one single thing I see new business owners get confused on time and time again. Example: If you’re a photographer your value proposition is not the fact you take photographs. Your value proposition is that you preserve people’s precious memories for eternity (if you’re a family photographer).

 

Channels and Partnerships

Now that you know who you help (Customer Segments) and how you help them (Value Proposition), time to think through how you let them know you can help.

Enter your Revenue Channels and Partnerships. This is where you detail all the different avenues you use to communicate with potential customers. Think social media, email, website, phone, video conference, webinar, partnerships/joint ventures, advertising, speaking, Facebook group networking, etc. 

Bonus points here if you can review anything you’ve tried in the past to rank the effectiveness of each channel for your business. If you can do this, take note of which channels have worked best for you in the past and prioritize those going forward.

 

Customer Relationships

Customer relationships are all about making sure you know what kind of interaction (what kind of relationship) each of your customer segments expects from you (and what you expect from them).

Think course (or coaching) execution and customer support. Think pleasant surprises and overdelivering.

Do all of your customers expect to hear from you directly? If so is it over the phone or over email? Or would some segments be ok hearing from an assistant or using self-service?

Think beyond paying customers, too. If you have an email list, what do those people expect from you? Are you delivering it? You don’t want to overlook customers who aren’t quite customers yet - take care of them now and they’ll become customers before you know it.

 

Revenue Streams

What else would we close the Revenue Section with but with, well, Revenue! 

Revenue. Money. Sales. List all the ways your business or blog generates revenue. Think 1:1 services, group programs, courses, affiliate revenue, etc.

Now list the prices associated with those different revenue streams (noting if your gut tells you any of them may be too high or too low) and which of your customer segments (if you have more than one) feeds each revenue stream.

Bonus points if you can assign a percentage of total revenue to each revenue stream. 

Pro-Tip: I advise my clients to have at least 7 different streams of revenue. This protects you against sudden changes in the market or even against slow months. If you’re just starting out and only have 1 or 2 revenue streams, take a minute to brainstorm how you could add a few more. 

Need more ideas? Check out this post where I cover 6 ways to add a revenue stream to your business this week.

Operations Activities

Congratulations! You got through the Revenue side of the model. Now it’s time to turn attention to the Operations side, which is much shorter than the Revenue side with only 3 categories. 

Resources

What Resources do you need access to in order to fulfill the Value Proposition you listed on the revenue side?

These include the Physical (office space, machines, equipment, vehicles, etc), Intellectual (what do your business need to know to deliver on its promise? How about trademarks and copyrights?), Human (who do you need on your team?) and Financial Resources  (do you need start-up cash? Monthly reserves?) you use. 

Mark those things you need but don’t yet have, and bonus points if you think ahead by listing the things you’d like to have in order to grow, but that aren’t completely necessary to run your business today. That list will show you exactly where your next investments should go.

Fulfillment

Look back at the products and services you’ve listed to this point. What do you need to do in order to deliver on them? Unlike your resources, which are the physical things and tools you need to deliver the job, fulfillment covers the tasks that need to happen to deliver on your promises.

What are the daily tasks that need to happen? Do you rely on any partners to fulfill any of these tasks? If so write down those key partnerships. 

Cost Structure

Another terrifying term to most new business owners (and experienced ones to boot): cost structure. Sounds like a recipe for a 20 page spreadsheet. It’s not. #pinkypromise.

At its simplest your cost structure is nothing more than recognizing where the different costs come from in your business and categorizing them into fixed (paid no matter what you sell) and variable (paid based on how much you sell) costs. 

To break down your cost structure start by reviewing your resources and fulfillment categories and listing down the cost of everything you identified as needing to run your business.

Now look at those costs and categorize them into buckets like partner costs, HR/Outsourcing costs, Technology/Software, Production costs, Marketing costs, etc. 

Group your costs as best you can, and then note whether any of the buckets look out of line with the benefit they give your business. (for example: are most of your costs tied up in technology subscriptions you never use? That’s a red flag. Or maybe you spend a ton of money on courses and programs but never actually go through them? Another cost to pay attention to).

Also note whether or not the majority of your costs are fixed (you pay them whether or not you get the sales) or variable (costs increase as sales increase).


Gut Check

Now that you have a full outline of your business in front of you, do a quick gut check. Anything feel completely off? Anything working much better than you thought?

Write down those gut impressions and make a note to yourself to go back and see if there are changes you can make for anything that doesn’t look like it’s working. 

 

Where Do You Go From Here?

At this point you’re probably thinking “Great. Now I can say I have a business model written down. But what good does that do? What do I do with it now?”

And this, friends, is where what you’ve just written down goes from a static piece of paper that you create one day and forget about the next to the most powerful planning tool you have for your business. 

Here are my 3 favorite simple, quick and wildly-effective ways to use your newly-created business model. Put these 3 things in place and your business will grow and transform seemingly on its own.

(And by the way, these are the exact 3 I’ve used over and over again over the years to create and the 7-figure businesses I’ve built and consulted on...)

1. Quarterly Review: Schedule an hour each quarter (note: NOT a major time commitment, you can do this) to see what, if anything, has changed since last quarter. Maybe you’ve added a customer segment. Maybe you’ve made a major investment or 2 and it’s time to update your list. Maybe you’ve cracked the Facebook ad code and your revenue is skyrocketing. 

Whatever’s changed, write that down and update that section of your model. Then (and this is the important part) go through the rest of your model and see how that change affects everything else. If you’ve added a customer segment, what do you need to add to make sure they’re as well taken care of as your original segment? If you’ve gone all in on advertising, how has that affected your cost structure? Are you still coming out ahead? 

Reviewing this for just an hour a quarter makes the difference between staying ahead of your growth and getting caught behind the growth 8-ball, which is the quickest path to overwhelm and burnout. 

2. Inform Your Goals:  Too often I see bloggers and online business owners pulling goals from thin air - maybe they’re tied to what a friend or mentor did, or maybe they’re just random numbers from wishful thinking. 

Problem with that is that when goals aren’t grounded in something real it’s REALLY hard to make them happen. So instead of taking random guesses, look at your business model, where you’re at and where you want to be, and craft your goals from there. That way you’ll make realistic goals that factor in where you want to be and the resources currently avaialble to you, and when you return to your model each quarter for your review you’ll be able to see the progress you’ve made and update your goals accordingly.

And nothing makes goals become reality than seeing the progress you’ve made towards them, and what you’ve already accomplished. It’s incredibly freeing.

3. Recognize Your Plateaus - And Move Past Them: Every business and blog plateaus at some point. It’s natural. But it’s also hard to spot, so it’s easy to get stuck on a plateau for way too long.

When you’re reviewing your business model each quarter, though, it’s really hard to NOT realize you’re on a plateau when you reach one. Your goal review, your revenue review, even your review of who and how you serve your customers will point out very quickly if things have stalled. And show you exactly how to get out of that stall pattern by illuminating your next obvious move. 

Whoo (*wipes forehead) there you have it - why and how to create a business model, and the 3 super simple things you must do with it in order to create mind-blowing change in your business and blog this year.

Ready to dive in? Don’t forget to download your business model template worksheet that walks you through each of the categories we talked about above.

Why I Moved to Squarespace From WordPress (After Refusing To Consider It For Years)

After years of refusing to even consider moving to Squarespace from WordPress I recently made the switch. It took me less than a week (4 days and about 8 hours total) and I haven't looked back since. Click through to find why I made the switch and everything that's gone right since I did.

The other week I spent portions of 4 days (about 8 hours total) moving my entire web presence to Squarespace from WordPress where it had lived since I first started a form of this business about 4 years ago.

To say I never saw that coming would qualify as the understatement of the year. Maybe the decade.

See, ever since I started in my own business (and really even for years before that when I was running websites for other businesses) I've been a hard core WordPress supporter who refused to even consider other options.

And Squarespace in particular? Forget about it. I was convinced there were way too many limitations in Squarespace, and that anyone who built their site on the platform was making a huge mistake. Like your business is doomed to failure-sized mistake.

I was so wrong.

Over the past year I've been making massive moves in my business. I've moved from a primarily startup tech-focused consultant to working primarily with women starting and growing their solo online businesses.

And with that change my website became more and more important. When I was doing more traditional tech startup work the vast majority of my leads came from organic referrals and no one really cared what my site looked like, much less even visited it.

All the while I had the idea in my head of the direction I wanted to pivot to, and I knew that shifting full on into the online space meant I needed a robust and flexible site that would allow me to reach the women I wanted to reach and connect with them when I did. 

And I was convinced I needed WordPress for that.

But then a funny thing happened. Last summer I fully committed to the change, leaving behind the (vast) majority of my tech work and focusing solely on helping women online. It was a great shift personally and I was enjoying the work as much as I'd thought I would.

Except it wasn't moving quickly enough for me, and I was frustrated and couldn't figure out why. 

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago: it was a Tuesday night and I'd spent much of the last few weeks before it wrestling with plug-ins and integrations and broken stuff on my website. I know just enough html and CSS to be dangerous, so I was determined to make my site look the way I wanted it to. And every time I tried to do that I'd break something else. It was frustrating, maddening and left me with no time to actually market and grow my business, because I was spending all my time working on my business and this increasingly frustrating website.

I was frustrated, angry and over it. 

And then I woke up in the middle of the night with one of the most intuitive hits I've ever received: I needed to move my site to Squarespace, and I needed to do it immediately.

I was surprised and confused (to be honest it's the first time I ever remember waking up in the middle of the night in a start like that with such a clear message) but it was so unusual that I knew there was something to it.

When I got up the next morning the first thing I did was do a little googling about Squarespace and set up a test account. Within an hour I was convinced and already in the process of moving my site.

Here are the things that convinced me to move, along with some (very) pleasant surprises I found along the way:

1. I was ready to work on my business, not in it.

As I said above I was spending a ton of time - like all my non-client time - trying to wrestle my site into looking and performing the way I wanted it to look.

I've felt the nightmare of custom-coded sites before first-hand so I didn't want to turn my site over to a developer that would code something in that I'd never be able to touch without breaking, so I wasn't willing to pay for a developer. But I also obviously wanted my site to look professional.

And since I knew just enough about html and CSS to be dangerous, and have been working online since 2004, I had high expectations that I was spending all my time trying to meet. Which means I spent no time marketing or promoting my business, and the results were just what you'd expect: I wasn't growing at near the rate I wanted to AND I hated my site because it didn't look the way I wanted it to look.

Eventually I was just over working so hard for no return and fed up with not building my business. Squarespace promised to give me a website I could quickly design while keeping it completely pro looking. Done and sold.

2. Constraints nurture freedom and creativity

One reason I always hear for people not wanting to use Squarespace (myself included) is that you can't customize the look and feel enough. Fair enough, you  can go way more custom with WordPress.

But you know what? With custom comes all the problems I described above: it's difficult to actually make any of those things happen unless you're a pro developer or are willing to turn your site over to one. I was neither, so I actually found myself finding the freedom and creativity I wanted under the constraints in Squarespace. This is a common phenomenon in anything creative: constraints have actually been shown to nurture creativity and freedom of expression because they put limits on what you're able to do.

And by putting limits on you, you're free to explore within those limits instead of becoming completely paralyzed by the endless options available to you in a limitless world. For me that made a huge difference and I feel way more freedom using Squarespace than I ever did in WordPress.

3. LeadPages and other workarounds

One very legit criticism of Squarespace is that it doesn't offer the same robust plug-ins and integrations WordPress does. And that's totally true, and even a year ago that probably would've been a deal breaker for me because you just can't do what you need to do for some core business functions (like efficient list-building) using Squarespace and its limited integrations out of the box.

However, I realized the software driving those functions - in particular LeadPages - had come so far in their own functionality that I wasn't using WordPress plug-ins for those things anymore anyway. For example I'd taken all of my email subscription forms off my website in favor of LeadBoxes. And my pop-ups and sharing forms were all driven by SumoMe. 

And guess what? LeadPages and SumoMe work exactly the same in Squarespace as they do in WordPress, so the exact functionality I needed for my core business activities actually happens almost exactly the same way whether I'm on Squarespace or WordPress. 

4. I plan to host my courses elsewhere

Another big knock against Squarespace is its lack of a membership option for hosting courses or membership sites. Again, totally fair on one level. However, totally unfair on another.

For one, I never recommend people host their courses or membership sites on their actual main website. They should all be hosted on a separate URL that's specific to the paid product. Therefore even if you want to use WordPress for your course site you don't have to use it for your main site - they're completely different things.

And second, independent course-hosting sites have come a long way in the past year or 2, and I'm planning on using Teachable to host all of my courses. Therefore it doesn't matter whether or not Squarespace can host them or not. 

5. I saved money - a lot of money

Another common annoyance with Squarespace - and definitely one of mine - was the monthly fee it comes with. People hear that, wrongly compare it to WordPress being free, and move on without considering it.

I know because, again, I was guilty of doing exactly that.

When I went to look at it, however, I realized that was completely untrue.

First off WordPress isn't free out of the box. Sure the actual open source software is, but you can't actually have a live site without paying for a hosting account. Personally I was paying $17.97/month for hosting. That's almost 2/3 of the monthly fee I'm paying Squarespace now and doesn't account for all of the other plug-ins I was paying for.

In total I calculated I would save almost 50% annually just on the bare bones basics. Add in the life-time licenses to plug-ins I'd previously purchased, the thousands I was about to pay a developer and designer to fix (and maintain) my site and this became another no-brainer in favor of Squarespace.

After years of refusing to even consider moving to Squarespace from WordPress I recently made the switch. It took me less than a week (4 days and about 8 hours total) and I haven't looked back since. Click through to find why I made the switch and everything that's gone right since I did.

 

6. traditional seo is not a deal-breaking priority in my business

One continued limitation of Squarespace is that it can't hold a candle to WordPress when it comes to traditional SEO. For me (and for the majority of my online clients) SEO doesn't actually matter that much, though. We're driving traffic through social media sites that have their own particular versions of SEO that work on their platforms, and for that Squarespace is not limited.

So while SEO would remain a concern of mine if you did rely solely on traditional Google search, for me it was so low on the priority list that it wasn't a deal-breaker. In fact it didn't really even end up factoring in my decision.

7. say good-bye to hosting nightmares

Another classic warning against Squarespace is that you can't control your hosting - they host your site for you - and therefore you're putting yourself at the mercy of Squarespace's servers. Fair enough, and completely true.

However, this is another myth along the lines of WordPress being cost free: you don't have complete control over your WordPress site either. In fact you hand that control over to the hosting company you choose to host your site on, and that's anything but stable.

In the months leading up to my decision to switch I saw client WordPress sites going down left and right - one for a FULL 10 DAYS - and there was little to nothing we were able to do about it. While I didn't feel a huge rush to Squarespace while this was happening, once I started looking at Squarespace you can bet those experiences came to mind when I examined this whole "I have no control over Squarespace and their server" recommendations. Truth is Squarespace has way better up time and performance than most, if not all, of the WordPress hosts I've seen.

8. lots of Unintended (but welcome) side effects

And last but not least, Squarespace has delivered so many unintended but very welcome side effects since I made the change. I'm happier. I'm way less frustrated. I'm no longer embarrassed to give anyone my URL because I no longer have to worry about what's broken or what looks amateur. It just works. And I like that. 

My list, my social media followings, my leads, my business - they're all measurably growing, and doing so quickly, since I moved because I have the time to nurture them. My site works and in turn I've had some of the most productive weeks in years. It's not a coincidence.

Your turn. 

Have you thought about moving to Squarespace? Have you done it? What did you think? What can we help you with if you're still thinking about it? Leave a comment below and let's discuss!

The 14 Core Business Tools I Use Every. Single. Day. To Run My Business

Click through to see the 14 tools I rely on every. single. day. to ensure my business runs smoothly and efficiently. If you're not using all of these you're missing out!

I'm always being asked by new entrepreneurs what tools I (and my clients) use to run webinars, configure advanced targeting email campaigns and power complex courses.

I get it. Those things are important and you want to do it right (and you can see some of my top advanced recommendations here) but you know what's more important when you're just starting out?

Having the basics in place.

The basics are the stuff that allow you to keep your business running smoothly day after day so you can focus on what actually matters in your business - the stuff that moves you forward.

Not convinced why it's important? Check out this entire post I wrote about switching to Squarespace from WordPress, and how that decision alone about a basic piece of background business software changed the entire trajectory of my business by allowing me to stop focusing on background stuff and start focusing on marketing and outreach.

The fancy tools are fun, but none of them would matter if I didn't have the 14 tools below - the ones I literally use every. single. day. in place and running efficiently. 

Here's the lowdown on my everyday staples, in alphabetical, not favorite, order because they're all my faves and like my friends and family you could never ask me to favor one over the other.

Active Campaign

Active Campaign powers my email list and I love it for its affordability and robust features. It starts at only $9/month and for that you can power advanced targeting and automation, a must if you want to market efficiently.

Calendly

I use Calendly to schedule all client calls. It syncs with my Google calendar and allows clients to schedule their appointments at their convenience. No more annoying email back and forth trying to find a time that works for everyone.

Dropbox

I store all of my core documents on Dropbox, not my hard drive, so they're always backed up. (I also use an Apple Time Machine as an additional backup because #paranoid). Dropbox allows me to access my documents from anywhere and share folders with clients and partners when I don't want to mess with loading things to my Google Drive.

Evernote

If it's not in my Evernote it doesn't exist. I use Evernote to store everything: notes from client calls, blog and social media ideas, course content, blog drafts, screen shots and pdf's of things that inspire me. Literally everything. Evernote is free but I currently use the paid version in order to access and sync all files without trouble when I don't have access to a wifi network.

Google Apps

I run my business email through Gmail and store client documents in Google Drive. At only $5/month Google Apps is a no-brainer for any business. It's industry standard at this point and once you dive in you won't ever look back.

Google Keep

I've always struggled with to do lists and project management software. To do lists and apps aren't robust enough but project management software makes me want to scream and run in the other direction. Enter Google Keep. For me it's the perfect blend of the 2: robust check boxes for to do lists and separate cards you can see at a glance to keep all of your projects and priorities in front of you everyday. 

LeadPages

It took me a long time to jump on the LeadPages bandwagon (I had all the same excuses you probably have - it's expensive, it's not customizable, blah blah blah). I got over it, and thank goodness I did. LeadPages is the single most valuable tool I have to help me build my email list, and considering building my list is my number 1 priority right now, that's saying a lot. I love LeadPages and harass every client to sign up until they do. Just get it. You won't regret it.

MeetEdgar

Like LeadPages I put off signing up for Edgar for way too long because at $49/month it felt too expensive. I finally bit the bullet and realized it pays for itself in spades and does so quickly. 

Edgar is a fantastic way to keep your social media under control. You can use Edgar to schedule posts to Facebook, Facebook Pages, and Twitter. Even better, you can set up a library of old content, give Edgar a schedule, and it'll continually recycle and repost your content for you automatically. 

So those old blog posts that haven't seen the light of day for a few years? Edgar will bring them back to regular circulation with no effort on your part, extending their shelf life substantially.

PayPal

PayPal's not my favorite payment processor out there (in fact, far from it) but I know that customers in the online space are split almost evenly 50/50 between wanting to pay via PayPal or wanting to pay via credit card. For me the importance of not turning away customers outweighs my feelings for PayPal so I use it, and I use it everyday. 

Slack

Slack and Evernote may be the most important applications on this page. (See that? I just admitted my favorites after swearing I didn't have favorites). Slack is a fantastic, free tool you can use to communicate efficiently with teams. I regularly join my client's Slack channels if they already have one set up for their team, or I set up Slack teams for my clients and I to use. I also have Slack teams set up for mastermind groups and, let's be honest, for groups of former colleagues I like to stay in touch with.

Slack offers powerful team instant messaging, easy direct messaging and the best emoji and gif functionality to keep things light. If you're not on Slack get on it now. Your email woes will quickly disappear.

SquareSpace

I'm currently having a serious love affair with Squarespace. It's made my website life infinitely easier and I can't believe it took me as long as it did to make the switch from WordPress. I'd say more here but I recently wrote a long, 2,000 word post on why I switched. If you've ever considered Squarespace (or even if you haven't yet) get over there and read it. And then consider coming over. It's rainbows and unicorns over here, I promise!

Stripe

I just shared how I'm not such a PayPal fan, but I am a big Stripe fan. Stripe allows you to safely accept credit card payments from clients. It's easy, has a reasonable fee and delivers your money quickly. In my perfect world I'd run all transactions through Stripe. It's dreamy.

SumoMe

I use SumoMe's suite of free website tools to complement my LeadPages account for list building. Its functionality includes welcome splash pages, social media share bars (like the ones you see to the left and bottom of this blog post), announcement bars for the top of your site and a bunch of other list-building and engagement tools. I only use the free side of SumoMe tools and I've found they're more than enough. If you're not yet supplementing your list building with SumoMe I encourage you to get on it now. I use it everyday (obviously, or it wouldn't be on this list;)

Wave Accounting

The final tool I use everyday is Wave Accounting. It's a free, easy-to-use revenue and expense tracker. My transactions are pretty simple at this stage so it's more than enough for me, and I love its phone app that allows me to quickly snap pictures of receipts and save them. Makes my expense tracking super simple. Wave even allows you to invoice and accept credit cards straight from the app but I use other programs to do that so I've not used those features.

YOUR TURN: WHAT ARE THE CORE BUSINESS TOOLS YOU USE EVERYDAY? ANYTHING IN THIS LIST BEEN ON YOUR WISHLIST BUT YOU HAVE QUESTIONS? HIT ME UP IN THE COMMENTS AND LET'S TALK ABOUT IT.

Note: A few of the links above are affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you use my link (at no extra cost to you). Consider it a small thank you for pointing you in the right direction. If that doesn't feel right to you, no worries. Simply google the name of the software and you'll be able to navigate there independently.

 

Step-By-Step Guide To Writing A Welcome Series for New Email Subscriber

Email strategy has got to be one of the great mysteries of the online world. Sales funnels, welcome sequences, weekly newsletters, blogs oh my! It can make anyone's head spin, much less if you're new to the online and blogging world.

Fact is talking your email strategy down to a manageable step-by-step strategy is pretty easy. And one of the first places to start is with a welcome series.

But before I get into showing you exactly how to write your welcome series, let's talk about what a welcome series is.

A welcome series is a series of 1-3 emails you send people in the days immediately following them signing up for your email list. The point isn't to sell anything but rather to start a relationship. After all they may have seen you in a Facebook group, come across your blog or found you on a pin and opted into a simple worksheet or checklist you offer.

In other words, there's a good likelihood they've never been to your website and don't really have any idea who you are. And if they have no idea who you are there's little use of you emailing them a sales pitch or even your regular weekly newsletter, because they'll just be confused and wondering who you are.

Therefore the best thing to do is to send all of your new email subscribers through a welcome series designed to introduce them to you + and your brand.

How exactly to do it? I'll be honest - there are a million ways to approach a welcome series. You'll see some that last anywhere from a single email to a 2 week (or longer) series.

Below is the series I've used in the past. Feel free to follow this outline or adapt to what feels more natural for you. The point isn't to follow an exact formula but rather to do what feels right for you in order to introduce people to you.

 

Day 0: welcome + opt-in delivery (Immediately upon signing up)

As soon as someone signs up for your list you should send them whatever they've signed up for (ie worksheet, e-book, whatever your freebie offer is). Also take the opportunity to say a quick hello and let people know you'll be in touch more this week.

Bonus: Ask a question that makes people want to reply to you. When people reply they'll naturally have a higher engagement with your brand, and you'll get the benefit of learning who is on your list and why.

day 1: my story + opt-in reminder

We all have overflowing email boxes so it's not at all uncommon for people to miss your initial email and opt-in, even if they're looking for it. Which means it's a good idea to follow up the next day with another link to the opt-in. This gives people 2 chances to grab what they were initially interested in.

Also take the opportunity here to share your story and your why so people can get to know more about why you do what you do. Connections and understanding are important and it makes a big difference when people know why you're showing up.

day 2: what i believe to be true

Day 2 brings a chance to differentiate yourself from the crowd: you've shared your opt-in with them and your story. Now share something you believe to be true (or false) about your industry that's against the norm. This will help people understand what you're all about and differentiate you from the rest of the crowd. 

This is also the first time you should mention anything about your programs or courses or whatever it is that you sell. Mention it in passing, but don't deliver a hard pitch yet. You want people to know you and what you offer before you go in for the sale.

day 3: Here's some of my best work

Now that you've differentiated yourself, share some of your best work. Send a message that includes links to your best blog posts, podcast interviews, guests posts or articles that have been written about you. This builds your authority and credibility.

day 4: i screwed up and then i fixed it

Time to get real: share a failure or screw up on your part and how you fixed it. We're all human and we all screw up and people want to see the human side of you. Be sincere and also make sure to show how you fixed the screw up - people want you to be real but also want to know that you can recognize and fix the mistakes that you make.

Day 4 can also include a stronger call to action on how to work with you.

day 5: Pure value preview content.

Day 5 is a great day to share some preview content of what it's like to work with you. If you sell courses consider including a link to one lesson. If you're a coach include an exercise you use with all of your clients.

You want to give people an idea of what it's like to work with you while also sharing something ridiculously valuable so that if they're not yet ready to work with you they'll still get a quick win from the information you share for free.

day 6: Final, strong CTA for whatever's next including FAQ's and testimonails.

Finally don't be afraid to close your welcome series with a strong call to action. Include some FAQ's and testimonials and make it clear how to work with you and why someone should. And finally, let people know what's next - set their expectation for how often they should expect to hear from you going forward.

Putting a welcome series in place is one of the easiest things you can do to help people get to know you and increase the quality of your list. I hope the outline above helps take the mystery out of it so you can get one implemented this week!

What questions do you have about your email welcome series? do you have one in place? does it work? tell us about it in the comments.

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.