Online Business

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

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

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

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

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

Art

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

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

The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

Do The Work, Steve Pressfield

The War of Art, Steve Pressfield

Mindset/Intuition/Woo

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

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

The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo

The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

Creative Visualization, Shatki Gawain

The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte

Science

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

48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene

Art of Propoganda, Anthony Pratkanis

Blink/Outliers/The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries

Nudge, Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein

Scaling Up, Verne Harnish

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

StartUp from Gimlet Media

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

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

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

Smart Passive Income with Pay Flynn

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

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

Ask Pat with Pat Flynn

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

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

The #AskGaryVee Show with Gary Vaynerchuk

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

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

Entrepreneur on Fire with John Lee Dumas

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

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield

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

Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields

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

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

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

Grit 'n' Hustle with Todd Herman

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

Being Boss with Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon

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

THE MOTH

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

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

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

 

My Proven 4-Step Roadmap To Take You From A 1:1 Service-Based Business to A Passive Income-Based Business

Quick.

Raise your hand high right now if you dream of more automation, easier customer nurturing systems and more passive income in your business.

Good. Now that I have everyone's attention (because let's face it, I've never met anyone in the online space who didn't want at least ONE of those things, and most of you want them all) let's talk about what it takes to get there - and the biggest mistakes people make in trying to get there.

And a big old disclaimer before we go any further: I believe all businesses are unique and all take different paths to where they’re going. Which means what you see below is the typical path I see my clients taking to get from where they are to where they want to be. Which is also the path I'm taking myself.

But know there are a million ways to get there: some entrepreneurs will go fast, some slow. Some will skip a step when it makes sense, others will add mini-steps between these big steps.

Even more of you will stop somewhere along the way because you don't want to take your particular business all the way to step 4.

Those are all totally great options. What I'm sharing below is a framework to think through how to get from 1:1 services to a passive business. How you customize the framework to your individual business and desires is completely up to you.

Why A Roadmap

I developed this roadmap for my clients because while I heard them all saying they wanted to add more automation and passive income into their businesses, they didn't know how to to do it.

And worse, they were trying to copy what they saw the most polished automated marketers doing without realizing the evolution those companies and personalities had to go through in order to systemize their businesses into the automation machines they are today.

Which means my clients were trying to leap straight from a new offering to a polished, sophisticated marketing machine in one swoop. Their strategy looked something like this:

Clients and friends are always asking how to move from their 1:1, service-based business to something that includes more passive income and less trading time for dollars. I put together this simple 4-step roadmap to show them the simple path to make the shift, and now I'm sharing it with you. Click through and I'll walk you through the stages step-by-step.

And, not surprisingly, it wasn't working for them. At all.

Enter the Roadmap. 

After seeing too many of these case studies, and wanting to accelerate my own growth without falling into the same traps my clients were, and not finding anyone else who was sharing this information publicly, I decided to break down the path all the successful online marketers were taking.

The end result of that process is my Client Attraction System Roadmap, your step-by-step guide to gracefully transitioning from 1:1, manual marketing, selling and delivering to systems that effortlessly attract your best clients.

Keep reading to learn how to move your business through the 4 steps, and the tech and resources you need to make them happen.

Clients and friends are always asking how to move from their 1:1, service-based business to something that includes more passive income and less trading time for dollars. I put together this simple 4-step roadmap to show them the simple path to make the shift, and now I'm sharing it with you. Click through and I'll walk you through the stages step-by-step.

Step 1: Realizing You Want More Than 1:1 Work

Most of you enter the Roadmap in Step 1: you're selling, marketing and working in a 1:1 relationship with your clients. This might mean custom graphic design, 1:1 coaching or consulting or freelancing. 

At this stage you're happy to have a business of your own established outside of the confines of the traditional 9-to-5, but you've also realized that the 1:1 model doesn't exactly give you the time and money freedom you've been dreaming of. 

And while you may have started with a 1:1 model for a bunch of reasons (typical ones being that it's the easiest and fastest way to start a business, or because automated selling felt scammy or not genuine) you've come to realize it might be something you're interested in pursuing. 

You've seen others do it authentically, and you've realized you don't want to continue trading your time for dollars.  

This is what Step 1 looks like:

Clients and friends are always asking how to move from their 1:1, service-based business to something that includes more passive income and less trading time for dollars. I put together this simple 4-step roadmap to show them the simple path to make the shift, and now I'm sharing it with you. Click through and I'll walk you through the stages step-by-step.

When you think about moving past Step 1 you have absolutely NO IDEA of how to actually make it happen, and your goal is to simply wrap your head around what an automated marketing and product delivery system might look like for you, and to start implementing baby steps to make it happen.

step 1 action steps:

  • Choose an email provider (see tech recommendations at the end of this post) and start building an email list of your current clients and prospects
  • Pay attention to email lists you’re on, and recognize when you’re in an automated sequence and how you (probably) don’t mind being in that automated sequence because it's providing you value
  • Pay close attention to the clients you're serving 1:1 and take notes on the questions you answer over and over, the common issues they're all struggling with, and the biggest wins and a-ha's they experience while working with you. You'll come back to these notes in later steps to determine the topics you should be addressing in your automated and passive products. 

Step 2: Group Programs and Basic Sales Funnels

As you move from Step 1 to Step 2 you're realizing with certainty that 1:1 work isn't the direction you want to go long term, and that you do have all the skills and knowledge you already need to deliver results for clients in a more efficient and affordable way.

At this stage you're not quite ready to deliver fully automated, passive courses but you are ready to take your 1:1 services and deliver them in a small group setting.

Doing this helps you start to automate your teaching and delivery methods since you have to get everyone in the group working in the same direction at the same time, but since it's live and small group you also have the freedom to switch things up if you want to in order to get better results for your clients.

Step 2 is all about starting to translate what works in your 1:1 relationships into something that can work for more than one person at a time. 

Pro-Tip: If you're on a fast track and learning and implementing quickly, this is the stage you're most likely to skip to move directly from Step 1 to Step 3. 

THIS IS WHAT STEP 2 LOOKS LIKE:

Clients and friends are always asking how to move from their 1:1, service-based business to something that includes more passive income and less trading time for dollars. I put together this simple 4-step roadmap to show them the simple path to make the shift, and now I'm sharing it with you. Click through and I'll walk you through the stages step-by-step.

When you're in Step 2 you're focused on basic automation: welcoming prospects to your world via automated list generation and email campaigns (as opposed to having to individually connect with everyone) and systemizing what's working 1:1 to work in a group setting.

step 2 action steps:

  • Add some basic marketing automations (prime example: an email welcome series when people first subscribe to your list) to help people get to know you without having to talk to you live.
  • Commit to list building – you actively research and create the kinds of freebies/lead magnets that will attract your right kind of customer without a bunch of manual work on your part.
  • Use the notes about what works in your 1:1 relationships (the ones you gathered in Step 1) to create systemized ways to structure and deliver a consistent experience that can deliver the same results when consumed in a group setting as opposed to 1:1.
  • Add in the tech you need to support list building and email auto-responders (see tech recommendations at the end of this post for ideas).

Step 3: Adding Automation and Passive Products

Now that you've perfected the live group experience and can get your group clients the same level of results as your 1:1 clients achieve, it's time to take it a step further and translate your live group experience into a passive course delivery that doesn't require your continual live presence.

You do this the same way you translated your 1:1 service to your group offer: look at what works the best for your group offer and translate it into videos, worksheets and other tools that can be shared passively. 

And, while you're doing that, continue to build and prime your email list so you have a group of eager customers ready to go as soon as you're ready to release your program.

THIS IS WHAT STEP 3 LOOKS LIKE:

Clients and friends are always asking how to move from their 1:1, service-based business to something that includes more passive income and less trading time for dollars. I put together this simple 4-step roadmap to show them the simple path to make the shift, and now I'm sharing it with you. Click through and I'll walk you through the stages step-by-step.

Step 3's all about translating your live group program a step further into a passive course, and building the audience eager and ready to jump into that course.

step 3 action steps:

  • Choose your course topic by taking the information you’ve gathered about what got the best results for your customers (both 1:1 and in your live groups). This will ensure your course topic is both relevant to your audience (because your customers found it relevant enough to implement) AND that it works (because they got results from it).  
  • Re-work that automated email welcome series you've been using to help leads get to know you into a welcome series that now serves 2 purposes: 1) helps people get to know you and what you're all about AND 2) primes them for a passive course purchase. 
  • Actually create your course content and get the tech in place to deliver it. (Not sure how? Check out my tech resources below for my recommended systems to build your course with, and for courses to check out yourself if you need help figuring out how to actually build your course).

Step 4: Full Passive Automation

Before we dive into Step 4, full passive automation, I want to again remind you that you don't HAVE to bring your business all the way to full passive automation. Lots of entrepreneurs I know prefer to stop at Step 3 because while they want some automation built into their businesses, they also prefer to maintain some regular and live connection with clients.

Totally ok. It's all up to you. Always.

But if you do want to take your business fully automated, Step 4 is where you make that happen. In this final step you're focused on building on what you learned in Step 3 when you rolled out your first passive course so you can perfect your automated sales funnel that leads to that course, add additional funnels that feed into the same course, while add additional products to your portfolio.

THIS IS WHAT STEP 4 LOOKS LIKE:

Clients and friends are always asking how to move from their 1:1, service-based business to something that includes more passive income and less trading time for dollars. I put together this simple 4-step roadmap to show them the simple path to make the shift, and now I'm sharing it with you. Click through and I'll walk you through the stages step-by-step.

Ready to make this happen? Here's what Step 4, full automation, looks like.

step 4 action steps:

  • You've perfected that first sales funnel you created in Step 3 for your first course. It converts prospects to customers efficiently and predictably.
  • Because you have one funnel that works you understand how to build other funnels that will work, so you begin adding either additional funnels that feed the same product (maybe with a different opt-in that attracts slightly different, yet still perfect, customers for your same original product) OR you create additional products to offer your current customers. Or maybe a combo of both.
  • Your tech is on point and fully automated and efficient (see below for my best tech recommendations).

Let’s Talk Tech (i.e. Automation Made Easy)

At this point you may be thinking that the steps listed above sound all fine and good, but you have no idea how to make them happen tech-wise. I get it, I totally get it. When I first started helping clients with this and designing my own tech it was overwhelming for me too.

That's why I took the time to compile this list of my favorite tech to help you make your own tech decisions. It'll also help you move (alot) faster than I was able to when I had to start from scratch to figure it all out.

 

Email Systems

Of all the tech systems you need to build your business I easily spend the most time advising clients on which email system to choose. The two I recommend when you're just starting out - and that will easily scale with you - are Active Campaign and ConvertKit. Both are budget friendly when starting out (they start at $9/month and $29/month respectively) and they'll deliver robust automation tools at that price that people are used to paying hundreds of dollars a month for.

Seriously these 2 programs are relatively new to the online entrepreneur space and they are game changers when it comes to the functionality they deliver at their price points. I know it's tempting to start with MailChimp's free account, but it won't scale with you AT ALL and I highly recommend against starting here. You'll end up having to move systems within a month or 2 and that's never fun. Might as well build it right from the beginning.

As for me I currently use Active Campaign but have begun recommending that my 1:1 clients move to ConvertKit, and I'll likely be making the same move in the not-too-distant future.

Active Campaign

ConvertKit

 

A note on other systems:

When it comes to email I hear about the classic systems all the time: MailChimp and AWeber at the beginner end and Ontraport and InfusionSoft at the advanced level. I don't recommend any of these: MailChimp and AWeber haven't stayed up-to-date with functionality to deliver the kind of automation Active Campaign and ConvertKit offer at the low end of the pricing scale, and Ontraport and InfusionSoft also can't compete with Active Campaign and ConvertKit when it comes to growing and scaling. I'm a huge fan of AC and CK and there's absolutely no reason to consider any other program.

 

lead capture/landing page System

If you want to create passive products you need a robust email list. And in order to build that list efficiently you're going to need a lead capture system that works. I personally use - and HIGHLY recommend LeadPages as your lead capture system. If you have to use something else (and seriously, please don't, LeadPages just works and works well) you can consider the other options listed below.

LeadPages

ClickFunnels

Thrive Themes

OptimizePress

 

OPT-INS AND POP-UPS FOR LIST BUILDING

You're going to want a robust opt-in and pop-up system to complement your lead capture software for the most efficient list building. Again I highly recommend using LeadBoxes (which come with your LeadPages subscription) for this. I personally use LeadBoxes and SumoMe (the free version) for my opt-ins and pop-ups. 

LeadBoxes (included with LeadPages)

PopUp Ally from Nathalie Lussier

Bloom (especially if you're using the Divi Wordpress theme from Elegant Themes)

ThriveLeads from Thrive Themes

SumoMe

 

PAYMENT PROCESSORS

You'll need a way to accept payment for your products. I recommend you offer both PayPal and credit card options for this, because research shows consumers of online products are split down the middle between preferring to pay via PayPal or credit card. And more importantly, they're not very flexible when it comes to their preference. Which means if they prefer PayPal and you don't offer it they're actually unlikely to get a credit card out and you'll lose the sale. And vice versa. Offer both and you won't miss out on business. Both are free to use and have similar per-transaction fees.

Stripe

PayPal

 

WEBINAR PLATFORMS

I didn't get into it much in this post (because it's a big topic that's a post - or course - in itself), but webinars are a fantastic way of growing your list and doing so fast. I love webinars and personally use WebinarJam for all of my webinars because it's easy to use and offers robust and easy-to-use features for recording, scheduling and registering your participants. 

Others simply use Google Hangouts which is a free and perfectly acceptable place to start, especially if you have a LeadPages account that you can integrate it with. WebinarAlly from the lovely Nathalie Lussier is a very affordable system to start with if you're a WordPress user.

WebinarJam

Google Hangout

WebinarAlly from Nathalie Lussier

 

COURSE PLATFORMS

If you want to deliver passive courses you'll need a software platform to do so from. I'm a huge fan of Teachable - it's quick to set up and offers the best user experience out there - but it can also be expensive, so if you want something a little friendlier on the budget I recommend Wishlist Member or Zippy Courses to start.

Teachable

Wishlist Member

Zippy Courses

 

Courses on Building Courses

This one's not tech, but I get a ton of questions on how to actually structure and build the course content of your course. For that I recommend David Siteman Garland's Create Awesome Online Courses course. Full disclosure I haven't taken this course myself (I didn't take any courses that specifically covered course building) but have several clients who have and rave about it - and have fantastic results from it - so I feel very comfortable recommending it. 

 

VIDEO RECORDING & EDITING

When you're creating your course you're probably going to find yourself becoming an amateur video editor. These programs will make that as easy as possible on you.

Screenflow (Mac)

Camtasia (PC)

 

VIDEO HOSTING

If you're not using Teachable you'll also need a place to host the course videos your students will view through your course platform. Wistia and Vimeo Pro will both get the job done easily.

Wistia

Vimeo Pro

How To Implement Your Tech

Before I leave you to it I want to offer a final pep talk when it comes to actually implementing your tech: Don’t overthink this. I work with so many entrepreneurs who spend MONTHS researching the best option for all of these needs. And in turn they never end up releasing anything or making any progress on their desire to become more automated.

The absolute best choice you can make when it comes to choosing a solution in any of these categories is to make a choice. 

Every choice you make is changeable down the line if absolutely necessary so don't paralyze your progress and your business by spending too much time on this. Check out my recommendations, make a choice and move on to implementing it. 

The other worst mistake I see entrepreneurs make is always choosing the free or lowest cost option. Listen: you are running a business. I'm not saying the free choice isn't always the best choice (there are plenty of free choices listed in my recommendations above) but free is not always best. If it's not going to deliver your objectives (like MailChimp's free account) don't use it. Put the tech in place that you need to deliver your business. If you don't you won't grow. Bottom line. 

One final note: a few of the links above are affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you use my link to purchase the software (at no extra cost to you). Consider it a small thank you for pointing you in the right direction. Or, if you're not comfortable with it, simply type the name of the software into your google toolbar and navigate there on your own. 

And now it's your turn. What step do you want to take your business to? What's the next step you're going to take to start making that happen? Tell us about it in the comments!

Price It Right: 5 Steps To Your Best Pricing Strategy

When I started my business I was all. over. the. place. when it came to pricing. Some days I wanted to charge ultra-premium prices, other days I wanted to be accessible to everyone. 

Some days I easily quoted my rates to potential clients, other days I stressed, sweated it out and wanted to cry at my desk before sharing the same rates with another client.

When it came down to it I knew it was because, despite my fancy MBA and experience starting other businesses, I wasn't crystal clear on what I was doing any why I was doing it. And because of that my pricing felt all over the place, and therefore some days it felt good to share, others not-so-much.

When I noticed my clients (you know, the ones I did manage to ask for money in exchange for my services) having the same problem over and over, I developed the 5-step system I'm sharing publicly for the first time here. If you're a new online, service-based entrepreneur, use these 5 steps to develop a pricing strategy of your own. 

It'll save you hours of sweat and stress and beating yourself up. Trust me, I know from first hand experience.

STEP 1: WHAT ARE YOUR INCOME GOALS? 

Before you think about pricing your services I want you to take a minute to think about your own goals, both for your business and for yourself and your family (or whatever you may want to be financing with this business of yours. 

I include this step because if you don’t know where you’re trying to go with your business, and what you need to get there, your pricing is bound to become an exercise in winging it.

And when your pricing is no better than a random guess your income will be the same. No bueno.

To set your income goal, consider what you want for both yourself and your business. And notice I said WANT - not need. That’s an important distinction. When you set an income goal you’re not determining the bare minimum you need to survive. You’re determining what you want to have for the business and lifestyle of your dreams.  

First step to getting there: Think about what you want personally over the next year and list those things out. Be specific.

Start by listing your personal monthly obligations (the need) and then add budgets for the other things you want. Think about food, clothing, entertainment, travel and housing desires. You’ll have more but those are the popular ones that’ll get your brain moving. Write all of these down, and once you’re done add them up.

Now do the same for your business. Start with the monthly obligations your business has today (taxes, advertising, web hosting, software, etc).

Then think about where you want to be in a year. What kinds of large investments do you want to make this year? Who do you want to hire? Would you like to pump up your advertising budget? Write all of it down. 

You now have a personal and business expense budget for the year.  #Yay!

Buuuttt....What does that actually mean for your pricing? It means we can start breaking that final number (your combined personal and business expenses) down to an hourly rate you need to average in your client work. 

How do you do that?

Here’s an example: Let’s say your combined personal and business budget is $100,000. For simplicity sake we’ll also assume that budget is spread evenly across the next year, which means your monthly budget (or income goal) is $100,000/12, or $8,333 per month. 

Now that you know the monthly amount you need, take it one step further to find your ideal hourly rate. 

How? Divide the monthly income goal by the number of hours you want to work with clients each month. This is an individual number that’s different for everyone, but I’d encourage you to not estimate more than 20 hours a week of client work (and even that’s high). Remember this is only the time you’re working directly on client work. It doesn’t account for everything else you need to do each week to run your business: marketing and promotion, administrative work, etc.  

Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to work with clients only 10 hours a week. That’s 40 hours a month. When you divide that into the $8,333 monthly income goal, you get a $208/hour effective hourly rate. 

Boom.

Now you know the number of client hours you need to book (client hours meaning either 1:1 clients or time spent in group programs) plus the hourly rate your program prices need to accommodate in order to reach your income goal.

Pro-Tip: This hourly rate is NOT your price. It’s just a number you need to keep in mind to make sure your needs are being met each month. Price, however, is about so much more than simply meeting your needs, and the last thing you want to do is price based on cost, so you’ll simply use this number as a reality check when we finalize things later on but not as a final price.

OK, that was a lot of math. Thanks for sticking with me. Now we move on to more fun parts of pricing: Determining your value and your positioning!  

STEP 2: DETERMINE YOUR VALUE & TELL YOUR STORY

We did the math we did in Step 1 to give you a sense of what you want and what it’ll take to get there, but as I said earlier it’s not how you actually set your prices. 

Why? Because you should always set price as a function of the VALUE you’re providing, not as a function of what it costs you to provide that value (or as a function of how much money you want to make). 

Which, of course, begs the question: How do you define that value?

Answer: By determining the BENEFITS your clients receive from working with you. 

So how to do you figure out what do your clients gain from working with you?  

You can (and should) approach this question from both a money and not-money angle (haha super professional categories, huh?)  

First the numbers (the money): What are your clients going to gain or save monetarily in the next 12 months from working with you? 

Here's an example: Business coaches - How much additional income do your clients earn in the year after working with you? Health and Wellness Coaches - how much do your clients save in a year of medical costs after working with you? Designers - how much more money are your clients going to pull in by having a professional presence online instead of the DIY one they’re rolling with now?

You probably won’t have exact figures here but you should be able to make some pretty good guesses. Is their income going to double? Triple? 4x or more? Those are important things to know.

Then tackle the intangibles. What is the value of a dream come true? Of restored health? Of a thriving business or relationship?  

Jot down some best guesses. We’ll come back to them later.

STEP 3: POSITIONING

Now that you’ve considered the value your clients get from working with you, it’s time to consider how you’re positioned in the market. 

What do I mean by positioning? This is the story you’re telling the market about yourself, your brand, what you do for your clients and how you’re different from everyone else in the market. 

Do you want to be known as high-end or accessible? Exclusive or for the masses? Advanced or beginner? Trendy or tried-and-true?

There are no right or wrong answers here, just what feels right to you.

Advanced Pro Tip: I know we’re told over and over that competition doesn’t exist and that your right people will find you, and that’s true if you’re positioned correctly and if you’re telling the correct story.

When you’re not doing those 2 things you risk confusing those perfect customers, and if they’re confused they’ll never find you.

This section is not meant to dredge up comparisonitis or direct competition. It’s meant to point out that how consumers perceive your brand’s value is at least partially influenced by the other messages they see all day long, and how you in turn position yourself when compared to those messages.  

When you think about differentiation I don’t want you to think about your direct competition. Instead I want you to think about which brands or other service providers you’d want your brand lined up with.

Who would you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with? What is it about her brand and offerings that makes you want to be lined up with her? What do her customers expect to pay? What would they think of your brand if your prices were significantly higher or lower than the comparison brands? 

What would you charge if your brand was in perfect alignment with these complimentary brands? What story would you be telling your customers? What value - both tangible and intangible - would you be providing?

Write down your answers to these questions and anything else that comes up around positioning.

STEP 4: CIRCLE BACK TO PRICES

Now that we’ve taken a look at the 3 big considerations when it comes to pricing - cost, value and positioning - it’s time to see how they line up.

If you were going to price based only on your income goals in step 1 (which you SHOULD NOT do) what would your offering cost? 

If you were going to price solely based on the value you generate for a client in a year, what would your offering cost? (HINT: Because you want to offer considerably more value than your program costs, I always suggest this price be 10-20% of the value amount you came up with in Step 2).  

If you were going to price solely based on meeting market expectation for the complimentary brands your customers associate with, what would your offering cost? 

Now take a look at how your 3 prices line up against each other. Are they similar or wildly different? 

1. Value and Differentiation prices are similar and higher than Income price: This is the ideal situation. If the price you wrote down for the value you provide matches well with customer expectation, and is higher than your income goal, that is an indication that you’re close to your ideal price. Let it sit for a day or 2, see how it feels and commit. You’re on the right track. 

2. Differentiation price is higher than Value and Income prices. When your Differentiation price is higher than your Value and Income prices it usually indicates that you’re newer in business and still gaining confidence and knowledge in your programs and earning potential. 

That is a perfectly fine stage to be at, as long as you recognize that it’s a growth stage and not somewhere you want to stay forever. Keep working towards upgrading your business so its value does line up with the brands you want to be associated with, and you’ll quickly see the numbers come into line with each other. 

3. Differentiation and Value prices are lower than Income prices. This is a sign that your business as currently designed is not sustainable. What it doesn’t mean is that you should cut your income goal. Not at all. 

What it does mean is that you need to reevaluate your offers and look for ways to drive up the Value and Differentiation numbers to find an offering that is of sufficient value to meet your Income goals. 

STEP 5: COME UP WITH A PRICING STRATEGY TO GET YOU INTO ALIGNMENT

How’d you feel about the numbers you listed in step 4? Were your Value and Differentiation prices too close to your Income price for comfort? Did your Differentiation price feel way out of reach? Did you have trouble articulating the value you provide your clients in order to reach a Value price that makes YOU feel good? 

First know that it’s ok if your prices are out of alignment. To be honest, most are at first. 

The first step of fixing anything is the knowledge that it needs fixing, so pat yourself on the back for going through this exercise and realizing where you have some work to do! Honestly, it puts you ahead of 97% of solopreneurs out there. 

The good news: now you have a starting point to work from. 

To start, write down a few ideas of how you can start getting into alignment. 

Do you need to upgrade something in your business in order to line up with your ideal brands and justify your Differentiation price? 

Do you need to add something to your program in order to up the Value price associated with the program? 

Do you need to rethink how many clients you work with or how you work in order to accommodate your Income goal? 

Pro Tip: You don’t need to fix it all in one fell swoop. 

A large component of a successful pricing strategy is making sure it’s in alignment with your confidence and your mindset, so it’s ok to choose a price that’s lower than your ideal Differentiation price for now if that’s where you’re at. 

BUT put limits on yourself and work your way up methodically. If you’re a service provider commit to raising your prices every 3 customers. This’ll give you the bandwidth to get comfortable and realize you know exactly what you’re doing, but also not so much time that you’re under-earning forever.

Remember you’re telling a story with your pricing, and you don’t want your mindset to slow that story down. 

Keeping your prices lower than they should be for longer than they have to be will start to be noticed in the market, and people will start to doubt you. Mindset is real. Using it as a crutch to consistently undervalue your services is not.

Questions? Story about raising rates (and the world not ending?) Share them in the comments below - I'd love to hear them! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. I Got Focused

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

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

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

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

2. I Got Intentional

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

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

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

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

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

3. I Set Real Goals (& Tracked Them)

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

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

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

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

4. I Surrounded Myself With Biz Buddies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. I Invested in Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

What's Your Promotion Personality Type?

If I had a nickel for every time I got on the phone with a new client who proceeded to tell me she wasn’t such a fan of how her business was set up (putting it nicely) but had no choice because, you know, that’s what so and so coach or so and so guru told her she had to do.... well, let’s just say I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now because I’d be super busy traveling the world on my yacht.

You heard it here first: you DO NOT have to run your business like everyone else, and you don’t have to “just suck it up” and promote your business in a way that feels slimy, fake or even just annoying.

And even better news, for those of you who don’t think there’s a way you could ever possibly like promoting your business? 

You totally can and will like to promote your business. You just have to do it the way that’s natural to you. 

And if the way that’s natural to you isn’t the way popular guru or coach teaches, you’re probably pretty frustrated. But you don’t have to be. 

Enter the Promotion Personality Types.

Get to know yours and life becomes so much better. #pinkypromise

Before we dive into meeting your Promotion Personality Type, I want to get into WHY it’s so important to know yours. 

Two words: Visibility Angst.

We all have it, friends. Nothing to be ashamed of. 

In fact I’ve yet to meet an entrepreneur who didn’t struggle with visibility at one time or another. (and I’ve met a lot of high-powered entrepreneurs, both online and off). 

Some get over it quickly & some struggle for a long time.

I’m here to tell you today that if you are suffering it’s not your fault and you don’t have to. This is so doable.

What we’re told when we’re not doing a good job “being visible:”

You’re scared.

You don’t believe in yourself.

You have a block you have to work through.

You’re not willing to do what it takes.

You just have to get over yourself.

Sure, sometimes that’s part of it… 

But most of the time there’s something else going on too. 

And that thing is that you’re trying to do what you’re told to do or what everyone else is doing instead of what works for YOUR personality type.

And when you do that it’s never going to work.

So what should you do instead? 

Well first, stop doing what everyone tells you you’re supposed to do. Seriously. Stop. Like right now. 

And start crafting a strategy based on your personality.

Enter the Promotion Personality Types, developed by me after lots of client work and noticing that people tended to struggle with promotion not because they weren't willing to do it (they very much were - if using the right system for them) but because they were never being introduced to the right system for them.

Just like some of us are Introverts and some of us are Extroverts, we all have different Promotion Personality Types that work the best for our own individual preferences and strengths.

And if you want to succeed online without losing your mind or your passion, you need to understand and use your Promotion Personality type to your advantage.

Enough with the intros. Allow me to introduce you to the 3 Promotion Personality Types. Are you ready to meet yours?

The HeadLiner

The HeadLiner loves being visible: she’s an action-taker with big goals that she doesn’t apologize for having or for sharing publicly. She’s a go-getter who has changed her own life and she won’t settle for anything less than doing the same for her clients.

She's full of passion and isn’t afraid to shake things up by calling people out for inaction and using big, bold language in her marketing. This is a woman who isn’t afraid of being seen or taking a stand.

She’s known for big, bold launches that position her as an expert in her field. She’s the first to jump on any new technology or platform and she can grow a sizable new following overnight.

She also loves the adrenaline that comes with gearing up for a big launch and prefers to put all her focus on list-building a few times a year, and focus on the rest of her work and her clients the rest of the time.

The HeadLiner is loved by some and hated by others. Everyone knows her and everyone has an opinion about her, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Kindred Spirit

The Kindred Spirit is soulful and spiritual and in business for no reason other than to change lives. She loves to see genuine transformation in her clients and not just in their bottom line. She’s interested in facilitating change in the whole person, and by doing so she knows she’ll end up changing the world.

The Kindred Spirit is thoughful, deliberate and loves nothing more than making genuine connections. She has little use for standard marketing tactics and would much rather spend time getting to know people, sharing stories of clients she’s helped and discovering how she can customize her services to meet specific needs of different people she meets.

The Kindred Spirit may not be known by everyone but those who do cross her path are blown away by the depth of her service and ability, and they aren’t afraid to let everyone know about it.

The Kindred Spirit is fine with only working with a select group of women, and in fact prefers it. The Kindred Spirit is loved and remembered by everyone who crosses her path and she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

The MasterMind

The MasterMind is curious, a problem-solver and someone who wants to explain concepts and teach people what they need to know in order to get what they want from their business.

The MasterMind loves to share smart content all the time. She shakes up the status quo by sharing new information and new perspectives. She loves busting myths, giving people permission to do things differently and to think differently from the crowd.

She’s at her best when her head is down doing the work, and when she works with people it’s because they’ve recognized the knowledge she holds and they want to tap into it. She’s typically practical, results-oriented and rooted in the real world.

The MasterMind is respected by most but not loved by all because sometimes her theories go over people’s heads, or aren’t actionable enough for clients who simply want to know what to do. She’s ok with that, though, because she knows the right people will find her and appreciate her.

What's the verdict? Were you able to pick yourself out right away? Or maybe you're a combo? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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

Focus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Grass Isn't Always Greener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And their businesses tend to suffer because of it.

4. Revenue Is the Priority

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

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

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

5. Budgets are Limited

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

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

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

6. Testing and Learning Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Make Competition Work For You

Differentiation, competition, positioning… call it what you want, but the thought of someone else doing the same thing you do for the same people is enough to send shivers down the spine of many a creative and entrepreneur.

It doesn’t have to, though. Re-framing competition and differentiation as something that works for you, rather than against you, is one of the best things you can do for your business.

Here are 4 ways to make differentiation work for you:

1. Market Validation

The fact that competition exists in your market is a tremendously good thing: it means there’s already a market and demand for your services. 

Let’s face it: your business exists to make money, so it’s good to know there are customers who want what you offer. 

Embrace the fact that you have competitors to differentiate yourself from, because if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t have a business.

2. Remember How You’re Special

Lots of entrepreneurs will tell you that competition doesn’t exist. While that’s not true – by definition if someone else is providing the same services as you competition does exist – you can easily make competition irrelevant by demonstrating the unique strengths and traits that make you, well, YOU. 

And when you sell yourself rather than your services you make your competitors a moot point because only you can be you.

Sometimes, though, you might find it hard to remember what makes you special, or simply find it difficult to communicate it to the world. 

After all it’s not the most natural thing in the world for most people to go around telling everyone how great they are. 

However, it’s relatively simple to look at your competition, remember how and why you do things differently, and build that into a story you can share with potential clients and customers. 

And sharing that story is what will differentiate yourself from everyone else which helps your best customers find you.

3. Understand What Customers Value

Just as your competitors can help you differentiate yourself, they can also help you understand what the customers in your market value. 

Paying attention to what’s working and what’s not for everyone, not just your business, multiples the information you have on hand to make decisions around what direction you want to take your business.

This works both ways: not only will it uncover potential opportunities you might want to pursue, you’ll also notice competitors doing things that end up attracting the exact opposite kind of customer you want. 

Take note to ensure you don’t mistakenly do the same.

4. Cut Your Risk

Let’s face it: as an entrepreneur you’ll constantly be faced with decisions around whether or not to take risks, chase trends or change how you’re doing business. 

Frankly it can be exhausting. Especially when the decisions you’re facing aren’t all that exciting to you and instead feel like just another something you have to figure out.

Why not cut out some of those decisions and risks by allowing your competitors to figure it out for you? 

If there’s a trend you’re not immediately sold on or a new business model you’re intrigued by but not ready to jump in on with both feet, look for a competitor who does. 

Watch them, see what happens and make your decisions based on what you observe.

How do you feel about competition? Does it scare you? Do you tell yourself there is no competition in order to stay focused on YOU? 

Do you see now how watching your competition can actually be helpful?

Tell me about it in the comments!

10 Practical Ways to Bounce Back From a Slump

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

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

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

 

The List

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

The Encore (5 More)

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

A Surprisingly Easy Way to Find Clarity

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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