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5-Step Checklist to Improve Every Aspect of Your Online Business

April 19, 2020

We’ve been building and running online businesses since 2007, and in that time we’ve seen a clear pattern of five crucial things you have to pay attention to if you want to succeed.

In this article, we’re going to go in-depth on these five important aspects of online business. There are certainly many more we could cover, but these five are the critical foundation pieces you need to have in place:

  1. Getting clear on the FOUNDATION of your business
  2. Fortifying the product or OFFERING you sell
  3. Building an ongoing PROMOTION plan to get customers
  4. Creating content and growing your AUDIENCE
  5. Evaluating the effectiveness of your WEBSITE

Great! Those are the five things we’re going to cover. However, before we move forward, this article comes with a B.F.C. (Big Fat Caveat)…

👋 Creating a successful online business doesn’t happen overnight after reading one article. You have to be willing to experiment, go through trial and error, and know that it takes time for your efforts to pay off.

(Anyone who is telling you they can help you “make 6-figs in your business in the next 14 days” is simply trying to sell you a load of hot-trash. Probably pricey hot-trash. Don’t buy expensive hot-trash, okay?)

Our goal with this article is to help you feel empowered with your business. We want you to feel less confusion and more clarity around exactly what you do, who you do it for, how you make money, and how you continue to grow a thriving business you enjoy.

Just to give you a bit more context, we’re a husband and wife team  👩🏻‍🦰👨🏻‍🦲 who have created multiple types of online businesses:

  • We have 30+ online courses under our belts
  • We’ve created multiple software (SaaS) products
  • I was a paid public speaker for a 5-year span
  • I’ve worked with over 2,000 paying sponsors
  • We’ve done client work (projects ranging from $50 up to $50,000)
  • We most recently run a membership/coaching program

We share that information with you so you know we aren’t regurgitating someone else’s knowledge in this article. The information you’ll read below is from our own learned experiences, hard work, mistakes, and successes along the way.

Preamble = ✅! Now let’s help you improve the five most important aspects of your online business.


 


Step #1 to Improving Your Online Business: Getting Clear on Your Foundation

5-Step Checklist - Step 1 Foundation

We’ve all been guilty of starting a business and diving straight into the deep end. We have a good idea, we see a need in the market, or we just want to dabble in a side project. Before we know it, we have a domain, a website, a logo, a product or service, a paying customer or two, and then we feel overwhelmed by our daily to-dos.

Most online business owners (us, included) rarely take the time to create a SOLID business foundation. We’re going to help you do that here in Step #1 with an exercise we like to call:

The 4Q’s Foundation of Online Business

Question 1 – WHO does your business specifically help?

“If you’re trying to make something for everyone, you end up making something for no one.”

“If you’re trying to make something for everyone, you end up making something for no one.”

Variations of that quote get passed around a ton in the online biz world because it’s true. The more generic and broad your audience is, the harder it is to attract your ideal customer and prove to them you and your business are the right fit for them.

Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the WHO question with a business “tagline”:

BAD TAGLINE – I design websites for businesses.

BETTER TAGLINE – I design websites for wellness businesses.

GREAT TAGLINE – I help yoga instructors by building beautiful websites that get them more paying customers.

The difference between the bad and good should be clear. Many online business owners don’t want to limit themselves to a smaller group of people (customers). But limitations when it comes to WHO you help are critically important.

Put yourself in the shoes (or yoga pants) of a yoga instructor who needs a new website for his/her business. Which “tagline” speaks more directly to you and your needs? Which of those taglines will make you go “oh man, that person is talking to me!”

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the WHO question by writing your own business “tagline” using the formula of: I help <specific customer type> <your product or service> that get them <benefit of your product or service>.

Question 2 – WHY does your business exist?

This is your mission statement. It’s an often glossed-over part of running an online business because you can get going so quickly that you pass right by it.

This is the deeper reason why you do what you do and why your business exists in the first place.

Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the WHY question:

BAD MISSION STATEMENT – I’m a web designer who likes designing Squarespace websites.

GOOD MISSION STATEMENT – I have experienced the healing power of yoga first-hand, which is why it’s my mission to help yoga instructors create thriving wellness businesses so more people can benefit from this transformative practice.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pumped to start my own design business that helps yoga instructors just after reading that GOOD mission statement. Pro-tip: A mission statement at the top of your business’s About Page is a great way to let your prospective customers know you’re the right fit for them.

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the WHY question by writing your own mission statement: My mission is to help <specific customer type> <outcome you want for them> because <reason this personally motivates you>.

Question 3 – WHAT benefit does your business provide?

We’ve touched on this slightly already with the WHO and the WHY, but let’s make sure you’re crystal clear with your WHAT. It’s not enough to simply say, “I create beautiful websites” (for our ongoing example). You need to speak to the outcomes your customer wants for their own life and business. How will your business make their life better?

Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the WHAT question with a benefit statement:

BAD BENEFIT STATEMENT – I’m a web designer who creates Squarespace sites for yoga instructors.

GOOD BENEFIT STATEMENT – By creating a beautiful and easy to navigate website, I help yoga instructors get more paying customers and create a stronger connection with their audience of students.

The key difference here is looking at your business from the perspective of your customer. Which person do you think a yoga instructor more wants to hire and give money to? The first example (BAD) or the second (GOOD) which speaks clearly to the outcome a yoga instructor wants?

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the WHAT question by writing your benefit statement: By <specific thing you do>, I help <specific customer type> get <outcome(s) your business helps them achieve>.

Question 4 – HOW does your business provide the benefit (your offerings)?

Now, we’re going to go way deeper on your specific product or service later on in Step #2, but for gaining more clarity and strengthening your business’s foundation, let’s make sure you can concisely explain your offering(s).

Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the HOW question:

BAD OFFERING DESCRIPTION – Website design.

GOOD OFFERING DESCRIPTION – I build beautiful and simple Squarespace websites through 3 design package tiers: A simple 1-page website starting at $500; a 5-page website starting at $1,500; and a 10+-page website starting at $2,500.

The important thing to note here is just to get clear and specific on what someone can buy from you or how they can hire you AND make the options well-defined to do so. Note: If you have a hard time being concise here, maybe that’s an indication that your customers are having a hard time understanding the complexity of what your business offers!

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the HOW question by describing your offerings. There isn’t a specific formula to share here but try to be concise if you offer more than one package or option.

Alrighty, that’ll wrap up Step #1! Once you finish answering the 4Qs you can put them together in a nice recap image or PDF (if you’re feeling fancy, obviously).

4Qs Foundation for Wandering Aimfully


 


Step #2 Fortify The Product or Service You’re Offering

5-Step Checklist - Step 2 Offering

Next, we’re going to talk about your product or service offering. We like to refer to that thing you’re trying to sell as your “castle.” Think of your castle existing on an island floating out in the middle of the ocean. Your job is to get people over on the “mainland” to know your castle exists and show them how to find your castle (and pay you!)

Your business is a castle on an island

Before you try to get people to buy from you, you need to ask yourself: is your “castle” solid?

You already defined what your offering is in the final Q of Step #1, so that should be clear as day. These next questions are really important to answer before you pour more effort into marketing and promoting what you sell:

  • Is your sales page clear and easy to read?
  • Are your buying options (tiers or various products) overwhelming?
  • Can YOU easily find the buy/pay button without much effort and complete the purchase process seamlessly?

Too often business owners create a services page or a sales page and because they’ve spent so much time working on it they don’t see the glaring issues with it. Once YOU feel your castle is in tip-top shape, it’s time to get a second opinion.

Send your services or sales page to a handful of potential customers or people in your industry and ask them for honest and direct feedback.

Put on your mental armor and lather up your thick skin (ew?), because the feedback you receive might sting a bit. That’s okay! You want people to point out any obvious issues with your services or sales page. You especially want this information before you invest valuable time and effort trying to get potential customers to buy from you.

🔥 HOT TIP  🔥 On average, 50% of your website traffic is going to come from a mobile device. Take a look at your services/sales page on a mobile device and ensure it’s in tip-top shape there too! It is easy to read? Is it formatted well? Is the mobile buying experience easy to use?

Don't send good traffic down a broken bridge

Think of the journey between the mainland and your castle like a broken bridge. If it’s not easy for someone to understand your services/sales page and to buy from you, you’re likely sending potential customers down a broken bridge to your castle!

Should you have multiple service/product pages or one page to rule them all?

Our vote, 99% of the time:

SEND YOUR USER TO ONE SERVICES/SALES PAGE TO RULE THEM ALL.

Why? You don’t want your potential customers to get fatigued as they click page after page around your site trying to find the service or product that fits their needs. You want to start by giving them a clear, concise overview of what you offer. THEN, if you need individual description pages to explain more about each option, you can do that, but at least you made the journey as easy as possible on your potential customer.

If you offer multiple packages or pricing options keep them together. We’ve all seen pricing boxes on websites and there’s a reason these are so common, they work!

What’s an effective sales page formula?

The formula we’ve come up with for creating great services or sales pages is called P.O.P.S.E.P.:

  • P: Problem – Clearly identify the problem your customer is having
  • O: Outcome – Describe the outcome you want them to have/feel
  • P: Product – Share how your product/service is the solution to the problem
  • S: Social Proof – Add testimonials and quotes from people you’ve helped
  • E: Examples – Show your portfolio pieces, product walkthroughs, etc
  • P: Purchase – Make the ability to purchase from you as seamless as possible*

*Additional note for the Purchase section: Whether you’re using multiple package boxes or not, don’t forget to remind someone why they are buying from you right next to the buy button. Reiterate the problem you are solving and the outcome you’ll deliver to your customer. 

Here’s a video lesson taken from a program we include in our Un-Boring Group Coaching Program where we go further in-depth about creating a great sales/services page:


 
We would highly recommend building your services or sales page using the P.O.P.S.E.P. formula. As a reminder, we’ve sold many products and services over the years and made good money doing it. We have the experience and the data to back us up.

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Go through your current services/sales page and apply the P.O.P.S.E.P. formula to it. Make sure your packages or buying options are easy to understand. Then, share this page with colleagues for feedback (and test everything on mobile!)


 


Step #3 Your Online Business Needs Promotion

5-Step Checklist - Step 3 Promotion

The foundation is set and your offering castle is now strong and just waiting for customers. But, how do they get to your castle? How does someone find out about your offering?

When it comes to promoting your online business, the strategy we often refer to is called “marketing bridges.”

What the heck is a “marketing bridge?” Simply put, a “marketing bridge” is what takes someone from a stranger to your business to a paying customer. It’s the journey they go on from discovering you exist to then paying you money. You have to build that bridge brick by brick to lead someone down the path to your castle.

Marketing bridges come in many different shapes and sizes for online businesses

Think of a marketing bridge as a journey to help guide your potential customer from the mainland to your castle. As much as we’d like to tell you that slapping a B.F.B.B. (Big Fat Buy Button) on your website’s homepage is enough, 99.9999% of the time it’s not.

Marketing bridge in action

A solid marketing bridge takes someone down a path:

  • It identifies a problem or a need a customer has
  • It delivers a solution or helpful content around solving the problem/need
  • It creates trust, authority, and credibility for you and your business
  • It offers a paid solution to the problem/need
  • If the customer isn’t ready to buy, it bridges them to an ongoing content strategy

What are some examples of marketing bridges for online businesses, you ask?

🕵🏻‍♀️ FURTHER READING 🕵🏻‍♂️ For the sake of keeping this article from becoming as long as a Harry Potter book, we’re not going to go into great detail on all 13 of our marketing bridge examples here because we do that in this article right here!

We’ve compiled a list of 13 marketing bridges we’ve used over the years. There are likely many more to choose from but we’re sharing our specific marketing experiences. Feel free to click any of them to read more about each:

We DO want to touch on two different marketing bridges in this article, so let’s look at an example for a service-based/freelancer business (like a web designer) and digital product business (like an online course creator).

Marketing Bridge Example for Freelancers: ☎️ The “Consultation” Bridge

Consultation Marketing Bridge

The concept: The “Consultation” marketing bridge is almost a must-have if you are a freelancer and are trying to get more clients. It can also work for digital product businesses that sell high-valued offerings too. Either way, the concept is that you hop on a 1-on-1 call with a prospective customer and discuss how your services (or products) can solve their problems.

How the “Consultation” marketing bridge works:

  1. You have traffic coming to your website →
  2. You have a contact form or calendar scheduler on your website →
  3. You have the 1-on-1 consultation call →
  4. You send follow-up pitch emails that sell your product/service →
  5. Your consultation call is the bridge and the pitch emails continue the journey to your castle!

Why this marketing bridge works: When you’re directly creating something custom for someone (ex: a Squarespace site for a yoga instructor) they want to know you are the right fit. This is where having the 4Qs answers (from Step #1) becomes incredibly helpful! This marketing bridge also works because it shows more effort than most people want to expend these days.

How to take this marketing bridge one step further: Want to add more pizzazz to this marketing bridge and potentially increase its effectiveness? Before having someone fill out a contact form or calendar scheduler, have them download a helpful PDF or have them opt-in to a short series of emails (two other types of marketing bridges). THEN offer the ability to do a consultation call with you, as this creates a more engaged and interested customer.

Our experience with this bridge: We haven’t worked as freelancers for many years but we have used consultation calls to sell digital products in the $1,000 – $2,000 range. When we used to offer client services, consultation calls were a critical part of the marketing process. The key with this marketing bridge is to have the consultation call sign-up process as efficient and straightforward as possible. And while the call itself is important, the follow-up pitch emails are where the final move across the marketing bridge and into your offering castle will happen!

Marketing Bridge Example for Online Course Creators: 📬 The “Email Course” Marketing Bridge

Free Email Course Marketing Bridge

The concept: The “Email Course” marketing bridge is simple in concept. You send a series of emails around your offering topic and you soft sell in those emails, along with emails at the end of the sequence that are a sales pitch. Free email courses can take a good amount of experimentation (read: trial and a good amount of error) to get it converting people to paying customers.

How the “Email Course” marketing bridge works:

  • You have traffic coming to your website →
  • You offer a free email course to teach someone how to solve a problem →
  • The email course gets sent out over a series of days →
  • The individual email course emails can pitch your offering →
  • You pitch your offering at the end of the email course →
  • (Additionally: The potential customer gets added to your email newsletter) →
  • Your email course is the bridge and your emails continue the journey to your castle!

Why this marketing bridge works: You probably aren’t a stranger to online courses but what most people don’t tell you is they can be hard to sell in the beginning (heck, even later on too!) The free email course marketing bridge works because it specifically shows HOW you teach and WHY you are the right person to learn from. If your potential customer gets a lot of value from the free email course, they’re extremely likely to buy your paid online course.

Our experience with this bridge: We absolutely love free email courses and think they are a solid way to build a lot of trust with your potential customers (from the mainland!) Over a few days you can help your potential customer solve problems around your email course topic and then show them how your offering speeds that process up or does some/all of the work for them. Email courses work well because they tend to be a great way to generate passive income (once you’ve tested out different emails, pitches, sales pages, etc).

👩🏻‍🦰 TRY US OUT  👨🏻‍🦲 If you want to sign up for one of our free email courses, check out Discover Your Differentiator, a free 7 lesson course designed to help you create more authentic branding by defining your Brand DNA, your ideal audience and your Brand Mission.

Marketing can feel like an overwhelming part of the online business process but it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve just given you a list of 13 different marketing ideas you can implement in your own business. There’s no guaranteed success with any of them but we have a sinking suspicion you haven’t tried 13 different marketing ideas in the past year.

Invest time each month in a new marketing tactic and see what bears the most fruit for you business!


 


Step #4 Creating a Content Marketing Plan and Growing Your Audience

5-Step Checklist - Step 4 Content Plan

Slow, steady, and imperfect wins the audience growth race.

Since 2014 we’ve used an incredibly simple content marketing plan that’s helped us build highly engaged audiences that purchase from us. That plan involves:

  1. Email List Building/Marketing
  2. Helpful Written Articles (like this one)
  3. Some Social Media

We 100% believe in the methodology of slow, steady, and imperfect wins the audience growth race.

Notice, we’re not saying “large” or “sizable” when describing our audience.

You might be shocked to learn that our email list has hovered around the 10,000 subscriber mark for years and our website traffic barely tips 50,000 visitors per month. But that amount of email subscribers and website traffic is enough to have us bring in (the coveted) multiple 6-figures* per year.

*Editor’s 👨🏻‍🦲note: Including this mention of our business income is not meant to brag or gloat. Unpopular opinion perhaps, but we don’t think you have to hit that coveted “6-fig” mark for your business to be deemed valuable or impressive. A successful business is one that makes enough money for you to do work you enjoy while living a satisfying life. We only share our results to reinforce that we’ve had financial success with very relatable and achievable audience numbers. We’re not JUST about money around here, but we acknowledge cash is oxygen for a business.

If you’re looking for a fast-track plan to skyrocket your audience growth overnight, you won’t find it here, friend. And honestly, unless you’re shelling out 💰💰💰on paid advertising (i.e. Facebook Ads), there is no overnight growth strategy other than sheer dumb luck.

Our (proven) content marketing plan to grow the RIGHT online business audience involves… salads. (Wait, WHAT?)

Because we love metaphors, we’re going to share our content marketing and audience growth strategy by talking about salads. Did we say, salads?? Yes, salads 🥗.

Creating Your Content Salad

Part 1 of the Content Salad: Foundation Articles

Foundation articles are the base of your content strategy, the lettuce of your salad. These are 8-10 searchable and helpful articles on your website that are related to your product/service topic. These articles help you build organic (search) traffic, attracting your ideal customer based on the problems they’re trying to solve.

Wandering Aimfully 2019 Traffic Breakdown

About 70% of our website traffic here at Wandering Aimfully comes from organic search. In 2019, that 70% number equated to over 340,000 people! Those people are searching for an answer to a problem (mostly in Google) and clicking on an article we’ve written to find the answer.

It’s important to note that we aren’t SEO experts, but we do consider ourselves good at writing imperfect articles that help people based on our experiences and knowledge. We employ a few basic SEO practices, but those can literally be summed up in a few bullet points:

  • Write an article on a specific topic around your product that helps your ideal audience.
  • In that article, choose the main keyword or phrase that someone would search to have your article come up as the search result.
  • Make sure your keyword/phrase is prominently featured in the articles headings (H1, H2, H3).
  • Continue to tweak and improve (aka optimize) your articles over time.
  • Share and promote your articles in places where your ideal audience hangs out.
  • Be patient. Getting organic search traffic can take as long as 12-18 months.

That’s it. That’s our SEO strategy and it’s one we’ve used for over 400+ articles since 2014. We even used it on this article.

🕵🏻‍♀️ FURTHER READING  🕵🏻‍♂️ If you want to read everything we know and have learned about SEO, we have just the article for you. We’ve never paid an SEO specialist. We’ve never taken an SEO course. We’ve simply learned the SEO basics and implemented them over the years which has led to organic traffic growth. You can do the same thing!

Now, let’s address a couple of common questions as it relates to writing foundation articles…

🤔 How long should my foundation articles be? As long as it takes to help the reader have their problem solved. Word count doesn’t matter as long as you write from your own experience and are helpful (plus, you can always update/optimize later!)

🤔 What if I hate sitting down to write articles? If you’re not good at “sitting in the chair” then pull up a Google Doc and use the dictation 🎙feature. Pretend you are speaking directly to a friend and trying to help them. Then, go through the dictation transcript and turn your recorded words into an article that can read by your target customer.

🤔 Should I just hire a writer to write for me? Maybe… If a writer you can hire has the experience related to your product topic, sure. But, you shouldn’t hire a random VA to compile an article based on other articles they find. You need to share your unique experience and lessons to truly stand out. You SHOULD hire a VA to help with copyediting and article structure if you feel lacking in those areas.

🤔 What if I already have a bunch of articles on my site, what should I do? Most likely, you need to do a content audit. Our latest content audit was in 2018 and we went from 400+ articles whittled down to ~120 articles. We wrote about our entire content audit experience here if you want to read more.

🤔 What platform will give me the BEST chance at ranking Google? WordPress? Squarespace? The platform DOES. NOT. MATTER. Let us repeat: The platform does not matter. What matters is writing helpful articles that solve a problem for your customer and following a simple SEO strategy like we’ve outlined above.

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Create a list of 8-10 foundational article topics and publish them! Don’t know what the heck to write about? Here are two tips for you: 1) Use the Google Search autofill technique. Whatever keyword or phrase encompasses what you sell/do, start typing that into Google Search and see what searches autofill – this is a great way to identify what things people are already searching for that you can write. 2) Fill in the sentence “I want to help you…” As it relates to what you do, write that sentence out 8-10 times based on how your product or service can help someone.

Part 2 of the Content Salad: Consistent Content Creation (Email, Podcast, Video, etc)

We call Part 2 the “fixins.” These are all the black olives, croutons, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, did we mention croutons yet?? Fixins are the ongoing serialized content you create to build trust and connection. They’re the pieces of content you publish consistently to build trust with your audience (or to attract new people!)

Content Strategy Fixins

Fixin Item  1️⃣  Email Newsletter (MOST IMPORTANT!)

Over 90% of our revenue is directly tied to our email newsletter.

This is priority #1 for us and has been for nearly a decade. Sending out consistent and helpful email newsletters may seem like a thing of the past but boy-oh-boy do we disagree. We generate over 90% of our revenue directly from our weekly email newsletter.

We strongly believe in consistent email newsletters because:

  • Email inbox algorithms don’t change like social media algorithms do. Plus, average email open rates are in the 20-30% range. Social media viewership is in the 3-5% range (if you’re lucky!)
  • Email newsletters don’t take a lot of technical know-how and some of our favorite email lists we subscribe to are simply people sharing their lives and experiences each week.
  • Email inboxes are still somewhat sacred places for people and can create a strong connection by delivering valuable or entertaining content on a weekly basis.

Sending out a weekly email newsletter is almost non-negotiable for us and has been for many years. Sure, we’ve missed a week here or there, but with only a few exceptions, we’ve been sending out Monday weekly emails for the better part of 7 years. Especially in the beginning, we tried to hit send on an email newsletter every week no matter what (plus, getting 3-4 weeks ahead of your writing schedule helps!)

Our email strategy is very simple: Be consistent. Be helpful. Be entertaining and fun where possible. Don’t be afraid to sell but don’t ONLY sell to people.

Fixin Item  2️⃣  Podcasting

It’s no secret that podcasts are continuing to grow in popularity. Where Serial paved the way for the masses to embrace podcasts, online business owners have been doing some form of podcasting for a long time.

Edison Research Podcast Growth Chart

Nowadays, it’s never been easier to spin up a podcast. The problem is, most people don’t follow a couple of simple rules when starting a podcast:

  1. It’s not about YOU: Your podcast needs to be about your customers and solving problems for them. Instead of creating a podcast called “The Jason Zook Show” create a podcast called “Building Your Yoga Business.” You can talk about your personal life and your experiences on a show that doesn’t have your name in the title but you want to really attract a listener based on the title and what they expect the podcast to do for them.
  2. Consistency, is again, key: If you only record 3 podcast episodes and then disappear for 6 months guess what happens? Everyone forgets your podcast exists. Try to make your podcast something easy to batch create (multiple episodes recorded at one time) and don’t overdo the production early on.
  3. Podcasts aren’t amazing for discoverability: Most online business podcasts are fueled by existing audiences (email lists, blog readers, social followers, etc). Sure, some folks see their podcasts gain a lot of organic traction but they are the exception, not the norm. Understand this fact and decide if podcasting is right for your current situation.

🕵🏻‍♀️ FURTHER READING  🕵🏻‍♂️ We put together a Starting A Podcast guide that walks through all the details of podcasting. It includes how to structure a good show, why or why not to interview guests, what gear to use, and a strategy for getting early traction in the New & Noteworthy section of Apple Podcasts.

Fixin Item  3️⃣  Video

Spoiler Alert: For most people, creating videos may simply be too overwhelming. The tech involved is tough. The awkwardness on camera is hard to get past. But, if you do want to dabble in creating videos we have some thoughts for you (I’ve personally created over 2,000 videos in my time, and no, that’s not a typo).

🎬 Be yourself. This may sound like extremely simple advice, but people can tell when watching videos if you’re trying to be the next Casey Neistat (or whoever is popular on YouTube these days). Sure, take a nod from the pros, but find your own voice and your own unique video style.

🎥Good lighting and good audio go a LONG way. Sure, having a compelling story arc and visually interesting footage in your video is helpful but if your lighting and your audio are crap, people are going to X out of your video faster than you can spell video. This doesn’t mean you need to buy the fanciest gear, it simply means you need to find a good source of natural light to sit in front of if you film yourself or your subject matter and you need a quality microphone (we recommend and use this ~$75 lav mic from RODE).

😬Embrace imperfection. My early videos are awwwwwful. Just terrible and hard to watch. Yours will be too! Everyone starts out crappy when it comes to video. Know this. Accept it. Hit record, edit, and publish. Then move on.

This fixin is probably the one that most people won’t dabble in and that’s okay. You need to pick the fixins that are right for you and ones you can consistently stick with!

How to create consistent content for online business

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Decide what fixins are right for you and your situation. Is it a weekly email newsletter and a bi-weekly podcast? Is it a weekly newsletter and a monthly video on YouTube? Or is it a combination of the three? We believe a consistent email newsletter is critical, but the other fixins are optional.

Part 3 of the Content Salad: The Dressing (Social Media)

A content strategy that starts with social media is like a building a salad by pouring dressing on the plate. You’d never put lettuce and fixins on TOP of dressing and try to eat it that way. You need the foundation of your salad first, THEN your fixins, THEN your dressing (social media) goes on top.

If you’re running an online business, where you sell a product or service, you’ve probably already created social media accounts. Heck, it was probably one of the first things you did and our assumption is that you probably spend time on social media each week without having a consistent email newsletter and foundation articles. That’s OKAY, but we want to remind you that you are trying to run a business, not just grow a social media following.

You can’t pay your rent/mortgage with a bunch of social media followers.

Using social media is a great way to grab attention where your audience is hanging out AND direct them back to your foundation content or to a marketing bridge.

We believe a few things about using social media:

  1. Reinforce your brand values/messaging: There’s a reason you follow the people you follow and it’s because they continually talk about something you enjoy or align with.
  2. Be useful (give people a reason to follow): Aim to solve problems, share ideas, or be a source of inspiration.
  3. Be a springboard to other content/marketing bridges: Use social content as a guidepost to your marketing and try to turn those fleeting viewers into email subscribers!
  4. Connect with your audience: Remember the “social” part of this. It’s not just about posting and being a one-way street of communication.

Social media is the dressing on your content marketing and audience growth salad. It’s definitely something that can make a salad taste WAYYY better but you have to get the other parts of the salad right first.

A couple of questions you may be thinking as it relates to using social media to grow your online business…

🤔 What social media sites should I be using? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest Snapchat, TikTok, the list goes on and on. The key answer here is: Where does your ideal audience spend their time AND where do you want to spend yours? Even if your audience is on Twitter, maybe you don’t like Twitter, then you shouldn’t use it. That’s like forcing yourself to eat a caesar salad when you hate… caesar salads. Pick the platform you can most enjoy and that your audience exists on.

🤔 How often should I post on social media? We’d vote for creating a posting schedule that you can stick with and that matches the platform’s natural ebb and flow. For Instagram, you don’t need to post every single day. For Twitter, posting every day makes more sense. We don’t use Facebook, so we’re no help there. Ideally, you’ll have some understanding of the platform and you can build a schedule for posting content that works for you.

🤔 What the heck content should I even be posting? Ahhh, this is a GREAT question but it’s also a tough one. We like to think of social media channels as a great way to disseminate micro-content from our weekly email newsletter, our foundation articles, and our marketing bridges. What tips, sentences, phrases, takeaways, key learnings, lessons, and stories stand out from the content you’re already creating? Use those as fodder for social media content and you should never run out of ideas!

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Give yourself permission to not be on ALL the social media channels. For us, we essentially only focus on Instagram. We like the experience, our ideal audience hangs out on IG, and that works for us. Pick the social channel that’s right for you and focus on being consistent and helpful.

Reminder: Every piece of content becomes part of your bigger plan to get people to find the product or service you sell

Remember who you are creating content for. While it may be fun for you to sit down and write a blog post about the gluten-free bread recipe you discovered last week, does that serve your ideal customer and their needs?

We’re not saying don’t have hobbies and don’t create content around your life. But as it relates to your business, follow the plan we’ve laid out here FIRST and then layer in additional content.

Your audience will grow the longer you show up for them consistently.

This is a fact. We’ve watched it happen for our businesses and our friends’ businesses around us. Sure, it may take a bit longer than you want to get consistent traffic and audience growth but this strategy works.


 


Step #5 Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Website

5-Step Checklist - Step 5 Evaluation

You may be utterly shocked that we haven’t talked about your website (with exception to your services/sales page) up until Step #5. There’s a reason for that. Most people START by creating their website but don’t have a solid foundation of the previous steps we’ve outlined to make their website actually work on their behalf.

Your online business’ website exists to help you hit your business goals. If it’s not helping you hit your goals, what’s the point in having it at all?

🔍 Website Home Page Evaluation: The Clarity Test

The big question you should be asking yourself is: How effective is my current home page at serving my business goals?

To answer this question, we’re going to bring our friend “4Qs” back around but adjust the questions slightly as it relates to evaluating the effectiveness of your current website’s homepage.

When a new visitor lands on your home page, they should be able to quickly answer these 4 key questions:

4 Questions Clarity Test for Website Home Page

Question 1 – What do you do?

At a quick glance at your home page, is it easy for someone to understand what the heck you do? A potential customer browsing your website’s home page should be able to put you in a mental bucket relatively easily.

One key mistake we see with people’s home pages is they use confusing phrases to describe what they do. We like to call describing what you do your two-word tango 💃. Let’s look at an example:

BAD TWO-WORD TANGO – Website Whisperer

GOOD TWO-WORD TANGO – Squarespace Designer

YOU may think saying something “Website Whisperer” is cute and adds personality, but your ideal customer may have no clue what that means. Can you use cute ways to describe what you do? YES… but only after it’s made very clear. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer who doesn’t know your world inside and out.

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Make sure you’re answering the question, what do you do? clearly on your home page using a two-word tango (pro-tip: it can be 2-4 words). Make your two-word tango extremely obvious to understand.

Question 2 – Are you for me?

When a potential customer lands on the home page of your website, the very top portion of your website should IMMEDIATELY answer the question they’re thinking: Are you for me?

Your potential customer should be able to recognize they are in the right place and that you can help solve their problems.

This question relates back to the WHO question from Step #1. We can reuse it here and this tagline should be at the top of your home page:

BAD TAGLINE – I design websites for businesses.

GOOD TAGLINE – I help yoga instructors build beautiful websites that get them more paying customers.

We’ve already explained why the GOOD example is better, but can you see how placing this at the top of your website will also help your customers know that you are the right fit for them?

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Are you currently answering the question, are you for me? at the very top of your website’s home page? Make sure your audience is clear and obvious!

Question 3 – How can you help me?

The outcome you can deliver to your potential client/customer should also be front and center on your home page. In an ideal world, you are answering this question in the same sentence as the are you for me? question.

Avoid using vague phrases that don’t mean anything. Things like:

  • ❌I’ll help you grow your brand
  • ❌I’ll help you market yourself better
  • ❌I’ll help you work smarter

Instead, write the extremely specific outcomes you can help them achieve:

  • ✅I’ll help you book more yoga students by designing a cohesive brand presence
  • ✅I’ll help you create email marketing and text message marketing strategies to convert and engage customers
  • ✅I’ll help you double your client bookings

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Avoid vague outcome statements and be as clear and specific as you can so that your potential client/customer knows you are going to help them!

Question 4 – What is my next step?

It should be painfully obvious what you want your potential customer to do on the home page of your website. Think of this as highlighting your marketing bridge (from Step #3!)

The call-to-action you want someone to take shouldn’t be hidden or stuffed down at the bottom of your home page, and it might even need to be repeated on the home page depending on the length of it.

You may have seen on our home page there’s only ONE button you click on the entire page:

Wandering Aimfully Business Quiz

We did some testing in 2019 with a longer home page and a shorter home page. We found the shorter home page led to a drastically higher conversion to getting people into our marketing bridge (a free quiz). Don’t be afraid to test your assumptions about shorter or longer home page designs and let the data tell you what works best!

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ What is the ONE ACTION (marketing bridge) someone should be taking on your home page? Do not overwhelm people with multiple actions if at all possible.

🔺 Website Home Page Evaluation: Site Objectives Pyramid

Website Home Page Objectives

Online business websites should follow a straightforward 3-objectives approach that involves primary, secondary, and tertiary objectives.

Important note about your primary business objective: You must CHOOSE HARD. Pick a primary audience. Focus on one product or service. (You’re likely already doing this because you’ve done everything in Steps #1 and #2, right??)

As shown in the image above, we believe your objectives should be as follows:

  1. Primary Website Objective: SALES
  2. ⬆️Secondary Website Objective: LEADS
  3. ⏫Tertiary Website Objective: TRUST/AUTHORITY

Site Objectives Pyramid Example: Wandering Aimfully 👩🏻‍🦰👨🏻‍🦲

We’re going to reverse the order of listing out our 3 objectives so you can see how they lead into one another…

Tertiary Objective (TRUST/AUTHORTY): We share helpful content (articles/podcast) to build authority. We embrace our personality/uniqueness to build trust.

When people find our home page, if we’ve done our job with our Tertiary Objective, it ushers them into…

Secondary Objective (LEADS): Enter your email for our Free Business Blindspot Quiz marketing bridge. 

If our website 4Qs have spoken to our ideal person, they get into our marketing bridge, and then…

Primary Objective (SALES): Buy our Un-Boring Group Coaching Program!

BOOM! Our website goal has been met if all goes to plan!

Wandering Aimfully Website Home Page Objectives

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Write out your 3 site objectives as we’ve shown for our own biz. By putting them in order of tertiary → secondary → primary, are you able to see how your website’s home page can more effectively help you reach your goals?

🧙‍♂️ Website Home Page Evaluation: APSOSA Framework

If you are utterly confused about exactly what you should put on your website’s home page, we have a framework for you! We call this the APSOSA Framework and it’s led by our wizarding friend, Webineezer!

Home Page Framework APSOSA

A) Audience

You want to be able to identify who you’re talking to and they need to immediately recognize themselves in your copy of your home page.

P) Problem

Speak to the problem that your audience currently has. Remind them what they’re struggling with.

S) Solution/Offering

This is where you tell them the solution to their problem, but you position YOUR offering as that solution.

O) Outcome

This is where you describe how their life will be better on the other side of buying from you/working with you. Paint a picture of the future they could have.

S) Sauce

This is how you stand out from the sea of other websites they’ll check out that same day. How can you be memorable? How can you add your authenticity?

A) Action

Make it clear what the MOST important action you want them to take is. Be clear about what’s waiting for them on the other side and make it compelling.

If your website’s home page only does those six things, you will hit your website objectives. In fact, we’d say your home page shouldn’t do much more than those six things because anything else probably belongs on other pages of your site (About Page, etc).

🕵🏻‍♀️ FURTHER READING  🕵🏻‍♂️ It probably won’t surprise you at this point to know we have an entire additional article that dives deeper into applying our APSOSA Framework to your website’s home page. That article includes a walkthrough video where we redesign one of our coaching member’s home page using APSOSA.

⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Apply the APSOSA Framework to your current home page. Does it meet the six requirements? If you’re not sure, send your home page to a colleague or ideal customer and ask them if it meets the six criteria.


 


The Wrap-Up Dance: You now know the 5-step checklist to improve every aspect of your online business

You made it through all five critical steps of fortifying your online business! We know this has given you a LOT to think about. But we also hope that by putting all of these crucial components together in one epic post, you have a central location that acts as a roadmap for how to improve every single aspect of your business.

We guarantee if you go through each of these important aspects and take the action steps we listed out for you, you WILL see an improvement in subscribers, and ultimately, customers.

We know it’s not the “silver bullet” that other entrepreneurs might promise you, but remember…you don’t want to buy expensive hot-trash. 😉

Focus on the foundation, take it one step at a time, and watch your business grow. Now, before you click away, remember not to commit a business FOPAW 😜(get it?? it’s the phrase “faux pas” but in the acronym of the 5 steps?? you get it.):

  • Get clear on the Foundation of your business
  • Fortify the product or Offering you sell
  • Build an ongoing Promotion plan to get customers
  • Create content and grow your Audience
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your Website

Online Business Checklist

The 3 Myths of Passive Income You Should Avoid

January 30, 2019

Have you felt overworked and wishing you could generate that elusive thing called passive income?

Well, friend, you’re not alone. We’ve spent the better part of a decade trying to master generating revenue while we sleep and we’re here to tell you it’s not as simple as some folks may lead you to believe (#spoileralert #realtalk).

With our disclaimer out of the way, we do want to let you know that it is absolutely possible to make some extra side income so you can feel a bit more financially stable. 

We’re going to talk specifically about three myths when it comes to creating passive income with digital products. Ready to rock? Let’s do this!

(Ps. You can watch this post in video form here:)

Passive Income Worksheet

We know it’s unconventional, but we’re happy to give away some of our resources without making you give us your email address first. That said, if you DO find this article and this worksheet helpful, sign up for our newsletter where we share worksheets like this every Monday.

 
 


Passive Income Myth #1

You can create a passive income business without building an audience

Other people make it sound easy right? Build a digital product, spin up a sales page, go to sleep and wake up every morning with more money in your bank account. The issue is that most of us have tried this and it hasn’t worked.

Passive income only works when you have a steady stream of qualified traffic finding out about your product.

In today’s crowded digital landscape, potential customers need to hear from you multiple times and learn to trust your expertise over time. This means you’ll need to capture their attention and communicate with them on an ongoing basis if you want to sell to them, and that means building an audience.

By the way, when we say build an audience, we don’t just mean on social media. Social channels are where most people consume passively — they scroll or read for a moment and then it’s on to the next thing. It’s a great place for awareness or reminders, but not necessarily sales.

Instead, you want an engaged email list providing consistent, helpful content tailored to your target audience.

Attract them by delivering value, and continue to deliver that value to build trust, or else your “passive” product will remain the best-kept secret on the internet, and secrets don’t add up to revenue.

RELATED GUIDE: The Ethical Guide To Building An Email List Without Sleazy Tactics

 


Passive Income Myth #2:

Passive income is ‘set it and forget it’…and it will last forever.

Most people assume that if they can just get the right funnel with the right price point and the right strategy that sales will roll in and never dry up.

The truth is, things are always changing in online business. Ad prices, media habits, competitors…it’s always shifting.

That’s why you need a clear plan for tracking your product performance and evaluating your marketing efforts on a regular basis.

You can set it and forget it for a WHILE, but eventually, something will change and you’ll have to tweak things and test them in order to respond.

The biggest thing to realize here is that passive income isn’t the savior of your business—the thing you set up one time and spend the rest of your time counting your money. You have to continuously test, tweak and evolve if you want to keep those sales coming.

 


Passive Income Myth #3:

You can create passive income products about anything, even something you don’t have direct experience in.

In the “passive income” world, we often see people trying to jump on a trend or topic that there’s demand for. They’ll try to teach you how to be more effective on Instagram, for example, without themselves having figured out how to be effective on Instagram.

This is something our friend Paul Jarvis calls teaching “second-hand knowledge” and it could work, but customers aren’t as easily fooled as marketers want to believe.

We believe the best digital product ideas are the ones that stem from your authentic experience.

Make sure your product is on a topic you know intimately, with processes and information you’ve picked up and practiced over time, and add your own unique personal spin to it.

 


If you’re looking for a step-by-step program to help you launch digital products and potentially create passive income products, you might want to check out our program, Build Without Burnout Academy.

This is a six-month guided program teaching client-based business owners how to transition to digital products, without losing your sanity in the process. Get weekly course videos, monthly calls for accountability and support, plus get access to the rest of our courses and Slack community inside our Wandering Aimfully Membership.

 
 


How To Actually Create Passive Income:

Let’s recap what it really takes to build up a passive income source

#1 Make sure you have a good email list to create passive income

Your email list needs to deliver consistent, helpful information about your product topic. Don’t send out a bunch of fluff email content. Don’t list of a bunch of links unrelated to what you are trying to sell. Be direct. Be helpful. Be consistent.

#2 Re-evaluate your passive income funnel every 3 months

Use an experimenter’s mindset to figure out what works and what doesn’t to build up passive income. Remember: There is no set it and forget it. You need to set things, check on them, tweak them, and not forget about them.

RELATED ARTICLE: Challenge All of the Assumptions, Especially Your Self-Limiting Ones

#3 Create a passive income digital product you have direct experience with

Create a product around something you have hands-on knowledge of and can speak confidently about. You want to make sure to teach in your own unique way and with your own twists. Don’t try to sell secondhand knowledge.

Last but not least when it comes to passive income…

You can’t just create a product and put up a sales page expecting it to bring in real revenue for you overnight. Like anything else in your business, it takes time and effort and passive income is not the silver bullet everyone wants it to be.

The sooner you let go of the desire for it to solve all your financial difficulties, the sooner you can get to work making REAL product income that can positively impact your life.

018 – The Things We Wish We’d Known When We Started Our Businesses

January 7, 2019


Don’t Need Video? Listen Now


Episode Summary

Whether you’re starting a business or you’ve been on your own entrepreneurial journal for over a decade like we have, we’ve got some lessons learned and tips for you in this episode!

When was the last time you set out to plant seeds for your business? No, not actual seeds, but tasks and to-do items that may not bear fruit for many months? This can seem difficult if you’re trying hard to generate revenue right now, but it’s an important way to shift your thinking to play the long-game with your biz.

We also discuss how to use an “experimenter’s mindset” with your business and practical next steps. So much of our positive progress and growth has come from putting our ideas and assumptions to the test (and not counting ideas out before giving them a chance!)

And we chat about comparison traps, dealing with feelings of overwhelm, and focusing on taking imperfect action. Lots of goodies for you this week!

QUESTION FOR YOU: What seeds are you planting for your business this year? (Feel free to comment with your answer on YouTube).


Episode “Sponsor”
Wandering Aimfully Memberships

Our show will remain sponsor/ad-free and you can support us by becoming a Wandering Aimfully Member. Our monthly membership program offers our brand new program Build Without Burnout as well as “The Vault” (all the courses, workshops, and software you’ll need to run your online business) and you get access to an amazing community of creative small business owners to help inspire, motivate and support you. Learn more about our membership here.

Watch Us Build Our Next Business, Wandering Aimfully, In Real-Time

March 26, 2018

You’re looking at the BRAND NEW Wandering Aimfully website! YAY! We’ll update this post in a few weeks and you can still read our under construction articles here.

This is no small feat for us. I’ve been hinting at this project here and there, including a mention in my State of the Union at the beginning of this year. This is the business baby my wife and I are having together (sorry folks, human babies are a bit further down the line).

Don’t need to read anymore? Want to check this new biz out?

Note: This post will be updated weekly, so feel free to check back for updates in the “WEEKS” section below.

What is Wandering Aimfully?

JasonDoesStuff (and The Action Army), Made Vibrant (my wife’s biz), and BuyOurFuture are turning into: Wandering Aimfully

The journey to combine our three business ventures into one has officially started. And of course, we’re being complete weirdos and sharing EVERY DETAIL. If you want to get daily emails and see all the nitty-gritty details we’ll be undertaking, you can click here to get daily updates.

You may be wondering why I’m making a big deal about this transition. Isn’t it easy to spin up an online business?

  • You buy a domain
  • You create a biz plan (of sorts)
  • You build a brand and website
  • You create some (meaningful) content to attract customers
  • You promote your biz in some way
  • People pay you
  • Boom – you’re in business!

Now we all know there’s a bit more that goes into creating an online business, but it gets even more complicated when you’re taking multiple existing biz properties and joining them together.

That’s why we’re going to share all the details on our Under Construction Wandering Aimfully website.

 
Here’s a bit more of exactly what we’re going to be doing and sharing (I’ll be updating this weekly):

WEEK #1 : BRANDING

We have a business name, Wandering Aimfully, but what the heck does it mean? What does it do? Who does it serve? What does it look like? All those questions and much more were be answered.

WEEK #2: THE BUSINESS

We aren’t writing a business plan in the conventional sense, but we are planning out the business. What are we selling? How much will we charge? What happens to existing customers? How are we working together as a husband and wife team? Read more here.

WEEK #3: WEBSITE

We’ll have a standard consumer-facing website, like anyone else (with an about page, blog articles, etc), but we’re also building a kickass customer experience like no-other. We definitely didn’t finish all the designs by the end of this week, but we made huge progress.

WEEK #4: CONTENT STRATEGY

Articles? Social media? YouTube videos? A podcast? Where does it all fit in? What happens to all our existing content? Read about our intentional approach to creating meaningful content (and not being on ALL the social media sites).

WEEK #5: MARKETING 

We’re using an open and closed launch strategy to sell our monthly memberships. But, we also decided to take pre-orders. Get caught up on that.

WEEK #6: WE TOOK A BREAK 

While we took a break to go on family vacation, our developers didn’t. They were hard work turning our designs into a reality. When we got back into word mode, we shared some of the biggest challenges we’re facing.

WEEK #7: ODDS AND ENDS + CONTENT 

This week was the start of migrating our content from JasonDoesStuff, Made Vibrant, and BuyOurFuture into our new Wandering Aimfully WordPress site. I say “the start” because we didn’t get very far.

WEEK #8 – WEEK #???: CURRENT WEEK… 

We have some updating to do… hah.


This will be no small undertaking. In fact, we’ve already been working on it, planning, and ideating for months. But we want to pull back all the curtains and share as much as our sanity will allow.

The under construction site for Wandering Aimfully won’t have much to it the first few days, but very quickly it’s going to fill up with daily posts, weekly videos (sometimes with completely unedited planning meetings we’ve had), and hopefully a bunch of fun peppered in!

 


JasonDoesStuff and The Action Army will cease to exist after this change… and that’s scary.

The good thing is, I won’t be changing at all. Hah. My action-taking focused content will continue with Wandering Aimfully, but this site and my weekly email newsletter will go away completely (ahhhhh!). We worked that out and talked more about it in Week #4!

If you’re an Action Army email subscriber, here’s what you can expect to get in your inbox the next few weeks:

  • What’s gone well for us?
  • What’s gone wrong?
  • How are we staying sane during this process?
  • Do we have any semblance of a life? (spoiler alert: you bet we will!)
  • What are our goals and aspirations?
  • How can you be part of the journey?

The fun thing, and what I’m really excited about, is that Wandering Aimfully means so much more than “JasonDoesStuff” ever did.

There’s so much more value I hope to bring to your life and business as we move forward on this adventure.

I can guarantee we’ll mess a few things up along the way, but I’m hopeful you’ll enjoy seeing how we deal with those inevitable bumps in the road.

Specialist vs Generalist in Business, Here’s How To Decide

August 30, 2017

If you’re struggling with the idea of being a specialist vs generalist, especially if you are just starting a business, you are not alone!

One of the toughest questions I’ve wrestled with during my time as an entrepreneur is: should I be a specialist and focus on ONE thing, or be a generalist and explore multiple interests? 

You may be struggling with the same question. Trying to figure out what your “niche” is, or whether you’re better suited to working on lots of different things.

I believe I’ve found the answer to this question, and it has to do with money. That precious thing that gives our businesses oxygen. That commodity required to feel a sense of freedom in our lives. Good or bad, money makes the world go round, and it’s the simplest answer to the specialist vs generalist question I’ve discovered.

Important Note: When we, at Wandering Aimfully, talk about money we talk about making ENOUGH money for YOUR specific life situation. Not some arbitrary amount of money, but what you define as the amount you need.

 


Specialist vs Generalist? Here’s how to decide…

Do you need money in the next 90 days? You should be a specialist and focus on one thing.

If your goal is to make money and be profitable as quickly as possible, specializing is the absolute best option. Pick one thing to focus on. Solve a very specific problem for someone (or yourself). This will help you build a business quickly and efficiently.

Remember one important thing about building and running a business: A business is the exchange of goods or services for money.

There must be something you are giving someone in exchange for money to qualify as a business and to have any chance of sustainability.

What are some types of specialist businesses that you can focus on and generate money quickly?

Within the next few days/weeks, you can make money…

1. Selling your time (aka freelance design, development, photography, videography, etc)
2. As a 1-on-1 consultant or coach

Within the next 90 days, you can make money…

3. Building a software application (also known as SaaS)
4. Creating a mobile app
5. Offering in-depth educational content (online courses, workshops, etc)

Those lists could go on and on, but the key here is to keep things simple and focused. The simpler you keep things, especially in the early stages of business, the easier your life will be and the quicker you’ll make money.

Specializing gives you a clear path to hone a specific skill. Some folks call this your “zone of genius.” Be bullish on mastering that zone. Don’t let anything distract you.

Specialist Example: Let’s say you want to be a freelance photographer.

Step 1 (First Day) – Buy the best camera and lens(es) you can afford. If you have no budget for new gear, use what you have (an old camera gathering dust in the drawer, your dad’s camera, or even your phone camera), and move to Step 2.

Step 2 (First Week) – Give yourself one week to consume as much knowledge about your camera and the craft of photography as you can. Watch YouTube videos. Read in-depth articles about composition. Take an online course about running a freelance photography business. Be a sponge. But finish being a sponge after the first week.

Step 3 (First Month) – Use the hell out of your camera for one month. Shoot every event and situation you can. Take 500-1,000 photos per day. Delete them all. Shoot. Delete. Shoot. Delete. Build up your resistance to taking the perfect photo, and just learn your gear and hone your photography skills.

Step 4 (Second Month) – Spend one month doing unpaid photography work for friends. Headshots. Weddings (even if they have a “professional” photographer, ask to tag along). Corporate shoots. This could be done in conjunction with Step 3.

Step 5 (Second Month) – Build a super simple website. I’d recommend using a template from Squarespace. Give yourself one weekend to put your site together. On the homepage of the website highlight the type of photography you want to focus on (weddings, corporate, etc). Showcase your work based on that focus*. Give someone a way to pay you for an hour of photography (or at least contact you for bookings. Gumroad.com is a great option). Make a list of 25-50 friends, and email them your photography website. Ask them to share it with anyone they know who might need your services.

*Remember: We’re specializing here so we can get to money-making as quickly as possible.

Step 6 (Third Month+) – Search local event guides, reach out to small businesses, or scour craigslist for happenings in your city that might require an official photographer. Call the decision makers and pitch yourself and your services. Keep shooting. Keep getting better. Keep trying to find your unique photography style. Kick serious ass and over deliver so that these local event folks want to share you with their friends.

I guarantee if you followed those six steps you would build a profitable photography business in just three months. Sure, you may only be making $500-$1000 in your first month, but that’s more than $0. And once you start making money and landing clients, more opportunities will come your way.

If making money immediately isn’t an immediate priority, become a generalist without a niche.

In 2013 I set out to reinvent myself and my business. I gave myself a two-year window to be a generalist and consistently experiment. In those two years, I had a very broad focus (and still do!). By being willing to create all kinds of things, and in my own way, doors opened.

Sometimes the door of your business is barely cracked. Sometimes the door of your business is wide open. But either way, the door isn’t shut!

Being a generalist and not having a singular focus will lead you down many paths. 90% of those paths help you learn what you don’t want to do.

It’s often more important, in the long run of running and owning a business, to figure out all the things you don’t want to do be doing.

You don’t learn and grow from success. Where the learning and true growth happens is when you screw up and when things go bad.

What are some pursuits that are more generalist?

  • Start a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or newsletter to explore and share your interests publicly. Invite all your family and friends personally to subscribe, share, and follow along. Commit to these for at least six months to give them a chance to succeed.
  • Conduct a 30-day experiment and record your experiences in real time on your site, Medium, etc. Do multiple experiments and continue to share them.
  • Write up a bucket list for the next year, and commit to doing one or two things on that list every week. (Obviously, this list will have to be more practical than outlandish, but you know what I mean.)
  • Learn six new skills in the next year. Use a service like Treehouse to learn something in a month, then apply that learning by using that skill for a month. Rinse and repeat five times. Do any of your new skills stand out as something you should continue doing?
  • Become an apprentice to people/companies you admire. Pick 3-4 companies and offer your effort to them for free for 30-60 day periods of time. Soak up all the experience you can, especially if you can work in-person. (Tip: The quickest way to get these folks to say “yes” to you is to give them a plan of exactly what you can/could do to help them and how you’ll provide value.)

Just like the specialist lists above, this one could go on, but the secret to success here is to avoid becoming too narrowly focused. Don’t get too specific about what you’re doing or where you’re going. Stay open to possibilities, take care to notice the doors that open as you do so, and decide on the fly whether to walk through them.

Being a generalist keeps your options open and lets you develop some competency in a variety of skills. You’ll harness distractions as opportunities to discover and pursue something cool.

In summary when it comes to the idea of Specialist vs Generalist…

I’m not advocating that you become either a generalist or a specialist. That choice is up to you, but I think the question of when you need money helps to make the decision simpler.

Need money now? Specialize. Pick one skill and GO.

Have time? Generalize. Enjoy the ride and soak up all the experiences.

How To Start A Creative Business: Focus on the Foundation First

June 5, 2017

I started my first blog back in 2011.

May 18, 2011 to be exact. How do I know this? Well my first post still exists. You can read it here. (But not yet! You have a whole email to get through first before I lose you to the time machine/rabbit hole known as the internet. SO keep reading then you can satisfy your curiosity by seeing what the 2011 version of me found so interesting to write about…)

Back when I started this first blog, I had just ONE intention: get the thoughts and ideas swirling in my head out and “on paper.” I felt like I had things to say and every day that went by without saying them felt like a waste of creative potential.

My own self-doubt was my greatest challenge, so just hitting ‘publish’ on a post was a HUGE win for me. The more posts I published, the less fearful I felt. The more confidence I gained.

Once I got a handle on my doubt and cultivated the self-discipline to sit down and actually write, my One Intention evolved.

I actually want people to read this, I thought. So I shared links to my blog posts on Facebook with my friends. And on Twitter with people following me. And people started to read my posts and share them. I started to build a tiny audience of people who cared about what I was making and what I had to say.

For the next three years, it didn’t even occur to me to try and turn this creative outlet into a business. I let pure passion and curiosity direct my time and attention. I taught myself design and Photoshop. I honed my voice and my writing skills. I learned how to stick to a content schedule and to get over my perfectionism. I figured out what I believed in. 

All of these things turned out to be essential in building a strong foundation for the creative business that would evolve from it all by 2014 when Made Vibrant was born. That’s when my One Intention became finding a way to turn my creative expression into something of value for others, something my small audience of people might pay me for.

Now… why am I sharing all of this with you and taking you down Made Vibrant Memory Lane?

It’s actually to illustrate a point that I think could help SO many of you out there, especially those of you still searching for a way to turn your skills and passions into a business. It starts with this advice:

Focus on trying to walk before you try to run.

I know you’re probably searching for the blog posts or the online programs or courses that are going to give you that one magical shortcut — the thing that is going to take you from no audience to a paying audience like yesterday. And it’s only natural for you to want that, especially with how many more resources there are now online about how to start your business.

Trust me when I say this, though:

Searching for a shortcut is actually just distracting you from the one tactic guaranteed to be effective: putting in the TIME. 

“Searching for a shortcut is actually just distracting you from the one tactic guaranteed to be effective: putting in the TIME.”

Every day and month and, yes, YEAR that goes by while you try to plan out the perfect strategy, that is all time that you could have spent actually making something, which is the foundation for any profitable creative business. Time you could have spent honing your voice and your skills. Time spent figuring out what YOU believe in.

It’s all too tempting to focus on the big, complex, well-oiled machine thing right out of the gate. You want the polished brand, the booming blog, the online products bringing you passive income, the adoring audience with thumbs and hearts and comments at the ready, the segmented content based on interests, the podcast interview requests, the book deal and the sponsored travel.

If this is what you’re chasing down though, it’s likely that you’re going to find yourself with a lot of half-baked ideas, more spinning plates than you can handle, and a lot of unmet expectations.

Instead, I recommend doing what my 2011-self did. Begin with ONE intention: to get your ideas out of your head.

Hone your message. Develop your confidence. Figure out what you want to say. Better yet, figure out HOW you want to say it by going within to understand who you are and what makes your perspective on the world one-of-a-kind.

To put it simply: focus on the foundation first.

All big, beautiful trees must begin with a seed, right? This seed may be a simple beginning, but it is powerful with potential. From it, a network of strong and sturdy roots begins to spread, creating a foundation that will support whatever complex growth this tree might undergo in the future.


What I would do if I was starting a creative business right now from scratch

If I was starting my business over from the beginning, here’s how I would start simple and layer in the complexity as I grew.

1. Begin by making things FOR YOURSELF.

Practice getting those ideas out of your head and into reality. What is your craft? How can you improve it and develop your own unique recognizable style or approach to what you do? Do you enjoy what you do? Would you still do it if no one ever paid you for it? There isn’t a shortcut to making things, so start TODAY. Quit strategizing and start making.

2. Share your work (consistently).

Once you know your intention is pure and your craft is somewhat focused, you’re in the best place to connect with an audience. However, you can’t build an audience of people who value what you do if they can’t see what you do. Create a portfolio. Share your writing. Post your artwork. Take on pro bono work. Whatever you need to do to make your work visible, do that. Stay connected to your audience with a newsletter or through email correspondence — social media changes all the time but email is still the best way to maintain a line of communication with your audience that you control.

3. Identify ways to package your skills.

AFTER you’ve spent time building an audience and you know you have something that connects, consider ways that someone could pay you in exchange for your skills, services or work. Then… ask. Avoid making assumptions about what people will or won’t pay for. Instead, test those assumptions by making the ask and learning from the results.

4. Evolve, evolve, and evolve some more.

It’s entirely possible that you’ll go through several ideas — some winners, some losers — while you figure out a business offering that connects with your audience AND makes you sustainable income. That’s okay. That is the core challenge of being a creative entrepreneur. If you can’t find a way to enjoy that process of trial and error, well it’s possible that owning your own business may not be the right path for you.

5. Optimize your processes and deepen the connection with your audience.

Many people make the mistake of trying to over-optimize before they have any sustainable revenue streams, and this is what leaves them completely overwhelmed and exhausted. (I’ve been guilty of this myself.) It’s probably not all that helpful to distract yourself with automation and list segmenting and marketing to new audiences if you don’t even have a product or service offering that is working yet. Remember, focus on the foundation BEFORE you add unnecessary complexity to your business. That is the key to not completely burning out before you land on something that works.

I know we all want to skip ahead to “the good part.” The part where it’s all working smoothly, we’re making a sustainable living, and we get to spend our days creating and doing what we love.

But trust me, for the sake of your creativity and your sanity, begin with the roots and THEN branch out as you go, when it makes sense. 

If you give yourself permission to block out the branches for now, to focus on the foundation—planting the seed or strengthening the roots—you may finally get that “shortcut” you’ve been hunting for in the form of some good old-fashioned hard work.

The Difference Between Getting Paid and Making Money

January 29, 2017

I’d made well over $13 before 2008. In fact, I had a perfectly acceptable 9-5 job that paid me thousands of dollars per month (as many of you reading this probably do). But on one morning in 2008, I made $13 and for the first time in my life experienced making money completely on my own. Someone random on the Internet paid me money for an idea I had.

I’d made every single dollar, until 2008, in “normal” ways. I did chores as a kid and had an allowance (it was measly, but aren’t all allowances supposed to be that way?). I had a handful of “normal” jobs growing up:

  • I mowed lawns as an angsty teenager.
  • I worked at a “health-food grocery store” as a produce boy, and sometimes register boy when they weren’t afraid that a 15-year old kid would pocket money from the cash machine (quick aside for the younger readers: Cash was this thing we used to carry around in our pockets. It was like paper, but it had weird, made-up value. Oh, you know what cash is? Great, we’ll carry on!).
  • I sold pagers at a Verizon store.
  • I pumped gasoline at a gas station.
  • I worked as a summer camp counselor.
  • I had a whole bunch of part-time design jobs.

I share all of these jobs with you to point out that it was always a standard payment for services rendered. Normal jobs, if you will.

My first taste of entrepreneurial money

In 2008, I got my first taste of entrepreneurial money. That sweet, sweet nectar that I became addicted to and would continue to chase (and still do, but in a healthy way). My IWearYourShirt business had just launched to crickets (and they didn’t have money, those cheap-insect-jerks), and I started emailing friends and family to share my website with them. This was both in a moment of panic, but also because I had a thought: “If I don’t tell people about this idea, how in the world do I expect them to find it?”

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. If you’re proud of what you’ve created, share it!

Those few emails to friends and family weren’t sales pitches. They were just friendly hellos, accompanied by a request to check out or share this crazy t-shirt wearing scheme (err, business) I had come up with. Unbeknownst to me, a few of the email recipients took pity on me and deposited money into my PayPal account via the fancy buttons on the website link I’d sent them.

Brace yourself: After the first day of sending emails, I’d made $13.

I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor. Are you okay? You are? Great. Things get a little bit more exciting from here.

In the coming weeks after sending those first emails, the money-making part of IWearYourShirt started to gain some traction.

That $13 increased to $500. Then $1,000. Then, after two and a half months of emails and tweets, I was looking at a PayPal balance containing over $6,000.

 


The Difference Between Making Money And Getting Paid

I’m going to steal this wonderful sentiment from my wife, Caroline. Mostly because she’s the better writer of the two of us, and because… joint household (see, babe? If I win, we both win!)

Anyone can get paid. Anyone can get a job. Anyone can exchange time for money. But it’s another ball of wax (why is it a ball of wax? who even has ever owned a ball of wax?) to make money.

When my IWearYourShirt business started making money, I noticed a shift in my thinking. Sure, I’d read about and seen other people who were making money from their ideas, but I had never done it. I had never had that experience.

That first $13 was like seeing the light. It opened my eyes to this idea that you literally can do anything and make money from it.

If getting paid to wear t-shirts isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what is. The feeling you get when someone gives you money for your thoughts is unlike any other. Many successful people, or at least experienced entrepreneurs, will tell you that the money itself pales in comparison to the transaction that happens. Someone is essentially voting for you, saying YES to you, with their dollars. If you haven’t felt this feeling before, I will warn you: Once you feel it, you won’t want to stop feeling it.

You don’t get what you don’t ask for

This little eight-word phrase has become a mantra for me. It works well in life, but it works especially well in business. Any time I have an idea and self-doubt starts to creep in, I simply combat that self-doubt with the broadsword of asking. It’s not a physical broadsword, although that would be really cool. But it is a metaphorical-weapon I keep in my arsenal.

Self-doubt will say, “You’re an idiot! no one will pay for this! Hahahahaha, you’re also ugly!”
(We all know self-doubt is also a name-calling a-hole.)

My broadsword of asking will reply, “You may be right, self-doubt, but we won’t know until we ask, right?”

Then self-doubt retorts, “You’re still ugly!”

It’s silly, especially imagining self doubt and a broadsword arguing, but we all deal with it. We all have some version of these thoughts. But if I’ve learned one important thing since making my first $13, it’s this:

The asking gets easier over time.

The rejection you receive from asking also gets easier over time, because you know you’ll have something more interesting to ask for again in the future.

This eight-word mantra, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for,” has popped up time and time again since that initial day in 2008. I continue to refer back to my broadsword of asking. I continue to make money, not only because I have ideas and execute them, but also because I’m unafraid of the consequences of asking.

Making money makes momentum

How about that for a sweet alliteration? It’s also the truth. If you can land ONE sale, you’ll feel a sense of empowerment that can fuel you to continue. But without that one sale, you can feel powerless.

So, is it that simple? You just have to make your first sale?

I’d say: YES.

Sure, you aren’t going to retire rich, pay off all your debt, and buy that gold-plated yacht you’ve been dreaming about with just one sale. But it will give you something you can’t manufacture: momentum. And with momentum, you can push through and more easily combat your thoughts of self-doubt.

If you’ve already made your first sale, awesome. Relish that. Enjoy it. Learn everything you can from it so you can make your next sale. And then your next. And then your next.

I hope you make way more than $13 from whatever you’re working on, but don’t lose sight of the fact that everyone starts with a version of this story. And everyone remembers their version, no matter if they go on to make $1,000 $100,000 or $100,000,000.

You just have to start.

My Definition of Innovation: Make Awesome Where Awesome Is Not

September 25, 2016

It was 2011, and I was on stage at Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored event. I sat in the chair where Gary Vaynerchuk was supposed to be. Gary was the guest for this particular panel but his flight got delayed so the folks at Fast Company asked me if I’d be willing to slide up and fill his spot. You can imagine the audience’s disappointment, right?

On the spot, the moderator asked me what my definition of innovation was, and without giving it too much of a thought, I responded:

“Make awesome where awesome is not.”

I only remember this so vividly because it’s the same definition my wife still uses to this day (and repeats back to me in an effort to point out my occasional overuse of the word “awesome.”)

Now here’s why I think this definition matters, and especially why it might matter to you if you’ve had an idea brewing in your head for a while now but have yet to turn it into a reality…

Whether you have an idea that feels like it’s been done 100 times or whether you have an idea that feels so far-fetched it could only work on Elon Musk’s Mars, YOU are more than capable of innovation.

Let me explain.

Chances are, if you have an idea and you haven’t turned it into a reality yet, it fits into one of these two categories:

Category 1: You like this idea, but it feels like it’s never been done before, and that scares the shit out of you.

This is the category that most of my own projects have fallen under over the years. Whether it was getting paid to wear t-shirts for a living with my company IWearYourShirt back in 2009 (I donned t-shirts with logos and made YouTube videos before “YouTuber” was a widely accepted occupation); or selling my last name twice (auctioned off my last name for $45,500 to become Jason Headsetsdotcom in 2013 and again for $50,000 to become Jason Surfrapp in 2014); or making $75,000 on my first book, Creativity For Sale, by selling sponsorships at the bottom of every page (before I had written a single word of the book); for a while there, I had the market cornered on “business ideas that will make people laugh in your face.”

With every single one of these ideas, I asked my friends or family or close business peers what they thought, and with every single one, the majority of those people doubted I could make any money at all.

That’s the trouble with Category 1 ideas…

What hasn’t been done before (aka “where awesome is not”) is made up of equal parts endless possibility and raging disbelief.

But then, of course, you have Category 2.

Category 2: You like this idea, but it feels like it’s been done already, and that scares the shit out of you too!

Let’s take a second to talk about ideas “that have been done already,” shall we?

In 1996, two smart guys started working on a project together out of their garage. While this project was unique to them, and they were going to put their own twist on it, there were many other companies who had already created businesses in their specific niche – twelve of them in fact, a handful of which had become extremely popular and profitable.

But these two guys believed in themselves and saw an opportunity to do things differently. They knew they could add their own unique twist on an existing idea.

Maybe you already know that the guys I’m talking about are Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. But maybe you didn’t know that 12* other companies had already created search engines (many of them doing extremely well) before the idea for Google came to be.

 


Innovation Can And Will Scare You

In both idea-categories I mentioned, you have a tremendous opportunity to make awesome where awesome is not in this world.

Your opportunity for innovation gets taken away by never doing anything at all.

Innovation doesn’t just have to mean that you invent the technology that revolutionizes communication. It can also mean that you simply make something that didn’t exist before.

It could be that you find a way to monetize platforms that already exist like I did (in spite of those that don’t believe it can be done.) It could be that your version of “making awesome” isn’t necessarily in the what you make but in the how you make it, like Larry and Sergey figured out a way to do search in a way it hadn’t been done.

Whatever kind of idea you have though, the only way that your opportunity for innovation gets taken away is by never doing anything at all. By standing still. By letting that fear get the better of you.

Whether you’re starting a business and doing something that’s never been done before, or you’re twisting an existing idea into your own, the beginning will most likely be the hardest part.

 


3 Steps To Getting Your Innovative Idea Off The Ground

Here are the three things that have made the biggest difference for me in getting my ideas off the ground.

#1 Believing in yourself won’t bring you any guaranteed success, but it will help you get further along than most.

You could be building the next Instagram. You could be creating an online course. You could be writing your own book. You could be trying to get paid to wear t-shirts for a living.

No matter what you’re creating, if you don’t believe in yourself and your idea first, you’ll never reach any level of success.

Thankfully for me, this is a trait that I was born with. For as long as I can remember, even as a little kid sitting in a bedroom dreaming up ideas for comic book characters, I always looked at the world differently. There were times in my childhood when it became clear that doing things differently wasn’t the way to get ahead, especially in school. I was starting to pick up the fact that maybe being “smart” was a better way to navigate than being “different.” Boy am I glad I didn’t let those voices get to me because as it turns out, being smart isn’t the only thing that counts. Scoring well on tests isn’t the only thing that counts.

As long as you carry an unwavering belief in yourself and trust your gut when navigating those deep, dark, and uncertain waters of creating something unique or something that hasn’t been created before then you also have the power to help people see your vision of the world and what could be.

#2 You don’t get what you don’t ask for.

Every idea I’ve ever had has had one thing in common: I wanted to get XYZ thing, more than I feared what it took to get it.

That’s what sets people who make ideas happen apart from people who don’t, and that’s the very first reason any of my ideas go from thoughts swirling around in my head to viable businesses that create value and generate revenue.

Your original idea is nothing until you make the first version of it and then ask people to download it, buy it, or subscribe to it.

Until you make an ask, your idea is nothing more than a cartoon bird floating around in your mind. (And unfortunately, you can’t pay for lattes or your rent with cartoon birds in your mind.)

Ironically, being willing to make the ask is also what can help you overcome the self-doubt. The fear of the unknown is crippling: Will people hate my idea? Will they laugh at me?

Once you realize hearing “no” isn’t as bad as you thought (and it never is), you gain the ability to keep asking until you hear a “yes.” And let me tell you, all you need is one “yes” to stoke the flames of your own belief.

Your friends. Your customers. Your clients. Your shareholders. They’re not going to show up on your doorstep and throw yeses at you because you read this article or any other article on entrepreneurship, business, etc. But they will show up if you believe in yourself and you ask them to show up. It may not happen the first time. You may have to ask more times than you’re comfortable asking. You may have to modify your ask and change up who you’re asking, but if you want to achieve your dream more than you fear the reality to takes to get you there, your ask(s) will be rewarded.

#3 With patience, your bucket of appreciation will fill up.

Everyone wants happy customers with glowing testimonials to put on their websites or the back of their books right out of the gate, but it takes time to gain an appreciation for your ideas.

That’s probably why a lot of people never act on their ideas in the first place – not necessarily the fear that their idea will be met with rejection but the fear that people won’t even care at all.

Imagine that the gaping void of validation that you crave for your idea is in the shape of a bucket. A bucket of appreciation. The mistake most people make is forgetting to look at their buckets of appreciation in relation to where they are on their journey.

The day I launched IWearYourShirt, 12 people showed up to the website (and I’m pretty sure 5 of those were my Grama.) If I had been expecting a response that would fill a Grand Canyon-sized bucket of appreciation, I probably would have given up and shut the whole thing down that very day. I had the ability to see that I was just at the very beginning of the life of my idea, and those 12 people were enough to feel appreciated in a bucket the size of which matched the age of my idea.

Google didn’t start out as one of the most profitable companies in the world. They started out with a $100,000 check from their first investor (and a slightly upgraded garage). Sure, you may or may not be chasing $100,000 at the beginning stages of your idea like Google, but the point is that if you don’t appreciate your business or idea at every stage in its existence, you’re quickly going to overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Your bucket of appreciation will end up feeling too large, and any praise you do get will barely cover the bottom.

It’s important to dream big but also to match your expectations with your reality.

Instead, it’s important to match your expectations with your reality. Dream the big dream of creating the next Google if that’s your aim, but put your expectations in check with what your current circumstances are.

With patience, not only will you find the right people to fill up that bucket of appreciation that you’re so desperate for, but you’ll find that the size of your bucket will grow in proportion to the hard work you’re willing to put into your idea.

These are the ways that I’ve been able to make my own awesome, in my own way, for over a decade now as an entrepreneur, and I’m far from being done.

 


Here’s The Truth About Innovation And Sharing Your Ideas

I wrote this article because I hope you turn your current or next idea into a reality. I hope the cartoon bird version of it flies out of your mind and morphs into a first (actual) version that someone can pay for.

I hope that you stop looking at competition in whatever market you’re in as a hurdle, and instead, see it as proof that people are willing to pay for some version of your idea and as an opportunity to innovate in your own unique way. I hope you believe in yourself and channel that belief into the work it takes to receive the appreciation you’ll get if you make the asks (and then repeat that process over and over again).

I’ve been blown away by the appreciation of my ideas over the years, and I want the exact same thing for you.

I said it as an offhanded comment in 2011 and I’ll say it again:

All that innovation requires you to do is make awesome where awesome is not.

Let the making begin.

You Shouldn’t Do It

August 7, 2016

I love Nike’s slogan: Just do it. It’s a great motivator. There are lots of difficult things in life that you should do anyway. But for this article, I want to tell you why you shouldn’t do it.

And what’s “it?” Starting and running your own business.

You shouldn’t do it because it takes effort

Are you someone who loves the idea of putting your entire business on autopilot and automating everything? Yeah…first of all, best of luck with that. I know absolutely no one who runs a successful business that is completely automated. But secondly, the effort (read: the journey) should be the fun part. It has to be, actually, because the challenge is going to crush you otherwise. You’re going to work longer and harder than you ever have in your life, and the payoff is so far removed from “overnight success” that everyone who’s ever succeeded in business just laughs at that concept.

If you aren’t ready to invest countless hours and make big sacrifices in your life, you shouldn’t do it.

You shouldn’t do it because you’ll have to change everything

You can have the most ironclad and well-thought-out business plan of all time. You can have experience from previous businesses. You can have amazing mentors and maybe even a bunch of funding.

But you know what? Your plans will change. If you’re doing it right, your vision will be shaped and molded by what your customers are actually willing to pay for. Your plans will fall apart as quickly as you can say pivot.

If you’re allergic to change, you shouldn’t do it.

You shouldn’t do it because you’re not famous

You aren’t going to be the next Steve Jobs.

You aren’t going to be the next Elon Musk.

You aren’t going to be the next anyone.

You are going to be you. No one knows who you are, and that’s a really big hurdle in people’s minds. They’re not going to trust someone they don’t know, and it’s a lot of work to get people to both recognize and trust you. It’s an even bigger hurdle to do the work your business requires without the expectation of ever getting accolades for it.

If you’re hoping to see your name or your business’ name in lights someday, you shouldn’t do it.

You shouldn’t do it because you’re going to mess up

You are going to make mistakes. You are going to have to make tough decisions, and no one is going to be able to give you all the answers. All the advice in the world can’t help you when YOU have to be the one to make the tough call. And sometimes, you’re going to make the wrong one. It’s going to suck.

If you are afraid of failing often, and in public, you definitely shouldn’t do it.

You shouldn’t do it because you have a good thing going

You shouldn’t start your own business. You should keep your job and make the best of it you can. Enjoy every day of job security that you can soak up. Relish the idea that you know where your paycheck is coming from and that someone else has to make all the tough decisions.

But…

If these things don’t scare you into hiding, then maybe you should do it.

Your Idea Isn’t Good Enough and How To Find A Good Idea

June 12, 2016

Wait, what? Is that contraction supposed to be there? Shouldn’t that have said your idea is good enough?

Nope.

If your idea was good enough, you would pursue it. If your idea was good enough, you would carve out precious time for it. If your idea was good enough, it would keep you up at night and force you to work on it, hour after hour.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying your idea sucks. I’m not saying your idea is bad.

What I’m saying is that you’re resisting taking action with your idea. The reasons for resisting might be totally legitimate. Sometimes we’re just not ready, and that’s okay. Not being ready is okay.

Sometimes we’re TOO ready, and we get dangerously consumed by an idea. Some people’s ideas take control of their lives.

It can be scary to have an idea so powerful, or a job so demanding, that it ruins relationships and destroys your health.

Sounds drastic, right? How could a simple thing like an idea do that? Ask Mita Diran, the 24-year-old copywriter who died at her desk after spending 30 straight hours in the office. Consider the Japanese concept of karoshi, which translates as “death by overwork” and is estimated to claim 200 workers every year.

That’s not what we’re going for here. I don’t want you to swing from procrastination all the way to dangerous obsession.

The key is to find a comfortably challenging place between procrastination and obsession. A place that will empower you to get things done and still enjoy your life. To take action with your idea.

What would you create if money didn’t need to be involved?

What’s something you just feel you need to get out into the world? What is something you can’t stop thinking about?

We all have bills to pay, but we all also spend hours wasting time. Watching TV. Reading random articles on the Internet. Reading every book by Seth Godin. Scrolling through social media feed after social media feed. Every single person, myself included, has the extra time to create the thing we can’t stop thinking about.

You’ll know when your idea is good enough

How? You’ll stop having so much time to read articles like this one. You’ll fall behind on your favorite podcast. Heck, you may even miss hitting inbox zero for a few days/weeks.

But when your idea is good enough, it will demand your time. Not all of it, because your idea wants you to have a life, too. But a lot of your time. And when your idea is good enough, the time you invest will be rewarded.