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Is This Year Shaping Up Like You Thought it Would?

Here we are on April 4, 2016. We are three months into 2016. Where does time go? It seems like just yesterday it was New Year’s.

I love the energy of New Years. The massive flow of positive energy, optimism good intentions. Gyms are overflowing. People quickly recover from the holidays to focus their energy on creating the very best new year for themselves.

By March, the gyms are MUCH less crowded, and the New Year’s buzz wears off, as people begin to realize that this year will probably NOT be different than last year. They start to give up.

Is that you? I hope not! If it is, why are you stalled? Is it because you don’t have the help you need? Often, that’s exactly the problem. You work really hard – but it is hard to work all by yourself day after day. It is even harder when you are not getting results.

The good news is, we are only a quarter of the way through the year. It isn’t too late to meet or surpass your goals for 2016. You are only a few swaps away from transforming your business.

Want to learn how to find out what YOUR swaps are? What a “swap” is? Join us for a free webinar – 6 Swaps to Solopreneur Success on Wednesday, April 6 at 11am MST

Do Your Email Messages Feel Like The Wallflower at the Middle School Dance?

Do you remember middle school? My biggest memory of that time is going to school dances and waiting for someone to ask me to dance. I’m probably giving away my age here a bit. When I was in middle school, you just didn’t go dance, you had to wait for a boy to ask you.

Most of them really didn’t want to be there, much less ask any of the girls on to the dance floor, so we waited… and waited… and most of us never were picked.

I used to wonder if my email messages felt like that sometimes. I would spend a lot of time crafting the perfect message, but nobody would ever open them! What a waste. Over the years, I made peace with the fact that a 20-30% open rate is actually good in most industries AND through some experimentation, learned a few tricks to increase my open rate. As more people opened my emails, more people signed up for webinars and in the end, more people bought programs. Even a small increase at the beginning of your funnel can make a big difference in your business?

Want me to share my tips for increasing your open rate? OK, here goes…

Your subject line is key. Even the most finely crafted email won’t help you, if it isn’t opened. You should be spending as much time on the headline as the rest of the message. For more hints on headlines, check out our latest solo biz hack – Headline Headstarts.

Keep track. Ideally, you would be split testing your messages (this week’s solo biz hack shows you how). But, that can be overwhelming at the beginning. Instead, make a simple spreadsheet of subject, time sent, list sent to. See which headlines and which times of the day do the best.

Focus on the From. People tend to open emails that come from real people. Even if the return address needs to be clientcare@XXXXXX.com – have the from address be from a person -or from a person at a company (example: meredith @ Time Traders.

If you’ve got something cool inside let people know. People are more likely to open emails with [PDF] or [VIDEO] because they know there is something valuable inside.

Want even more tips? Check out this week’s Solo Biz Hack.

To your business success,

Seth Godin’s Coffee Obsession

I just finished listening to an amazing podcast where Tim Ferriss interviews Seth Godin. (Click here to listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast).  The podcast is 2 hours long!  I listened to it in bits while ferrying by daughter to and from school.

At the very beginning of the interview,  Tim asks Seth about his coffee-making.  This is interesting because not only does Seth not drink coffee, he has very high standards about the coffee he offers to his guests.

He grinds his own coffee beans.  He says that the roasting and the high quality beans are the most important part of the process.

There’s a saying, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”.  Being thoughtful enough to go out of your way to provide a high-quality experience to your guests (even if you are not partaking yourself) is a way to make sure that you succeed in business and in life.  How do you go the extra mile for your customers?

The other lesson from Seth Godin’s coffee bean obsession is simply that you need to start with the best ingredients.  Seth’s coffee is good because he starts with the best beans.  Any true foodie will tell you that the quality of the ingredients is a big factor in determining the quality of the dish.

Before you spend a lot of time and effort on creating a marketing machine for your business, ask yourself – is my product good?  Is it truly meeting the needs of my customers?  Not sure?  Then, before you go too much further, spend some time doing some market research. We have a market research hack to help you with that here.

Taking time at the beginning of your business to make sure you are building from a quality product, will pay long term dividends for your business.

Work from Home Job Scams – And the Truth About Starting a Solo Business from Scratch

“Make $2,000 a month working from home!”.  For most of us, that sort of advertising, when you see it in infomercials, or hear commercials on the radio,  raises alarm bells.   Of course, there is a catch.

I was listening to a story on NPR about how the Federal Trade Commission is clamping down on work from home scams.  They aired an actual recording of one of the conversations.  The salesman builds rapport, subtly finds out the person’s budget (how much money do you have – how can we help you conserve that wealth), finds out their “why” and then sells them a kit to start an online business.  When the business doesn’t pan out because the person knows nothing about starting a business – they offer another kit.  It is easy to get caught in a never ending cycle of “hope and dreams”, buying the advanced classes, the personal coaching, the masterminds until your bank account is empty.

It is easy to look at the “work from home and make thousands” crowd and think – “how can they be so stupid?’ – they deserve to be ripped off.  But, then, if you are reading this e-mail, my guess is that you’ve bought “hope”.  You’ve signed up for classes you didn’t complete or engaged coaches you didn’t really follow through on.  It is easy to do.   So, very tempting.

The hard part is that when you are in business, you DO need mentors, you need information, you need help getting things done in your business.  How do you know where to turn?  How do you make sure that you are spending your money wisely.  (Yes, it does take money to get started).

Here are a few tips for you (some of them based on hard lessons learned in my business):

 

    1. Figure out where the skills gaps are in your business.  Nobody knows everything, and it sometimes really hard to know what to ask at first.  Think about ONE area where if you made improvements, your bottom line would improve.  You want all investments to pay for themselves eventually.

    2. Decide whether you need more knowledge or direct help.  You can find just about all the information you need about anything on Google.  The reason people pay for the info is that paid info is (usually) put together in a way that makes it easier for you to apply the information.  Sometimes, all you need is to be pointed in the right direction.  Sometimes (especially when you already feel overwhelmed), you need someone to work with you, guide you, or just do the task for you.

    3. Find creative ways of getting other people to help you in your business.  A few years ago, Jasper and I hosted a podcast where we interviewed successful entrepreneurs. We asked them “looking back, what would you do differently?”.  The answer was *always*, get help, find a mentor, hire a coach.   That’s all well and good, but how do you find help when you don’t have money to pay them.  Get creative!   

Time Traders Club  is a great place to start finding the help that you need.  We have members who are experts in everything from Accounting to Video making (and a thousand things in between).  You can get the help you need – and spend more time doing what you love for other members.  Check it out!

The Trouble with Telesummits (or why I hate the number 5,000)

I was talking to a Time Traders Club member recently about telesummits. She is a really talented virtual assistant who wanted to participate in a telesummit not only to grow her list, but to learn the ropes so that she could help her clients with that type of event in the future.

Smart cookie!

And, she had people e-mailing her every day. The typical scenario, would go something like this.

Original E-mail: “We would LOVE to have you on our telesummit”
She would e-mail back: Yes, of course.

Response: Let’s have a phone conversation to discuss logistics.

So then on the phone. The person describes the event (sounds great!), the promotional requirement (do-able) and then asks the BIG question. So, how big is your list?

Her response: Ummm…. 1,150

Their response: I’m sorry, I love what you are doing, but my coach says I can only take people with at least 5,000 on their list.

The conversation ends and both parties feel bad. What a waste of time!

I could argue that smaller lists are more responsive (they are!) or that my smaller list out-performs big lists all the time as far as numbers of sign ups…

But instead, I’m going to tell you how to start getting those telesummit and speaking gigs even if your list is tiny.

One of my favorite clients is Michele Scism. Michele now has a list in the tens of thousands, but it wasn’t always that way. She started, like we all do, with zero. When I started working with her she had a few thousand. Yet, she built half million dollar a year business almost completely on speaking, right from the start.

She agreed to write a solo biz hack for us on exactly how she got those first speaking gigs, when her list was small, just like yours. You can grab the hack with all 5 hints here.

Here’s one hint to get you started. Think about podcasts. Podcast owners owners are always looking for guests, and they generally don’t ask about your list size. They are more interested in the story you have to tell. You can grow your list by appearing on podcasts and offering an interesting freebie.

Here’s what to type into google to find podcasts in your niche:

[Your-Topic] inurl:/podcast/
[Your-Topic] inurl:category/podcast/
[Your-Topic] inurl:/podcasts/
[Your-Topic] inurl:category/podcasts/
[Your-Topic] intitle:podcast
[Your-Topic] intitle:podcasts

You’ll end up with a nice list of podcasts to contact. Make a point of reaching out to a few a day and before long, your calendar will be full and your list will be growing.

Michele gave some other great hints in the solo biz hack. You can grab the hack with all 5 hints here.

Let’ me know how this goes for you and when you get your first bookings. I love listening to podcasts!

MythBusters and Your Latest Business Idea

One of my favorite TV shows is MythBusters.  In each episode, two teams of nerdy stunt scientists create “experiments” to prove or disprove urban legends, things that happened in movies, etc.

I love to watch Adam, Jamie and the team as they creatively devise ways of testing their theories.  Over the past 15 seasons, they have done over 2,500 experiments.  The experiments generally have two parts.

The first part is trying to directly replicate the myth.  Then, the team tweaks the experiment to make it work if it didn’t work the first time. Really good stuff.

What if you took a MythBusters approach to your marketing?   If your inbox is like mine, it is full of new ideas and new tactics to try.  And, often my eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to trying them all out. Sound familiar?

What if instead of just going after every single shiny object, you took some time to experiment and determine if the strategy would be a good fit? What if, instead of giving up when the strategy didn’t work at first, you tweak the experiment to make it work?  What if, instead of carrying on after it is clear that the experiment failed, you moved on to the next thing.

It would be very powerful, wouldn’t it?   Need help?  I am doing some market research for the development of future Solo Biz Hacks and would love to talk with you about your idea (for a business, for a new project, for a new class). I can help line you up with the resources you need to test your idea out. I call it an Idea Spark session.
I also still have a  few extra copies of Pat Flynn’s book “Will It Fly?” to give away to the next few people who schedule their idea spark session with me. Sign up here.

You’re Fired!

For those of you who have known me for a while… this story will probably surprise you.

I have a reputation for being very “nice and helpful”. One time, I had to be very mean to a client. It was for her own good though.

I fired her.

Sabrina (name changed to protect her privacy) hired me to “set her up” as a coach. I created her website, I wrote her e-mails, we set up a marketing plan. All good. Except, the very next week, she had a new idea… so we started over.

Two weeks later, she wasn’t making sales (she actually hadn’t made any offers), so we changed again, and again, and again. Finally, I had “set her up” 7 times, in 7 different niches.

Finally, I fired her. Yes, she paid me for doing and re-doing her platform, but she wasn’t getting results because she couldn’t sit still. (She thanked me later for firing her because it helped her to settle on something… which she still does to this day!).

I am not really the firing type, but I just couldn’t stand to see her waste her money (even if I was the beneficiary of her indecision).

Since then, I’ve honed my skills in helping people really “see” where their ideas can go. And, instead of just jumping in, we can model what the project will look like, and what (and how long), it will take to see success. I see my client’s ideas as sparks, I provide the tinder to make fire.

This weekend, I read Pat Flynn’s new book, “Will It Fly?”. It is all about making sure your idea is sound before you waste too much time and energy chasing an idea that was never meant to be. I liked the book so much I ordered 7 copies!

Do you have an idea for a business? For a new class, for a new e-book? I would love to talk with you about it. I am really good at providing resources (tinder) to help it catch fire. Talking to you will help me create the solo biz bites and solo biz hacks that are useful. To thank you for your time, I’ll send a copy of Pat Flynn’s book to the first 7 people who book a time to talk with me.

Here’s the link: http://solobizhacker.com/ideaspark

Build Your DREAM Solo Business: Part 1 – Define

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In honor of Martin Luther King Day we are doing a DREAM themed Solo Biz Bite week – 5 steps to creating your dream business –
D = Define; R = Refine; E = Execute; A = Amplify; M = Mold.

In this first part we look at the importance of defining what you are going to do as a business before you take any steps to actually put a plan into action. You need to define what you want this creation to do for YOU in order that you don’t spend time and effort building something only to find that it falls flat.

Microwaving Your Market Research

Microwaving cooks food faster. My mother was actually afraid of microwaves, we didn’t get one until I was in college (which was 10 years after everyone else). Because nobody in my family was good at remembering to defrost food, we ended up eating a lot of meals very late – and subsisting on Swanson’s TV dinners.
Fast forward 25+ years, and I really don’t know how I would feed my family without a microwave. Being able to defrost and cook things quickly is really helpful.

Ever wish you could microwave your business? Do something to start making money faster? Getting your business off the ground can seem as slow as watching a chicken defrost, especially if you are in the beginning of your business.

Microwave Your Market Research

Today’s tip is going to seem a bit counterintuitive to you. That’s because it will take MORE time in the beginning, but it will get you faster results in the end.

Here’s the tip – you can microwave your market research by talking to people one on one (on the phone, in person) rather than relying completely on surveys.

In fact, having 12 ten to fifteen minute conversations can yield you as much data as days spend banging on our keyboard doing research.

3 Ways to To Get Live Market Research Data:

  1. Talk to people about what you do. For those of us who are a bit more on the introvert side of things, this can be hard. But, you CAN elicit very helpful information from people in the course of everyday conversation. So, what is it that you do? XXXXX That’s really cool, what would you say your biggest obstacle is, etc?
  2. Offer free strategy sessions to your list and on Facebook. Go to some groups and post that your coach (that’s me for the moment) challenged you to book XX number of sessions. Talk with the people, learn what their struggles are. If someone is an amazing fit, go ahead and make an offer, but your goal here really is to listen and absorb.
  3. Take Classes/Join Groups. Most classes have Facebook groups that you can join. PM people who seem interesting (or who seem like ideal clients) and just schedule some time to talk with them. You’ll be amazed at what can come out of those conversations.

What are you waiting for? Start scheduling 🙂