Welcome to the After Show!
The Courageous Entrepreneur Show comes out on Mondays and each Wednesday I’m live on Facebook with the After Show.
In the After Show I share additional insight into that week’s episode and practical ideas for applying the tips and strategies that were shared.
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You can watch, listen, and / or download the original episode here.
Tracy shared some of the benefits specifically of writing long-form articles, but let me just repeat them and add to them here.
Some of the benefits of posting include:
While editing Tracy’s episode I started to realize one thing that might hold you back from leveraging LinkedIn could be writer’s block. Or “Creator’s Block” as I’ve started referring to it.
Sure, sharing content is a great way to position and pre-sell yourself as a trusted advisor to your audience. It’s a great way to build your brand with your potential clients as well as in your industry. And if you’re an introverted coach, consultant, or expert I know you want to leverage as many opportunities as you can to truly attract clients.
But what the heck do you write about and what type of media works?
Tracy mentioned there are two places you can post on LinkedIn.
One is in your news feed. This is the area you see with posts from your contacts and as of the minute I’m typing this the news feed is in the center of the page when you log in.
In LinkedIn lingo, these are considered Posts.
The other place is in its Publisher platform and those are technically referred to as Articles.
This image below shows you where to post your short form posts and where to click through to post your long form articles in LinkedIn’s publishing platform.
The news feed is the place to share :
People tend to scan and scroll through their feeds on any platform including LinkedIn. So you want to make sure the content you share there is what others in your network will find valuable.
You only have space for about 25 words to write in that post box before it gets truncated; so be sure you get to the point and if your post includes a link, your copy better be compelling or no one will click on it.
If you’ve been letting your LinkedIn account languish, you definitely want to revisit it and start interacting and sharing there.
Keep in mind the atmosphere is different on LinkedIn than it is on any other platform. Don’t go in there and start posting the sort of stuff you’d post on Facebook or Instagram. LinkedIn is all about professional stuff so no matter what your industry, stick to business-related content.
Focus on making 80% or so of your short posts high value content from others –– articles and content outside of the LinkedIn platform as well as shares of useful content from your contacts. That leaves 20% of your short posts for your own updates and shares of your own content outside of LinkedIn.
For example, you can share your podcast episodes, blog posts, SlideShare presentations, short videos, or other content with some copy and a link. It helps to include an appropriate image to grab people’s attention as they scroll through their feed.
If you’re not going to take your own pictures or create your own images then consider using a royalty-free image site like Pixabay (my favorite) and Canva. But take the time to create your own images when you can. I used Tech Smith’s Snagit to create the image above.
Let’s face it, we’re being judged. Everything we do sends a message to those around us. This is why it’s so important to take control of your brand — your reputation — and demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities (what back in HR we referred to as KSAs).
Long form content on LinkedIn — the articles you publish through their Publisher platform — help you do that.
Here are 7 suggestions about what to publish:
Republish existing content. You’re likely already creating great content for your blog whether it’s on a tool like Medium or on your own website. You may want to massage it a little and then repurpose it for LinkedIn.
Go to the vault. If you’re like me, you’ve been creating content in various forms for a long time. You could look at past blog posts or newsletter articles and polish them up. You can update them, re-edit them, and generally give them a going over, then publish them in Publisher.
Repurpose other media. I’ve got lots of videos I’ve done along with my podcasts. I’m going to go back to that media and create articles out of them. They’re not going to be word-for-word transcripts though.
Then there are the subjects that got mentioned in another piece of content and you could pull out one of those to write a longer piece on. That’s really what I’m doing here. I took my podcast episode, identified what was missing that would be good companion information, did a live video to share those thoughts, and now I’m cleaning those ideas up and turning them into an article.
FAQs. You get asked questions all the time. If you run a coaching group like I do, what are the questions and problems that come up? Chances are good you’re sharing great information you could repackage into an article and share on LinkedIn and other places.
SAQs. I first learned about this concept from my mentor Mike Koenigs.
I’ll bet the questions people ask you aren’t really the important things they SHOULD be asking you.
I get asked technical questions about podcasting all the time. From what microphone to buy to what hosting platform to use, you name it. But those tech issues are the least of your worries because tech is always changing.
What people SHOULD be asking me is how to decide what your show will be about? How do you get listeners and how do you turn listeners to subscribers and ultimately to clients?
Those are examples of what Mike calls “Should Ask Questions” or SAQs.
Case Studies. These are great to share when they’re well written (and you have the permission of your clients). They can illustrate the successful application of your process while celebrating your client’s success. Make sure you’re sharing valuable lessons and talking about how others can apply the same concepts.
Opinions on Trends or Developments. The foundation of your content creation strategy should focus on evergreen content — meaning stuff that’s useful no matter what time of year or when your content consumer discovers it. But, when new developments happen writing your thoughts about implications or things to look out for, or some other take on the topic helps position you as someone who is up on things and who has an opinion. Having an opinion and voicing it is one of the most basic elements of positioning yourself as a leader to your audience and in your industry.
I hope this got you thinking about all the things you can share on LinkedIn and also on your own website or other content delivery platform.
Content Creator’s block should never be a problem for you after this.
What new ideas did you get from reading this? What types of content have you shared on LinkedIn that you’ve found worked for your goals?
Did you find this useful? Please share it if you did.
That’s because over the course of your life, you developed strategies and patterns of behavior to survive and even thrive in some pretty dysfunctional environments — starting in your family of origin, moving into school, and eventually in the workplace.
And while those patterns got you to a level of success in corporate life, those same patterns are now actively holding you back.
…just to name a few
Plus, with all there is to do and all the distractions, it can be hard to stay focused or take consistent, high-value action to…
All of this can feel even harder if you’re an Introverted coach, consultant, or service-based professional who wants to profit from your expertise.
I understand because all of that happened to me too.
I help clients develop new, empowering patterns and productive success habits that help them succeed and enjoy the process much more.
The best way to get started is to check out the “start here” page. I have a free webinar there and some links to things I think will give you a good overview of how to get started communicating your message more powerfully, moving forward with courage, and what’s needed to build an expertise-centered business and brand.
Thanks for stopping by! I’m looking forward to learning more about you. what your goals are, and how I can serve you.
PS. If you like what you see and want to connect at a deeper level, then head over to Facebook where I share lots of practical information about growing and managing a business, saving the environment, and cat videos! 🙂
In a recent post I discussed different business models for service-based businesses – specifically those that would work for coaches, consultants, and other experts.
I want to go a bit deeper now and talk about the 5 frameworks that support those models; because it may not be the business model that’s the problem in growing your business. It may very well be that there’s a problem with one or more of your supporting frameworks.
You can think of these as sub-models if you’d like but I like the term framework better because I think it’s more true to its function – supporting the success of your business model.
According to dictionary.com, a framework is “a skeletal structure designed to support or enclose something or a frame or structure composed of parts fitted and joined together.”
That’s the exact mental picture I get when I think of one of these things.
If your business model is the big picture how you make money, frameworks are the supporting processes to make your model work. Each is its own collection of systems, processes, strategies, and tactics.
There are 5 frameworks and I’m going to explain each of them as well as talk about things we introverts need to consider when constructing our frameworks.
Sales involves four elements – educate, elevate, inspire, and invite. At it’s essence, good marketing does all those things quickly and efficiently.
There are costs associated with acquiring clients and our goal is to find the right blend of elements that gets our message out to the right audience, in the way they most want to receive it, and at the time when they’re looking for a solution.
We run into problems when our message isn’t powerful enough or clear enough.
We choose words that are weak. We don’t clearly address the problem(s) we solve and we tip-toe around the subject.
We’re afraid of being polarizing; and, while we may understand the value of focusing our message so it’s targeted to the needs of a specific audience segment or niche, we’re afraid of doing that because it seems so counterintuitive.
We need more clients, not less.
But when you have a well-defined message that targets a clearly defined population, and that population can relate to you and easily recognize you as a trustworthy authority who can solve the problem they have, you’re easy to recognize as their ideal solution provider.
You’re also easy to refer.
It gives you permission to let go of all the other stuff you feel you have to be an expert at in addition to your core work.
Think in terms of positioning yourself the way a doctor does – a brain surgeon isn’t going to clean your teeth, right?
Of course not. And they’re not worried about the dentist getting all the teeth fixing jobs.
The other problem with creating a marketing framework is there are too many options to choose from.
Marketing frameworks are more than just the stereotypical funnel you hear about or most people talk about. It involves marketing through the entire relationship – taking someone from stranger or potential buyer (where they don’t know you) through their purchase of and delivery of the transformation you help them achieve, to solidifying that relationship to the point where they rave about you, refer others to you, and – if appropriate – return to purchase again or otherwise maintain a positive relationship with you.
A critical piece of the marketing framework is your brand and how you’ll build and maintain it.
Brand building is a conversation for another day but in a nutshell, your brand is the reputation you have in the marketplace and it’s what the marketplace thinks of when they think of you.
Your objective is to become the “go to” person for the problem your audience has and for the outcome they ultimately want.
Oh how we hate this piece, huh? There are lots of reasons we hate selling and most of them are tied to our past – when we’ve been “sold to” or felt manipulated by someone we saw as pushy and “salesy.”
We don’t want to be “that guy.”
But your sales framework has to do with how you’ll invite prospective clients to take action and say yes to working with you once they recognize you’re the best solution provider for them.
If you feel you’re trying to convince people to buy then you’re doing something wrong and / or talking to the wrong people.
This framework also includes elements of client fulfillment – specifically the initial client experience because that’s where long term client relationship begins.
You want to prevent buyer’s remorse – which is their second-guessing their purchase to the point that they decide they want to cancel working with you or return a packaged product.
You’re not focused on persuading them. You want to allay their fears:
Much of the time this is about their own self-doubt and Inner Critic (who I refer to as Mini Me) screaming its head off because it’s terrified of the Path of Change they’re about to go down.
As much as someone is unhappy with where they are, it can often feel safer to stay in that unhappy place where life is predictable though sad.
That sounds crazy but you’ve probably felt the same way at some point in your life.
When you build your Sales Framework you want to make sure you include steps to help people believe in themselves as much or even more than they believe in your power to help them.
Again, this supports focusing on a narrow audience segment with a problem you can help them fix because all of your “stick” elements should recognize what they’re thinking, what they’re afraid of, and that you not only believe they can achieve what they want but you’ve helped others just like them achieve similar results.
This isn’t convincing as much as it’s calming their fears.
This is different from sales and relates to your offerings – what you’ll specifically offer to clients that earns you money. You’re going to consider what lines of service you’ll offer – coaching, consulting, products, etc. and where those items fit in your business model and money pyramid.
Your Money Pyramid is made of all the ways you generate revenue. Initially you may only have one offering – which is totally fine. At some point you may create books, courses, and packages that are at different price points and that serve different purposes for you and solve different problems that are under the umbrella of the bigger problem you solve for clients.
If you’re a strategic thinker this can cause you some headaches because you can see in your head how you could offer X, Y, and Z programs. And gurus put out tons of messaging convincing you that if you have a “trading dollars for hours” model you’re doomed to a life of stress and misery.
So you end up buying some course or program designed to teach you how to create courses or books but you’re not really ready for those pieces yet because the chances are good your own message and process isn’t well defined.
That doesn’t mean you can’t write a book, start a podcast, or create a course. Sometimes working on those projects can help you think and articulate your POV or document your process. But if you’re trying to build a business based on that and you don’t have an audience yet it can be a frustrating – and expensive – path to go down.
As one of my mentors says, “You have to learn to make money during the day before you can ‘make money in your sleep’.”
This framework includes decisions on the price / value of your offerings and how you structure the price. You may offer flat, all-inclusive prices. You may offer payment plans. Maybe you offer tiered services.
The challenge here is building a brand that supports your pricing.
When my brother decided to ask his then girlfriend to marry him, his only thought was he had to buy the ring from Tiffany’s.
No other brand said “love” to him the way Tiffany’s did.
But Tiffany’s has worked hard to build and maintain a reputation that justifies the premium you pay for that robin’s egg blue box.
Walmart may sell diamond engagement rings but he wasn’t motivated by price and you don’t want your clients to be either. This is why – although it involves a framework all its own – price is very closely tied to marketing and branding is a crucial element that ends up supporting your pricing.
Of course you want to price in a way that doesn’t just cover your bills but that supports your turning a handsome profit.
I didn’t go out on my own to struggle; but that’s just what happened because I priced myself too low and didn’t consider all the time I was working that was uncompensatable / unbillable. So don’t make the same mistake I did.
If you’re already stuck in that trap, it’s time to dig your way out. You likely have a money story going on that’s part of a disempowering pattern. You’ll need to break that to really become profitable and create business that thrives.
Most former corporate employees (or “corporate escapees” as I refer to us) rarely fully think through exactly what they’ll offer and how they’ll package it. I didn’t and none of my friends or colleagues did either.
This framework speaks to what services you’ll offer and how you’ll deliver those offerings. It also involves how you’ll identify what you’ll offer, the feedback mechanisms you’ll put in place to let you know if your offerings are working, and finally, how to create tangible products from your knowledge capital.
This framework fits in with and supports the other frameworks and ultimately drives success of the business model.
If no one wants what you offer, they’re unwilling to pay for it, or they see it as a commodity you have to decide if you can make effective and profitable changes to the offerings, if you’re trying to sell the wrong service to the wrong people or if you have the right service but the wrong market.
This is often where an outside consultant or coach can provide significant value by spotting problems, opportunities, and value that you’re missing.
Starting and growing a profitable coaching, consulting, or expertise-based brand and business is more complex than it looks.
When you’re a big picture, strategic thinker who believes the need for your service is as obvious as the value of the work you do it can be hard to get clear on these pieces by yourself.
If you’re stuck trying to get your consulting, coaching, or expertise-based business off the ground or break through to the next level of success, do some reflecting on where the problem could be.
If you know what to do but just can’t bring yourself to do it, then there’s something you’re actively resisting. If you’re taking action but nothing’s working, then there’s probably something you’re missing – your message may be off, your market may be wrong or unclear, or you’re not clearly positioned as THE solution provider for your audience.
Or something else.
We need to consider three things when we’re building our business:
Our personalities. I can’t tell you how many coaches have told me I need to change in order to create what I want. What they wanted me to do was become more like them.
That’s never going to happen.
What I did have to do was recognize there were elements of my personality that were unlikely to change because they’re too entrenched, take too much effort to change, and I have no real interest in changing them.
So what I recognized was I had disempowering patterns of behavior.
Once those became clear to me, I addressed those patterns while also changing my business model and my frameworks. Changing conditioned habits and behavior patterns is easier than making wholesale personality changes. (You can learn more about this theory of change and personality by reading the book, What You Can Change and What You Can’t by Martin Seligman)
Our vision. You hear a lot today about understanding your why. I couldn’t even understand the concept of understanding my why. But what I did understand was that I had a vision (4 of them actually — one for me personally, one for my business, one for the world as it relates to and is impacted by my work, and one for my clients). Once I got crystal clear on the change I was trying to bring about in the world I could then recognize whether what I was doing was going to help or hinder achieving my vision.
And just because conventional wisdom says you have to work to build a big business and get on the Inc 500 list, I’m here to tell you no you don’t.
What you do “have” to do, is unleash your potential. Live your fullest life. Give your best. Support clients to achieve the transformation they long for.
And you can do that by creating a business that fits YOUR definition of success.
Our Business Model. Here’s the first thing I realized was wrong with what I was building and what I was doing. In my post about business models I talked about all the things I hated about the consulting model. I finally gave myself permission to change my model.
When you call yourself a consultant, there are certain types of expectations that go along with that.
And I hated the game playing that went along with it. Plus, the size of the clients I wanted — solo professionals and micro firm owners — didn’t think of themselves as being “big enough” to hire a consultant.
But a coach — that made sense to them and they could see the value in working with a coach.
So as much as I’m really not a true coach I gave up and started calling myself a coach. Because that model was one that fit me.
The most important point is to create a business that brings you joy from how you do what you do to who you serve, and how you get paid.
Do you recognize any frameworks that are missing or not working as well in your business as you’d like them to?
Service experts like coaches and consultants rarely if ever give thought to one of the most important decisions they’ll make as they start their business as a solo practitioner.
Their business model.
Our thoughts are always on the service – what we’re going to do…the mission we’re on….the passion we have…the problem we want to solve – not with the “how we’ll make money” part.
And this one oversight can easily set us up for struggle and cause us to create glorified jobs that we actually hate.
Well we don’t really hate the work – we love what we do. It’s the whole getting clients thing we hate.
But the business model you adopt directly impacts the frameworks – the other models – that support how you’re going to generate revenue, deliver the work to the world, and scale the business to maximize your profitability.
Marketing – how you’ll build a brand, position yourself, and attract potential clients.
Sales – how you’ll invite prospective clients to take action and say yes to working with you once they recognize you’re the best solution provider for them.
Revenue – This is different from sales and relates to your offerings – what you’ll specifically offer to clients. It asks you to consider what lines of revenue you’ll offer – coaching, consulting, products, etc.
Pricing – This framework is how you decide on the price / value of your offerings and how you structure the price. You may offer flat, all-inclusive pricing. You may offer payment plans. Maybe you offer tiered services.
Product Creation – Most coaches and consultants plan on offering books, courses, audio recordings, and other things they can sell as both lead generating tools and as separate lines of revenue. Decisions have to be made about how to create the products, what you’ll create, etc.
I’ve found that when someone is unhappy with their business, at the core there’s a business model or framework that doesn’t fit them or their personality.
You’d be surprised at the number of business models out there and while the best one for you is likely to be a hybrid that combines elements from two or more models.
I’m going to focus on the primary business models a coach, consultant, or freelancer may choose. I’ll also talk a little about pro’s and cons with each model, and help you think through which one to pick.
Keep in mind, you won’t really know which one works for you until you try it out. The goal is to make the best decision for you knowing what you know about yourself, your offerings, and your targeted client segments.
In a future post, I’ll explain the supporting sub-models or what I refer to as frameworks. They support the achievement of the overall business model. These frameworks are tactical in nature but support the overall business model.
Retail – This involves selling products / services on a pay as you go / flat price strategy. Plumbers do this. Consultants or coaches can do this with courses, books, “pick my brain” sessions, or when you have packaged offerings that are clearly branded and targeted. But if you’re looking to start a coaching or consulting practice this is not the best model for you to follow.
I think it’s better to create additional lines of revenue as part of your revenue framework or consider a retail element as part of your pricing framework.
Expert Model – This is the essence of what coaches, consultants, and other skilled professionals are doing. We sell our knowledge, skills, abilities (otherwise referred to as KSAs). Everyone from doctors to lawyers to coaches and speakers follows some sort of variation on the Expert business model.
For example, an attorney model typically involves a free consultation where the attorney (or expert) listens to the problem and makes a decision whether to help the potential client or not. There’s a retainer to get started and retainer payments continue until the project is over.
Don’t confuse this with a Subscription Model which is explained below.
A doctor’s model is slightly different.
The patient — the person with the problem — comes to the doctor with the expectation the doctor is going to help. Sometimes the doctor has to refer the person to another specialist but the doctor still gets paid for the advice and treatment provided.
Instructor / info-product model. This is a common expert model where someone produces courses, books, or packaged programs and sells them on their own website or platform (like Clickbank, Teachable, or somewhere else).
Author / Expert model. In this variation of the expert business model, the person may use books as positioning and pre-selling tools to build their list of interested buyers who they can then nurture to sell deeper, more intimate solutions (like coaching, consulting, etc.). So this model is more of a marketing framework than a true business model.
Coach / expert. This is a person whose primary business model is built on coaching. Coaches may offer packages ranging from a one-off session to high-end private packages or some form of group work.
Consultants differ from coaches in terms of style and focus. Some consultants also coach and some coaches also consult. Some are very clear about the difference. (I’m more of a consultant than a coach but people tend to refer to me as a coach because it’s just easier to get your head around).
The Consultant Model. Pure consultants are paid for their Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) like other experts. They may work on retainer or other structured payment plan. There’s usually a quoting process as each project may be slightly different. And some consultants are paid for the results they bring (like a specific percentage of the increase in sales they deliver).
Agency / Hollywood model – In this model, you provide a broad range of services and likely call on other experts to support you in the delivery of the finished product or service. An example is the website developer who may bring in a copywriter, an SEO specialist (if the copywriter can’t do it), a branding specialist to create the color palette and visual identity if that’s needed, and maybe a coder to help with any special needs the site owner has.
Freelance model – This model tends to be project or scope-of-work based and the structure could be similar to a consultant model where you may need to put in a quote on the project. You may be paid in any number of structures including starting with a retainer with remaining payments based on deliverables. Some freelancers use very creative payment frameworks / structures including being paid for results. This is very common in the area of direct response marketing consulting and copywriting.
You hear a lot of knocking of freelance models.
Gurus talk about the “mistake” of using a business model that requires too much of your time or a “trading for dollars” model.
I know plenty of people who follow a freelance model who have very successful, profitable businesses, and who enjoy nice lives.
Don’t let someone else make you feel your business model is wrong. That’s a conclusion you have to come to on your own.
Speaker model — Lots of people use speaking as a positioning and marketing strategy. To use this as a business model means speaking is your primary activity. Gurus who use this model include people like Jack Canfield and James Malinchak. It’s their primary source of revenue. They maximize their earning potential by selling products in the back of the room and they may also offer some type of coaching or training as an additional line of revenue.
Subscription model – You’re familiar with these in your daily life. You pay a flat fee on a recurring basis (weekly, monthly, or annually) and receive a set of products or services / benefits. Your gym is one example of a subscription model. This model is being adopted by other experts (even physicians) because of the consistent revenue it offers. The key is to provide high value during the membership period so when the bill comes the person doesn’t cancel because they don’t see value on a recurring basis.
Franchise / certification model – You can buy (or create) a system to provide goods or services. The franchisor (you) receives royalties from each franchisee (those who buy your system). The franchisor usually has some way to receive revenue through franchisee payments for other things like marketing materials, advertising, logo’d supplies, etc. The amount of support the franchisee receives from the franchisor or the certificatory agency / business varies.
Be very careful about certifications and people who promise you they have a blueprint that will bring you success. No one can guarantee that.
Also, while certifications can be useful in positioning you as educated and trained in a methodology, sometimes it’s just you getting caught up in believing you’re not enough as you are.
Hybrid model — Hybrid models are much more common today as businesses have evolved and as solo professionals and entrepreneurs embrace a “multiple streams of revenue” mindset. Hybrid models typically have a core model that is then built around. For example, the speaker who sells recordings and packaged training is using part of a Retail model. And if they then offer coaching or training they’re using part of a Coaching model. You can also customize your Frameworks so they fit you and your vision and goals.
When I first went out on my own, I followed a consulting business model and I hated it.
A consulting model typically comes with the expectation that you’re going to submit a proposal (which will take you hours to complete if not days). You then submit the proposal, wait for what feels like forever, make a presentation, and then deal with pushback on your price.
Did I mention I hated it? It’s why I have my own hybrid model built around a marketing framework I call pre-selling.
There were two reasons I hated (and still hate) the consulting model.
I wasn’t good at the whole negotiating thing and was riddled with self-doubt that made me question if I was good enough to do the work or if I deserved the rates I charged.
Actually, you should read them anyway.
If Oren Klaff comes across too strong for you just water down a bit of his investment banker swagger. Definitely use his structure and processes because they really work to position you as the expert and trusted solution provider you want to be seen as, rather than someone who’s desperate and will cut their prices or worse – work for free.
Pia Silva’s approach to positioning your offers is super smart and perfect no matter what variation of the expert business model you follow.
All models – including hybrid variations on those mentioned above – require you to build a strong brand that positions and presells you as the sought after expert you are and command excellent rates you deserve.
If you’re unhappy with how things are going with your consulting or coaching practice or you’re busy plotting your escape from corporate life and thinking about starting a coaching or consulting practice, be sure to think long and hard about the structure of your business model and the frameworks that will support it.
It means the difference between building something you love because it leverages your gifts and creating something you hate and struggle to be successful at because it doesn’t fully leverage your strengths.
Is your business model working or is there a problem with one of your frameworks?
In a recent episode of my podcast, The Courageous Entrepreneur, former Clinical Laboratory Scientist Susan Ordona, discussed her reinvention to real estate investor to social media marketing consultant to book publishing expert.
She shared the ups and downs of her ventures and what she’d do differently now.
One of the things she mentioned was how she had bought programs that were supposed to be a “recipe for success” when in actuality they weren’t.
Not that they didn’t have elements that worked or that worked for her but the key to keep in mind whenever you buy a packaged program is the devil is in the implementation details.
You’re a different person than the guru who designed it. And without guidance and support in the implementation process you may not have the same results they did.
Of course you could have better results. Or worse results.
But without doing anything you won’t have any results.
We’ve all done this at some point….bought a program we knew we had to have, that would solve our problems…and not even break the cellophane wrapper.
We’ve bought books we didn’t read or that we started and didn’t finish.
Or we bought some tool or roadmap that sounded good but that – without help or without some foundational thing — we struggled to use or follow.
I think it’s human nature to look outside of ourselves for answers. And that’s really true for those of us who reinvent ourselves by transitioning from corporate / organizational life to being self-employed.
We know we experienced success in our past career but doubt that we can achieve success in this new venture just with what we know.
I think there’s also a tendency to want to find a short-cut and to believe that someone else has found it.
While it’s true that someone who has achieved success can codify it and create a step by step process that jumps over some of the potholes they fell into, people can often paint too rosy a picture of how they reached the point where they are.
In reality, there aren’t any great shortcuts on the road to success.
Each of us finds parts on the trip where we can travel faster than others and sometimes we get sidetracked and need to pull over.
There are actually 9 elements that are needed to lay a foundation for a thriving business.
The faster you can build these bricks into a foundation then the easier time you have to build your business and take it from crazy startup to thriving enterprise.
Mindset. That famous philosopher, Anonymous, is reported to have said that being self-employed is the best and most expensive self-development program you’ll ever participate in. That’s because you come face to face with your own emotional crap.Issues you thought you dealt with or never realized you even had become these giant obstacles in your way.I know people who have negotiated multi-million dollar contracts, who have persuaded a room full of hard-nosed executives to take action, and who have made presentations in front of dozens and even hundreds of employees at a time not be able to put together a conversation to have with a potential client.
I had to face the fact that while I was excellent at selling my employers, selling on behalf of clients, I sucked at selling myself.
And there are at least dozens of other ways our beliefs and patterns that led us to be successful in organizational life cause us to struggle out on our own.
You’ve got to be ready for it and hopefully be able to recognize these obstacles and deal with them quickly. Otherwise you’re up for struggle that may lead you to the conclusion that you’re just not meant to work on your own.
Mission. We know that we were put on this planet to make a difference. Simon Sinek tells us we have to Start with Why – the deeper reason we do the work we do. Identifying this is like peeling an onion. How do you know the essence of your mission?I struggled with this for probably 10 years or more.I’m a faith-centered person, so at its essence, I believed my mission was to use my gifts in service to the world. I’d do whatever God wanted me to do.
It took me a long time to accept that God wanted me to use my gifts. Period. As long as I approached whatever work I was doing from a place of service I was doing what He wanted me to.
That helped me to tap into what I really wanted to do.
And I want you to know that your mission is similar. Embrace your greatest gifts, identify what brings you the most joy, and then go after it with all your heart. The key to finding your mission is to remember that it’s to be in service.
So find your mission by identifying a problem others have that you can help them solve.
The one mistake many of us make is to follow a passion rather than find a problem and solve it. It’s nice when your passion fuels the problem you solve but it’s not necessary for building a thriving business.
One of my passions is independence. I use that to fuel the work I do – ultimately I’m helping others achieve independence too by building the type of business that’s right for them and by using content to get their message out.
Message. If you thought Mission was hard to figure out, try creating your message. Sheesh. I struggled with this for years but that’s because I was making it harder than it really had to be and I was riddled with self-doubt.Your message is the essence of the change you want to bring to the world.You don’t want to rush this. And it is important. It’s really what becomes part of the foundation of the brand your building.
Don’t worry about your visual brand – your logo and other visual elements. Worry about your message and finding your voice.
I know you don’t want to waste time or build a reputation around the wrong elements; but the key here is to start talking about the problem you solve and shape your point of view (POV) so you can start branding the elements.
As you get stronger in sharing your message, you’ll begin to develop your own branded language and your pieces will fit together.
This is one of the pieces where it can really help to work with a coach or at least a branding consultant who can help you to recognize the themes and patterns to your own message. It’s the sort of thing where we struggle to see the forest for the trees.
Model. Boy if there’s one piece of being self-employed I totally missed when I started out this is it. I only thought of being a consultant. That was all I knew because it was all I had seen in corporate life.Unfortunately it didn’t take long for me to realize I DESPISED the consultant’s business model.I hated the whole corporate way of doing business and how slow hierarchical businesses could be to make a decision.
I hated the time it took to fully get clear about the prospect’s problem and then to write a proposal to address it, only to get turned down and find out later they had taken the ideas and tried to apply them on their own.
When I realized there were other ways of building a business as a solo professional – different types of models for making money and different models for marketing and selling services – I was able to build something that leveraged my talents and that was built around my personality.
It was incredibly freeing.
So make sure you think through your basic business model (which is how you’ll make money) and then think about the other sub-models or frameworks you need and map out something that fits your personality. You’ll probably need to try some things and decide you hate them or that they don’t work for you before you hit the nail on the head. One thing I encourage everyone to do is to just look around at how solo and micro businesses are structured and how they acquire and serve clients. Then pick and choose what you like and don’t like.
One word of caution – ignore people who try to tell you that what you want isn’t right because it’s not the model they would choose.
You can always change your model and you probably will as you and your business grow.
Market. This of course is who wants what you’re offering. Notice I said “wants” not “needs.” People buy what they want, not necessarily what they need. If that statement wasn’t true Oreos wouldn’t exist.Our job as professional problem solvers is to help people recognize our solution is actually both.Also notice that “Market” is number 5 on this list, not number 1. That’s the opposite of what every guru and business book will tell you. The reason for that is they just assume that you know or figured out 1 through 4 but I can tell you it’s unlikely that you did. Most of us don’t. So if you believe you’ve already nailed 1 through 4 congratulations.
This whole issue of “ideal client” or “client avatar” or “brand persona” or whatever you want to call it is really enough to drive you over the edge.
You want to know enough to get started.
Message comes before Market. Especially for service providers.
The better clarity you have about your message – the problem you solve and how you solve it – and the louder and more consistently you talk about it, the more your audience will be drawn to you.
In the meantime you want to think about the personality traits, characteristics, and habits of the people you most enjoy serving. These are all part of your ideal client’s psychographic profile and they’re way more important than the demographics ever will be.
It’s why I think understanding the problem you solve and your own POV and approach for solving it is so important. Especially if you’re the kind of person who hates selling (like me).
As you start to learn about your market, observe the language they use about the problem you solve and the solution they want that you provide. Then start using their language in your messaging. This will help you continue to attract more clients you enjoy working with and less you don’t.
Part of your message involves sharing your own story – warts and all.
That helps your Market to know, like, and trust you and it helps them to understand why and how you get them.
Money. Oh boy. This is the scariest part of the whole process and it gets back to coming face-to-face with your own crap.I didn’t even realize I had a problem with money but boy did I. I had this whole big story (ok stories) that I told myself about my worth. I was tied up with fear of rejection so I’d under charge.It wasn’t pretty and to be honest I’m still working to get past it.
The faster you can recognize your money issues and start to deal with them the faster you’ll become profitable.
Sit down and start making some notes about what you believe about money. What do you believe about people who have a lot of money?
If you’ve got money issues I strongly recommend you get a coach to help you deal with them otherwise you’ll face a lot of struggles including under-earning.
If you’re starting out you want to make sure you’ve got a year’s worth of expenses covered.
No, I’m not kidding.
That way you won’t feel desperate about getting clients and you’ll have time to figure things out.
If you don’t have that much in the bank to draw on then consider how you’ll make “now money” while you build your business.
And yes, a part time job is certainly reasonable.
Marketing. This is how you’ll get your message out. And when you start thinking “I hate selling” this is likely what starts to trigger that statement. We introverts (or quiet types or shy or however you describe yourself) tend to hate talking about ourselves. And we’re conditioned by our corporate experience to talk about “we”…the team….we worked with. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The problem is thinking marketing is talking about yourself.
It’s all about talking about and talking to your Market…your audience. If you’re talking about yourself you’re doing it wrong.
In this segment you need to think about how you’ll get your message out. What media and methods will you use.
Naturally, we want to save as much time, effort, and money as possible. But this is also where our Mindset can really trip us up and cause us to choose low risk, low potential reward activities.
But that strategy is a “play not to lose” rather than a “play to win” strategy.
By “risk” I’m talking about putting yourself out there.
This where all those awful thoughts like “no one wants to hear what I have to say”….or “but I’m not really an expert”…or “I don’t want to do video”…start screaming in our heads.
And when we think about marketing we often jump to “I have to get a website up” and “I need a logo” and “I need a list”.
All of those are true by the way but not as important as you think.
What you need is a crystal clear message about the problem you solve and directed at who you solve it for.
Then you need to take action to get that message out as loud and as big as you possibly can.
Management. In an interview I did with multi NY Times bestselling author Mike Michalowicz, he talked about the importance of management — systems, processes, and other elements that support working more efficiently and therefore maximizing your revenue and profitability.
While it’s natural to want to reject anything that smacks of your old organizational life there were some elements that were useful — like systems and processes. And getting help.
Contrary to the usual corporate line, you can’t do more with less. Unless you’re talking about your being more productive with less tasks because you’ve given those tasks to someone who can do them faster and easier and for less money than you can.
So the sooner you can start documenting and creating systems the better.
Plus, when you can show you work with systems and processes it instills confidence in clients and helps you feel more confident as well.
Metrics. Back in organizational life you might have referred to these as Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. They’re the elements you track and measure and as a solo professional or micro business owner it’s alot more than just your bank balance. There are lots of potential items to track so part of it is figuring out what stats are important and how often you need to look at them. Then setting up a schedule to (along with processes and systems) to track and review them.
Some important ones are around Marketing — website traffic, time on your key pages, opt-in’s, email numbers — and others are around sales and profitability like how long it takes you to go from a potential client’s inquiry to signed agreement and deposit check (or whatever is your process for what you’re selling).
It’s easy to get tied up in vanity metrics like shares of your Facebook posts, but what you want to figure our are the truly key indicators of success and make sure you’re focusing on what’s most important and of most value.
If you’d like to get some help figuring out where you are and where you want to go with these elements, click this link and share your best email address. I’ll send you a worksheet with these 9 elements that you can fill out or use as journal inspiration.
One of the dreams you probably had about getting a website up was that it would be out there selling your services 24 / 7…building your list of potential clients…generating contacts from interested, high quality potential clients…building your web presence and your reputation as a trusted authority and expert solution provider.
Whether you decide to start your first site yourself or you’re going to hire a developer to build you a site, there’s one big problem you’re going to run into.
What are you actually going to say on the pages?
When I was the chief brand strategist and copywriter at the agency I worked for back in the mid-00’s, no client ever gave me much insight into the message they wanted to convey on their site. They looked to me to tell them what they needed on the site, how many pages, what those pages should be, and certainly what should be on those pages.
Luckily we never had a client disappointed with the sites we developed for them.
Our developer, Ryan, was a big talent; but even he looked to me for direction about things like which images to use and where to put those images on the pages. I even wrote the alt-tags and page descriptions for the sites.
I rarely write copy for clients anymore.
The clients I work with have been determined to do it themselves or they’ve been working with a developer. The problem with developers though is they rarely understand how or have the talent to write good web copy. That’s not an insult. Writing copy and developing sites are two completely different skill sets.
I only know two people who I trust write copy for the sites they develop.
Writing the copy for a site is often the longest (and most expensive part) of a site build project.
One reason for that is the fact that the client is usually unable to provide the necessary background information for the copywriter to figure it out so a lot of research has to be done.
Then, that copywriter has to let the information marinate as they plan the project and start writing.
Like most things, the project and its success hinges on clarity. The more you have and can share with the writer the easier and faster the writing will happen and the better quality you’ll get.
Most professional copywriters will work from a creative brief.
A brief provides a lot of information about the project and will end up being referred to quite a bit by all parties.
If there’s any confusion about what was promised or what you told the copywriter the information in the brief is what keeps things clear.
If you’ve ever worked on a project yourself that suffered from scope creep or constantly changing directions then some sort of project brief would help with that. (Scope creep is also a boundary problem too so you want to make sure you’re firm on what the client gets in their package).
I think a brief is a great tool if you’re writing your own copy because it helps you think the project through, recognize what you’re unclear about, and work out some fine points before you begin writing.
You can get my brief by sharing your best email address when you click this link.
Those are the words we all dream of hearing from clients, isn’t it?
I heard them twice in the past 6 weeks.
I also heard, “You’re the only person I’d want to work with on this.”
That came from a potential JV partner who wanted to discuss a potentially lucrative project idea he had.
Let me tell you what I did — that you can do too — that got the right people – to say those things to me and how you can hear them too.
No one wants diet tips from Kate Moss. We want diet tips from Jennifer Hudson, Marie Osmond, and others who’ve struggled and won the battle. Your mistakes, obstacles, or challenges aren’t wounds; they’re medals of honor. Wear them proudly.
Just make sure you’re using your story to help others learn the key points you want them to get out of your message. Remember, there are 4 steps to the marketing / sales process: educate, elevate, inspire, and invite.
Believe me, I’m not perfect when I do them. And that’s what they actually like most.
If you’re resisting using video or audio, ask yourself why. If you can stay focused on the message your sharing and the people who need and want to hear it you’ll become a lot less self-conscious
We all want clients to come to us ready to buy. And it would be fabulous if JV partners came to us convinced we’d be a perfect match for each other.
To achieve that, we’ve got to get comfortable with and clear about our message, then have the courage to put it out there.
Don’t worry about the people who unsubscribe, tune out, or disconnect from you. They wouldn’t have bought anyway. You don’t need that many buyers to make a really good living and from there you need a few passionate advocates to help you share your story.
But it all starts with a clear message that you courageously share.
So what’s holding you back from getting your message out there?
I could read by the time I was 3 and entered Kindergarten reading at a 3rd grade level.
My parents read mysteries so that’s what they bought me, starting with Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective.
I soon progressed to Nancy Drew and read every story more than once.
By the summer I turned 9 I had read every book that was even remotely appropriate. So when my mother came home from work one rainy summer day and found me reading one of her police procedurals, she knew she had to do something.
She took it away from me, handed me another book, and said “Here. This should keep you busy.”
To say I loved it would be a gross understatement.
I read that book over and over and over.
And soon I discovered the rest of the Canon: 56 short stories and 4 novels.
I was in heaven.
I found them in the library and soon started receiving books as gifts, including my prized possession – the two-volume set of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William S. Baring-Gould.
In Sherlock, I didn’t just find entertainment through good stories with quirky characters, I found a mentor. A hero.
And a bit of myself.
Sherlock taught me how to observe, how to think, and how to make deductions — sometimes leaps — based on those observations.
Of course I also learned that at home. When you grow up in an abusive environment you tend to develop those skills as you try to avoid triggering the abuse. So reading people and situations quickly and well becomes an important skill.
Sherlock has enjoyed a renaissance in the last few years, especially with the BBC’s modern version starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
I love Sherlock. More now than ever.
And I promise you it has nothing to do with Mr. Cumberbatch and his singular characterization of the Great Detective.
Sherlock was a hit from the start. And when his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided he’d had enough of the character he’d created, he knew he needed to get rid of him once and for all. So he crafted a story that had Sherlock plunge to his death in a fight with his arch-enemy, “the Napoleon of Crime”, Professor Moriarty.
The outcry was deafening.
Fashionable men of the day wore black arm bands over their suit coats in mourning.
He is truly an iconic character. So much so that Time magazine featured him in one of their special editions: “The 100 Most Influential People Who Never Lived.”
His image or quotes from the stories (including the misquoted, “elementary, my dear Watson”) have been used to sell all sorts of products and services, much to the chagrin of the Doyle estate I’m sure.
And we know of Sherlock’s impact on forensic science.
But Sherlock even has lessons for us as entrepreneurs. He was self-employed after all.
So since January 6th was his unofficial birthday I wanted to share some branding lessons we can learn from The Great Detective.
Have a clear point of view and don’t be afraid to share it. Whether in modern times or his original, Victorian time period, Sherlock was always direct to say the least.
Be a thought leader. Holmes regularly talked about the “monographs” he published including one on cigar ash. His reputation went far and wide so heads of state and the local police force sought out his advice.
Work on projects that entertain and challenge you. Sherlock didn’t work with everyone and neither should you.
Stay in your genius zone. When Holmes was really focused on thinking he’d even have Watson read things to him.
Give yourself a great — but clear — title so people get what you do. Sherlock is a “consulting detective” and he made the title up.
If you hate marketing yourself, get help. We all know Watson was Holmes’ chronicler. Or in the BBC version, his blogger.
Have a consistent look that presents you well and communicates you’re an expert. Holmes’ deerstalker hat, Inverness cape, and curvy pipe are even more iconic than Benedict Cumberbtach’s coat and scarf.
Keep a close circle of experts you trust who help you and who you involve in your projects. We all need a Mrs. Hudson and a whole group of “Irregulars” to call on when we need help. And it goes without saying that we’d all love to have as loyal a friend as Dr. Watson to work with.
Above all, be you. Because you’re the only one too.
Happy birthday Mr. Holmes.
He dreamed of creating big buildings and traveling to exotic locations.
As he dreamed, he lived a life of service and sacrifice; preparing and waiting for his dreams to come true.
George had been dreaming of the day he’d escape the tiny town he lived in and had saved a lot of money. He looked forward to spending some of that on his honeymoon with Mary, the love of his life.
Unfortunately for him he got married on the day there was a financial crisis that caused a run on the bank and on the savings bank he ran.
His money went to keep his business afloat.
He worked hard to serve his clients and to be a good member of his community. But he often resented the sacrifices he made and wished business wasn’t so hard.
He once had a big juicy carrot dangled in front of him in the form of a job working for Mr. Potter…the richest man in town who owned everything but the business George and his family had built.
Boy it was tempting to take that carrot.
Enough money to live comfortably for the first time in his life. To be able to give his family the sort of things he wanted them to have and to live in a nicer home.
But he realized for just a moment that if he bent his values and lost control, his customers would have no choice but to turn to the spider-like Mr. Potter whose primary mission in life was control and profit.
So he turned Mr. Potter down and went back to work with his ethics in tact but his bank account still low.
George carried his uncle in his business until one day when the absent-minded uncle made a huge financial mistake on the worst of all possible days to make one – when the auditors showed up.
George believed he was ruined.
He had scrimped and saved and sacrificed…for what? To be arrested for embezzlement and to go to prison when he had done nothing wrong? To have his family shamed?
But George could see no way out of his problem.
Standing on the bridge in the middle of a blizzard, George believed he’d be worth more dead than alive. And as he looked at the freezing, black water below he believed he and everyone else would have been better off had he never been born.
You know the rest of the story.
Clarence, George’s guardian angel, gave George the amazing gift of seeing what the world would have truly been like had George never been born.
George saw what would have happened had he not been around to save people like Mr. Gower, the pharmacist driven by his own broken heart to fill a prescription with poison; Harry, George’s brother who George pulled from the freezing lake when the ice broke and who went on to save thousands of men in the war; his Uncle Billy who couldn’t run the family business on his own and went insane when it failed; the hundreds of depositors who were unable to afford homes or grow their businesses because George wasn’t around to help them. And the community that wasn’t able to grow and become a desirable place to live because George’s impact wasn’t able to ripple out to touch even those who didn’t know him.
Instead negativity rippled out because George wasn’t there.
YOU’RE George Bailey to hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
Your message and your solutions ripple out as people embrace them and apply the information you share, benefit from the skills you teach and use the advice you share.
But each time you choose to play small…to hold yourself back….to not put out a piece of content or share your message…you keep others from benefiting and from living up to their full potential.
The secret to attracting more clients is to put yourself out there more. It’s to demonstrate – to pre-sell – your knowledge, skills, and expertise in a way that resonates with those you’re meant to serve. And that gives them a clear idea of what it would be like to work with you.
I know that can be scary.
You run the risk of rejection.
And it can feel as if it’s hard to get your message right, to choose the right platform to deliver it, to focus your message so it resonates with just the right people.
Marketing isn’t about us, the entrepreneur. It’s about the person we’re meant to help. It’s a way to communicate valuable information that educates and inspires.
Remember, the word “sell” comes from the word “sellan” and the original definition was “to give.”
Those of us who hate selling need to remember that selling isn’t about getting or convincing. It’s about giving.
Giving our message…giving our services…giving our support and processes. Giving our best.
And that means we receive when the person we serve gives back to us in the form of compensation. It’s simply and exchange of value.
We give free information as an introduction and for those who are ready for the changes we help them make, that deeper help has a higher value.
There’s no shame in charging the prices you charge. You deserve to be well compensated so you can do even more good in the world.
So when you resist putting yourself out there…you don’t use video….you don’t update your blog….you don’t create courses and books…you don’t have a podcast or live stream show…and don’t appear as a guest on others shows…and give in to let your ego and pride take over to keep you safe by convincing you that no one wants to hear what you have to say or that they’ve heard it all before….
You’re keeping someone from doing, being, or having all they could.
You’re keeping someone from healing…from learning…from improving…from experiencing the abundance waiting for them. From improving their environment.
No one said this would be easy.
The entrepreneurial life is full of sacrifice and tough choices. But it’s also full of rewards that come from giving our best in service to others.
Each of us is the star of the movie that is our life. But we’re also playing a part in the lives of others.
Sometimes we’re a co-star. Other times we’re a supporting or a bit player.
But if you refuse the role you could play, it’s harder if not impossible for that person to be, do, or have all they could if you only stood up and put yourself out there.
The choice is yours.
You can stay hidden and protect your ego; or you can come out of hiding and get your message out in a bigger, bolder way and help others as you help yourself and contribute to creating a better world for everyone. Because it really is a wonderful life when you fulfill your potential and help others fulfill theirs.
It’s the holiday season and that means lots of parties and networking opportunities.
Did I just hear you groan?
I get it.
As an introvert, I’ve never liked going to rubber chicken lunches or dinners, sitting next to people I don’t know, and feeling like everyone I was talking to was either trying to impress me with their amazing background or was trying to sell me on working with them.
Most of the time, both of those things.
As if that’s not bad enough, then there are the events we have to go to during the holidays with our significant other.
Theoretically we know these are great opportunities to make connections and we know we need to approach these things with a positive mindset, it’s still hard to muster positive feelings when our past experience has been negative.
Like the time I was at an event and a guy walked up to the group I was in, handed us all his business card (like he was a walking poker dealer), and then just walked away.
Or the time when I got home from an event and discovered 3 people had added me to their newsletter list without asking.
But, you can really turn these events into a positive one (or at least make them less painful) by trying one or more of my favorite strategies.
Here’s a quick example for a tax accountant:
“I believe small business owners should definitely pay all the taxes and fees they owe the government. But not a penny more. Entrepreneurs have enough to do trying to run and grow a profitable business. Trying to manage the financial end of things and keep track of when to make tax payments is not something they want to worry about but missing a payment can lead to a big penalty and a lot of stress. They try using an accounting software and may even have a bookkeeper but as the business grows and becomes more complex, more attention and focus is needed specifically on the tax situation. That’s where my firm comes in. We help small businesses of up to 50 employees pay their local, state, and federal taxes easily and without a hassle. And our focus often helps clients save money.”
If that seems too long for you then try simplifying your introduction to focus on just the problem or just the solution.
Our accountant would say “My firm helps small businesses save on their taxes.” That would lead someone to say “Wow. How do you do that?”
And suddenly you’re in a conversation and actually talking about your offerings.
Just keep your statements brief, and focused on the problem and those you solve it for.
If you’re really uncomfortable about going to an event, here are two bonus tips that work for me.
First, reach out to a well-connected friend who may be going and ask him / her to introduce you to specific types of people who will be there. This could be owners of certain types of businesses…people who live near you…etc.
And if you don’t know anyone going, then reach out to the organizer of the event. Explain your situation and ask for them to introduce you to some people to help you break the ice at the event. You could ask them to introduce you to the best connected person in the group or someone they think is a natural connector.
Holiday events can be great opportunities to make new connections for the coming year, so don’t dread them; embrace them. The tips I shared can help you stand out and connect with others easier.
What strategies work for you?