How to Have a Stress-Free Business Launch

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do now that you’ve decided to finally leave the 9 to 5 job is to add more stress to your life. Isn’t that why you decided to build your own business in the first place? You’re looking for freedom from your awful boss, nasty coworkers, and the limitations of a fixed salary.

But if you’re trading all that in for a different kind of stress, what have you really gained? Before you kiss your cubicle goodbye, be sure you first build a solid foundation—and we don’t just mean business-wise.

Build a Financial Safety Net

Nothing stresses us out quite like worrying about money. Whether you’re concerned about those college tuition bills you’ll be facing in a few years, or worse, not sure how you’re going to make the rent, it’s easy to lose your business mojo. As a new business owner, you certainly don’t want money trouble casting a shadow over your entrepreneurial dream.

Before you turn in your resignation, set aside some cash in case of a rainy day. Aim for at least three months of living expenses but more is definitely better. Hopefully you won’t need it but having some cash on hand will definitely relieve the pressure of having a new business that’s not earning its keep—yet.

Make Sure Your Family is on Board

Money troubles are bad, but there may be one thing that’s worse: an unsupportive (or downright hostile) spouse. And as any entrepreneur will tell you, not everyone understands the drive to be a business owner. In fact, most people find it pretty scary to step away from that regular paycheck to chase after a dream.

If that sounds like your husband (or wife) don’t take it personally. They’re not making a statement about your ability. More than likely, they’re just worried about what the future holds. Do your best to understand where they’re coming from, and be sure to clearly explain your ideas, why you are confident it will work, and how you plan to cover the start up expenses and manage the risk.

If he or she is still not on board, consider starting slow, with a part-time business while still working your day job. That will give you the opportunity to prove your idea is workable, and might just help your spouse get as excited about it as you are.

Take Time for YOU

No matter what’s going on with your money, your spouse or your business, you need to be sure to schedule some “you” time. No one can work all the time, regardless of how driven you are. And no one can stay healthy while maintaining a nonstop schedule. Go for a walk, hit the gym, get a pedicure, or just binge on your favorite brainless television show. The point is simply to take time away from your desk to rest and rejuvenate. Without it, you’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed and stressed, even if you truly love your new business.

3 Surefire Ways to Create In-Demand Products and Services

If there’s one thing that holds promising entrepreneurs back from launching their business, it’s this: a lack of confidence in their products. Sure, you think that new course or workshop is a great idea, but how do you know it will sell?

Imagine spending weeks or even months of time—plus the cost of document design, video editing and all the other pieces that go along with it—only to discover it’s not what your audience wants or needs.  How frustrating would that be?

You don’t have to leave it to chance, though. There are plenty of ways to test your idea before spending the time and energy on a full launch.

Just Ask

This is the simplest way to get a feel for what your market needs and wants. Simply ask them. Create a survey with Survey Monkey (or even a Google form) and send it out to your mailing list. For best results, keep it short, but do ask:

  • What they’re struggling with
  • Their preferred learning method (video, text, audio, etc.)
  • What they feel the training is worth (what would they pay)

These three pieces will tell you everything you need to know to create a program that’s practically guaranteed to sell.

Listen to Their Complaints

If you have a community (or are part of one) of ideal clients, pay attention to what they’re asking about the most. These are the things they need help with. For example, if you’re a business coach and your Facebook group is filled with questions about running Facebook ads, then clearly there is a need for some training in that area.

Study Your Competition

Hopefully you have a list of competitors and you’re reading their blogs and emails, and lurking in their Facebook groups. This is a great way to gain insight into what they’re doing—not to copy them, but to discover what’s hot right now.

Consider buying their paid products as well. Again, you should never copy them, but you can either:

  • Promote them as an affiliate
  • Create a better, more comprehensive version
  • Create a lite, lower-cost version

Creating products in a vacuum is a great way to waste a lot of time and money on programs that won’t sell. Instead, pay attention to what your market is asking for, find out what they’re willing to pay, and delve into your competition’s offers. The information you gain from these three activities alone will give you incredible insight into your market and what they want and need, and make it easy to create your own hot-selling program.

Build a Business, Not Another Job

Many people dream of working for themselves, being their own boss, and having the freedom to only take on clients and projects they love.

What they don’t realize, though, is that there is a huge difference between building a business and being self-employed.

Business owners scale their income. Self-employed people trade dollars for hours

Business owners leverage the skills and talents of others. Self-employed people rely only on their own skills.

Discouraged yet? Don’t be. Every business owner started out self-employed. Just don’t stay there. These tips will help you build a sustainable business instead of just another job.

Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself

Building a sustainable business requires that you leverage the talents and time of others. While it might seem cost-effective to simply do everything yourself—especially in the start-up phase when you likely have more time than money—it’s a path to burnout and stress.

Instead, separate your tasks into those that you love and are especially suited for (such as marketing) and those you dislike and aren’t good at. Then make a solid plan to get those that you aren’t good at off your list of things to do. If you feel like you can’t afford to outsource it all right now, start with what you tend to procrastinate the most on, even if it’s just a few hours each month.

Don’t Allow Yourself to Work All the Time

The trouble with working at home is that you live at work. And that means that there’s no clear line in the sand between your work day and your home life.

Since there’s always work to do, it’s easy to find yourself working every available moment—often to the detriment of your family relationships.

You can help avoid this by:

  • Setting—and maintaining—clear work hours
  • Having an office with a door you can close when you’re done
  • Scheduling time for family and other activities
  • Taking time for yourself

Vacations and Downtime Are Important

Don’t create a business that requires you to be “in the office” every day. At the start, you may need to be available more, but you should definitely be planning for the day when you can be “off the grid” for extended periods of time.

  • Have trusted contractors who can handle things when you’re not available
  • Leverage automation tools such as autoresponders and autowebinar systems
  • Create repeatable systems so you’re not always re-inventing the wheel

While you might not be able to hit the road with no internet access for weeks at a time, at the very least you should be able to reduce your workload to a daily check-in.

Sound impossible? It’s not. With some forethought and planning, you can create a team—and the systems they need—to successfully run your business without becoming overwhelmed and overworked.

Mindset Tricks of Successful Entrepreneurs

Want to know what sets the uber-successful apart from the wannabe entrepreneurs?

It’s not money, or brilliant ideas, or even powerful friends.

All of those things (and more) are nice to have, but they’re not a requirement of success. What is a must-have, though, is a good attitude. Without the proper mindset, you’ll constantly be battling your own brain, and that’s exhausting.

  • You’ll allow yourself to believe your ideas are no good
  • You’ll remain convinced that you aren’t smart enough
  • You’ll be certain that someone else did it (whatever “it” is) better

And before you know it, you’ll have talked yourself right out of launching your new program, asking for a JV partnership, or writing your book. In no time at all, you’ll be back at your day job, working away on someone else’s business because you don’t have the confidence to create your own.

But a simple mindset change can make all the difference.

Dress for Success

Ladies, this one is for you. When we work at home, it’s easy to fall into a habit of wearing sweatpants and T-shirts to the office. After all, why dress up just for the dog?

But if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to instantly shift your mindset in the right direction, ditch the yoga pants and break out the lipstick. You’ll suddenly find you feel more professional, more confident, and sexier, too. (That last one won’t help your business, but it might just help your love life, and that can’t hurt, can it?)

Never Let Fear Drive Your Decisions

Too many would-be entrepreneurs operate with a scarcity mindset rather than approaching business from a place of abundance. Rather than telling yourself that you can’t afford to hire a virtual assistant or work with a coach, try reframing your thoughts.

Rather than thinking, “I can’t afford to attend that event,” ask yourself, “How can I earn the money to invest in this trip?”

Rather than saying, “I have to do everything myself because I can’t afford to hire a VA,” remind yourself that your hourly rate potential is much more than you’d pay a virtual assistant. Then fill those hours you’re saving by outsourcing with money-making tasks of your own.

By reformatting your thoughts, you’ll turn that negative money talk into positive solutions that help you grow.

List Engagement: What to Mail

Enticing your readers to join your list is just a small part of your overall list-building goal. The larger component is keeping them engaged. Do that right, and they’ll reward you with more sales—not only of your products and services, but those of your JV and affiliate partners as well.

That said, here’s the number one thing your readers are looking for: solutions to their problem. It’s ultimately why they’ve joined your list in the first place. Your opt-in incentive solved a problem they were having and now they’re counting on you to continue to provide the solutions they need.

These solutions can take many different forms, including:

Straight Information

This is similar to a blog post or article. It answers a question (much like this blog does) your readers have and gives them the info they need to move to the next step.

Maybe you’ve discovered an easier way to track conversions on Facebook ads, or gathered some interesting stats on content marketing for coaches, or learned a new method for promoting Kindle books.

Share with your readers. Don’t ask for anything in return; just send them the info they need. By offering these information only emails, you’ll show your list members that you’re not just another marketer trying to sell them something. Instead, you’ll be seen as a valuable source of information (and your open rates will improve, too).

Offers

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever sell anything to your list. You’d be shooting yourself in the foot if you did that. Not to mention you’d go broke pretty quickly!

In fact, since your readers have trusted you to provide them with the very best information available in your niche, it’s important that you DO create and send them offers. They need your:

  • Coaching programs
  • Self-study training
  • eBooks and guides
  • Private coaching and mentoring

So be sure to include these offers in your mailings from time to time.

Tools and Training from Others

As we’ve already said, your audience is depending on you to find and share the best information in your niche. Sometimes, that will take the form of an affiliate offer for a new tool, specialized training, free webinar, or other offers.

If you’re new to list building, it might be helpful for you to remember that these offers are meant to help your audience, not sell to them. Even though you might earn a small commission, it’s likely not your primary goal. When you approach your email from the standpoint of being helpful rather than being a sales person, it’s much easier to get past that “what should I mail” question. 

Improve Your Conversions: Split-Testing Simplified

Email marketing truly is a numbers game. The higher your conversion rates, the larger your list will be. The larger your list, the more sales you will make.

But there’s more to improving conversions and growing your list than just creating better offers and attracting more traffic. Each piece of your email list building and marketing effort has a job to do, and it’s up to you to make sure it’s performing as well as possible.

That’s where split-testing will come in handy. By tracking the results you get, then making incremental changes and comparing the numbers, you’ll begin to see the patterns that make a difference in your efforts.

And that’s the basis of split testing: tracking, tweaking, and testing with the goal of continuous improvement.

What Can You Split-Test?

A better question might be, “What can’t you split-test?” Because frankly, you can test just about everything, including:

  • Subject lines
  • Calls to action
  • Button colors
  • Fonts and text colors
  • Opt-in incentives
  • Landing page layout

But here’s the trick to a good split-test: Only test one single change at a time.

You might be tempted to rewrite your headline and your call to action and your button text, but don’t. While it may seem more efficient, the problem with this approach is that you’ll have no way of knowing which change had an effect on your conversions.

Did they go up because of the call to action? Or drop because of the subject line? Who knows?

Instead, make systematic changes to your landing pages and carefully track results. That’s the only way to know for sure what’s working—and what’s not.

Most landing page tools such as LeadPages and ClickFunnels have built in tools for split-testing. If you’re not using these tools, you can also set up split tests using your Google Webmaster tools account.

Testing Open and Click Rates

Your email list manager should provide a way to split-test your emails as well. Open rates are critical when it comes to email marketing and list engagement. After all, if your audience isn’t opening your mail, they’re not reading it either!

You can easily improve your open rates by split-testing subject lines to determine the format and style most likely to get your readers’ attention.

To improve your click rates, test your email’s call to action. Set up two identical emails—same subject line and same content—but change the call to action to see which gets the best response from your list. You’ll be able to use this information in later campaigns to improve click-throughs on all your emails.

Just like list-building, it’s never too early to begin split-testing. There’s no magical number of opt-ins you must have to get started. There’s no amount of traffic that’s too small. So don’t wait—start split testing your opt-in forms and emails now, so you can enjoy the best conversion rates possible.

Price vs. Power: How to Choose a Mailing List Provider

Aside from time and location freedom, the biggest benefit to starting an online business is the lack of start-up capital required. You don’t have to buy inventory to stock a store. You don’t have to spend a lot on equipment. And you don’t have to shell out cash for employees and insurance and all those other costs associated with offline businesses.

But that low-cost mentality can cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture, too.

While it is possible to start a business without spending any money at all, it’s truly not a good idea. That free hosting account will no doubt have downtime issues (not to mention the ads they’ll serve up to your visitors). Free word processors will have compatibility issues with other, more common solutions. Free WordPress themes and plugins can have support issues.

So while bootstrapping is a good thing, making business decisions based solely on cost is not. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to choosing an email list manager.

Deliverability Issues

Here’s the biggest problem we see with low-cost providers, including those you install and manage yourself: deliverability. Email services such as Yahoo, Gmail, and others vigorously defend their users’ accounts against spam, and will often mark your legitimate email as spam, simply based on the IP address it originates from.

Large email list providers have the resources to fight these false spam reports and keep their deliverability rates high. That’s what their users pay for. But when you choose a free or low-cost provider (or manage your own server), this might not happen. Over time, you’ll see your deliverability rates plummet.

Limited Features

Deliverability aside, many low-priced providers can afford to charge lower rates because they limit the features. For example, you might only be able to collect 500 addresses, or you may only be able to send a few emails each month. Even worse, you may not be able to segment your list or automate your emails.

Before you make the choice to use a low-priced or free email provider, be sure you fully understand the limitations of the account. While some concessions might be okay with you, others might put a serious crimp in your business-building efforts.

Finally, keep in mind that changing providers later (when you’re “ready”) can be a huge undertaking. You’ll have multiple landing pages and opt-in forms to edit, connections with your shopping cart, webinar host, social media accounts, and countless other integrations to deal with. And you’ll have a list of names to import to your new provider, many of which will either opt-out or be undeliverable at your new host.

Rather than go through all that trouble, the better option is to choose the right provider from the start, and if cost is an issue, create a plan to cover the expense instead of settling for the wrong service.

Anatomy of a Landing Page: How to Improve Your Conversion Rates with Three Simple Changes

Your readers have short attention spans.

I’m sure that’s no big surprise to you. In fact, you probably browse the Internet at light speed, too, scanning titles and subheads, skipping to the bottoms of sales pages, and fast-forwarding through videos just so you can get to the next thing.

The same is true for your readers, and if you want to capture their attention long enough to entice them to opt-in to your mailing list, then you have to keep that in mind.

A Tip From Newspaper Publishers

Have you ever noticed that everything you need to know about a news story is in the first paragraph? Journalists are trained to answer all the questions—who, what, where, when, why and how—in the first few sentences, just in case the story gets cut off when the paper goes to print.

In today’s online world, where column inches no longer matter, this type of story formatting isn’t quite so critical any more, but it’s still a useful tip to use when you’re writing an opt-in page.

Think about it: If your readers are skimmers (as most of us are) then making sure you include the most important information right at the top of the page is going to greatly improve your conversion rates.

For opt-in pages, that means putting the biggest benefits in your subject line, and following it up with two or three sentences that build on your headline. That’s it. Keep it short, sweet, and benefit driven, and you’ll have greater success than you would with longer content.

Graphics Matter

Whether your opt-in incentive is an eBook, a video, or even a simple checklist, having a graphic representation of your offer is an important component of your landing page.

Typically, you’ll create (or have created) a digital book or CD cover. You can easily outsource this, but be sure you follow these strategies:

  • Bold fonts and short titles make your cover more readable.
  • Use high-contrast colors for more visibility.
  • Be true to your brand. Stick with colors and fonts your readers expect.

Crafting a Compelling Call to Action

While it seems as if you can expect readers to know what to do when they land on your opt-in page, it’s just not true. You have to invite them to take the next step. Give them specific instructions and you’ll have higher conversion rates than if you just leave it to chance.

Your call to action should tell a reader exactly what to do, like this:

  • Click here to download
  • Enter your name and email for instant access

Watch the text on your form buttons, too. After all, “Subscribe” or “Sign Up” doesn’t exactly make you feel excited, does it? Consider using a phrase that matches your call to action instead, such as:

  • Get the Checklist!
  • Send the Video!

Take a look at your opt-in pages. Do they follow these strategies? If not, consider making some changes to your copy, your images, and your calls to action, then watch your results. You’ll more than likely see a boost in conversion rates if you do.

Mailing List Management: You’re Asking the Wrong Question

Here’s the question that’s on everyone’s mind when they start thinking about mailing lists:

“Which service should I use?”

You’ve probably wondered yourself, and maybe even spent a few hours (or days, or weeks) researching your options.

Stop!

This is not the question you should be asking (yet). And it’s exactly why so many entrepreneurs get stuck in the planning stage of list building.

The First Step In List Building

Before you need to think about tools, you must ask yourself this:

“How can I best serve my market?”

Whether you’re coaching business owners, new moms, bloggers, or youth pastors, they have a need that only you can fulfill. And when you discover what that need is, you’ll have two valuable pieces of information:

  1. What incentive will be a true no-brainer for your ideal client to opt-in to your list?
  2. How can you use your mailing list to provide the best value for those who join your list? 

Don’t over-think these questions, though. Your opt-in incentive can be as simple as a resource guide or a short how-to video that answers a common question. You don’t have to go overboard with dozens of downloads and a 100-page eBook. Rather than providing value, these massive downloads are more likely to overwhelm your reader than encourage her to learn more.

And when it comes to providing value to your list members, keep three things in mind:

  1. Regular communication is a must (consider an autoresponder series if you’re not good with scheduling email updates)
  2. Marketing is second to information—too much selling will cause your opt-out rates to soar.
  3. It’s your responsibility as a thought leader in your market to distill and provide the information, tools and products your audience needs.

“What is my list-building goal?”

How will you be using your list? Will you:

  • Send a weekly or monthly newsletter?
  • Create an autoresponder series that delivers content on a pre-determined schedule?
  • Use affiliate links as an income generator?
  • Promote your own services and products?

The answers to these questions will help you determine not only the right tool for your list-building needs, but will also determine the path for your ongoing mailing list content, promotions, and growth.

4 Ways to Get More Eyes on Your Live Videos

Live, streaming video is the hottest new thing for marketing your coaching or service biz, but if you can’t get eyes on your video, it won’t work as well as it could. And let’s face it; traffic is the toughest nut to crack, no matter which technique you’re using.

Here’s how to easily draw a crowd to your next live video event.

Promote Ahead of Time

This is key. You have to build a buzz about your live video. While you can (and sometimes should) go live in an impromptu manner, this should be the exception, not the rule.

A far better choice is to let your fans and followers know ahead of time that you’ll be hosting a live video, and how (and why) they should join you. Use the tools already at your disposal—your blog, your email list, your Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and your Twitter following—to make sure everyone knows when you’ll be on, and why they should be watching. And be sure to remind them as the day gets closer!

Offer a Giveaway

Here’s one sure way to get fans to show up—offer something free.

Checklists and worksheets are ideal if you’re teaching a strategy or technique. Readers can follow along, and refer back to it later as they work through your strategy. By delivering your gift via email autoresponder, you can take the opportunity to grow your mailing list as well.

Another great giveaway—especially if you’re launching a large course—is to offer a scholarship. Ask your applicants to write a blog post, record a video, or in some other way share why they want to take your course and how they’ll benefit from it, and then announce the winner via streaming video.

Make a Big Reveal

Jeff Walker pretty much invented the launch sequence we’ve all come to know (and have seen everywhere), but if you don’t have that kind of budget—or time—then you can easily do something similar with a well-planned live video event.

You’ll definitely want to promote this one ahead of time. Send out a few “teaser” emails promising big news; post about it on your other social accounts; create a Facebook event and schedule paid ads to invite interested people.

Then use the live video to answer questions and announce your launch, perhaps with a special introductory or fast-action price.

Cover a Controversial Topic

Look, we all have opinions, and not all of them are popular. That’s part of what sets you apart from your competitors, in fact. If you have strongly held opinions about your industry, or how a specific topic is being taught, video is a great place to make your point.

By taking to the airwaves with a live video and a controversial topic, you’ll instantly draw a crowd—half of which will agree with you, and half of which who will not. Imagine how lively the conversation will be! Just be sure to keep it respectful, and to not get your feelings hurt when someone disagrees with you (because they definitely will).

Live video is definitely a marketing tool that belongs in every coach’s toolbox. But using it without a plan to attract more eyes will be an exercise in frustration. Use these four strategies to get more people interested in your videos, and they’ll work far better for you and your business.