I started my online business in 2009. Not that long ago, but it feels like forever. Entrepreneur years are like dog years, you know?
That first year I was a hustler. In 2009 I hustled all over the place. I went to over 30 networking events, in and out of my town, 10 out of state conferences, took over 40 flights that year (more than a month of 2009 was spent in the air!) and offered “free consulting call” after “free consulting call.”
Even when I wasn’t physically hustling around the country, I was hustling around the web.
I wasted months perfecting my website, my business cards, my logo, my tagline and I spent countless hours checking out everyone else’s sites and comparing myself to them. DANGEROUS territory. I also spoke for free whenever asked, wrote a boatload of guest posts for sites I had never even visited and said “YES” to every opportunity that came my way.
Sound familiar at all?
That first year was rough. And although I believe that every experience shapes us and teaches us valuable lessons, there were a three very specific mistakes I wish I could have dodged.
Mistake #1: Saying YES To Everything Because I Was Afraid (and Uncertain)
I had a corporate job with Tony Robbins that I quit because I wanted to be my own boss. My goal when I left Robbins was to build a business selling my online courses and programs. I was very clear what I wanted to do, just not so clear about how I was going to make it happen.
Although I hate to admit it, I did not save up a bunch of money before I left Robbins so I could have some “ramping up time” before I needed to make money in my new business. I needed to make money right away. So before leaving my corporate job, I had lined up a few consulting clients to help me pay the bills while I worked on my first online course.
Here’s where things went wrong: instead of spending time creating and selling my online courses, all I was doing was hustling to support my one-on-one consulting clients. And worse yet, this meant I went from having one big boss (literally!) to a bunch of mini-bosses. Imagine eight little mini Tony Robbins’ bossing me around. It was maddening.
So there I was – I had a bunch of clients that I resented and did not enjoy working with, but felt trapped because I did not have a plan for the business I set out to create.
“I Made a Big Mistake!”
In that first year I let fear overtake me. I said “yes” to almost every opportunity that came my way because I was afraid that I would miss an opportunity if I passed it up. The fear came from not having a game plan for my business.
If I had a game plan, I could have seen how my consulting clients fit into my ultimate goal of building a business based on my training programs. They were stepping stones, but at the time I thought they were my demise.
Now when I say “game plan” I am not talking about a 10-page super official game plan for your next five or 10 years in business. I am talking about a six-month and 12-month plan that helps keep your eye on the prize.
The Good News
The good news is that I eventually received some great advice from a mentor that helped me make the transition from clients to courses. Finding a strategic way to transition my business changed everything and without sounding too dramatic, changed my life. When things finally fell into place, my revenue skyrocketed, I had much more freedom and time to spend with my family and I finally started to enjoy my business.
The Bad News
The bad new is that it took me a year longer than it needed to take. I didn’t stop working with clients until 2011. That was 365 days too long of me thinking my dream of a business by my own design was going down the drain fast. If I had a game plan that outlined my transition, I know it would have happened sooner.
My Advice to You
I can promise you this: Your business will look a lot different in year one than the years that follow. Embrace that fact and then get moving on a game plan that will help you identify what you need to do to get you to where you ultimately want to be.
For me this was more about mindset than anything. Looking back I know my one-on-one clients helped me fine tune my content and forced me to get in the trenches before I started to teach the “how-to” that I do today. But my attitude was less than stellar because I thought I was always moving in the wrong direction. The wrong attitude can derail you if you are not careful.
Here’s how to take action:
- Take the time to create a 6-month and 12-month plan of action.
- In that plan, outline how you are going to bring in revenue in your first 6-months while still working on your ultimate goals for your business.
- Create a plan that will serve you monetarily in the moment while supporting your long-term goals for your growing business.
By creating a timeline in your game plan, you can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Seeing that light makes the “not so fun” work worth it.
Mistake #2: Making Everything a Focus EXCEPT List Building
Another reason for the constant hustle in that first year was because I didn’t have an email list.
Tony would always tell his students that without an email list, you really don’t have a business. I didn’t really understand this statement until I felt the pain from NOT having a list!
There was one experience that helped me realized the power of an email list.
I was working as a consultant for a big shot internet marketer and on one specific day he had a big webinar to do, but I was scheduled to be on a plane, traveling to yet another networking event, trying to find more customers, so I left the reigns in the hands of someone else on his team.
Well to say the least, the webinar was a disaster – they could not log in because the woman I asked to support the call lost the login details, he was 30 minutes late to the webinar, and then once he did get on, the technology went down so people could not hear him. It was a mess.
When I landed, I had over 10 calls from him and he wasn’t just calling to say hello, if you know what I mean.
When I got this guy on the phone, after he yelled at me for a bit – he said, “Amy, this will NEVER happen again.”
I don’t know if it was his actual words or his “I am your boss and you are in trouble” kind of tone, but in that moment, I knew I had to change things fast. I left my corporate job to create a business on my own terms and this experience showed me that it was time to make a big shift. That was the moment when I stopped hustling for work and instead started focusing on building my email list. I knew that if I had a list, I could start to see success in selling my online programs.
My Advice to You
It is essential that you grow your email list. If you don’t focus on your email list, you’re going to wind up like the 2009 me – hustling your way around the interwebs filling your calendar with appointments, phone calls and conferences, instead of moving toward your ultimate goal.
One thing that did not exist when I first started out was a tool called LeadPages. Oh how I wish it did! Today, I don’t know what I would do with it. I use their tool every single day in one capacity or another. To help you understand how the power of LeadPages, here are a few examples of how I am currently using the tool.
Here’s how to take action:
- Think about the needs and challenges of your ideal audience.
- Create an irresistible giveaway offer.
- Use LeadPages to set up a opt-in page and a thank you page.
- Consistently find new ways to driving traffic to your opt-in page, including social media, Facebook ads, and linking to your giveaway in your blog posts.
Mistake #3: Not Knowing How to Turn My Audience into Customers
In those early years, I thought I knew more about online marketing than I actually did. Looking back, I know I would have had even bigger success faster if I mastered three areas: Content creation, copywriting and the art of selling. Let me break it down for you:
1) Content Creation: Knowing how to create stellar content is a MUST if you want to build your business online. There’s just no way around it. But if you are anything like me, this may not necessarily come natural for you. It’s taken me some time to really understand how to create content that will build my authority and keep my audience coming back for more.
When I finally figured this out, my list grew more rapidly and doors started to open up for me in terms of speaking gigs, interviews and invitations to participate in some great opportunities. Master your content and you too will see the doors of opportunity start to swing open for you.
2) Copywriting: This is one area I am constantly working on. I have gotten better over the years because I invested in training to hone in on these skills.
Have you ever noticed how there are certain people online that you LOVE to hear from? You open all of their emails, read their blog religiously and and listen to all of their videos and podcasts? Part of the reason you are drawn to these special people is because they are great copywriters. They have taken the time to understand you – your needs, wants, struggles and challenges – and they communicate with you in a way that is personal and real.
That’s what good copywriters do and when you learn this art, you will see your audience engagement and loyalty DRAMATICALLY increase. Your audience just won’t be able to get enough of you.
3) Selling: I use to hate to sell. When I would do webinars that first year out, my stomach would hurt when I got to the point in the presentation when I would promote my program. But with some help from my mentors, I soon realized that if I believed in my programs and knew I had created a solution my audience needed, I was offering an opportunity to make their businesses better.
My Advice to You
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can eventually figure it all out on your own. I see this all too often and those people are “thinkers” but not the action takers. I highly encourage you to get the training you need to be your very best. My business motto is this: To create a successful business you love, find someone who already has the success you want and model their strategies and systems.
Although I made many mistakes along the way (these are just 3 of the biggest ones!) what I did do right is find the training I needed to turn my mistakes into successes . . . quickly! That’s exactly what I did when I joined Marie Forleo’s B-School in 2010.
If you aren’t familiar with B-School, it’s an eight-week online program that is designed to help you build a business online that you truly love. Marie walks you through identifying your ideal audience, content creation, list building, product creation, promotion and copywriting and so much more. It’s the ultimate business building program and it’s what I used to build my entire business foundation.
If you want to learn more about B-School, you can check out Marie’s FREE 3-part video training here. It’s excellent and full of great tips and strategies for your business. Also, I am partnering with Marie to promote B-School and I have created a special bonus experience to anyone who enrolls in B-School with my affiliate link. To check out my special bonus experience, click here: B-School Bonus.