My top 5 tips for having a stronger start in business

"I want to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. I want to fish as deep down as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down." - Kerouac

When I started out on my entrepreneurial journey, I had no idea what I was in for. I knew I needed to dig deeper than my unfulfilling corporate job and I knew that my personal circumstances needed a boost. That was the defining factor for me, those two things had to become married. I didn't have a safety net at the time, and there wasn't a pile of cash funding my dreams. My husband was in college (Paramedic school which meant he was always gone), and we had just had a baby. I remember wondering daily if maybe I had gone mad because after all, pursuing the business 'lifestyle' wasn't easy. 

There were several points in my business journey where I learned that I was my own worst enemy. For example I was awesome at coming up with ideas, but terrible at threading it together into my brand. My offers never made sense, but the good news is they were unique enough to stand out (and tested, so they worked and I had raving fans). So looking back I realized that there were a few things I'd probably change, and the other stuff I'd probably chalk up to the business learning curve. 

Here are my top 5 tips for having a stronger start in business:

  1. I would have been more aware of the outside view of my business. Tunnel vision is a thorn in your side as a new business owner and in the beginning if this is you, then you are literally speaking into the abyss. The reason? You have no one to help because you've been essentially creating stuff for yourself. Audience and purposeful messaging is everything. Without those two things you have no business. I would have spent less time churning out new ideas and creating things like membership sites and programs early on and focused more on connection and honing my messaging. Instead I hid in the proverbial internet basement waiting for people to come, therefore making this business cash flow thing a painfully slow journey. I developed products and courses for a non-existent audience which in turn made it harder to promote. I mean the stuff I made was great, but how exactly do you build a thriving business off selling just a few things? You don't. I had no core message, so how was I going to 'talk' to my ideal customers? Also, if all I wanted to do was create new stuff, I should have thought about becoming an internet marketer (it's a viable option) so I could churn out stuff and sell it for a lower cost and have some cash flow. Online business is all about making a name for yourself, so being addicted to creating can make you feel like you have a business, but if you can't bring in cash, you don't in fact have a business. Since being an internet marketer didn't really match up with my core, the build it and they will come thing didn't work out so well for me. I was completely out of alignment. I would have worked on perfecting cash flow in just one thing, before I moved onto another for sure. 
  2. I would have put the time into building a proper funnel and threaded everything I did so that the people who signed up for my list, were the same people who would want to hire me or buy from me. I would have planned ahead, and leveraged pre-designed promotion periods to force me to be consistent too.   
  3. I would have banked on my talent longer, and socked that cash away while I worked on the other parts of my business that I still needed to develop. For example I was a wiz at technology but had a mentoring business. All I could focus on was leaving behind my 'trading dollars for hours' stuff and spent entirely too much time avoiding trading dollars for hours while I got everything else going. At the time my tech skills were my talent, and should have helped pay the bills more. As I sat there whining about being broke, I could have just setup a few websites and made a practical move to tell the universe I was ready for more. It took many many many years and free sessions for me to work out my process in a way that I could explain it to others. If you are diving into new territory it is going to take time, so why not have a security net to help you along? Right now the bar for coaching/mentoring is so low I feel that some people are being mislead to thinking this is the only/best way to start a business. It takes time to learn how to coach/mentor, it's not an out of the box one size fits all business solution that you can just wake up one day and be awesome at. Start with your natural talent and work towards developing a future craft once your cash is stable. 
  4. I would have worked on my mindset early on. I'll admit I am NOT a personal development junkie, but I wish I would have been. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel like I needed to spend uber amounts of cash that I didn't have for someone to tell me that I'm amazing, but what I would have done was read more books, watched more videos, and surrounded myself with more people who believed as deeply as I did about business. Not only is this motivating, it's a way to get out of your own head, which in turn produces faster, more solid growth. Sometimes being in our own heads too much is like stomping around in the garden.
  5. I would have sat at my desk less, and stood more, and took away the late nights whenever possible. Let me preface this one with there is a difference between working smart as a hustle, and letting the hustle overwork you. I would have made myself take more walk breaks, and I would have piped in video workouts or yoga daily into my home office. Somehow I made my business more like my old day job, it was grind, grind, grind, health suffers, grind. And yes I know Gary Vee says you have to hustle and go, but if you are smart about how you spend your time, you can do this without killing your health. For me, I had forgotten that one of my core complaints about my day job was being so sedentary and wasting away in the cube farm. I had gained weight and had chair arse, which I'm currently trying to fix. So when I designed my business around my life, why did I leave out one of the things I longed for?
  6. BONUS TIP, I would have hired based on my weaknesses. So before you think "Let's spend cash on all the things!" know that I'm a firm believer in not spending money you haven't made. So for me, this one is an investment that happens only once you've earned it by making SOME MONEY. So hustle to make X amount of cash, and spend a percentage on upping your game. Pay your bills and build a savings with the rest. There is a difference between not wanting to write sales copy and not knowing how to write sales copy. I clearly do not know how to write copy. I would have hired my copywriter waaaaay earlier once I perfected my craft, so I could have sounded more pro. I would have hired a VA to handle my emails sooner too as well as a photographer to snap a few photos of my face so people would know I was real! Those are things I spent way too much time trying to do on my own (Don't google how to take professional headshots with your iPhone) and I could have saved myself time by spending a little money. 

 

So where do you go from here? I invite you to take a step outside your head, and evaluate your business guiding star. Does this star really reflect what you want and need to do right now? Evaluate what steps can you take to pull it all together and make a plan of action to make a more solid, and sustainable business.

In my case, it's all good because as I realized these things, I evolved, and staying flexible is going to help you go the distance.

It would have been easier to give up. It would have been easier to just say I'm tired of this not working and reinvent yet again, but instead I put in the work to develop the stuff that played on my talents, while I worked on my craft.

Now I have TWO talents, whereas in the beginning I had one I ran away from, and one I longed for.

If you need help, feel free to book a quickie with me

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Being Real in Business: No more costumes, replicas, or paint.

Reaching your arms out and grabbing the universe by the lapels isn't as easy as it looks

Fact: Not everyone who starts a business will make it. 

You've heard these words...

The market is oversaturated. 

Everyone's a coach. 


So and so is doing that already. 

And sometimes, these things are said by well-meaning people who are just not able to see past the surface, and sometimes these things are said by the voices in your head.

The earth currently holds 7.4 billion people, and counting

Fact: There is room for all of us, but you have to have strategy, eyeballs, and provide value in what you teach, sell, or give. 

And, you have to be real. No more costumes, replicas, or paint.

Imagine business as a universe, your universe. Scientists discover new stars, moons, and galaxies because of their curiosity, drive, and technology at hand. We get better. We are all curious, and have the capacity to discover that our universe is vast. It also goes beyond the naked eye. 

There's more out there waiting for you, and your business. 

But the journey is ours to unfold.  

WHEN ALL THAT MATTERS IN BUSINESS IS JUST GETTING STARTED

Did you know one of my first businesses was called Network This and what I did was install Cat5 cables in mouse infested attics?

Yes, I'm serious. 

I did this at night, after my day job, in the dark. Alone. 

I had a website, and a Myspace page and my goal was to become a CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). I remember thinking yes this is how I'll make big money! The reason I started this biz was I wanted to do something different and to challenge the status quo. Back at that time (wow, around 2002-2004 maybe?) there were zero women doing this type of work. I was in school to be a Network Engineer and was the only woman to graduate in my class. (with honors baby!) 

About a year into the biz I realized I wanted to get out of the attics and back into a desk, but I needed something more creative. I was tired of crawling around attics. It was at that time that I dove into coding for more than just creating ascii middle fingers. You see I never even THOUGHT designing websites was an option for me. I perceived myself as a non-creative set of hands and didn't believe I could do it. 

So I took on a small website gig, with the help of a friend and we made $2200 on a static HTML website for a small law firm. At the time, this was 5X more than I made per hour in my Networking business and I was sold. 

Since that time I've created hundreds of websites ranging from small starter sites to larger ecommerce/corporate ones. I even ran my own multi-designer firm called MageCreates for a bit too!

The point of my story? I want you see that no business starts off perfect and we all evolve. Sometimes we start our business adventures out because we have to pay the bills (or make extra cash to make ends meet), and it looks different for all of us. As we gain more wisdom, our businesses change into something more connected to who we are, and what we want to offer. 

To celebrate the many faces of my business journey I decided to write down some of the things that helped me just get started. 

First up, the website:

  1. When I first started out I used Bluehost because it was cheap and easy. (Psst from Thursday, May 19, through Friday May 20 at 11:59 PM (MT), my readers can enjoy hosting for as low as $2.95/mo for 36 months. That's over 60% off!). They've since been bought out and while I dig them for starters, I tend to lean towards Siteground for beefier sites. If you need help choosing a host, ping me!
  2. My first website was a static HTML site and my second one, for Mage Creates, was built on WordPress.org. I used a free template and basically fumbled my way though it. Doing this helped me learn WordPress.org as a platform and then I was able to build these sites for others! Back then I offered a 'Start me up' offer where I setup a basic template + hosting + domain name for people for $295 and for nostalgia purposes I'm bringing this offer back for a limited time! Click here to learn more. This is for people who just needed a starting place. 
  3. Back then, I wasn't as well versed in Adobe products as I am now, and we didn't have Canva, so I used GIMP which is sort of like a free version of Photoshop. Now a days I'd suggest using Canva or Picmonkey (or any of the upteen million online photo/graphic creation software out there.) or just paying monthly for the Adobe Suite and then using Lynda.com or Youtube to educate yourself. There is also the option of buying graphics from designers on Fiverr, 99Designs, or places like Upwork
  4. In terms of what I offered, again, I had zerooooo people to consult so I literally just threw up a services page and made up a bunch of stuff LOL! I wasn't able to find my old Network This site on Wayback, but I did find the last version of my design business website from 2011. Check out that terrible logo! Proof you don't need a perfect website to pull in the dollars yo. 
  5. I didn't have Leadpages or anything fancy, I literally had a free Mailchimp account that I used to keep in touch with my clients. I didn't do any telsummits, I didn't blog much, and I was rarely interviewed. Ending list #'s in my just getting started phase? 467 people. 

Why the website first? Because people need to FIND YOU. Think of your website as your house. And no you don't need a perfect, $5,000 website to start off with. The visual representation of your business is such a personal thing. Don't let anyone tell you what you need, do the research and decide based on where you are, your budget, and where you are going. At the end of the day YOU have to feel comfortable with what you are doing and spending. 

So while I had a website, I didn't really have a clue as to how to run a business. I mean I had been doing business because I made money but did I really KNOW business. NOPE. I did NOT have a business degree, in fact I slept through most of college (and was a high school dropout). That's when I started googling work from home jobs and found the website Elance (now known as Upwork) and that's where I found my first 'VA' gig. 

Now, I do want to mention that I struggled with some shame in regards to being a virtual assistant.(Incredibly ridiculous looking back) I had a pretty slick day job at the time but I felt like my soul was dying every time I walked into that cube farm. I had began to build a reputation as the go to techie for everything and my family seemed proud. I was a girl from South Florida who pretty much climbed her way out of several hot messes. So imagine the first time I told them that my side business was a combination of IT stuff plus administrative assistant gigs. I got over the shame quickly and realized I could live the life I wanted by balancing these two skills to perfection.

I had a business because I recognized there was a need for both tech and admin help. I've never been a 'put all your eggs in one basket' kind of woman and this was how I survived all of these years of being in business. 

I always had a writing gig or two that I was juggling, usually found on ProBlogger's job board. I even took odd jobs doing customer service/chat part-time when business was slow.  

You see back when I started, there were no Facebook groups, there were only a handful of coaches and the only ones charging $2000 for courses were colleges and Tony Robbins. I never experienced FOMO because I was happy for the adventure and I was able to feel my way through the dark, without much overhead/spending. 

And this, is just part of the story on how I started my entrepreneurial adventure. So tell me, where are you in your journey and how can I help you get to your next destination?

 

 

 

 

 

It's time to help the business owner first

The thoughts inside our heads hold us back and they sometimes bring us to our knees. 

A few weeks ago I released my workshop series, MELT, and opened up the opportunity to anyone who wanted to apply. Out of the 36 applications I received, 20 or so were not a good fit. I could tell from the answers that most of these women were struggling with being seen and it wasn't a visibility issue. 

The issue? They didn't value their identity enough to make a business work. As I dug deeper I began to see patterns. Several of the women had started 5 or more businesses and their well had gone dry because they spent soooo much cash on self-development or coaching only to arrive on the other side without much gained and with their bank accounts ransacked. 

They were scammed by shitty coaches. They were following a pipe dream without having the chops to do the work (yet). They were playing on Facebook, and they were running towards every single new shiny object they could because it soothed them. 

This was worse than overspending and retail therapy but because it was done from the comfort of your pajamas, it wasn't that noticeable. 

They thought you could buy a business in a box and things would fall into place. But I went to "XYZ Business Program/School" they'd shout!

Yeah, but did you actually focus, learn, implement, and was that program even built to work for your business model? NO because you weren't even sure what that was at the time. 

What they didn't realize is that their past patterns would come into play. If they had years of deep seeded unworthiness following them around, they would often self-sooth via programs. They made bad decisions in the fog and often didn't dig deep enough to figure out what they were truly meant to do. 

And these are just a few of the reasons why some businesses are not able to fully get off the ground. 

 

The business owner is so absorbed in their self development pursuit that they can't soak any of it in. They feel overloaded, without the cash flow to prove that they are 'working' or running their business. (Because let's be real, business is a shit ton of work). People often rely on the false notion that later on when they are way more experienced, they can circle back and the stuff they learned will make sense. Here's the zinger though, by the TIME this happens that info will no longer be relevant. Between new technology and failing start ups, online business evolves faster than any other 'type' of business. 

But what about the money? Being unemployed, or even having financial stress, can make you THINK that entrepreneurship is for you. In fact it was what made me think the leap was for me. I had a baby, I was depressed and just wanted to hang out at home so I wouldn't strangle anyone at the office. I had worked from home for years on call for my day job, I thought this can't be too hard right? It looks easy, it looks flexible, and it seems great to 'make so many friends'. It's also kind of fun to curate a new life but if you aren't living/working authentically, then who the hell are you? 

Here's where things get a little strange. Just because someone buys from you doesn't mean they are your friend. And just because you've met a super nice person you get along with in Facebook groups, it still doesn't mean they're your friend either. (So pretty please stop paying for friends.) 

People flip flop between business models and stall. Then start again, and stop. While most of this is totally normal in the infancy stage, doing this for more than a few years can cause you financial stress unless you're wealthy and can support this cycle. 

There is no rule book. There is no department manager telling you what to do. 

So do we need guidance? YES. Most of us do. 

Do we need to dig deep within ourselves and find the answers there first, yes. I wholeheartedly feel this is where everyone should start. 

Over the next day or so I'll be opening the doors to a two week summer camp style 'reinvigoration' or quite possibly the 'final departure' of your business. Some of us will close our doors and move on or change, and some of us will know in our souls that this path is where we're meant to be.  

THE CAMPFIRE is affordable and you'll go through the realism of working through these hangups. There are no video challenges, or content strategies to implement. I'm not going to teach you any tactics or make you six/seven figures (rolls eyes). It's two weeks of intimately questioning WHY you do this to yourself and learning more about you, as a person, and possibly as a business owner if you want to go that route. 

This is about you, the business owner.

It includes four videos/audios (plus personal thought challenges/exercises) + email access + one group call and recording. This is not a technical how to, it's more of digging into why we stop ourselves from having the freedom to have a business, or the freedom to let our business go. The reality is you don't even need to decide those things right away, but maybe open up to the possibility of lighting the way for yourself. 

If you are ready to secure your spot, and don't want to wait for the official offering, click here to grab it at the early bird price. I do have a limit on the amount of people that can attend and if you have questions you can find me here.

 

 

 

3 Signs It's Time To Change Direction In Your Business

A few years ago I left behind the hustle mentality because it left me tired and overworked. Now you hear everyone yelling at the top of their lungs how good their hustle is. When I hear that I always think, oh really?

Full Definition of hustle

hus·tled hus·tling play\ˈhə-s(ə-)liŋ\

  1. transitive verb

  2. 1a :  jostle, shove b :  to convey forcibly or hurriedlyc :  to urge forward precipitately

  3. 2a :  to obtain by energetic activity <hustle up new customers> b :  to sell something to or obtain something from by energetic and especially underhanded activity <hustling the suckers> c :  to sell or promote energetically and aggressively <hustling a new product> d :  to lure less skillful players into competing against oneself at (a gambling game) <hustle pool>

The lines that makes me cringe the most? "To sell something to or obtain something from by energetic and especially underhanded activity" and "To lure less skillful players into competing against oneself."

If your business model consists of hustling customers or clients, then you are being deceptive. I know hustle is a buzzword right now so not everyone who uses it is being deceptive but those that are, know exactly what they are doing. 

For years I hustled but for me it was the state of constantly trying to find clients. I had this mentality that I had to constantly say yes to whatever customers wanted or needed, and that was my hustle. If you needed it done, I said yes, and found a way to make it happen. Sometimes I handled it myself, and other times I brought in the manpower to make it happen. My business was built on word-of-mouth referrals and once in a while I found myself without work and therefore without income. So that's when hustling unintentionally became my strategy. 

And then I burned out, several times, and couldn't really pinpoint why so I took some time to reflect. What came next was making some tough decisions on how my business would operate in the future and the decision that I wanted to become a real business owner who was connected to the soul of my business. I made the promise that I wouldn't hustle anymore, but would take the time necessary to learn things that would strengthen my business skills. 

When I dug deep, the first thing I discovered was that my business lacked real strategy. First let me say that the word strategy meant absolutely nothing to me back then.  I had offerings, a logo, a business tagline, but not much else. I felt put together and had a little income but not really enough to support my family of 3. Some clients knew me as the go to tech person, others knew me as a business mentor, and then some knew me as a superstar OBM. I had no direction in terms of who I wanted to work with, I accepted every single client who came knocking, and I mostly subscribed to the spray and pray method of marketing. I never had a launch plan but if I had a great idea the content was fleshed out in record time so I knew I could do the work. I was a creator, but obviously not a strategist. 

Once I identified that the lack of strategy was causing me to work way harder than necessary, I slowed down and began to plan. As a rebellious soul this was especially hard for me, I really dislike planning for myself and mostly just want to wing it. What I realized is that it wasn't the planning that was necessary, it was actually the conscious effort to make sure everything made sense outside my head. If I wanted to make 5K selling membership spots, I had to string my freebie, my emails, my value content, my social media, and my customers needs together. Most of the time I would forget most of those things and just randomly post a promo on my FB Page and then go "Why is this not selling?!?!?!".

What I found was I wasn't consistent and that was my second sign that I had to change direction. By not having a strategy or clear purpose, I made decisions based on what seemed smart but I wasn't putting in the brain power to make my business a lasting success. I flip flopped offers, and I essentially was on a soul finding path rather than a making money as a successful business owner path. Not to say that the business journey isn't the place to find yourself but knowing some of your core values is essential to getting off the ground quickly. I really had no identity and was just doing whatever anyone needed. This was actually a spillover from my old day job days and I missing the entire point of being an entrepreneur, making money doing shit you love!

Once I realized I lacked strategy and wasn't being consistent, it opened the door to the next realization or sign which was I was afraid of committing. Committing to a start and finish in terms of business means going through with the plan, the process, and executing. It means being responsible for everything that happens and having no one to blame but yourself if things fall though. When I realized that flip flopping and lack of strategy meant that I wasn't ready to commit to a business idea, I should have put the brakes on and found a mentor. Instead I spent several years playing around in business instead of being an actual business owner. 

So if your business just seems like it's not working for you, I want you to ask yourself these three fundamental questions:

  1. Is everything I do with purpose, and direction, and do I have a clear strategy or path to get to my goal?   (or am I stuck in my ways or just unsure of what to do next so I'm digging in the dark?)
  2. Am I consistent or do I flip flop ideas and just seem to be all over the place? (Imagine how confusing this is to your audience)
  3. And lastly, ask yourself... am I as committed as I think I am, do I really want to do this? (or am I just playing business owner?)

If you answered yes to any of the above, we now have something to work on. Remember, you are not lost, you are here. (points to your feet)

Want to cut several years off your online business learning curve? Read this.

Online Business Masterpiece

As I sit and stare at the gloriously imperfect world of online business, I realize that in order to become a masterpiece, we must first do the work. 

It took me 8 long years to be comfortable with knowing myself as a business woman. Being in business for yourself means adjusting your mindset accordingly. Don't wait 8 years like me. If I could do it all over again I would have stopped buying programs, products, and courses I didn't need and instead would have found ways to work on my mindset. 

When people would ask what I did for a living, the following was usually my response:

Oh a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Say what? What does that even mean? In reality I was a paid technology writer, an online consultant, and had TWO other businesses that I operated. Why was it so hard to actually put this into words?

I feel like this shows that at some point, well probably many points in my business life, I really had no idea wtf I was doing. The thing is NO ONE IN ONLINE BUSINESS knows wtf they are doing, the freedom of doing this means you get to play, all the time. In most instances testing the waters in business means you get a 'pass' to the world of the unknown, and that's a good thing. 

It took me over 6 years to really know who my ideal clients were. This is no joke. If you find yourself doing every exercise under the sun to find out who exactly they are, like cataloguing their nail polish and favorite scent, it might just not be that easy. If I had a dollar for every single time I said I was never going to work with X TYPE person ever again, and then I turned around and accepted the project based on another factor, I'd be rich(er)!  

Note: At this point I feel quite fortunate to have gotten to experience 9+ years of every type of client there is. From good to bad to profoundly worse, I've seen it. Once I went through all these 'types' I finally was able to say I'll never work with X type again, and ONLY because of my experience do I have a valid reason to say that. 

It took me 4 years to realize that I was underpricing myself because I was a bit naive. Every time I went to raise my rates to even the current industry standard, a voice in my head would say "They'll never pay that you know". Wrong, ego. 

In the beginning business service pricing is based on two things, and two things alone. Your personal feelings about money ( and consequently any money blocks you have ) and your talent vs value ratio. If you offer amazing solutions, don't be afraid to price yourself at a rate that makes you feel amazing. Just be 10000% sure that the value is there because if it isn't, your reputation will suffer. 

Also, don't be afraid to price based on what your finances look like. The magic in business is if you can hang, the money is exponential. 

The talent to value + life ratio goes a little something like this:

Your unique talent x value you bring (aka the problem you solve) x your biz/life expenses = your rate. 

My wise advice? Always pad it. Pad it for your lack of experience in estimating. Pad it to cover your unexpected doctor visits. Pad it to cover your ass. But NEVER overcharge. 

It took me 3 years to understand that there wasn't one straight shot to success. That it was OK to split my business into several income streams and to even have a steady 'job' while I was building up my clientele. I hustled and took on writing gigs and other side jobs to have the freedom to run my biz and put my spouse through college. It was fucking hard, as in ramen noodles hard, but I can now look back and say HELL YEAH, because I did it. 

It took me around 2 years to accept that the online business world is full of facades and it's easy to become bitter when you see people being ripped off. Do not let these folks penetrate your wall of amazingness as it will take away important energy you need to use in your business. Headspace is a rare commodity in the business world. While it's not easy to overlook this crap, I can tell you that about 98% of the time, those shady people fade within about a year of showing their true colors. Bad reputations are like quicksand, exceedingly difficult to maneuver, even for the clever. 

It didn't take me long to learn that the online business world is filled with passionately wild people who just lack the experience to put it all together. You'll run across several genuine souls who will essentially make up for the ones that attempt to destroy the playing field. This my friends, is the holy grail of online business, the people you meet, the people you serve, and the person you become. 

Ontraport wrecks the competition. And here's why you can't afford to let this go.

No more multi-system drama? Check. 

No more freebie Mailchimp account with zero support? Check. 

No more using the lower end emarketing systems to capacity and duct taping your lists together? Check.

These are my thoughts on Ontraport and a special offer for those who want to switch. 

This week Ontraport released a much anticipated lower cost BASIC version for $79! That's right for just $79 buckaroo's you can have a more beautiful and intelligent way to keep in touch with your subscribers. 

Want an even deeper discount? Pay for the year in advance and get it for just $65.83 per month!

This has been a pretty magical move for them. They have now publicly declared that they want to help those with lists under 1000 and do not intend on leaving them high and dry like their competition. In the past, if you had a list of under 1000 you would have to make due with systems that didn't let you really dig into the psychology of your subscribers. 

For those of you that don't know, Ontraport is an all-in-one system. It's been considered one of the higher end systems for years and is Infusionsoft's direct competition. I've been supporting the system for over five years and started my adventure with them by moving an Australian client from Mailchimp over to their soon to be defunct system Sendpepper. Sendpepper worked well but it just didn't have a ton oomph if you ask me. 

A few years after that migration one of my star clients came to me and asked if I thought she should move to Infusionsoft or Ontraport ( actually called Office AutoPilot at that time). I had been working in Infusionsoft for a few years and really disliked it. I'm highly technical by nature and once I dug in I realized all the illogical setup wasted so much time and decided to no longer support it. I did the research and recommended Ontraport without ever having really using the system. The decision was based on my interactions with their staff and my impression of Send Pepper. 

Hard Truth: Most people who purchase Infusionsoft STAY with Infusionsoft for life because of the amount of cash they've had to put into the system. This makes them afraid to velcro themselves away. The rest, look for a way to have more harmony in their business automation, that's where Ontraport comes in. 

Once I understood the the basis of the technology and I saw how great Landon and his team were, I was in. 

One of my biggest issues with their competitor was always support. They were nice enough but sometimes you just felt like you had to go through so many corporate hoops to get stuff fixed. It was like dealing with the government lol!

Ontraport on the other hand ( or Office AutoPilot back then ) just had a real down to earth feel. If they messed up, they told me, if they knew I was wrong, they were nice about it. I felt like I was dealing with a group that really cared about their customers and their experiences. Down the line they decided to change their name and became a stronger, more streamlined version of what they already were. They became Ontraport and they didn't compromise the heart of their biz, their customers. 

Now with the inclusion of a lower end offering they can scoop up what I call the inbetweeners. Those who are making money but haven't done much list building and could use a leg up. The new basic offering includes up to 1000 contacts and unlimited emails. It also includes their new signature Ontrapages system which takes the place of leadpages! 

I think this was done so that they could knock their other competitor, Simplero out of the water. Simplero is a great system, it's just still in the baby stages and Ontraport is for badasses. 

Scroll to the end of the blog for my special offer!

So if you find yourself feeling like Mailchimp, Aweber, Active Campaign, Campaign Monitor, and Get Reponse really isn't making the grade you may want to have a look at Ontraport. Out of all of those I'd say Active Campaign comes the closest to what Ontraport Basic is minus the beautiful landing pages. 

One of the cons I can see in regards to the basic level is you don't get the full system. The full system includes being able to sell stuff, setup membership sites, an affiliate system and more - it's a true all-in-one. Also if you have more than 1000 contacts you'll need their high end system as there is nothing in between (for now). 

That doesn't mean that you can't sell stuff, it means that you would have to piece together a few tools to get any people on your list via a sale. 

Not ready for Ontraport but really want to have a way better, less expensive option for building landing/lead pages...try Ontrapages!

Additionally this week they released a stand-alone version Ontrapages which is their webpage/landing page builder. They have both a forever free version which will just collect names into a spreadsheet (then you manually add to your system)  or a $15/month paid version that is actually pretty damn awesome. Folks who have Ontraport have been using this tool for a few months and I was happy to see it being released to the public as well. Ontraport is NOT required for Ontrapages!

To use Ontrapages without Ontraport ( as in use it with Mailchimp, Aweber, Infusionsoft etc) you just need the URL of your hosted form from your preferred email provider. There is no code to fudge with, thanks Ontrapages!

Click this link to view an Ontrapage that I sent up in less than 5 minutes using the free version. (Note that it isn't live just a sample to view)

And here is a screenshot. 

 

Here is the pricing info for Ontrapages from their website: 

Free Forever
$0/month
10 Pages
Unlimited Templates
All mobile responsive page templates
10 ONTRApages
2,500 visits per month
Get your leads delivered immediately via email
Unlimited images
Analytics: Visitor and conversion stats

Premium
$15/month (or $99/year)
25 Pages
Use Your Own Domain
Everything in Free Forever, plus...
25 ONTRApages
25,000 visits per month
Send leads to any email service or CRM
Use your own domain
Remove ONTRApages branding
Split testing

Click here to view my complete review of Ontraport.

Bookmark this blog as I'll be updating you on more features soon. 

And now for my special offer.

I don't want you to miss our on all of this Ontraport badassery so I'm offering you a hell of a deal on setting up the system. 

If you want to move your current list building over to the $79 Ontraport Basic and you have 1000 contacts or less, I will perform the installation for FREE if you purchase through my link.  

If you have more contacts and just want to make the switch to Premium Ontraport, I can help with that too! I'm offering special pricing to all my readers. 

Get in touch with me asap for more info. Also feel free to get in touch if you need help deciding if Ontraport or Ontrapages will work for your business model. 

 

Disclaimer: The above blog may contain affiliate links. I only link to products I 100% believe in!

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Trust Yourself? Why I'm retiring my OBM practice.

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After many, many, years, and many, many, hats I've decided that it is time to retire my Online Business Manager (OBM) practice. Last week I notified my current clients and those on my wait list that I was finally off the market for good. 

Does that mean I'm not longer running a business? Hell to the no, in fact I'm taking some huge risks in the business world because it's time. 

Throughout this spectacular journey I've come to realize some really REAL stuff about being an Online Business Manager and this blog is being written to share those things with you. 

I'm a supporter by nature so being a Tech/Admin in my early years was my way of learning all I could about the online world of business. I worked for some of the biggest Guru's in the business as a peon. I made shit, I earned shit, and I did shit for several well-known businesses. Believe me, what I learned was worth its weight in gold so I'm not too bitter about the grunt work and crappy pay. 

When I first heard the term OBM it was touted as being the natural progression for those who wanted to no longer be on the frontline doing the crap work. I was told I'd have more flexibility in my day, and it was about strategy and managing in a way that helped the business prosper. I was told I'd possibly manage a team, I'd get to use my strategy brain instead of ticking tasks, I'd also have way more responsibility and get paid more. Of course I was in. 

I was told I was already doing the job so why not get paid for it. Yes bitches, indeed. 

Years later I'm burned out (for the second time) and finding that the world of online business is changing in a direction that worries me. The first time I burned out, I admit I wasn't ready and I certainly didn't work SMART. Instead of hanging with my family during their Christmas get together, I worked. I mismanaged my time and teeter tottered between being a shitty VA and an even shittier OBM. I didn't sleep, I was overwhelmed and not able to switch hats quick enough. That's ok though, I learned and emerged as a goddess riding a fucking unicorn. 

Nowadays, some people see hiring an OBM as a status symbol and they don't have the chunk of cash needed to justify hiring one. Sure you can try and bank on future stuff but there really is a point where some businesses need to cut back rather than keep absorbing costs. Inexperienced OBM's are jumping into crap situations out of the gate (because you gotta eat) and I see several of them struggling because of it. OBM's if you are listening, qualify your clients via revenue/profit otherwise you'll end up in the poorhouse. And you will end up in the poorhouse, I speak from experience. 

Others see hiring an OBM as a way to have a 4-Hour Workweek and they dump their entire shitty business on you. This is the reality of what it's like to be an OBM sometimes. It's not always fun and it surely isn't always pretty. Yeah yeah yeah it's your job to make the biz run like a machine. I'm sorry (not sorry) but even for the most on point OBM's there are just some things you can't fix. This normally wouldn't be a problem for me, because I love a challenge. I love to fix broken shit, build it from scratch and make a stinky shit of a business smell like a luxurious $12,721.89 per ounce perfume. This is my thing. 

I know, not everyone needs that service, but everyone could use the money that comes along with shining like the heart of a comet. This is what I helped do most of my time as an OBM, make fucking dough. Swim in it, roll in it, play in it. Running an online business and making sure it's profitable is one of the hardest gigs in the universe. It's the reason so many business owners give up and so many supporters burn out quickly. 

Speaking of supporter burn out, that's another dish I'd like to serve up. If I had a buck for every VA or OBM's name that came across my desk this year because they screwed their client,  I could travel the world on a 24K gold yacht and still have enough to buy a private lap dance from Drake. By day I was Olivia Pope, and by night I was chasing shitty supporters like the non-racist version of dog the bounty hunter. Supporters stop using this industry as your own personal toilet paper. It's ok to duck out, but stop it with the casualties already. 

Contrary to popular belief in the OBM world, being an OBM doesn't mean getting to chit chat on the phone and play around with projects. It means dealing with all of the fires that come along with running an online business, pushing the business and sometimes the business owner, in the direction of profit with strategy, and being there when everyone else can't. While I'm grateful for every client I said yes to (which is far less than those I said no to), it's about being realistic as to what your life will look like should you decide to become an Online Business Manager. 

Even with the best clients in the world you'll face times where the weight of carrying someone else's business is just too much. Online business isn't life or death, but some people try to make it so. The patterns people have in their day to day life will always bleed into their business. It's so much more than just managing a business. 

Do you see where this is heading? 

There are oceans of people with amateur mindsets that hold them back. You can't be a #ladyboss if your shit is falling apart...and I say that rawness, wisdom and truth. The more realness you put into it, the more you'll get back. 

So many are shooting for the stars and receiving fistfuls of dung beetles and there are legit reasons, some of which will go to the grave with me and others will be future blogs. I take the act of being in business pretty seriously and I'm telling you that you need to choose your friends, clients, coaches, supporters and others in your circle WISELY. No more mass Facebook groups with the same faces. You can't trust nor win them all.

It's impossible. 

Some people feel that online business isn't real business, as if it's not the real world. They do things online that they'd never dream of doing in people's faces. 

A skype call is real. 

The exchange of money is real.

Over the past 8+ years I've seen my clients clients screw their coaches/mentors for non-payment (and shame them in public with lies to cover it up). Then I've seen coaches/mentors/business owners screw their clients with shitty advice and poor service, and supporters screw their coaches/mentors/bosses by not showing up. All while holding public witch hunts and using each other to gain more (insert fame, success, money here). Fast-food companies have been doing this exact same thing for the past 20 years. It's called lowered standards in business, and profit before people. So is online business now the equivalent of working for the big red clown, maybe.   

Not all clients suck, in fact I've worked with some of the most generous and lovely people. I gave them my all and they handed me their business. It's something I'll be eternally grateful for and the experiences have helped make me a better Olivia Pope. I can spot a badass business babe from 53 miles away, I can look at your business and know within seconds if it's going to make it. 

I've been so lucky as I've been behind the scenes of some some truly magical shit. I can easily continue on in this industry, but I don't want to. 

If I could call out every mean girl whose story I've been privy to because of my behind the scenes status, I would but I'm bound by legal obligation to just let it go. Instead, I'm choosing to get out of the perpetual rat race and do business differently, aka with strategy and people before profit.  I'm moving on to become the Director of Operations for A Freaking Great Company a Boutique Agency, and to serve up a raw dose of Business Wisdom for some of the most passionate and vivacious clients out there. You can also have a scheduled chat with me or have me help you with your website or tech stuff. Just ask

In this chapter of my story, I'll be working on other people's businesses less and working on my own, more. 

At home, I'll be tending to my little life in ways that make me smile. 

My advice to any of the new business birds is don't waste your time worrying about what everyone else is doing. Put time into being gentle with your business and give yourself space to expand and learn. You will make mistakes, it will happen. Focus on spreading more good, learn from those who inspire you and all of the bullshit in your view will fade away. Also be real and don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't even try to fake it until you make it.  

And I leave you with this, a one card reading that forced me to take a step back, breathe and make some hard decisions on what happens next in my own business story. 

The Shapeshifter in shadow: You’re a chameleon and the constant shift to please everyone is doing you harm. Make it stop. You need to come to terms with what is true for you. Trust yourself Dani.

 

Disclaimer: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my clients. 

The above mentioned incidents either are products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. This blog does not represent my current nor past clients. 


Online Business Ethics 101 - A Free Mini Manifesto to Share

Online business can be a war zone for ethics and this is partially due to the nature of not actually being face-to-face.  You don't see this happening much in the physical products world, you actually see the opposite. You'll notice that businesses are now calling on ethics in their marketing messages by using phrases like "Ethically sourced" or "Fair Trade". 

An Online Business Manager, I want to say to all business owners that it doesn't matter if you are face-to-face or not. Everyone should be treated as if they just walked up to your cafe window, and if you come across a business that isn't doing this, feel free to share this manifesto with them. 

  • Strive to make decisions within your business that are fair to both yourself, your staff and your customers. This means having some boundaries and protecting your biz, and being honest and fair to your customers. If you are late delivering, be honest. If your clients aren't on time, be honest with them as well on how this affects your day. 
  • Do not steal copy, content or products from other business owners. It's ok to use someone as a muse, it's not ok to directly copy. No one is above the law on this one. 
  • Only form collaborations with people (staff, contractors, JV Partners) that match my ethics. As the Ethics Coach says, "It's a liability to hire someone not committed to ethical behavior." Even if you aren't technically hiring them, partnerships matter in the ethics department.
  • Engage and empower anyone who works within your business. Make sure their job improves the quality of their life and doesn't unnecessarily stress them out. No 2 AM texts unless the world is going up in flames. Everything isn't an emergency to everyone. 
  • If you accept money from someone only do so knowing that you will deliver. I also suggest protecting your business with a strong refund policy that matches your ethics. Not all businesses should offer refunds, but all should re-evaluate their offering if they get too many refund requests. 
  • Keep your commitments. Danielle LaPorte presents this well in this video when she says, Do what you say you are going to do. In fact, in my not so perfect past, I was a flake and this video changed my world.
  • Please don't pay people or bots to leave fake reviews or testimonials for your business or service. Instead think about offering FREE products or services, in order to obtain HONEST FEEDBACK. Asking friends to try it out and give you honest feedback works too. 

 

 

 

Do you want magical unicorn six-pack business abs? Here's how to get them.

In yoga they say that building your core is one of the most important things you need to do in order to keep going. I say, that if you are in business without a strong core, you are just asking the universe for chaos.

Core /kôr/ - The central or most important part of something.

Here is my list of non-negotiables in business aka my core builders. These are probably the ONLY things I believe EVERY single business must do. If you are exchanging money, honey, you need to pay attention. 

Ask yourself, are my gates up?

This means paying attention to the legal and financial details that matter. For example: Are you requiring signed agreements in order to work 1:1 with you? Does your website have a terms and conditions that your customers see before they purchase? Do you have a refund policy that is clearly visible? Do I have signed agreements with the contractors/staff I work with? 

Many newbies (and oldies who just don't know any better) will just skip over this part. Well, I guess you CAN skip over it but if you do, expect it to come back to you down the line in the form of a payment dispute.

Do you have a safety net?

For the first few months you are in business, you'll most likely be carrying your overhead and not making much money. My rule of thumb is to sock away 1/4 of all payments into a business savings account. Take the other 3/4's and pay taxes, bills/overhead and give yourself a steady paycheck. Your paycheck may be small to begin with but there should always be something you sock away for future expansion. Every single business owner should be doing this. 

Here is a little biz secret. Businesses are NOT profitable unless you can pay the bills (taxes and overhead) AND sock money away for future use. Click here for an excellent and easy to understand explanation on this. Just like Stever says, profit is how much money you have left after you get your revenue and pay your expenses.  

Another biggie to be aware of is your business Paypal account is NOT your bank account. It's also not for personal stuff. The reason? Well first, it makes it easier for your accounting system (aka Linda in accounting) to do her job. Second, is because the IRS loves to audit small businesses and the bigger the web, the harder it is to untangle from it. Part of putting on your big business pants is getting a business bank account and separating your personal Paypal from your business. It's about finally taking your business serious. 

What else falls under my biz non-negotiables list? 

  • Getting Legal (Licenses, taxes, all the things you should know BEFORE you start.)
  • Fences (Agreements for your clients and asking for them from people who provide a service to you.)
  • Financials (Banking, cash flow, profit expectations, payments, fees and record keeping.)
  • Business Model or Plan.  (A post-it note or 10 pager will do, your choice)

If you want to be a magical friggen business unicorn, make sure your core is strong enough to bounce any enemy off your six-pack of business abs. 

I may or may not have actual six-pack abs, but you better believe your hiney that my business does. 

We interrupt your business day to talk to you about interruptions.

Today, a badass copywriter that I know reminded me of a simple, but accurate fact about working from home.

"Interruptions: On average it takes you 23 minutes to get back to the original task."

I've also read that it takes up to an additional 30 minutes to return to the flow of productivity.

Are you struggling with interruptions? 

Try this article from the New York Times. It enlightened me on the psychology behind this theory or maybe this one from Inc Magazine about making your workplace a little more private ( works for home offices too ).

Need something with a little more depth? Try 9 Ways to Create Time, Space and Stillness for Meaningful Work from Ernest Barbaric.

Are your interruptions actually people in your house/office?

First, set boundaries. Tell everyone in your home that have set work hours or if you are a creative like me, have a way to notify them that you are working by using a sign or signal. I used to rely on just telling them verbally but we can all guess how well that worked. I would hold conference calls, tell everyone what I was doing, and then 15 minutes later my daughter would bust into the meeting screaming MOM I POOPED. Yes really.

Boundary setting can be tough but it's something every person who works from home has to deal with. This is a great article with practical advice about working from home and setting boundaries. How do I get through this?  I struggle, daily, but I make it work by communicating with everyone in my home about how important it is that I have uninterrupted time to work. In the past I tried getting up early or staying up late, and well my 5 year old and I are in such a rhythm that most of the time she just adapts her sleep schedule to mine and it defeats the purpose. If I got up at 4 am, I'd hear the pitter patter of her feet as she ran into my office to see where I was. We've got creaky wooden floors from 1931, I can't get away with much these days.

What about you? Any tips or are you struggling with interruptions as well?

 

 

 

 

Where business begins...

Business begins at the intersection of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and  being serious. Business begins at the inception of an idea that you can now sell.

Business begins at the moment you realize that comparing your business to another business, is completely useless.

Business begins at half past your bedtime or in the shower, when your best ideas come to you.

Business begins when you realize your reputation is everything.

Business begins when you are present, and make conscious decisions.

@@Business begins when you are able to do what you love not just what you like.@@

Business begins when you accept that you are in the public eye, no matter how much you try and hide.

Business begins when you take care of yourself, and realize you don't have to be overworked to get things done.

Business begins when you invest, carefully, in the things you need for your business and not the things everyone else needs in their business.

Your Second Brain: When to hire an Online Business Manager

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Step back into my life about 5 years and you'll see me working my ass off as a Virtual Assistant (and making peanuts). Fast forward a few years and I made the decision to become an Online Business Manager or OBM for short. Every journey to becoming an OBM is different, and I believe that it's my crazy backstory that make me a great fit for my clients.

There was a time when I wasn't quite ready to be an OBM but because of fear that my VA business would not grow, I moved into the role anyways. I charged too little, and my confidence was low, two things that always seem to go hand in hand. As I realized I had been managing businesses for years, and had helped manage several successful 'departmental' businesses (Information Technology, Office Management and Human Resources in my day job), I finally threw in the towel and fully accepted that I was an Online Business Manager.

Here is my list of what I feel an Online Business Manager is:

  1. Owners second brain.
  2. Looks at the big picture, AND the fine details.
  3. More than just a task ticker.
  4. Higher level skill-set than a Virtual Assistant.
  5. NOT paid to say YES.
  6. Manages projects and staff.

Making the decision to hire an Online Business Manager isn't something you should do on a whim. Quality Online Business Manager's charge between $50 and $150 an hour, and if you find one for less you may want to ask about what types of businesses they've been running before hiring them.

So how do you know when to hire an OBM? First, if you find yourself feeling like your business is in too many bits and pieces, and could use some higher level automating, that is a big clue. The second is if you find that you are in a growth spot and have no idea what to do next. You'll usually find yourself thinking "If I only had someone to bounce ideas off of that really understood all the parts of my business and cared about it as much as I do!"... Yep that's a clue!

One question I get asked about all the time is, what comes first the OBM or the lower level staff? In my opinion an OBM is the first stop in placing the right people within your business. They can help you grow, hire, manage and just generally make shit happen.