How to Plan Effectively for a Successful Business

How to Plan Effectively for a Successful Business

If you’ve just started a business or blog, or even if you’ve been at it a while, then you know things can become overwhelming – fast! Especially if you’re juggling a 9-5, young children, or just don’t have enough hours in the day.

When I started to realize my website was more than just a hobby (aka a real business) I didn’t know there would be so many moving parts.

Without a solid plan in place you’ll probably be spinning your wheels for a long time. Most people try to do all the things and quickly get burnt out or just give up on their dreams completely.

That’s why I’m so excited to share this interview with Emily of My Adaptable Career who knows how to plan efficiently and turn your ideas into obtainable goals.

Read the interview below to meet Emily, learn about her business and her secrets to accomplishing more by doing less!

 

Tell us more about yourself and why you started your business and blog, My Adaptable Career?

Hi everyone! I’m Emily and I have two kids under the age of 5, a husband who travels all the time for his job, a business, and no time to waste. Because time is my most limited resource, I’m always pushing to get bigger and better results in my business without working any more hours. And I help other bloggers do the same.

As you can probably guess, I started My Adaptable Career because I wanted a flexible career that fit around my life. I used to freelance, but even that wasn’t flexible enough for me! I wanted total control over my schedule, my successes, and my failures. I know so many other bloggers and online business owners feel the same way. The tricky part is being your own boss. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to focus your time and energy. And that’s what I help other bloggers do: get the clarity and confidence they need to take their business to the next level.

 

What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect of owning a business?

Haha, in case you couldn’t tell, the flexibility is definitely my favorite part. I love that I can put my family first, but still have a creative outlet beyond my kids. I also love experimenting. It’s exhilarating to try new things and see if they help me grow my business faster. Of course, when my experiments flop, I get a little flustered, but I’ve had enough wins to make it worth it.

 

What did you discover to be the biggest obstacle in growing a successful business?

My own hang-ups have been my biggest obstacle, which is hard to accept. I’d like to think my mindset is rock solid, but in truth, it’s something I always need to work on. Here’s an example: I like to think of myself as a perfectionist, but when I sat down and thought about (1 year into my business!), I realized that “getting it perfect” was really just an excuse to procrastinate. And let’s just say, I procrastinated a lot! So I’m always trying to improve my mindset and push out of my comfort zone.

 

If others are struggling with that too, what’s the #1 thing you would recommend they do?

If you want to work on your mindset, my top tip is to do the thing that makes you feel most uncomfortable. For me, that’s getting visible. I was literally shaking before I did my first Facebook live video. I couldn’t sleep the night before! But I pushed myself to do it, and now it’s easier every time. I can go live spontaneously without stressing about it. Now my newest fear is running ads. I don’t like the thought of losing money, and I hate when I don’t feel competent at something (like running ads). So I’m doing the scary thing because I know that if it’s scary, it’s probably the thing that will move my business forward the fastest.

 

All the aspects of running a business can be really overwhelming; I know I struggle with juggling everything! How do you deal with all the things and still have time for yourself?

Yes, it can be totally overwhelming! Luckily, prioritizing is one of my ninja skills. For my own business, I rarely work more than 20 hours a week, both because I’m solo parenting 2 little kids much of the time and because I know if I don’t rest and take care of myself I’ll burn out. So my trick is to eliminate as many things as possible and protect my most productive time. I don’t schedule anything from 9 am – noon because I can get tons of work done while my daughter is at preschool and my baby naps and crawls around the house. As for eliminating the non-essentials, I’m always looking to cut out things that aren’t helping me grow my business. I analyze certain stats every month in my business (and you can read more about my process here), which helps me figure out what’s working and what’s a waste of time.

 

When you do have a spare moment, what do you like to do for fun or to wind down?

I love to read fiction and drink wine while I sit on my couch. That’s my normal nightly routine. 🙂 As a family, we also love to travel. So I spend a lot of my downtime planning new trips and fantasizing about our next vacation. 

 

When it comes to time management and productivity, what’s the biggest secret you’ve learned?

I think the biggest secret I’ve learned is that productivity is not about doing more. It’s about doing less and doing better. I’m pretty minimalist in my home life, and I’m trying to be that way more with my blog and business. I’m always testing, tweaking, trying to do less, but do the more important and valuable work. 

I’m such a sucker for a new productivity tool or system. I definitely buy into hype and try all the new strategies and tools. But 99% of the time, I find that those tools and strategies just add to the chaos and overwhelm. Getting back to the basics and eliminating unessential tasks is what’s helped me turn my blog into a profitable business without working more than 20 hours a week.

 

You have a course called Planning for Success that helps biz owners get closer to their goals and plan effectively. Can you tell us more about it and what students can expect to learn?

Planning for Success is a business planning course specifically designed for bloggers and online business owners who are overwhelmed and struggling to grow. In the course, my students learn how to clarify their goals, prioritize their workload, and manage their time so they can make more money with ease.

My students especially love the clarity they’ve gotten from taking the course.  Many of them have taken huge leaps with their businesses after working through the course. I’ve had several students launch their first product soon after taking the course because they realized it’s the fastest way for them to monetize. I’ve had other students use information from the course to help them set better boundaries. Boundaries don’t sound sexy, but it’s been really transformational to watch these women say “no” to various distractions, which gives them more time to work strategically on their business and more time to relax and enjoy life.

Everyone gets something different from the course, but the common thread is that most of my students start working more strategically, which leads to the major transformation they’ve been waiting for in their business.

 

What inspired you the most to create this course? Who did you have in mind to help?

I wanted to help small bloggers get bigger results without sacrificing their time and freedom. I know how overwhelming it is to start a business and how hard it is to balance everything on your to do list. I wanted to help people streamline and grow at the same time. Ultimately, I want to help them run a successful business while still having plenty of time to enjoy everything else in life.

Most of my students aren’t full time bloggers, but they’d like to be. They’ve got a 9-5 job, or young kids, or both, and their business fits into the margins of their day. Because their time is so limited, they want to make sure they’re always working on the right thing to grow their business. They don’t have time to waste! So I help them evaluate what’s working and not working, make a plan to grow, and take action on that plan.

 

How long will Planning for Success be open for enrollment?

Just 6 days! I’ll kick off enrollment with a free planning workshop on February 8. There will be a special bonus for people who enroll during the free workshop, so sign up if you’re curious about Planning for Success. The doors will close on February 13, so I can shower new students with love on Valentine’s Day. And also because enrollment is only open for 6 days. 😉

Start Planning for Success Now!

 

Emily McGee is the founder of My Adaptable Career, where she helps small bloggers get big results through better planning and productivity. Ready to organize your blog post ideas and create content that blows your audience away? Check out this guide to creating epic content and download a free editorial calendar template.

How to Create a Practical and Actionable Online Course

How to Create a Practical and Actionable Online Course

Do you feel like a fraud when you offer an online course with fewer materials?

Someone I know crafted a beautiful online course with a 300-page manual to go with it. I asked her what her clients thought of the manual. Her response was, “They find it difficult to get through it.” She’s now reduced it to 180, so I believe she’s on the right track.

Still 180 pages isn’t like reading a novel on the beach. People still have to work through it. Would a thick manual help you decide in favor of a course? Would that be the first thing you would ask to change, if you were the participant?

It’s becoming clear that with the non-stop flood of information we experience, traditional learning methods of “cramming more” aren’t working.

But if adding more information isn’t the selling point for people who need to hear something 20 times before they “get it,” then what is?

Instead of loading more information into our online course, we have to task ourselves to make the course practical and actionable. The distinction between these terms may blur, but you’ll see that one can’t be effective without the other.

Practical content isn’t always actionable, and actionable is not necessarily practical. So ditching the 180-page manual or reducing it to 10 pages doesn’t sell the course until it’s both practical and actionable.

In this post I’ll guide you on how to achieve both so you provide double value for the clients.

What makes a course practical?

The dictionary defines practical as something resulting from practice and action. Most of my MBA friends tell me they wish they’d had more “hands-on” College professors who were running their own businesses, instead of talking theory.

Think back to your school days and remember those “trade” fairs. The people who came and spoke there weren’t teachers but industry professionals, and that’s what made them effective.

We could tell immediately that they taught from experience and expertise, not textbooks.

You may not hold a “teaching” degree per se, but you have a lot more value to offer if you were to teach your trade to others because your vision isn’t cluttered by complex theories and ideas.

Here’re some points to help you create a practical course (even if you’re not a teacher):

Note: choose 1 topic before going through this checklist:

  • List some things you wished you had known before you knew something.
  • List the tools that make you more efficient in doing a specific task that you wish you’d had access to before.
  • List the ways that helped you discover the tools/systems to improve your efficiency.
  • List the mistakes you had made and seen others make when looking for a specific solution.
  • List strategies that helped you excel at your skills more quickly than others.

When I created my Smart Online Teacher’s Hub program, my goal was to make it practical and actionable for online teachers moving beyond 1:1. I knew there was a lot to teach on the subject, but my goal was to give only that which would help my clients get the quickest return on their investment.

So here’re my answers:

  • Before I taught anything online I wish I’d known how to define my niche, my dream client and my core message. It would have saved me years had I known that, so I included that into my program.
  • Writing helped me answer the questions above, so I incorporated questionnaires and worksheets into my program.
  • I discovered many new approaches by asking questions and challenging assumptions. That led me to incorporating a chat into my program so I can ask participants more questions before I give answers.
  • The mistakes I’d made had to do with lack of feedback, so now feedback is an integral part of my delivery as it cuts out a lot of aimless wandering around.
  • What helped me excel is learning how to delegate specific skills, so I incorporated a delegation training into my curriculum.

Take any topic that you would like to turn into a course and use these points as a guide. What will emerge is an outline that’s practical and ready for implementation.

How do you make your course actionable?

If “practical” means stemming from action, “actionable” has to lead to action. A practical course may not lead to action even if it’s full of useful tips and time-saving strategies.

What leads to action then? – Making the practical tips your own.

Imagine going to the store and looking at clothes. You end up buying because you like what you see, but is it you?

We tend to cut the corners and use luck to shop “all practical strategies,” but the tips may not work until they’re ours.

You make them yours by “trying them on,” setting them into your context, evaluating, setting deadlines and completing.

“Real Artists Ship.” – Steve Jobs.

If your course content isn’t actionable, participants don’t “ship.” They don’t implement and complete on time.

Consider these strategies for actionable content:

  • Help your participants internalize what they’re learning by adding reflection sheets.
  • Help them take note of what they’ve mastered and what they’re struggling with by adding progress tracking sheets.
  • Help them create realistic to-do lists based on the things they have to apply.
  • Create quizzes with questions after shorter sections so your students can go back to what they’ve been learning and refresh it in their memory.
  • Break down content into smaller and manageable steps.
  • Add online events: Q&As, workshops, virtual office hours in your course community to help them tackle the questions they struggle with.
  • Communicate often that you’re available. Sometimes participants want to rough it on their own or they feel dumb when asking a question, so it never hurts to remind them that they don’t have to be stuck and can ask for help.

When you make your course practical and actionable, you’ll find that you no longer need too much content to prove to your participants that what you offer is valuable. The results your members experience will be the value that communicates deeper than the 300-page manuals.

So do you have a course and how do you make it practical and actionable? Please share in the comments!

Elena MutononoElena Mutonono is one of the authors of Opted Out of the *Real Job* a handbook I wish I’d read before I started my online teaching business. The 12 chapters and 72 pages would have saved me 5 years of aimless and labor-intensive online teaching. Now I want to share it with others because smarter online teaching gives you more fulfillment and enjoyment from the business you’re running.

3 Reasons Why You Fail to Monetize Your Blog

3 Reasons Why You Fail to Monetize Your Blog

When most people first start blogging, they get into it for one or two reasons. They either start blogging because they have a topic that they love talking about so they start writing about it on their blog. Or they are looking for a way to make additional money online, with the hope that they could eventually turn their blog into their full-time income source. Which camp are you in?

Regardless, many people have failed to monetize their blog over the years. But they typically do not know why they can’t make their blog profitable.

To help you get a better understanding, we are going to share three of the most common reasons why people fail to make money on their blog.

1. You Do Not Have Enough Content on Your Website

Many bloggers fail to make money from their blog because they lack sufficient content to attract the right visitors to their site.

Sure, you can write the occasional blog post and put affiliate links on it, but it’s going to be nearly impossible to get those links to convert if nobody views you as an authority or expert in your niche.

By creating plentiful amounts of content on your particular topic, people will begin to respect you and look at you as an authority in your market.

Once you’ve gained authority status, your readers will ultimately trust your recommendations a lot more and have no problem buying the products and services that you recommend through personal or affiliate links.

When you step up to the plate and create lots of content you will become an authority in your industry.

So, if you really want to start making money is an online marketer, you have to take this seriously and start creating high-value content for your blog on a regular basis.

2. Your Website Doesn’t Get Enough Traffic

You can create content all day long. And you can monetize your website until the cows come home.

Guess what?

It really doesn’t mean anything unless you’re getting traffic to your site.

Without people reading the content that you create, they’re never going to find your promotional links, they’re never going to click them, and you’re never going to make any commissions or sales.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re trying to monetize your blog by selling your own products and services, you’re going to run into the same issues.

You need readers coming to your blog every day.

You need people checking out your content, learning more about your company or the products that you promote, and then you’ll be able to make money through blogging.

So work on generating traffic to your website first so that you can get people reading the content that you’ve already created.

If one of the products you’re promoting teaches people how to speed up your website, then you should drive traffic to this page.

On the other hand, if you want people to learn about useful chrome extensions for developers that you’ve written about, then it makes sense to drive more traffic to this content and information on your site.

3. You Haven’t Targeted Your Audience Correctly

It’s going to be nearly impossible to monetize your website if you’re targeting the wrong audience.

If your target audience is off, they really aren’t going to be interested in the things that you have to say. And they’re specifically going to be uninterested in the things you happen to sell.

So work on targeting the correct audience. Once you do, you’ll have a much easier time monetizing your blog.

Conclusion

Pay close attention to the reasons why you’re failing to monetize your blog and make the necessary corrections to get everything back on track.

Super-Connector at OutreachMamaWendy is a super-connector with OutreachMama and Towering SEO who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.

Secrets to Naming Your Products, Services, and Programs

Secrets to Naming Your Products, Services, and Programs

Do you hate coming up with names for your business? Every time you want to launch something, you’ve got to come up with a clever new name. For most of us, that’s a challenge. It takes time to brainstorm the perfect name that’s going to catch the attention of your ideal client.

But it’s work worth doing because the right name can pay off. Like any other piece of copy, names are marketing tools. You want them to make an impression, be memorable, and get people interested. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but your program with a lame name might not sell well.

Even if you don’t think you’re creative, you can come up with a killer name. Here’s a few tips to help you next time you’re brainstorming names for your next product, service, or program.

Get Some Inspiration

When you’re feeling like your creativity is tapped out, it’s time to get some naming inspiration. My favorite way to get started on a new name is to play with name generators. Two of my favorites are Wordlab Name Generators and Hipster Business Name.

These generators spout out completely random names and word pairs. The names they pick probably won’t be word for word what you want, but it could give you some ideas to use as a starting point.

Sometimes you’ll hit on a word that’s the perfect idea, but not the right word. That’s when it’s time to pull out the thesaurus. Visual Thesaurus is my favorite. You can use it to look up synonyms in a clickable word map that shows you how the words are related.

Word Play for the Win

A name that plays with words in an unusual way is going to be memorable. Our brains love surprises and notice the unexpected.

One especially sticky way to stay in people’s minds is with a rhyming name. They’re fun, they’re catchy, and they’re also memorable. Use a rhyming dictionary like RhymeZone to find the perfect words for your next name.

Another way to create a clever name is with puns. Some people hate puns. I am not one of those people. They’re a great way to show off your personality, especially in creative industries.

They’re super fun for product and service names too. One of my favorite punny product names is MMMHops. (Yes, the Hanson brothers make beer now.) I don’t even like beer, but that name has stuck with me since I saw it at a friend’s barbeque last summer. That’s the kind of sticking power you want in a name!

Play around with rhymes, puns, and alliteration to find a name your clients won’t forget.

Keep it Simple

You want people talking about you, right? Make it easy for them by picking words that are easy to say and spell. You don’t have to use just common words, but think twice before picking a difficult to say word or an untraditional spelling.

Before I was a copywriter, I sold yarn on Etsy. When I was brainstorming names for my yarn business, I almost named my shop Ingenue Knits. But the more I thought about the name, I realized ingenue is not a common word (and even I was misspelling it). With some more brainstorming I came up with January Yarns, which is much easier to say and spell!

Use a Tagline

Sometimes you come up with a name you like, but it doesn’t really tell people anything about your business. You don’t have to scrap the name and go with the obvious. Instead add a tagline to help people understand what you’re offering.

The name of my opt-in is a perfect example. I called it “Home Page Hook”, because you want a home page that hooks in visitors. From the name alone, you might not know what you’re actually getting. But when I add the tagline “A free step-by-step guide to writing persuasive home page copy”, it explains the offer and shows the benefit you get when you sign up.

Make a List

When you only need one name, it’s tempting to stop as soon as you hit on one you kind of like. Try to brainstorm several names, so you have plenty of options. The perfect name might be the fifth one you try!

It’s also good to give yourself options in case your first choice isn’t available. You might fall in love with a name only to discover it’s really close to a competitor’s name. Give yourself choices and if you have time, let them sit for a day or two before you pick the winner.

Next time you’re naming something for your business, use these tips to help you hit on the perfect name. Take your time brainstorming and you’ll be surprised at all the creative names you come up with!

Sarah Anderson, Pro Email Copy

Sarah Anderson is the copywriter behind Spitfire Scribe. She works with creative entrepreneurs and coaches to craft irresistible web copy that sells, with a side of personality. Sarah believes sales should be fun and there’s room for everyone to succeed online.When she’s not writing, you might find her sipping on iced lattes, having a Hamilton sing along, or re-watching Gilmore Girls for the 10th time.

How a Statement of Work Protects Your Business

How a Statement of Work Protects Your Business

If you have never used one before, a Statement of Work is a document that thoroughly explains the graphic design or web development work that you will be performing for you client. Or, if you are the client, the Statement of Work is also an excellent place to state what will be done and your expectations of each step of the project.

This document is attached to the Graphic Design or Development Contract and is often in high contention because it determines the milestones, cost and timeline of the project. Having a thorough Statement of Work helps protect your business because it clearly lays out the project and reduces disputes because it defines the responsibilities and expectations at the very beginning.

So how do you write a good Statement of Work that protects you and your company?

Make sure to include the following sections:

  1. Objectives: why are you performing this work? In this section, you may state business objectives such as “having a new website will generate more leads for us thereby increasing our sales.” You can also, for example, state “the new logo will better represent us as a company.” This section should be a reflection of how well you understand your client’s business and what problems you will be solving.
  2. Scope: defines exactly what work will be done. It is important to be as detailed as you can here. Never just say “WordPress website” as this leaves far too much for interpretation. Instead, list all of the pages and the features on each page. You should also describe the process for development and list everything as tasks or milestones. In addition, it is advised that you list any and all assumptions that you have made, such as the ability to find an API or easy integration. Lastly, you should explain that the assumptions are just that and that the schedule may change if the assumptions were incorrect.
  3. Schedule: defines when certain tasks, milestones, and the whole project will be completed. In this part, I also recommend scheduling dates for when you will speak to the client as regular communication with the client is the key to a good client relationship.
  4. Price: defines the Total Project Cost. If you are working with milestones, you should specify the price of each milestone. You should also include payment terms (e.g. Net 7) and a payment schedule.
  5. Acceptance: this is where the client and the developer or the designer sign off on the Statement of Work. Do not proceed with the work if the document and contract are not signed.

In my experience in software development, I have learned that projects go best when the Statement of Work is very detailed and fully thought out. Well-planned projects reduce the stress and the hours that it takes to complete the project and foster good client relationships. Knowing the goals and expectations from the very start helps reduce disputes as well.

Donata KalnenaiteDonata Kalnenaite is an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois and is the owner of Agency Attorneys. Agency Attorneys works with software developers, graphic designers, startups and small businesses to help protect their hard work. Donata believes in taking a collaborative approach and makes sure that their clients understand everything that they sign.