The steps I took combined with how you can take them!
- Start with a clear vision of why you want to succeed online. This could be as simple as you want to buy luxury items or as deep as your belief in any higher power. My personal vision is a world with a little more love, hope, and faith that includes thousands of details about how I want people to feel when I have succeeded. The clearer your vision is, the more able you will be to withstand failure. The steps that follow are difficult and require often hundreds of attempts, failures, and adjustments in order to get completely right. Think of it like making a great song. All parts of the song must line up perfectly for the entire song to be great. On top of that, you usually have to impress the people that make songs with what you create and meet their expectations. All of this is difficult but when you start with a vision covering why you want to accomplish all this that is strong, you will not give up in the face of failure.
- Build a resource online that is impressive to the people you want to land as clients. I chose a Facebook page and a YouTube channel but you can choose anything that relates to what you enjoy doing, what you want to help with, and what resources you have available. For example, if you can build a huge and active twitter following, then do it. You can try to do everything you are capable of but usually building one amazing resource is better than building 10 that are acceptable. I started by trying to build everything and quickly figured out what I was doing wrong. I included links to every social media resource I created which included a Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, Tumblr, Blogger, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. The effect of this was to bring down what I did best to an average of what I did collectively. While I had thought people would only look at what related to them such as my Facebook page, it turned out that potential clients were checking all of the links I gave them. After visiting my Facebook page, they were often impressed. After visiting all the rest of my accounts which were mostly poorly done when I started, they were the opposite of impressed. I realized I should focus on doing one or two of them really well after getting this feedback when speaking with a potential client. I opted to focus on Facebook and YouTube since they are the top 2 out of 3 websites in the world and I could share the content between them.
- As you are building the resource, find ways to reach out to the people that may be impressed with what you are building. Usually you can do this best within the same platform you are building. For example, if you are making a great Facebook page, send Facebook messages to other pages. If you are making a Twitter account that is awesome, send @ messages to other Twitter accounts. If you are making an awesome YouTube channel, post your videos as responses to other videos. The exact way you make the approach is important to the results you get and specific to the niche you are working. I tested hundreds of message variations on Facebook to pages that could use my help. Some received a 0% response rate while others got nearly 50%. The profile sending the message mattered, the exact working mattered, the URL mattered, and including information such as an email or a phone number mattered. Getting all of this right took a lot of trial and error. I found a message sent from a sales associate (rather than myself ... disappointing right?) that talked about the free work we had done for a charity page using a direct URL to the order page gave the best opportunity for converting a sale. Naturally I scaled this up once I discovered it and quickly ran into problems. The URL got flagged for spam, the profiles would get their messages blocked, and even the charity managed to fold up (my business partner had warned me beforehand about working with new local charities for this exact reason). After spending hundreds of hours to discover a system that could not scale well, you can see how frustrated I was and the potential frustration in store for you after you get initial success.
- Make the most out of every single response you get to your attempts to reach out. Most importantly, always respond to the emails you get from people that are interested. I landed this $50,000 contract by continually responding to the client for over a year. Often they would offer opportunities for new work but not follow through. Often they would ask difficult questions and I always did my best to provide simple answers. We worked through problems and successes. Along the way I always responded to their emails. On top of responding to the good opportunities you get, learn from all of the communication you engage in. Even the hateful, hurtful, and not interested responses you get are valuable for learning how to succeed. If you are doing everything right, the amount of negative energy you get back will be really low even from people that are not interested. If you are doing even one thing wrong, people will not hesitate to take out their frustration on you when you contact them. However people respond make sure your primary goal is learning what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. When the feedback is consistent about something, do more of it if you are doing it right or less of it if you are doing it wrong. People often told me they were impressed with the size of my Facebook page but not impressed with my engagement. I responded by making a bigger page and by also promoting my posts where the organic engagement was low. People told me my prices were really low so I raised them. People told me they couldn't afford my prices without knowing what they would get so I made a system where they could pay as they went and provided more information for free. People said they loved my YouTube videos so I made more of them and showed them to more people. People said that I needed a more professional website so I made one. A lot of this feedback was hurtful at the time but very worth following for long term success! Maximize the ROI of the time and energy you invest in contacting people and you can be sure you will push to success fast.
- After you begin building successful relationships, continue to focus on keeping the people that you have good relationships with happy first and making a scalable system for processing new leads second. This has been the most difficult step for me since the more work I take on, the less additional work I can handle. The saying that "one bird in hand is worth two in the bush" applies here and I frequently made the mistake of going after the two birds in the bush. When I first started my business, it was easy to focus on the existing clients I had since I had little else. The problem came in the beginning of 2013 when I hit my first huge growth spurt. I was getting so many leads and clients that I could not keep them all straight. On top of that, most people were making one time orders rather than recurring payments. This system I made forced me to always prioritize new business to get more cash in the door immediately rather than building relationships with existing clients. If I only had enough time to make a client campaign or complete a sales call with a potential lead, I consistently was choosing the lead since the existing client had already paid. It took less than a month for what had been amazing growth to turn into a disaster. I was spending forty hours per week on the phone and getting way behind on my campaigns. You can see the importance here of building a system that can handle more growth as you get it but that does not push growth too fast. I had to innovate several solutions such as doing business via email only and offering more subscription plans. The number of new business dropped while I started to build better relationships. Now with this larger contract, I have consistent work but also am more dependent on this one client which adds a greater degree of uncertainty versus consistently having lots of smaller clients. My time also is spoken for to the point where I have less time to take on other clients and less time to make helpful videos. Still, I just found a solution to a huge problem I had yesterday with the time it took me to make videos. I now can pump out an HD YouTube video with professional audio in under an hour where I was spending hours to do the same. I spend at least five hours every week trying to figure out how I can use the time I have most effectively. For building your own system successfully, realizing your time is the most limited quantity you have helps a lot. Even if now you have no money at all and all the time in the world, all of that can change in a month with just a little bit of success. The problem is that just having money is not a sure solution. I tried hiring people to take some of the work off my hands but that proved to be the largest single failure I have ever had. When you are short on time, hiring is the last thing you should do because it takes a lot of time and if you have not planned out every detail of how you can use the people you have hired, you are likely to not get work out of them that is worth what you are paying. Still, once you get to this point, you are now ready to make and keep the biggest deals of your life. Where you go from here is up to you!
Thank you for reading this post! While I know what I have shared may take months to years to do, I hope you will share your success story with me when it happens or share if this post helps you take one of the steps faster that you have already been struggling with! If you have ideas for how I can scale better, please share them!