How to Avoid Business Failures from the Start

How to Avoid Business Failures from the Start

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in the online space is coming out guns blazing from day one and expecting people to buy their product or service. These people haven’t built relationships with customers, and they certainly haven’t provided value to potential customers. Instead, they use social media hacks to gain followers on several platforms only to throw up a “hire me” page or link to buy their product. Nine times out of ten, the same result ensues… crickets.

If this sounds familiar, don’t feel bad. I was right there with you once upon a time. I did a lot of things right but for every great move, there was a misstep not far behind. Looking back, I still admire my younger self (of course), and I definitely admire the other trigger-happy internetpreneurs. My admiration primarily comes from our conquering the most difficult part of any successful journey, getting started. With many would-be entrepreneurs never taking the leap, the simple act of starting something, anything could be enough to skyrocket the success of a venture.

But first, failure – for most, hearing the crickets chirp a single time is enough to close up shop, marking it up as a complete, debilitating failure. The fear of failure is well known by all us, although some more than others. This fear is what causes indecisiveness and inaction in those with genuine million dollar ideas. It’s this same fear that leads people to think they’ll never be good enough and should stay put in their “safe” corporate job. The fear of failure is a real thing, and it’s a cruel bitch.

I’ll spare you the commencement speech about believing in yourself and how failure is one of the best forms of education. Instead, I hope this article helps you avoid failure from the get-go. Because the truth is, unless you’re resilient from day one, you won’t make it. Failure is inevitable, Mr. Anderson.

I want to help you set yourself up for success. At the very least, enough early success to build up serious steam. A full head of steam will give you a sense of resiliency and confidence, allowing you to shake off most minor failures in hopes of achieving something far greater down the road. Every failure you overcome and small win you notch in your belt; a rising tide of confidence in your work and abilities will overflow into every aspect of your life.

What to look for:

  • One of the most important things you can do when starting an online business
  • How you can make a living with only 1,000 fans
  • The #1 way to get those fans
  • A realistic timeline for success
  • Turning your worst case scenario (failure) into a positive

Providing Value

Value: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged

This may come as a surprise, but I make $0.00 on %80 of the content I create. Seriously, if it’s not a freelance gig for another site, I’m probably losing money for hosting costs, website maintenance, etc.

I could tell you that I don’t do it for the money (which is partially true), but I won’t. In reality, making money and helping people improve their lives are in a constant battle atop Mount Priority.

So if making money is important, and I just told you I don’t make any money from most of my writing, why do I do it? I think Jay Z said it best, “I’m playing the long game.”

You see, I provide value to everyone that reads a post, watches a video, downloads a training program, or consumes any of my content. If you revisit the definition of value above, I don’t just provide value, I provide extraordinary value. I trade my goods and services for free and in return I expect nothing. McDonald’s can’t touch this McValue.

But is it really for free? No, not entirely. While I don’t ask for monetary compensation, I do ask for loyalty in the form of coming back to read more, liking a Facebook page, signing up for my newsletter, et cetera. Essentially I’m asking them to become a fan, without actually saying those words. And why wouldn’t they? If I’m putting out content that’s good enough for people to continue reading and engaging with that audience enough to build relationships, they’ll stick around.

DeathtoStock_Medium4

Let’s take a second to look at two words in the previous paragraph: fan and relationship. Your success in delivering a product/service to someone is largely dependent on your ability to build a relationship and gain a person’s trust. It’s the key. So while you’re after fans, you should really be after loyal, trusting fans that you’ve built a relationship with. Those are the fans that will support your business and make certain you succeed. Here’s my favorite part about this; you don’t need many of these relationships to thrive. Things get a lot less discouraging when you realize you don’t need to be a giant player like Walmart or Apple.

To put this into numbers, look no further than Kevin Kelly’s infamous post, 1,000 True Fans: “A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.” If you’re a creative or solopreneur of any kind, I would highly recommend reading the post in its entirety.

To summarize, providing value and earning the trust of merely 1,000 people could be monetized at some point to provide a living for yourself. This could be through products, affiliate marketing, services, or whatever you have to offer. Someone who trusts in your opinion or abilities will buy from you, period.

Do It to Do It

1,000 people is cake, right?

Wrong. It’s going to take time, lots and lots of time. There is no such thing as an overnight success. People that have 1,000 true fans, and I’m talking “true” fans, not followers, did it over an extended period of time. I’m sure it took most of them years to master their subject before they even shared a thought or idea. And once they started sharing their ideas, they did it consistently for several more years before they were noticed.

Expecting fast success or to get rich quick are great ways to set yourself up for failure. You have to trust the process of creating a body of work and be ok with potentially never making a dime from it. If you accept those facts and truly have a passion for your work, you will set yourself apart by nothing more than statistics. Look at how many blogs, accounts, or business are abandoned early into their lifespan. It takes serious grit to continue putting the time in with little to no return and most people will give up, but you won’t. Unlike most, you’re going to keep doing what you’re doing because you would do it even if you won the lottery.

DeathtoStock_Medium9

That level of passion and dedication to your work is what will get you noticed. Even if your passion is underwater basket weaving, there are beweavers out there waiting to connect with your work.

Build a Body of Work (Worst Case Scenario)

Let’s say your work or business never catches on. For some reason, you never get close to the 1,000, or even 200 for that matter, fans that could support your business. Despite your dedication to building a beautiful website, molding your skills as a writer, marketer, or whatever, your business just never grew its wings. Now what?

You get a job.

But not just any job. No, you get an awesome job. The body of work you’ve been building (website, marketing materials, writing skills, customer service) speaks for itself and would make you a candidate for any job you want. Just because you went to college for something totally unrelated to your desired field, you have the skills (and proof of those skills) to bust into whatever field you want.

Your body of work is your CV 2.0.

Maybe you’re not the entrepreneur or business owner you thought you were. It’s quite possible that your personality and skill set serves better in a complimentary role. All you need to do is find the yin to your yang (business owner) and build an uber successful business. Or find a company/brand that you love and join forces. There’s a serious shortage of creative, driven, and growth-minded individuals in the workforce. Use your work and network as tools to find the perfect job for you. There is no shame in joining forces with a team that compliments your strengths for world domination.

arm wrestling

The Takeaways

  • Provide value by solving a problem.
  • Solve enough problems, and you will build a readership or following.
  • Nurture your readers and followers. Engage with them. Create true fans.
  • Maintain a positive give:ask ratio. Giving establishes rapport and trust with your readers and fans so that asking for a sale will always be well received.
  • It’s probably going to take a while to be noticed. Remember, the longer that takes, the more time you will have to master your craft.
  • Do what you do because you enjoy it. If you no longer enjoy it, why do it? If you don’t love your work, why would you push through the difficult times?
  • The myth of the overnight success is just that, a myth.
  • Play the long game. When you get discouraged, remember you’re building a body of work. You are acquiring and putting a unique skillset on display through your work.
  • Remember your worst case scenario. If you fail, your body of work can create any job you want it to.

 

 

 

10 Awesome Tools for Writers, Bloggers, and Creatives

10 Awesome Tools for Writers, Bloggers, and Creatives

Writing and content creation is tough, and that’s why I wanted to share ten of my favorite tools for improving my craft as a writer and online entrepreneur. This list will only scratch the surface of all the helpful tools and resources available. If I left any out feel free to leave additional tools in the comments to help fellow readers.

Pocket (Mobile App+Chrome Extension)

I use Pocket to avoid the dreaded tab overload. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 20+ tabs open in my browser at one time, and I’m fairly diligent about what I choose to read. There are just so many great articles/blogs that I genuinely want to read, even if it’s going to be a week or two down the road. Pocket has solved this and allows me to quickly “pocket” something for later while closing out a tab or window.

A few features I really love are, of course, multi-device synchronization, favorite article archives, and even a saved article archive or delete function. I enjoy being able to save or read articles whether I’m on my phone, iPad, or laptop. And the archive functions are great for keeping a wheelhouse of useful articles to revisit every once in a while.

mason woodruff pocket app

Google Drive

I’d like to preface this by admitting, I’m a Google fanboy. Their tools for creatives are simply hard to beat. Google Chrome has been my default internet browser for the past few years, and I seem to find a new extension to improve productivity or effectiveness every day. Despite my love for Chrome, I remember being resistant to using Google Drive, and I held out until I had a problem that elicited jumping on board.

For the better part of 2015, I ran an online fitness coaching business that required a ton of client management. At one point, I had over 75 clients needing program and assessment organization. Google Drive allowed me to effectively organize and work collaboratively with each client.

Google Drive is essentially like your computer’s hard drive, stored in the “cloud.” You can store documents, pictures, videos, or anything you like. Where Drive differentiates itself is the sharing functions. Instead of emailing a file back and forth between a client or coworker, shared files can be edited and updated by both parties simultaneously. You can even use Google Hangouts to have a conference call to discuss a project in real time.

When I say Google Drive, this includes my affinity for Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms, or as I like to call it, Google Office. I’m not sure we’ll ever get away from Microsoft Office completely, but I certainly hope so. Docs and Sheets are the equivalent to Microsoft Word and Excel without the bloat. Sure, if you’re an accountant, you’re going to be married to Excel. But for the rest of us that need some minimal database management tools, Sheets goes above and beyond. Google Forms is a survey tool similar to Survey Monkey but unlike others, Forms populates an easy to follow spreadsheet (via Sheets) with the responses.

Like anything new, there is a slight learning curve with Google Drive and company. There are several courses on Lynda.com and even YouTube on getting started and improving your Googleyness.

Grammarly

Although I have always loved to read, my educational interests through high school and most of college were as far away from English/journalism as they could be. Thanks to preparing for the GRE, I did some extensive work on improving my poor vocabulary, but my grammar and syntax are still works in progress. That’s why I Grammarly appealed to me in the first place. A Chrome extension that will act as an advanced word processor when I’m typing anywhere – social media, Google, and WordPress included.

Layout & Wordswag 

I’m sure you know this by now, but images can make or break a blog post or article. High-quality images improve both click rates and the shareability of posts. Layout is Instagram’s app for combining multiple images, and I prefer using it over apps like PicStitch to put together collages.

Another useful tool is Wordswag, which is an app for adding great looking text to images. The current trend of motivational and inspirational images with quotes is popular for a reason – they get shared like crazy.

Wordswag

Unsplash

While we’re on the topic of images. It’s a real pain in the ass, for lack of a better term, finding high-quality images to use in your posts. At least ones that you can use legally and royalty free. Shutterstock is a great option for awesome images, but they will run you around $10/photo. The alternative is to find royalty free stock images to use, but most sites lack desirable images. Unsplash.com is by far the best I’ve come across and has tons of stunning “do whatever you want with these” images to download.

Deathtothestockphoto.com is worth mentioning as well. They are an email subscription-based service that delivers new images each month to your inbox for free.

photo-1440470177828-6381dc5074ba

Lynda

If you noticed my earlier mention of preparing for the GRE, you’re aware that I considered going to grad school at one point. I actually made it as far as registering for classes, twice. But I never pulled the trigger and actually went through with it. When there is so much great information available for free or a MUCH lower cost, it is nearly illogical to consider a graduate degree that isn’t healthcare/professional related.

Lynda.com, for example, has courses on virtually everything you could ever need to know about business, technical tools, marketing, etc. These courses aren’t your run of the mill YouTube tutorial, they are several hour-long courses with professional production quality and top notch information. The instructors are typically industry leaders that are actually taking action on the information they’re teaching, not just teaching it.

Also, Lynda was acquired by LinkedIn so if you’re an active LinkedIn member you’re able to post completed courses to your LinkedIn account – if you’re into that sort of thing. Lynda isn’t the only option in this realm, there are also options like Creative Live that provide great courses as well.

Evernote

A post about increasing productivity and improving your craft wouldn’t be complete without a tip of the hat to Evernote. It goes without saying that this is the holy grail of note taking. The instant synchronization between devices, collaborative features, and overall organizational functions are unparalleled. Having streamlined notes with pictures, videos, and web clippings are always one click away with Evernote. You would think they paid me to write that, but they didn’t. 😦

Canva

If you lack the necessary skills to operate Photoshop like me, Canva.com is the place to go. You can use your own images or use their very high-quality templates to create excellent graphics for your posts.

MasonFit mason woodruff

Headline Analyzer

Creating headlines is one of, if not the toughest part of blogging/writing. Great headlines can make a lackluster post go viral – look at all the BuzzFeed posts you see shared daily. Use Headline Analyzer to grade your headline and learn more about what makes an effective headline. Their free guides are excellent as well, so be sure to pick those up while you’re there.

creating better headlines mason woodruff

As I mentioned in the introduction, this list is neverending, and I would love to hear what tools I forgot or that I may not even be aware of yet. Feel free to leave them in the comments. Whether you are a budding blogger, freelance writer, content marketer, or a fellow fitness professional, I love to connect with other like-minded individuals so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Happy writing!