Last year I bit the bullet, joined the masses, and threw my name in the hat to join a mastermind. I was so excited, notebook in hand on the first of January, but about mid-year I stopped feeling engaged.
A lot of these programs are just repeat information. It’s like making 3 separate lists of the same things you need to get done and thinking that you’re making progress. Really you’re only rewriting tasks. At some point, you just have to do the work and see what works for you.
If I could go back and redo 2020, I would have spent less money, actually tried new things in my business instead of listening to hours of lessons, and then gained clarity on where I needed to grow based on the results.
When I asked on Instagram what many of you wanted to focus on in 2021, so many people responded to the prompt with wanting to improve finances. Well, the best way to build wealth is to keep it in your bank account.
It inspired me to share 10 ways I plan to continue building the studio for free this year. I’m taking 12 months off from all the courses and masterminds, knowing 90% of them will still be available in 2022 (unless they weren’t a hit, in which case they will be archived and I will have saved money and time on something that doesn’t really work.)
There is absolutely a time and place to invest in your business and education, and many courses are the reason my business scaled to the next level, but not enough is said for saving your pennies and getting clever with your efforts.
1. Do the work with KPIs.
The one helpful practice I took away from the year-long mastermind was to be disciplined about KPIs. KPI stands for “key performance indicator” and basically is a spreadsheet of stats to help you track the growth of your business.
I will be the first to say, I am NOT a numbers person, and the thought of pulling data each month gives me a headache before I even start.
Having a solid practice of tracking where you stand is actually better than having a coach, mentor, mastermind, and consultant combined. There’s not a huge benefit in getting guidance if you don’t even know where you stand.
I like to think of my spreadsheets as a pulse so I can make sure the story I’m telling myself and others is accurate. Straight revenue is like reading the back cover and telling everyone you finished the book.
If you’ve never created KPIs for your business before, I have a starter spreadsheet to give you an idea of what it looks like. Definitely customize the information you want to track as you go if things feel unnecessary or you have new ideas for things you want to track. It’s free, but oh-so-powerful.
2. Form your own think tank.
Being completely honest, I didn’t immediately want to share every detail of my business with people who don’t know me, my journey, or my customers. It kinda felt like polling the wrong crowd, and the mastermind I was in was so large and diverse that it lacked that specific insight I typically look for when reaching out.
So I created my own.
Built of 4 women who all serve a nearly identical community with different creative services, one week with these women was worth 3 years of a mastermind. In this next year, I want to schedule more consistent interactions with all of them as we pursue even bigger goals and help each other reach them.
You can do this yourself in something as easy as an email thread and a phone call. Step it up a notch with Zoom happy hours, a Slack channel, or even a Facebook group. You don’t need an expert leader to give you permission to ask your peers for advice.
3. Start a ritual to check in with your intuition.
I read a book called The Artist’s Way last year that shared the concept of Morning Pages. Basically, the idea is to sit down with a journal every morning and write 3 pages of stream of conscious thought before the day begins.
I was a little unsure if anything of substance would emerge, but I wanted to finish my current journal in anticipation of a new year, and the fire felt so cozy in the mornings that I figured I’d give it a try.
I noticed that the first page would always be updates of what I knew was on my mind – any conflicts, thoughts about my relationships, projects that were causing me stress, tasks I needed to get done that day – I could basically summarize all of that stuff in one page. The second page I’d start to just write random thoughts to get through the practice faster – “I wonder if it will snow today.” “Should I go on a run this afternoon between calls?” “Wow, that sunrise is gorgeous!”
After a few lines of this basic stream of consciousness, I would begin tapping into something magical.
Suddenly I’d remember what I dreamed of the night before in vivid detail, I’d quickly solve a problem I had been working on – I even shorthand created my entire 2021 revenue projector right there in the pages of my journal. It turns out we have so much that already lives in our brain and intuition, we just have to clear out the noise to access it.
If you’re not a writer, you can also do this through meditation, a morning yoga flow, voice notes on a walk around your neighborhood, or find some other way to process your thoughts as a daily ritual.
4. Interview your customers and clients.
Want to know what every mastermind, paid consultation, and course is trying to solve for you? How to generate sales for your business. Want to know the most direct, effective, and free way to do that on your own?
Ask your customer what they want and then make that.
Yep, that little nugget has cost me thousands of dollars over the years, and I’m just gonna go ahead and throw it out there for free. You don’t need a fancy expert, 10 worksheets, and hours of lessons to figure out that all you’re really learning how to do is make products that someone will buy.
The best way to do that is to ask your customer what they want to buy, make it, then sell it to them. You can do this through social media polls, DMs, email surveys, and random conversations with people you know. There are so many accessible ways to get data on what your customers, or potential customers, want from you.
5. Take advantage of free downloads.
With everyone wanting to start and build an email list, lead magnets are the talk of the town. Basically, it’s the idea that you can get someone to give you their email address in exchange for something of value. But to attract people who would be ideal candidates for your products and services, you want to create an enticing free offer to build trust, give them a quick win, and offer something of value.
So guess what, that means you can get something for free.
So many of these lead magnets are PURE GOLD. I’m telling you, I’ve learned so many cool things about business just from finding interesting guides and workbooks to download. Sure, it might not be the entire step-by-step solution, but it’s a step in the right direction and very often I can fill in the gaps.
And then, if it’s a great freebie, it usually means it’s also going to be a great email list, which means in addition to getting that free download, I’m going to consistently have amazing advice and content sent DIRECTLY to my inbox, free of charge. And if I don’t want to get it anymore?
Well thank God for the unsubscribe.
6. Sign up for webinars.
I am the first to be super hesitant to join a webinar. Because it’s basically like signing up to receive ads – you know what’s coming at the end and it’s going to be about as easy as window shopping at Target to say no to the offer.
Course creators know this and realize that the hesitations are real. Which means the value of webinars continues to improve as trust is harder to build. And even though you’re going to have to freeze your credit card in a massive ice cube to avoid joining the program, you can still gain so much from tuning in and learning about their area of expertise, for free.
7. Read blogs and listen to podcasts.
And the best kept secret of all – free internet content that drops every hour of every day, 365 days a year. You could have a full time job just trying to stay on top of it all.
Content creators are churning out blog posts, podcasts, and Youtube tutorials all aimed at building trust with an audience, sharing value, and being known as an expert.
And you get to benefit from their research, experience, and insight. I have a few podcasts I listen to religiously, blogs I check in on periodically, and Pinterest boards with saves articles I plan to return to later. Yes, a Pinterest search can help you find just about anything you’re looking for.
A search of my own helped me find the Half-baked Harvest and every one of my friends is reaping the rewards of that content discovery.
Bonus challenge – create your own content too! Starting your own podcast, Youtube channel, or blog will help you get a sense of who your audience is, build a following, have something to share on social media, and build trust. Remember those KPIs? The content you produce is how you work to improve those numbers. Looking at how things are performing will help you see topics that might be of interest to your followers.
8. Trade services with industry peers.
When you’re starting out, and shoot honestly just about every step of the way, you can offer to trade services. I did a trade just this past fall with a friend who is starting a video production company. They wanted a logo for the new brand, I wanted a video to put on my new website – a trade was born.
Trades are a great way to “afford” premium products and services, while also building your client list and testimonials. I’ve traded coaching services, course admission, video and photography, copywriting, hair cuts, and even a trip to Costa Rica.
The sky is the limit, my friends.
9. Build a referral network of aligned brands.
A great way to build your audience and get new clients is to find aligned brands to partner with. As a logo and brand designer, I’ve partnered with business coaches, copywriters, web developers, photographers, and co-working communities who all serve a similar demographic. We refer each others’ services, often collaborate to work on projects together, and many of these contacts have been part of my self-formed think tank (see how that works?!)
10. Don’t be afraid to ask direct, and specific, questions.
And finally, a simple challenge.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, many people are more than happy to help. If you plan to reach out to someone you admire and follow online, just be sure to have a specific question.
Saying something like “How did you build your business?” is going to go unanswered. It would take so much time to explain the details of every decision and opportunity that went into building a business from scratch. But asking something like “Which course platform did you use to build you program x, I love the interface!” is a quick way to get a bit of intel without taking up too much of their time. And most people love to share the tricks they discover along the way, especially with a loyal fan.
I hope this post inspires you to take advantage of the free ways you can grow your business in 2021. After a year of investing in information, I’m excited to take a break, get back to these fundamentals, keep track of my KPIs, and do the free work with you along the way