Overwhelm is fast becoming the modern entrepreneur’s disease.
If you are feeling overwhelmed in your digital business right now, take comfort in the fact you are not alone, and there are solutions!
As Pamela Wilson explained last week, you don’t need to bite off more than you can chew.
But what exactly is the minimum required to get your business moving in the right direction?
And how do you get started in a manageable way?
Let’s find out …
First, why you?
You have a few big questions to answer first. Everything hinges on this, because these questions alone can bring on those overwhelm feelings.
What do you do?
Who do you do it for?
Why would someone choose you over someone else?
You don’t have to get this right first time, but you do have to have some idea that broadly works if you are going to make traction.
It especially works well if you can talk in terms of a beneficial outcome. Rather than say you perform acupuncture, talk about permanently removing back pain.
You know you are on the right track if people say, “Oh interesting, how does that work?” or, “How do you do that?” rather than, “That’s nice, goodbye!”
Write content that attracts
You need to identify the needs of your target audience and speak to those needs in your articles. Your content should tell stories that deliver a message your audience needs to hear.
You should solve problems and build trust. Show that you can help people with what they need.
True confession: I built my online business in the most backward way possible. And I’m here to share my sordid tale so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
I want to save you from years of frustration, months of waffling, and full days of stumbling around in a fog.
If only I had this information when I started!
But it brings me some consolation to know that you’ll have it. That you won’t need to experience the painful process of birthing an online business quite the same way I did.
Let’s start with what not to do.
Overachievers Anonymous, our meeting has begun
Back in late 2009, I signed up for Copyblogger’s Teaching Sells course.
I had been running my design and marketing firm for almost 20 years. I was longing for a change of pace and a new challenge.
And creating an online business based on the expertise I’d built up for decades seemed like a great idea.
So I dug into the full Teaching Sells course with the hunger of someone who needed to know everything. And it delivered everything I needed, and more.
I took many pages of notes. I bounced ideas off of other students in the forum. I tuned in to the Q&A sessions. I was all-in.
I was inspired.
And I decided, in all my overachieving glory, that I needed to build something similar to what I was experiencing in Teaching Sells.
I wanted to create an Interactive Learning Environment to teach my area of expertise: building a brand
Where I live, you can tell when summer arrives.
Long rows of plowed dirt as far as the eye can see. Dense waves of green wheat bending beneath the wind as far as the eye can see. Knee-high corn stalks as far as the eye can see.
It’s a perfect time to break out the cut-off jean shorts, steel beverage tub, and a Russian science fiction novel.
Circumstances may be different for you, but no matter where you are, the slow pace of summer is also the perfect time to prepare for a product launch.
Why prepare in the summer? And why launch a product?
First, the return of fall brings with it an eager confederacy (back from summer vacations and sleepy afternoons hiding from the heat) itching to get back to business.
And second, launching a product has probably been on your bucket list for years.
But for some of you, the idea of launching a product stirs two competing emotions in you — hope and fear. Fortunately, this post is for you.
What is an MVP?
We all fear getting started. Stepping forth into the unknown future. Taking the risk of following our dreams. This seems to be the hardest hurdle to overcome. If only there was an easy way to get started, build momentum, and keep that momentum.
There is — and it’s called a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Eric Ries, an entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup, explains:
The minimum viable product is that version of a new product
I wrote a post last week about the awesome things that can happen when you build a business around selling your own products or services.
If you haven’t read that post, spoiler alert: You make more money.
It’s also fun, and interesting, and lets you connect with your audience in a deeper way, beyond the connections you make on your blog or social media accounts.
But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.
If it’s so awesome, how come everyone doesn’t do it?
If it was as 1-2-3-easy as some of the gurus want you to think, we’d all be swimming in cash and Lamborghinis.
You probably wouldn’t be a Copyblogger reader if you bought into some of the insulting “so easy an orangutan could do it” promises.
So here’s the grown-up truth: Creating your own product takes time, it takes work, and it takes knowledge.
And the first time you do it, it’s a little bit like getting that 156-drawer cabinet from Ikea. You’ve got all the pieces on the floor of the living room, and the prospect of putting them together can look pretty daunting.
Can you do it? You absolutely can. But it’s easier with help.
We like helping people like you
One of our missions with this blog and this business is to help people take the hard stuff and make it easier.
I’d love it if you joined me and Chris Garrett for a free session on the mistakes people make when they’re putting together a product to sell
Any one of us would have been proud to create the retail giant Best Buy. It’s a powerhouse.
At its peak, Best Buy controlled about 19 percent of the electronics market. They’ve sold lots and lots of stuff. And they still do. Any kind of television or MP3 player or computer you want, Best Buy probably has it.
If you could collect all of the profit from just one Best Buy store, that would be extremely cool, right? You’d have every customer in the neighborhood, and you could sell each one exactly what they wanted.
Now compare that to a store that sells just one brand of computer. Just one brand of MP3 player. Just one brand of smartphone or tablet.
That doesn’t seem like it would do as well, right?
But the profit per square foot from an Apple Retail Store is six times the profit of a Best Buy.
Apple Stores were supposed to be a huge failure
According to the book Inside Steve’s Brain, retail expert David A. Goldstein told Business Week that:
I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.
And Goldstein wasn’t some clueless lone voice. That was the overwhelming consensus. In fact, you couldn’t find anyone in 2000 who thought the Apple Store was a good idea.
Anyone, that is, except Steve Jobs.
Their costs are higher
You may have noticed that you don’t find Apple Stores in strip malls or shoppettes.
You find them, in fact, in
Running an online business seems simple. All of those guru-type people make it sound that way. But what happens when it isn’t?
On paper (or in pixels), it all looks pretty straightforward.
Start an online-based business around helping people reach a certain goal. Maybe it’s a fitness goal, or a parenting goal, or learning a new professional skill.
Online education is exploding, so we know that more and more people are looking online to learn a task or skill they care about.
Some people seem to start a small site, gather an interested audience, and then before you know it they’re making a living with a course, a coaching program, or even a simple ebook.
But when you try it … it’s not so simple.
(It wasn’t so simple for me, either. Not by a long shot.)
There are still some widespread myths about how people make — or don’t make — a living with an online business.
In particular, there are two ways of looking at online business that are equally unrealistic. They’re really two sides of the same delusional coin.
Myth #1: Online business has magic powers
Of course, we’ve all seen the hype-y pitches:
Make millions in your underwear by starting a business on the Internet!
Can you actually make millions in your underwear? Sure you can — if you put the time and effort in to build a sustainable business, and the right pieces (right market, right reach, right product) are all aligned.
Some days, to tell the truth, you’re making money in