5 Simple Business Tweaks that Earned me $14k in Two Months
A few days ago, I posted a story to Instagram about my business journey that sparked so much curiosity and so many questions and messages that I thought to myself, what better way to tell the unabridged version of my story than with an epic blog post? In today's mega-post, I'm coming clean about the five simple transformational tweaks I made to my business that led to my first-ever five-figure month of sales. And the best part? They're simple, actionable changes that you can make to your own business, too. Of course, everyone's journey is different and I can't promise that you'll have the same experience as I did -- I'm just sharing what's worked for me, and with any luck, some of what I'm implemented might work for you, too!
The story I shared on Instagram went like this:
I was almost out of time.
I'll put it this way: If I had a dollar for how many days this winter I went without leads, wishing I could rewind time and smack myself silly for not maximizing my marketing potential during that slow season, I wouldn't have to buy myself another coffee until 2019. I basically took the entire winter off. 😳 See, instead of nurturing my business during its slow season, I naïvely treated it like some kind of succulent that could just EXIST without being taken care of. (Speaking of which, I really need to water my succulents.) 😱
By the end of January, I was sitting on my couch with shaken confidence, trying to see my husband's face through my tears, fearfully explaining that I barely had any money left, but I felt compelled to try this one last thing, because this was my Hail Mary Pass, and also maybe I'd lost my mind, because it'd cost me $2,000 (enter B-School).
To this day, I don't really understand what compelled him to tell me everything would be okay if I made that choice... because if it HADN'T been okay, he'd have been the one shouldering the burden of additional financial responsibility. But in that moment, he chose to believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself. And I owe him everything for it, because what happened next was unbelievable: Instead of giving up, I pushed my business model to new heights, and had my first-ever five-figure month. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few short months. I feel like pinching myself every morning, just to make sure my life is real, because my job has become so fun. My clients are the BEST people, and some of them even become genuine friends. 😍
So, what the heck changed?
Well, if you've been following me for any length of time, you'll know that the short answer to this question is: Just about everything! It started with a few realizations about the things in my business that weren't working for me:
- I absolutely hated living in the perpetual state of anxiety caused by not knowing where my next paycheck would come from.
- Checking out during slow seasons is literally the worst thing you can do to a fledgling business!
- I hated juggling 5-10 clients at a time and trying to "reset" my creative brain as I jumped between dramatically different projects.
- I felt stretched too thin, like I wasn't able to nurture my clients the way I wanted to.
- If I wanted to run a more profitable business, I was going to have to accept certain responsibilities that come with that territory.
Once I recognized these things, I knew it was time to make some serious changes if I wanted to continue to work for myself (which, of course I did!). I also knew I had more to learn, which is why I enrolled in Marie Forleo's B-School.
So, let's move on to what happened next...
Tweak # 1: I did actual, real life market research to validate my ideal client avatar.
At the time of this exercise, I was positive that I knew my ideal client like the back of my hand. I had her story written and finessed -- I could tell you what she likes, fears, eats, watches on TV... you name it, I had an answer for it. I took her story to various Facebook groups and even my Instagram followers, and asked to interview anyone who identified with that description. Over the course of two weeks, I interviewed 15 women who identified with the ICA profile I had written out. And do you know what I discovered?
My original ideal client profile was critically inaccurate. After speaking with all of these women, I learned that more than half of them shared a common characteristic: they desired and valued my services, but at the end of the day, their business was not yet financially stable enough to justify hiring me. This was HUGE, and helped me to realize that I needed to adjust a critical part of my ICA's storyline: My ideal client not only values my services, but her business is also profitable, and she's ready to invest in its next stage of growth.
Once I learned this, I took to every inch of my brand's copy and edited like a girl on fire. I tweaked calls-to-action and headline copy until I was certain that it resonated with my new and improved ICA.
Within two days, I had received three new -- and moreover, qualified -- leads. All of them booked my services.
Tweak #2: I streamlined my opt-ins and presented them more strategically.
In 2017, when I was first getting my business off the ground, I designed a number of different opt-ins to help grow my email list. All of them came in the form of a workbook or checklist designed to help other creative business owners clarify their brand's message, and I got great feedback on all of them! But while they did work, they also grew stagnant. I noticed that each time I created a new opt-in, there would be a surge of initial takers, and then things would taper off. By January of this year, I had THREE different opt-ins living on the homepage of my website, which had gathered a collective 10-or-so subscribers in the last six months.
And then I got to thinking about the paradox of choice. See, as humans, when we're faced with too many choices, we often end up choosing nothing at all for fear of making the wrong decision, or because multiple competing offerings actually dilutes the perceived value of all of them. The important thing here is that I realized I had created three incredible opt-ins that were competing so hard with each other that none of them were actually winning at all.
The solution? I re-examined each of my opt-ins, and discontinued all but what I felt to be the absolute strongest one. I gave it a makeover, and then I placed it FRONT AND CENTER on my homepage, both above and below the fold, with a detailed description and an enticing call-to-action. (For those of you unfamiliar with these terms, "the fold" is the point at which a user must scroll to view more of your site. "Above the fold" refers to the space on your landing page that is visible prior to scrolling down, and below the fold is anything visible after the scroll.)
I made these changes in late February of 2018. Between then and the time of this writing, mid-May 2018, my email list has grown from 76 to 230 subscribers and climbing. Additionally, every person who has hired me since February completed my opt-in workbook prior to booking my services.
Tweak #3: I found my blue ocean, restructured my services, and raised my prices.
In B-School, Marie talks about the concept of a "Blue Ocean Strategy," a marketing theory developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, authors of Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevent. To summarize, the goal is to find your "blue ocean," or the competitive advantage within your industry that only YOU can master.
For me, this was a tough one. After all, there are so many designers in the world! Hasn't everything been done before? Well, yes, in a sense. But after a while, I realized that nothing's been done the way I would do it, because no one else in the world is me! And contrary to popular belief, my "blue ocean" isn't my new two-week design timeline (believe it or not, other designers are doing it too, and have been for years!).
It's my client experience. As my clients will tell you, I bring more than just design to the table: I create an all-inclusive experience for for them and their clients that focuses on a number of different touchpoints, including brand strategy, conversion copywriting, consumer psychology, business strategy and more. Once I found my blue ocean, I was ready to raise my prices, because I could clearly see and communicate my value proposition.
Tweak #4: I forced the consult-fearing millenial in me to pick up the damn phone.
To my fellow millenials: If you take nothing else from this article, please let it be this: If you want to charge a pretty penny for your work, you need to be willing to do what it takes to book the kinds of clients who will PAY a pretty penny for your work. This means picking up the damn phone!
Before this year, the idea of talking to a client on the phone -- let a lone face-to-face (gasp) -- PETRIFIED ME. And I know I'm not alone in this: I did a poll on Instagram a while back and discovered that 91% of my voting audience felt the same way. I don't exactly know what's wrong with our generation, but thanks to growing up in the era of texting, we've got issues when it comes to face-to-face communication!
The bottom line is this: If you're going to raise your prices, you need to be prepared to serve the new league of clientele paying for your services. Moreover, you need to be prepared to sell your services. Each time you raise your pricing, you're going to attract a new version of your ICA. In addition to elevating your website to serve this refined version of your ideal client, you're going to need to step up to meet their needs. When you begin charging thousands of dollars for your services, you need to be able to communicate your value to potential clients, and you also need to be willing to earn them as a client. And for me, that meant getting over myself and offering consult calls.
The best part? Not only have I become completely comfortable conferencing with my clients, but also, opening myself up to this style of communication has completely transformed my client relationships. My clients now start and end their projects with me as friends rather than just business partners, and my heart is so much more WHOLE because of it.
Tweak #5: I started under-promising and over-delivering.
It's weird, because my whole life I've lived by the "under-promise, over-deliver" mantra, but up until this year, I haven't been able to bring myself to do this in my business. If I'm being honest with myself, I think I was afraid people wouldn't see the value in my services if I didn't leave all of my cards on the table, so I'd overcompensate by listing every conceivable benefit of my services as a reason to hire me. The result was interesting: I was always left with satisfied clients, but that was just it -- satisfied.
I didn't want satisfied clients, though! I wanted elated clients. I have a deep passion for what I do, and part of what sets my heart on fire is the act of lifting others up to greater heights in their own life and business. I wanted my clients to feel genuinely cared for, supported, and loved at literally every touchpoint of their interaction with me. So, I took a leap of faith and made a few changes:
- I created a streamlined start-to-finish client experience that goes above and beyond to provide my clients with the tools they need to succeed not only throughout our project, but also in business as a whole.
- I removed a few details from my package descriptions and instead use these parts of my service to elevate the client experience AFTER the sale has been made (under-promising and over-delivering in the literal sense of the phrase!).
- I designed a few 'Easter Eggs" to include in each project as a special surprise for all of my clients.
And just like that, satisfied clients became excited, over-the-moon clients who felt their investment was worth every penny and then some. Not only do I now feel that I'm serving my clients in a deeper, more meaningful way, but I'm also booking clients on referral more than any other source.
The moral of the story
I think the most valuable lesson I learned from this experience is the same one I continue to learn over and over in both life and business. And if you've followed me for any length of time, you've heard me say it before:
The best kind of change is that which comes from getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
If your business is struggling, or even if it just isn't where you want it to be at this time, look beyond your comfort zone! Chances are, there's something new you haven't tried that's standing between you and that point of greater profit. Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo you've built within your business, because often when we do exactly that, we see the greatest growth.
And lastly, if you've enjoyed this post, I'd love to know! Feel free to tap the heart icon below, or drop me a comment. You can share which tweak surprised you the most, OR your own mini success story (everyone loves a good success story, amiright?!).
Do you have a dream-chasing friend who might benefit from reading this article? Please share with them!
Peace, love & puppy hugs,