Congratulations on taking that first step towards owning your own business.
Your mind must be racing with questions about all the things you need. Website, newsletter, podcast, social media, online course, selling your products, creating a community.
So. Many. Details.
Where is it best to invest?
Do you need to invest money?
What should you do first?
So. Many. Questions
There is no one right way to go about things.
Here's my take on the different issues, including where should you invest in first? What are the best tools to start with? And how will this work as you grow?
(*Note: this article is for people just starting out. Not sure what stage you’re at? Check out this article on the 4 stages of business)
Do you need a website?
If you have the time, and are inclined to write a website - by all means, go ahead and do so. But know that not having a website will NOT hinder your business development.
It is more important that you invest in defining your services, get your pricing right, and find clients. Understanding your target audience is a huge step in building your business (and later, your website).
If you do have the time to create a website, look in Wix. Their free website developer is great. You don't NEED a domain to publish (though it does look more professional).
You can purchase a domain for very cheap using Namecheap. This can also set you up with a professional mailbox. This is one of the first investments I would make.
Starting a podcast - yay or nay?
Podcasts are a great way to create longform content that you can then repurpose into micro-content for social media.
A podcast is a medium to get your message across.
It gives people the opportunity to get to know you and your services.
And it’s fairly easy to just start.
There's a lot to talk about structuring and formatting of a podcast.
But to simply start creating a podcast, you can even use Zoom. Hit record then upload to YouTube. The entire process is free. As you make more money, you can invest in using a tool like Restream (higher quality). They do have a free package but it will have their logo in the top right corner.
As you grow, you might want to look at various podcast specific platforms such as Anchor.fm or Riverside.fm
Keep track of your episodes and guests in Airtable. (More on that below.)
Automate email reminders and communication with your post production team (like your editor) if you’re using one.
Managing your data will also help you create a repurposing map and process for that micro content we mentioned earlier.
Do you really need an email list?
Creating an email list is super important. But not the first step. Do this once you see that you're creating an audience for yourself. You can simply collect emails even without sending anything out (yes, I use Airtable for that as well).
When you're ready for an ESP, I would invest in ActiveCampaign. It's better ROI down the line. But if you have no income, you COULD use Mailchimp or MailerLite (*shudder*). Just remember that when you hit the point you have to upgrade, it's time to leave them. And take into account the cost of migration down the line.
Should you create an online course, a group program, or a community?
As you grow your business, you will soon realize that time is limited. Which means your income may be limited.
This is a good time to think about how to break that glass ceiling of income.
Group programs, online courses, and communities are a great way to increase your income without having to actually be there every second.
There are a wide selection of tools for these.
For online course creation, I would stay away from the 'free' tools like Gumroad, Thinkific, Podia, Kajabi, or Teachable. What you get for the free version is far from enough. And once you've uploaded you won't want to migrate. But you'll end up paying A LOT more down the line.
I highly recommend ThriveCart as both a sales checkout and a course platform. It's a one time payment with 2 optional upgrades (neither of which is a must, especially at first). But they don't have a free plan and it is an initial investment of $500 so you may want to hold off on that until you have some income.
If you MUST use a free tool, Thinkific gives you the best free deal and is a good platform to test out your course to see if people are interested.
For membership groups - this is more of a strategy question than which tool. There are tools like Mighty Networks and Circle. They could also serve as course creation tools and sales checkout tools (though I wouldn't use either). Their benefit is that they have a community option (as do Thinkific and the other course platforms listed above).
The main problem with this though, is that it requires people to sign into another platform to engage with the community. And people are hesitant to do so. They have enough going on.
So I would recommend building the community on Slack, or even WhatsApp. People are on these platforms anyway. You're not making them log into yet ANOTHER platform.
You don't need to invest a cent to start
As a start, you don't have to invest money in any tools.
Create an Airtable account (for free). You can create a form to collect people's emails there. You can then start sending emails after you have some money to invest in a good ESP.
People don't care that you don't send out emails often. They just want a way to stay in touch with you.
You can also test the waters with a LinkedIn newsletter. This doesn't have the benefit of collecting emails, but it does give you a place to publish your content and see what resonates with other people.
And in turn this will help you tweak your content.
Airtable is also a great tool to keep track of your data - post content, leads who reach out, sales pipeline stage, podcast episodes and guests, and so much more.
As you grow, you'll be able to integrate it with other tools as well.
Ready, set, SELL!!
The first thing I would do is create a table in Airtable to track my sales pipeline. Add columns for first and last name, email, company name and any other data you collect about your leads. Make sure to have a column for notes. Then add a single select column with the different stages in your sales pipeline (for example, initial reach out, discovery session, send proposal, send contract, send invoice, won, lost)
I would then set up an account with OnceHub. This tool will enable you to give leads direct access to your calendar with predefined accessibility. It's better than Calendly and you get more on the free account than any other tool (including accepting payments through PayPal).
You can then create an account in Zapier to update your Airtable database with the lead information when leads book a meeting.
Zapier has a free plan but it won't enable multi-step zaps. This is the first tool I would recommend you invest money in, when you start to fill your pipeline.
Zapier will also enable integrating the Airtable database we just created with your proposals. Meaning you can create proposals on the fly with the push of a button.
Once you have these in place, you're ready to start working with clients.
Use LinkedIn (or any other social media platform you are comfortable with).
LinkedIn is a great place to start sharing your business with the world.
Talk about yourself, your services, your target audience, the benefits they will get from working with you. (Those last two are where you should focus more).
Get known for something. This way, you will be top of mind when people think about the thing. Trust me, it does not limit you. In fact, I was known for not liking Mailchimp. And yet, the first time people tagged me on LinkedIn was when someone asked who knew Mailchimp. And that's how I made my first dollar.
What’s the most important thing to remember?
For me, the answer to that is that everything is from the One above. All we're doing here is opening the paths through which abundance can flow.
On a practical level - start with your services, your target audience and your pricing.
These three will be the basis for everything else.
Knowing who your audience is and where they are, will help you understand what to post and where in order to be seen by them.
Remember that you need to invest in order to grow. So when you do start making money, be sure to invest at least part of it back into the business. If you've priced your packages right, there should be a part of the cost that is automatically reinvested in the company.
Don't be afraid of mistakes.
Learn from them.
Do better next time.
You'll be up and running sooner than you think.