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December 30th: I became the worst boss I ever had (oops)

I'm sending today's email because you need a biz you can rely on before I can help you protect it! Here's how I got there (and you can too).

In the spring of 2014, I went on antidepressants.

There I was, six years into my career, and I *still* couldn’t get it together. Work felt all consuming and had taken over my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, or the fact that I had about thirty years left.

I didn’t know where I stood with my boss (and therefore, my future as a partner in the firm was questionable).

I had zero client contact, was working on super-specific (and otherwise useless) legal issues, and basically, except for money, everything was wrong.

When the meds kicked in, I was able to turn off (what my dear friend calls) the F*** My Life Chorus. I got really clear, really fast.

I quit. I thought I had a plan, but to keep this short, let’s just say I did not.

Fast forward to spring of 2016. I was “successfully” self-employed!

And by that, I mean that I was scraping together an income doing work I had not intended to do, for people I really didn’t care for, at all hours of the day, with no time to work “on” the business instead of in it, and without a vision. (I’ll share my abysmal financial results on Thursday).

In other words, I had become the worst boss I ever had at the worst job ever. Wasn’t this exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place?

I decided to join a business coaching group to help me fix it. The coach pointed out my mistake, and it is one that I see business owners make day in and day out now that I am aware of it:

I thought that being a lawyer is a business model. It’s not. Just like coaching is not a business model.

What’s a business model?

It’s the intersection of the ways you get your clients and deliver your goods or services.

Lawyering is just the service. Coaching is just the service. They aren’t even the delivery method, which can be a hundred different things.

Where the clients will come from, and how they will get their “stuff” from you, is what makes it a business.

Before I can help you protect your business, you’ve got to have one. And that means choosing a business model.

Because I know you’re going there, just know that business models can evolve.

For example, in my local practice, we started by giving free talks to encourage people to set up in-person consultations, and then we performed the services ourselves. That built revenue so we could switch to paying for ads instead of giving live seminars and hire staff to help us do the work.

Many people spend lots of time on their “elevator pitch” about who they help, but never go to the next step.

So, I ask, what is your business model? [Mine used to crossing my fingers and posting a quote or two on Instagram before I understood that people have *no idea* what I do, let alone why they need me].

If you aren’t sure, here are three examples:

  1. Posting helpful information in Facebook groups to start one-on-one conversations that lead to sales calls, selling programs on the phone, and delivering one-on-one coaching over Zoom.
  2. Running ads to a free pdf to build your email list, nurturing that list so subscribers know, like, and trust you, and offering group coaching programs through open/close door launches twice a year. Then, you deliver written materials by email and host live calls to the group.
  3. Finding a complementary service provider who will let you promote a membership program to their list in a live webinar, collecting sign ups while on the air for a reduced cost trial membership, and delivering your program inside a membership portal.

I was in business for *years* before I understood this concept. Once I did, everything clicked.

One last thing. Don’t choose a model because it seems like it is working for someone else.

If you hate selling on the phone, choose something else. If you don’t want to do one-on-one sessions, offer something different. The possibilities are endless, and you just need one winning combo. Otherwise, you'll end up being your own worst boss ever, doing a job that stinks!

January 2: My savings disappeared before I realized I was only making $1,000 per month

I’m so embarrassed to tell you this next part, but I sincerely hope it helps someone out there. At the end, I’ve given you the legal resources you need to quickly implement a simple business model that works.

Here goes:

By choosing a business model – just one to start – my business would have done these things for me right away:

  1. Cover my expenses so I could quit my job without financial stress, and
  2. Start with a foundation of working the way I wanted.

Remember, I left my job to live an intentional life, but I was totally unintentional in my business from the very start.

I took clients because I was scared, not because they were aligned with my goals. I charged prices that got people to say yes but which were totally unrelated to how much I needed to live.

Sound familiar?

This is the “hope” method of doing business, which involves posting randomly here and there, not making clear offers consistently, and discounting the importance of a sizable email list.

In hindsight, if I knew then what I know now, here’s what I would have done (and by the way, if I lost everything tomorrow, this is exactly what I would do to rebuild).

I would ask myself:

How much are my personal expenses per month?

How little do I want to work?

What is a no-brainer one-on-one offer I can sell, that even if it isn’t my “signature,” that would be enjoyable to deliver and would teach me about my audience’s biggest needs and wants?

How quickly can I get a freebie together?

How quickly can I put together a 3 to 5 email welcome sequence inviting people to a call?

How much will qualified leads cost me?

How many people can I sell into my offer?

How much is my tax rate?

A few things to note:

I know this sounds super boring, but this is just to start!

There will be plenty of time to get more complex to reach your big picture goals once you have consistent cash in the door. Without consistent cash, you are too busy to build the business of your dreams because you’re chasing down the wrong clients and delivering work you don’t want to do.

This is based on one-on-one work to start – it’s the best way to hear what your ideal clients care about and you don’t need a large audience like you do with “evergreen,” low ticket offers.

[I put my “answers” at the end of this email for those who are curious. Next week I’ll explain the numbers I used, based on industry standards I see inside many entrepreneurs’ businesses and my own experience.]

Now for the legal part. When you set up a little cash machine like this, you need some legal basics in place (all links to the free membership site. If you forgot your password, go to delgrossolaw.com/recoverpassword):

With this plan in place, you have about one call a day, and the other 22-ish hours are free to take care of yourself and build the grander vision. Not bad!

Here’s the really embarrassing part. I wish I had known what’s in this email before I blew through about $60,000 in savings, which were hard-earned at the job I hated.

When tax time came, I realized I had basically been paying to work so hard on stuff I hated for clients that were not ideal, because I had no business model to guide my offers, to bring ideal clients to the top, and dictate my pricing.

I guess you could say I’m “lucky” that I had that kind of money to waste, but really, all it did was prolong the agony. It wasn’t until I was down to my last $2,000 that serendipity stepped in, in the form of the fantastic business coach who identified my mistake and whipped my business into shape.

[You can meet her live later in January, by the way. We are going to do a presentation together on exactly how she built my biz with me. Watch for the live webinar emails.]

This is getting super long, but I want to end with this:

I thought I would have to go *way* outside my comfort zone (pushy sales-ey and constantly on social media) to get seriously successful. In reality, the only comfort zone I had to step away from was thinking that my business was going to magically work because my products and services are great (if I say so myself!).

I had the good fortune of someone stepping in to help me actually get those products and services in front of my audience consistently and in a way that makes me feel excited to do business. I believe all business owners can have that, and it starts with One. Simple. Model.

– Here are my answers to the questions above, which tells me how many leads I need to get and how much revenue I would need to earn to make my business work if I were starting from scratch.

Personal Expenses $3,500 per month, with tax rate 20%. I need to earn $4,375 to cover taxes and expenses.

I want to work just a little to cover my expenses so I have ample time to build bigger programs I can offer to groups to make more money, more easily, later on.

I could sell 90 day, one-on-one programs with high value at a reasonable cost.

One day to get my freebie and landing page together.

Leads cost $3.50 in my industry. Landing page software is $97 per month.

2% of people will take me up on my offer.

Result: I would need to make $5,172 to put up a landing page, get 200 leads, to get 20 phone calls, to sell four packages that will cover my taxes and personal expenses. If I sell four packages at about $1,300 each, I will break even, and at $1,500, be able to put about $1,000 away in savings.

January 6: There is literally only one way to do business (I paid $92k to figure this out)

After I joined my first real business group coaching program, I learned that there is only one way to do business. Here it is:

You have to get qualified traffic to irresistible offers.

The possibilities for how to get traffic, or which offers to make (and how to deliver them) are endless. But I didn’t understand this simple formula, and therefore could not diagnose why my biz wasn’t working.

For example:

If you have a great offer, but are not seeing sales, it is either because you do not have enough traffic (in other words, people seeing the offer) or the people seeing it are not qualified (ready to buy).

If you have tons of traffic (think big list, lots of social media followers), but no one is buying, the offer is not resonating with that audience or you are not presenting the offer often enough.

This simple formula can reveal big weaknesses in your results.

In my business, I realized I had nowhere near enough traffic to convert a meaningful number of sales to support a sustainable business (and me). Moreover, I didn’t have a system in place to consistently drive traffic to my offers.

In this email, I’ll explain the types of traffic and why there is a cost to even “free” traffic.

On Thursday, I’ll show you how to use your chosen traffic method legally. Then, later in the series, we’ll look at different types of offers and the pros and cons of each.

There are only three types of traffic, and you can choose the right one for you based on how quickly you need to start making money:

  1. Paid (like ads);
  2. Referral (partnering with someone who has a big list, hosting a giveaway, etc.);
  3. “Free” (like posting in Facebook groups).

The fastest way to get traffic is using paid ads. You turn on the ads and can quickly see what is working, which audience is resonating, and how much a lead costs. [On Thursday, I’ll break down my ads numbers for you (along with other metrics) so you can see how this works in practice without a huge ads budget).]

A medium fast way to get traffic is using referral methods. Hosting a joint venture webinar with someone who has a large list, and splitting the profits, is a no-money-upfront way to get traffic. Of course, you have to split the profits with your co-host, so the new clients are not “free.” Often, this can be a 50-50 split, so the business model has to work for this. One-on-one is not usually an option. However, using referral methods is a great way to get a quick burst of cash in the door that lets you do other things to scale. [Check out the PS line below if this interests you]

Finally, “free” traffic, can take a few forms.

The first is what I call ”manual.” If you are just starting out, you may spend time in Facebook groups starting conversations with potential clients. This is time consuming, which in my book is not free. It is also so unpredictable, and I am way too impatient and scared for that!

Second, if you have been in business for awhile, you’ll see clients sending other people your way, which is great! But it takes a long time to be able to rely on just word of mouth. Once you can, bam, you have truly free traffic.

Third, once you build an email list, being able to market and give value to that list is free (after the initial cost of building that list). The nice thing about having the list is that the people on it will tell you exactly what they want, which makes creating irresistible offers a breeze. In other words, your traffic is very qualified, and your offers are all the more irresistible.

Nowadays when I write marketing plans for my own businesses, I focus on paid traffic first, so I can quickly test my offer and selected audience. I focus on manual free traffic last because it takes so much time to build a reputation, and I want to be sure that before I spend all that time, I have an audience that actually wants my offer.

If you want to know that you can be out of your job or hit a certain revenue figure in X amount of time, I encourage you to consider paid and referral methods to get you going. These methods are more predictable, both in terms of results and identifying what’s actually working.

With free traffic, there are more factors dictating a purchase decision, so it is harder to pinpoint what’s not working.

If you are evaluating your business model, I hope this helps you decide whether it is more important to you to save money or time (a very personal decision about business building) in hitting your revenue goals. I’m here to say, hitting them is possible when you’ve got traffic going to irresistible offers.

January 15:  Here are the industry norms so you can calculate how much you need to earn

January 17: This is exactly how my most successful client this year went from zero to six figures in four months

January 20: Three steps to legally replacing your income with coaching quickly

January 23: The only three ways for clients to find you (plus legal protection for each one)

January 27: Making the switch (legally) from time for money to expertise for money

January 30: Protecting your program content from thieves, wannabes, and cheapskates

February 3: Are you making illegal promises on your sales page?

 February 6: Getting your brilliance in front of other people’s audiences legally

 February 10: Virtual events for huge list growth and instant expert status

February 13: True Tales of Coaching Client Nightmares (and how to avoid this)

February 17: The Ultimate Client Agreement