36 Reflections on “Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

“Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

This is a post that has been on my mind for many years to write. 

It comes up in most workshops that I teach, this question of “Who am I to teach this? I’m no master. Besides, everything has already been said. I’ve got nothing new to add to this.” or “Who am I to be a healer? I’m not that good yet. I’m not ready. I need more education.” or “Who am I to hold circles? I don’t want to feign that I know things or that I’m some big deal.”

And it’s a weighty question that deserves more of a response than the pat, “Believe in yourself” answers given out as though the heart of the malady was a lack of self esteem and that the miracle cure could be brought about be popping the pills of “valuing yourself.”

No. This is a bigger and more important question. So, I want to try and write a response that might be worthy of everything that is inside that question.

It’s one I feel a real personal connection to as, when I was 21, I was leading personal growth, weekend long workshops for a leadership development franchises. There were people attending them who had sandals older than I was. I had no legitimate business leading those workshops. I remember one man who, seeing this overexcitable boy was going to be leading the course, politely and graciously asked for a refund. I was offended at the time but I wish I could hug him now. I knew the basics of some fancy NLP and other ‘technologies’ for personal growth and I imagined that this gave me some permission to lead groups of adults through some incredible deep waters. I thought that my having some theory I’d learned by rote (and yet hadn’t sincerely implemented into my life) meant I’d learned something worthy of sharing. 

I was so young. 

So, when some come to me with these questions of “Who am I to do this work?” I take that question very seriously. 

Of course, sometimes they’re often secretly angling for pity or approval. You won’t find that in this blog post. If you’re here for encouragement, that’s not exactly what you’ll find here. And if you’re here for advice or ‘the answer’ you definitely won’t find that here. What you’ll find is the encouragement to keep wrestling with these worthy questions as honestly as possible. 

As my colleague Mark Silver put it, “I would say that, deep down, it’s an honest and sincere question when asked as a real question, and not as a statement masquerading as a question, where ‘Who am I?’ stands in for, ‘I can’t/not supposed/not the one to do it. The integrity, the care, the humility is all needed in this inquiry.” 

What I want to offer here isn’t a solution but some ideas and reflections that, like seeds, might take root and grow into an apple tree than can at least provide food to you to sustain you while you keep up the wrestling.

One reaction to this question is to collapse, shrink down and back away from opportunities. Another reaction is to posture, puff ourselves up and pretend to be a lot more together than we are. But, if we’re going to explore this meaningfully, it’s got to be a response from a place of composure. I hope that these reflections might help you get a bit closer to that.

 

Reflection #1 – You Deserve To Have Your Needs Met:

This is baseline. At the heart of a lot of these struggles (around being ready) is this deep feeling of discomfort that we have needs at all. There’s this big feeling of shame in a lot of people that they need the level of support they do. They feel like they should be able to help anyone who wants their help for free and be okay with that.

But you’re a human being. You have needs (e.g. food, water, shelter etc.) And, in this culture, without money, those are hard to get. So, unless you’re consciously choosing to opt out of the cash economy (a move I would applaud loudly and celebrate) then it’s something to come to terms with.

Can you be humble enough to admit that you need support to live? Can you be humble enough to receive that support in the form of money from clients who you are helping?

You have needs. You deserve to have them met. 

This doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be a billionaire. It doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anyone’s business in particular.

It just means that you deserve these things as much as any other human on earth. 

And it means that it’s important to be incredibly real with yourself about what it is that you need and what it will take to make that happen. This shows up particularly clearly around money.

Action: Identify these two numbers – How much money do you need to just scrape by (i.e. food, rent and paying basic bills)? How much money would it take to sustain you in a good way that would allow you to give your gifts to the community? Once you’ve identified the second number, I would suggest adding 50% more to it because you probably aren’t seeing clearly the number of unexpected things life will bring you that will cost money. Then make that number your goal.

 

Reflection #2 – You May Need to Appoint Yourself:

I have written a longer note about this notion here but, here’s the gist of it – most people walk around life feeling needy and unsure this world is asking anything of them. Most people are waiting for proof that the way they live matters to others. The invitation is to stop waiting and to proceed as if you are needed. This might mean you develop a bit of swagger and self appointing yourself. So be it. 

“As a rule nobody asks you to do your life’s work. More often, at least in the early going, you have to do your life’s work as a self-appointed task. And in the early going you’re not very good at it. It is a learning thing, expensive, demanding, relentless. That’s how it has gone for me at least, paring down the list of reasons I was born until only a few likely candidates were left standing.” – Stephen Jenkinson

But, of course, if we’re needed, it’s the most natural thing in the world to doubt our capacity to rise to the occasion. That’s not a disempowering belief to get over, it’s a human response to explore. It’s a part of the learning and growing that helps get you ready. If you skip an active engagement with your doubts, you may find that they linger around like ghosts of the departed who, never properly grieved and yet willfully forgotten, stick around to haunt you in a world to which they no longer belong. Your doubts are like seeds and they can only give you the plant inside them if you are willing to plant them in the fertile soil of your curiousity and willingness to admit there’s something you don’t know.

 

Reflection #3 – Your Doubts Are Often Your Integrity In Disguise:

When people say to me, “I don’t know if I’m ready.”, I immediately trust them a bit more.

Because, in they’re asking the question, I hear a deep integrity trying to assert itself amidst a desperate need to pay the rent. I hear a deep concern for the well being of others. I hear a humility of knowing how little they know and how much they still struggle. And I hear the tension between not wanting to be a fraud and yet not wanting to pretend they don’t know anything at all. They are simultaneously lit up by the possibility of stepping into a work that they love and also terrified. They want to help people but are also scared they might hurt them. They want to fly but are terrified that they will fall.

They are aware that the bigger a job they take on, the more potential there is to screw things up and really hurt people. They’re aware the more trust that’s invested in them, the more they have to be faithful to. They know that this trust isn’t a resource we actively try to cultivate, it’s a sort of human-making burden we carry with us because we know the more of it that people pile on our back, the more damage there would be should we ever get lazy and drop it. Trust is a burden. When people court it too fast and too soon, before they’re ready, they are actually courting disaster. 

On one side people never starting because they’re not perfect or ready and not wanting to hurt people. Other side people blindly charging ahead and imagining they’re ready and that people are lucky to get what they’ve got to give. Neither of these orientations are particularly helpful or sustainable.

Another possibility is to consider that your teaching what you know and offering it as a service isn’t a sign that you’re ‘done’, or ‘perfect’. It’s you signing up for your next step in your schooling without any illusions that it will be easy. And learning should give you pause. You should have second thoughts about learning. Because learning is expensive and you can only pay with the thing you can least afford to give.

Learning is what helps refine you. Sometimes I think that, when we get started, we should be paying our clients for the chance to learn. It’s a good argument for doing probono work and apprenticing (which we’ll get to soon).

When people express their doubts I want to fall on my knees and thank them for really considering it. 

The people who scare me are the ones with very little experience but extreme confidence. Those are the ones most likely to hurt people. 

 

Reflection #4 – Your Questions About Money Are Also Often Your Integrity Too:

Intimately tied into the question of “Who am I to teach?” is the often unspoken ending to that sentence, “… and get paid for it?

It can feel very strange to many of us this notion of being paid to do something we love to do that’s bringing healing to the world. There can be a guilt associated with it and this urge to just give it away for free.

And again, when people bring up these issues, I want to worship at their feet for a while because these concerns don’t come from nowhere. They often have roots found it a concern about the direction of the larger economy – both where it came from and where it’s going. As people learn more about what’s happening in the world, it’s the most natural thing in the world to have questions around money start to emerge. What is it? Where did it come from? For what kinds of work should I accept it and for what kinds of work should I refuse it?

And if you work in the healing arts, this becomes an even more pressing question as people will start bringing many things to your door to question your making money. They’ll point out that traditional medicine people almost never take money for their ceremonies or healings so how on Earth can you? Aren’t you just participating in the commodification of something that should never be commodified?

When I see people wrestling with this, I want to hug them and thank them for being willing to engage and grapple with something for which there are no easy answers. I want to praise the deep integrity of their political and spiritual landscape. I want to urge them to keep following those threads. Nowhere in me is there an urge to ‘fix’ anything. I have no desire at all to do anything other than hold those people’s feet even closer to the fire so they can really feel the burn of anywhere they might be out of alignment. Many of my colleagues would see all of this as a set of disempowering beliefs but, frankly, I think a lot of their beliefs about money are deeply toxic – here are twelve of them. And I’m not saying there aren’t beliefs that aren’t serving you if you’re wrestling with this all, I’m just saying the wrestling with it is a noble endeavour that deserves to be applauded. It’s a rare thing in this culture to bring anything to money other than desperation and entitlement. 

Those are questions people should be bringing to the topic of money. Thank God they do.

I’ve been broke before (and I didn’t care) because I’d decided to spend my time enjoying my life and doing volunteer work in my community instead. There’s nothing less spiritual about that. But there’s also nothing particularly spiritual about being broke and not being able to take care of yourself and therefore being a burden on others. If you’re tired of being broke, here are fifteen ideas and you might want to check to see if I’m running my 30 day cashflow challenge called The Meantime.

And there’s a big difference between using these questions as a shield to actually not wrestle honestly with these questions and avoid ever dealing with money vs. as a doorway to an even deeper sense of integrity and alignment with your political and spiritual values as you live in the modern world. 

Having said all of that, a few thoughts do occur to me that I offer on the off chance they might have some use to someone.

We no longer live in a tribal set up. Were you to be a healer in that set up, your needs would be met. You would be taken care of by the village. That is no longer the case today and so we need to do something different.

To take indigenous rituals and profit from them without the explicit permission and blessing of traditional elders in those communities is the height of disrespect and deeply dangerous to those you ostensibly want to heal. 

You do not need to make an income from healing. You could also work a job and do your healing work outside of that. That is an absolutely legitimate and beautiful model. You can be a healer without making a business out of it. 

Offering your gifts to the world? Non negotiable. That’s a mandatory part of being a human being. Making it a business and charging for it? Entirely optional.

 

Reflection #5 – Figure Out Your Resonant Price

All praise and credit to my dear, dear friend and colleague Mark Silver for bringing this notion to the world: resonant pricing.

If you struggle in figuring out what to charge, I can’t recommend enough that you check out this simple, human, effective and liberating process

It will help you find prices for what you charge that feel not too little or too much but ‘just right’. 

 

quotes-655Reflection #6 – Doubt is a Part of The Creative Process: 

Doubt is unavoidable.

It’a part of the creative process as KC Baker brilliantly lays out in her blog post What It Takes to Give Birth (To a Baby or a Dream). Although, it’s rarely self doubt anyway. It’s more often other people’s doubts we’re reacting to or imagining. We ask ourselves, ‘What would others say about this?’ But, in a world on fire, obsessing about ourselves is not what’s needed.

Self hatred and self doubt are still a form of self absorption. 

 

Reflection #7 – Be Clear About Your Goals:

When people say they don’t feel ready, I want to ask them, “Ready for what?

And most of the time the answers I get are fuzzy. How clear are your business goals? Less clear than you think, I promise you that. Read this to help them get more clear.

 

Reflection #8 – Be Real About Your Timelines:

Let me save you a trip to your therapist in which you fruitlessly explore how your lack of valuing yourself is stopping your business from growing.

It takes time to grow a business to be solid. Eighteen months to three years if you’re really focused on it. If you don’t settle on a solid niche early on? It’ll take you longer. I see so many people fail before they leave their day job too soon. They leap into their business before it has any chance of supporting them and then it collapses and some well meaning new ager tells them it may be a reflection of their lack of self worth.

It takes time to build a business. 

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Reflection #9 – You Might Not Be Ready, But…:

This is an important one to wrestle with.

You genuinely might not be ready for the work you’ve imagined for yourself.

Try that on for size.

Hey, we’ve all seen it. Someone is shoes way too big for them. Someone crashing and burning because they weren’t ready.

That could be you. 

If you don’t seriously consider your level of readiness, you’re a fool.

You actually might not have the skill, wisdom, internal fortitude or capacity to do the work you’re so drawn to do. History is full of people who thought they were ready, thought they were invincible and then, like Icarus drawn by his desire to get closer to the sun and deaf to his father’s pleas, fell helpless to his death as his wings fell apart as a result of his hubris. There are many examples of those whose arrogance outstripped their ability and whose lack of regard for limits cost others dearly. 

So you might not be ready but… it’s important to ask ourselves, “ready for what?”. Ready to be a guru to thousands? Maybe not. Ready to run some free workshops in your living room? Maybe so. Ready to quit your day job? Maybe not (but hey here are 11 celebrated artists who kept their day job so whatever…) Ready to go to part time? Maybe so.

Often what this question of “Am I ready?” boils down to is the belief that “I need to be perfect to be ready.” Ah. No wonder you never feel ready.

Healers often feel like, “I know I still have unhealed issues so who am I to heal anyone else?” and thus set themselves into this impossible to escape place and rob anyone they meet of whatever portion of healing they might have brought. You may not have healed everything in your life, but I bet you’ve healed something. If you stick to helping people with that or issues of a similar intensity and dynamic, you’ll be on solid ground.

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Reflection #10 – You Have Something to Offer:

This is vital.

Can you offer everything you might want to right now? Probably not.

But do you have something to offer that could help people? There is no doubt.

Is what you are able to offer enough to sustain you in a business? How much could you charge for it? Those are very open and worthy questions.

But that you have something to give this world? That is not a question worth any time at all because it will distract you from the needed work of you giving your gift to the world. So many people shut down because they don’t want to be a burden on others, but the real burden we put on the world is one you put there by not giving your gifts and making everyone else carry your load to make up for it. You are needed. 

 

Reflection #11 – Don’t Underestimate The Important Gift of Empathy:

You’d be surprised how much of what people are paying for is actually empathy. You’d be amazed at what a significant factor ‘feeling gotten’ is for people when they’re spending their money. Sure, they want the particular result they’re paying you for, but do not discount the impact of them feeling understood by you. Don’t underestimate the real value that has and the gift it is. Sometimes people would rather work with someone who is a little less skilled if their bed side manner if much better. 

The life coach and healing arts industry is full of a lack of that. And there’s more new age bullying than you might think.

It can be an immense relief to realize that our presence is a gift to others (and nice to know it is of such help to our marketing).

Who are you to heal people?” Maybe someone who really knows how to listen. Maybe somebody who won’t push or bully people into doing something that’s not right for them.

 

Reflection #12 – There’s a Difference Between Not Being Ready Out of Fear and Out of Intuition:

I’ve met a lot of healers who never feel really ready. They always need one more course or one more certification. And it’s often that they’re scared to really launch.

But not always.

Since I started my business, people have been telling me to write a book.

Practically since day one.

I didn’t feel ready. It wasn’t fear. It was just knowing that I wasn’t ready to do that yet. I knew my point of view and my ideas were still cooking. This year, about 15 years into my career, I finally feel ready. The feeling is clear and uncomplicated. 

Don’t let people bully you into doing something you’re not ready to do yet. It’s your life. Do what you want to do.

 

Reflection #13 – You’ll Might Be Great At One Thing And Crap At A Lot Of Other Things:

I recall Stephen Jenkinson talking about a very earnest young man who wanted to learn from him and came to stay on his farm to help out. The trouble was, he wasn’t much help at all. Finally one day the young man said, “I don’t know if I’ve been much help with the farming.” and Stephen said, “Farming? You haven’t even done any! Look you’re not a farmer. You’re an academic. That’s where your gifts and passions lie. Go and pursue that!” And the young man did, was excellent at it and no more farm equipment was broken that year.

Not sure what your natural gifts are? You might check out the good work of Vancouver’s Natural Gift Society or the book Strength’s Finder (order at your local bookstore).

 

Reflection #14 – Almost Everyone is Crap When They Start:

There are a few geniuses who seemed to hit the ground running brilliantly, but, for the most of us, this isn’t the story.

The first marketing workshop I did was terrible.

The second one I did was much better. 

The first youth leadership workshop I led was an abysmal and mortifying failure. They got better from there. That’s how it is. It’s not always so bad but I’ve often started things well before I was ready. It’s not a path I recommend. But it’s comforting to know that you’re in good company.

A truism I heard once was that “every master was once a disaster“. Everyone you see who is celebrated now likely struggled in the very areas they are celebrated. The legendary Casanova was terrible with women. He dedicated his life to learning the arts of courting and seduction. He was not born with that. In story after story, we learn about the masters who, in their beginnings struggled too. But they stuck in there. This is known as playing the long game. So, this truism teaches us that no matter how deep a disaster we are now – there is the promise and possibility of greater competence and skill. As we continue to teach what we most need to learn – we in turn learn.

 

 

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Reflection #15 – Beware of Comparing Your Insides to Other People’s Outsides

It’s really easy to look at others doing the kind of work you want to do who are more successful than you and imagine you’re seeing the full picture. 

I promise you that you are not. 

It’s easy to look at people who are doing the work you want to do and imagine you’ll never be ready to do what they do, that you’ll never reach the level they have.

I’ve been behind the scenes of many organizations that seem phenomenally together and professional from the outside, the very picture of success, and yet, on the inside are an utter shambles.

I’ve been behind the scenes at many holistic expos that might seem like a money grab from the new age scene but the reality is that, despite all of their new age law of attraction philosophies, they are almost all losing money or barely squeeking by.

I’ve hung out with the big names of the personal growth scene and seen the human foibles they have that never seem to make it onto the stage. I’ve seen a new age author famous for his books about his near death experiences be hammered every time we met – a profound (although delightfully charming) alcoholic. 

I’ve heard of countless yogic gurus who have taken advantage of their female followers but in a way that never makes the mainstream media. 

I’ve come to know that a very prominent figure in the personal growth world cheated constantly on his wife despite speaking of how great his relationship was on stage. 

It’s easy to believe the hype and to see those who are actually only a few steps ahead of you (whatever that means) as ‘perfect’. But the truth is that they’re people too.

Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Don’t compare the movie of your life to the highlights reel you get to see. It will leave you feeling inadequate and miserable. Just keep focused on creating something wonderful, beautiful and useful to the community. Create something worthy of the problems you see in the world with the gifts you have. That is more than enough.

 

Reflection #16 – You Know More Than You Think You Do:

It was 2002, and I got a call from the United World College in Las Vegas, New Mexico to lead a facilitation training. 

Having just lived through what was an utter disaster of a facilitation training (that I led (we’re talking exorcisms, people running out of the room screaming and some deep racism coming out) I felt zero desire to go there again. I’d spent the past years leading workshops and summer camps but was feeling particularly humbled. My immediate response, upon getting the invitation, was to say to myself, “What do I know about this?

But still, I gave myself permission to do the same thing I hope you might, I sat down and made a list of what I might teach were I to lead such a training. Four densely packed pages later I found myself stunned with how much I had to say and how lucid it felt. Yes, I’d made a lot of mistakes in the past, but, when I gave myself this chance to reflect on them, I found that the seeds of my failures had bloomed into apple trees bursting with fruit that I could offer to others. There was such a wealth of ideas that I felt selfish to keep it to myself. If what I had learned could help stop others from going through the same pain I had, I wanted to share it. 

Action – You could do a similar exercise around making a list of all of your current qualifications for the work you are drawn to do. What is the formal education you’ve had? What experiences? What books have you read? Have you had a lot of conversations about this? Have you done much writing about it? etc. Most of us don’t, because we’re stuck in our fear and feelings of inadequacy, give ourselves enough credit for all that we bring to the table.

Also, great news, if you get through this all and realize, “Man, I actually don’t have much to offer.” then that’s great news too. You can let go of the urgent dream of building a business and get a job for a while so the heartache can stop.

 

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Reflection #17 – Under Promise, Over Deliver:

If I had to just pick one of these ideas, it would be this one.

If all you did was this, your fear of not being ready would likely vanish over night.

As you go about offering whatever you have, however humble it might seem, make sure that you under promise and over deliver. Promise less than you think you can truly deliver as a result and then deliver more than that. Of course, this means that you need to get very real with yourself about what it is you are capable of delivering as a result. 

Of course, if you claim to be able to heal any condition and then you don’t, people will be upset. But if you say, “I’m just beginning and I’d love to offer you a 60 minute reiki session.” and you do it, that’s wonderful. As long as you’re not promising more than you can deliver there is zero ethical issue at all. People know what they’ve signed up for. 

“Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh (Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing).”

– Scottish Proverb

Again, is the result you’re currently capable of offering enough to sustain a business? That’s a different question.

One of the best pieces of advice on this that I’ve ever read is to offer people the tip of the iceberg you have. They will feel how much in unseen, under the water, and trust you more. And you will feel more solid knowing that what you’ve offered them is really only 10% of your actual capacity. 

If you do this consistently, your clients will be thrilled. 

This idea is so simple, but its consequences are so profound.

 

1560707_10155030029375195_519340342724674419_nReflection #18 – Apprenticing:

Our culture is not big on humility.

In a day and age where you can become a reiki master in a weekend or a life coach in a year certification, the notion of meaningful, long term apprenticeship is a fugitive idea, hiding out in our better sensibilities until we wake up to the need for it or are brought to our knees by some humbling experience where we realize the impossible price we often need to pay to really learn something and the even more dear price to pay when we don’t learn properly and try to do it anyway.

In traditional highland Scottish culture, to become a story teller meant a seven year apprenticeship. To become a Druid? Twenty one years. You can find these sort of time frames the world over. Sadly, you can also see people going to a weekend workshop and then feeling qualified to lead sweat lodges and ceremonies. 

One of my friends in Edmonton, Randall Benson, works in solar power. He only hires journeymen electricians and most of his jobs are based around fixing the screw ups of less qualified people. 

If you want to feel totally solid in what you’re offering, find yourself a mentor. Be willing to work for free for a while. Offer free workshops in people’s living rooms for five people. Do it for free until people start to insist on paying you. Make your money in other ways.

There’s a good chance that, if you’re having these fears, you’re in the first of four stages of business. And, at that stage, your business is actually incapable of sustaining you financially. Your business is like a young tree that’s unable to bear the weight of your livelihood. So don’t crush it. Give it time to grow while you grow too. 

One approach that can take a lot of the pressure off this is to consider offering a portion of what you do on a pay what you can basis. I’ve done this with most of my daylong and weekend workshops for about 15 years. It let me feel okay about leading weekend workshops even though I was just starting because I knew people wouldn’t pay me more than they wanted to. It felt amazing to never have to worry that I might be over charging or that people weren’t getting the value they paid for. 

And, if you’re really apprenticing to someone, there may come a point where they kick you out of the nest because they know that you’re never going to be ‘ready’ enough to do it on your own. And, do you know what? You’ll be okay.

 

 

10885222_10155030030675195_4287047097716463695_nReflection #19 – Honing Your Craft:

When you’ve finished apprenticing to a teacher or school, you’re still learning. But now you’re learning from your craft directly. You’re now learning from experience. This means giving yourself time to reflect on what you’ve gone through, developing better systems and checklists and taking time to improve your skills here and there.

It means taking a deep pride in doing the best job you can do in creating the most beautiful offerings you can. When you do this, questions of self worth fall away and are replaced with an excitement to give what you’ve made to the community. 

Most entrepreneurs I see don’t do this.

Instead of creating a few programs and honing them over time, they are constantly creating new programs.

On a marketing level, this is a bit of a disaster because then people never get to know you for anything in particular. On the level of confidence, it’s a disaster. How are you supposed to feel totally confident about something you’ve never done before? Of course you feel nervous and unsettled. And on the level of craft, it’s also a disaster because you can’t do something once and expect it be be of much worth.

If you create a workshop and do that same workshop one hundred times, then you’ll have something of incredible worth. You’ll speak with some swagger and bravado when asked about it. You won’t have doubt. It will be good and you will know it’s good. You will have found all the holes, integrated so many learnings – big at first and subtle towards the end. You’ll know every inch of it and will barely be able to let it go at the high prices you charge. 

When you are more in love with your craft and your clients than your business or reputation you’ll see things bloom in ways you couldn’t imagine.

Honing your craft includes seeking out candid feedback from clients and implementing it to make your offerings better.

Honing your craft means making time to reflect on what you thought went well and what didn’t in your last offering and improving it for next time.

Sometimes I’ll do a program and, by the end, I feel awful, because I see everything that I could have done differently. But, once I’ve found some meaningful solution to each of those issues, my feelings shift to excitement to offer it again.

 

Reflection #20 – Focus On Creating An Offer That Feels Wonderful

There are some things that, when you think about offering them, you go into a panic zone and freeze up.

Maybe it’s leading a week long retreat. Maybe it’s healing people around certain issues. You just don’t feel ready to do that at all. It wouldn’t feel right or good to offer it. It’s too scary.

And then there are other things that would feel totally fine. Maybe that’s just going for tea with someone to talk about what might be possible. It’s so important to start with something that feels good, right and comfortable to you and to go from there. 

If, instead of obsessing about whether or not you’re ready, you were to pour all of your love and attention into making the best offer you could, you would find your self-concern dropping away and being replaced by a deep, authentic excitement to share. 

Action: Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the center of it. On the top left hand side right, ‘Feels Good’ and on the top right hand side write, ‘Feels Bad’. Underneath the ‘Feels Good’ side write down all the things you could offer right now that would feel free and easy for you to offer with an uncomplicated heart. Under the ‘Feels Bad’ side, write down the things you might want to offer that feel questionable for you, you’re not sure you’re ready for or could handle. Go back and forth for no more than 20 minutes. 

And then get moving on the ‘Feels Good’ side. Hustle that hard. As you do it, your confidence will grow. Or you’ll learn from failing. And then you’ll feel more confident as a result of your learnings. 

Action: Ask your friends what they would most trust you to do in terms of your work. What result would they most trust you could help them achieve. 

 

success-really-looks-likeReflection #21 – Start Small & Pay Attention

If you’re scared, start with something tiny. Start with leading a small workshop in your living room. Start with writing a simple ebook. Start by making on youtube video. Offer a free hour long coaching session to ten people just so you can try. Offer it to a community that needs it most as a volunteer (e.g. immigrant population or those in prison). 

You might take like a duck to water and see how many of the fears you had were just in your head. You might get hooked on it and want to do it more and more and watch as your fears fall away from you like a bird’s shadow as it takes off into the air.

But you might also realize that something didn’t feel right. And you can learn from that too.

This is also how you figure out your niche. You start small. You try things. You experiment. You notice what worked and what you liked. It’s not some linear path with three easy steps. It’s full of loops and round abouts. 

Am I ready?” is a terrible question. Ready for the big time? Likely not. Ready to help somebody? You’d better believe it. 

 

8983_10155030031520195_1269127059724895516_nReflection #22 – They Don’t Notice What You Notice:

Performers know this one all too well.

I’ve been doing improv comedy with Rapid Fire Theatre since 1992. And there have been many, many shows where I would walk off stage feeling defeated at what a terrible show I’d just done. I would head into the front of the theatre where the audience was leaving carrying the accumulated weight of every choice I wish I could take back and every choice I wish I’d made I’d stage and didn’t, only to be greeted by someone saying, “That was amazing! Thanks man!” and get a high five from a stranger who was leaving with a big smile on his face and joking with his friends about how we’d had an Octopus as a student in our scene only to have him eventually eaten. 

I thought the show was sub par at best. He thought it was great.

This happens all the time. 

We are often our own worst critic. 

 

Reflection #23 – Get Candid Feedback

If you’re not sure you’ve got much to offer, why not find out the truth and put your obsessing to rest?

Why not create a google form or surveymonkey survey and invite your past and current clients to give you candid, honest, forthright and totally anonymous feedback on how you did with them? What worked and what didn’t? What would they give your work with them from a 1-10? If it wasn’t a ten what would it have taken to be a 10? What do they see as your greatest gifts and strengths? What do they see as your weaknesses. 

And, if you’re unwilling to do this, I’d like to suggest that you might, indeed, not be ready after all. 

 

Reflection #24 – To a Third Grader, a Fourth Grader is God:

You don’t have to be a PhD to help a third grader. You just need to be a fourth grader.

You don’t need to be ten thousand steps ahead of someone to help, just a few.

This is so important to let sink in. And, as long as you’re not over promising, you’ll be fine.

My colleague Jana Beeman put it this way, “I tell my students, ‘Look at your journey, look at what you’ve surpassed in your life. Look at everything you’ve learned and the power of who you are. If you find someone a few steps behind you on your path, how can you NOT be the one to help them? If you don’t, you both lose.'”

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 1.45.15 PMReflection #25 – You’ll Improve Faster Than You Think You Will:

Think of the design of the nautilus shell. Imagine that the centre of it represents you as a very skilled and confident practitioner of what you do. 

That first ring on the outside is the biggest. But they quickly become smaller and smaller. In this image you will see that, within five loops, you’re at the centre. And improving your craft is a lot like that too. 

Let’s take leading a workshop for example:

You learn so much the first time. The lessons are big and glaringly obvious. You can’t imagine you didn’t see them. The second time you lead the same workshop (assuming you took the time to reflect and learn from the first time and implement what you learn, it will be much better. Much. But you’ll still learn things. They just won’t be as big as the first, The third time you do it, the learnings are becoming more subtle still.

The first student leadership workshop I did was in a theatre to 250 students. By the end of the day, which consisted entirely of me talking to them and almost no interactive activities, there were 20 people there. Most of them had left, it was that bad. 

But I had already confirmed a second workshop the next day and unable to feign my death as school had already let out, I set to work to change everything I could to make the next day not be something for which the legal changing of my name would, afterwards, be a requirement.

Fortunately, the next day was in a dance studio with chairs that could be moved about. That changed things. And I added in as many interactive activities as I could. And I gave a powerful heart to heart at the end of the day which had students coming up with tears, telling me it had been the most powerful day of their lives. Myself and my friends were stunned at the turn around from one day to the next.

I ended up leading that workshop about 80 times. By the time I’d done my last one, the refinements I was making were so subtle that no one but myself would ever have noticed them but I knew they were making my events better. 

 

Reflection #26 – Be Trustworthy:

Do you due diligence. Know the risks. This is why apprenticeship is so important. 

If you want to trust yourself, then you need to be worthy of that trust. Don’t focus on courting trust. Focus on being trustworthy.

If you’re doing something that could put people’s lives at risk, you’d better put in the time that’s needed to make sure you’ve done everything you can to make it safe.

If you’re leading an emotional process, don’t go further than you know how to go. People are counting on you. When you act in a way that is worthy of that trust, you’ll feel so much stronger. And it’s important to distinguish between the non-action of obsessing about what might, possibly go wrong and the real world work or preparing for those things. 

There is nothing that will make you feel more confident at a baseline level than having all of the bases covered. 

Action: Make a list of everything that could possibly go wrong when you offer what you offer and then come up with a plan to either eliminate that risk or to deal with the worst case scenario if it should ever happen.

 

532948_1002840949731014_2320471839994335280_nReflection #27 – You’re Going to Fuck Up:

No matter how much you apprentice, learn and master you’re craft, you will still make mistakes.

The question of, “How can I proceed in such a way that no one ever gets hurt?” is a set up for pain. Someone will get hurt at some point. That’s life. You’re going to disappoint people. Sometimes you’ll disappoint others because you stretched too far. Other times you’ll hurt yourself because you didn’t stretch enough. And vice versa. 

If your metric for success is that you never fuck up anything, then give up now because it’s going to happen. But, when it does, you have a job. And the job is to learn, to make amends and then to be faithful to that learning.

Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure. It gives you the opportunity to be human as you work to make meaningful amends that might even be a greater gift to the other and the community than the original gift you’d intended because not only do they, perhaps, get more value than they’d imagined, but the community gets someone who’s a bit wiser and more humble. And learning from our failures gives us, ironically, an incredible sense of self trust and confidence. Learning to trust ourselves is central to the process of creation.

“Many people misunderstand the concept of safety. They think they can gain it by protecting themselves from other people or choosing safe people. Safety actually occurs when we learn to trust our ability to take care of ourselves.” ~ Mary MacKenzie 

And, in fact, the fact that you have failed in the past might be the most trustworthy thing about you.

When you fuck up use it as a chance to learn what you need to learn so you’re less likely to make that mistake again.

Whenever someone asks me for a refund on something, I get excited. I’m excited because I know something. I know that they are asking for a refund because what they got from me wasn’t what they wanted. More accurately, what they got from me didn’t match their expectation of it. They imagined it would be a better fit than it was. And this was created by my marketing. Something in the way I described it gave them a false impression. So, to me, these moments are golden. I always promptly refund the money and then ask them what I could change in my marketing that would have ensured they never would have bought it in the first place. And they always give me gems. That means a higher integrity in my marketing, a clearer understanding of what my product is and isn’t and less wasted time for everyone in the future. 

But if you fuck up in a larger way that causes genuine harm, then you’ll need to do more than simply ask a question to learn. If you’re going to really make amends, that might take a lot of effort. But that effort you put into making things right is your education. It’s what ensures that you ‘get it’ at a level you never could have if you’d simply said, “Oops. Sorry.” and walked away. When you genuinely make things right, often at great cost to yourself, you walk away with a deeper inner strength, sense of integrity and feeling of readiness to carry yourself well in the future. If you really handle it, you will learn the true cost of laziness and selfishness. You’ll learn how cutting corners costs you more than you want to pay. It will make you a better craftsman of what you do. 

Extra benefit, you get more permission to become cranky and curmudgeonly whenever you want at all the young whippersnappers who think they know it all. Bam! 

 

10888363_10155030031730195_6054306267309366097_nReflection #28 – Stepping Up is Vulnerable:

“Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure.” —Baruch Spinoza

There are no two ways about it.

Stepping up is vulnerable.

When you’re putting yourself into the world you can bet that all of your internal demons of ‘who does she think she is?’ are going to show up. You can bet that that’s going to come from the outside too. Luckily, you don’t need to please everyone

Have you ever thought about how hard and humbling it is to actually show up like you do have something give (being full aware of your faults, lacks, needs, struggles, etc. and showing up anyways)? When will/would/could you ever be ready (beware those ever-elusive criteria)? To own your value and worth by sharing your creative output, your knowledge, your skills, your passions, your love -yup, that’s the other side of humility. Showing up and sharing yourself fully, to the degree it’s done in loving service, takes courage, humility, VULNERABILITY and love —for others AND for yourself.  You are 10,000 stories of fears overcome, of suffering endured (and not, we need those just as much), of miracles & doubts, of life-lessons; you are full of dreams, solutions & brilliant ideas; you have creative works -poems, songs, dances, art, projects —that would bless many people. If they only got to experience them. “But they’re not ‘ready’? not ‘perfected’? Consider them, as my father-in-law of late would say, as ‘perfect enough’. Sure, don’t be ‘more’ than you are…but also don’t be ‘less’. You’re a hell of a lot ‘more’ than you probably think you are. Consider the ‘more’ side, if you’re open to seeing/feeling/being/knowing that ‘more’ in yourself and others (Namaste), you might discover that it doesn’t even have a limit.” – Leif Hansen

 Also, consider this possibility, the bigger the fear is for you, the more likely it is that you are aimed in the right direction. 

 

Reflection #29 – When You’re Starting, Give Yourself More Space Than You Think You Need:

This is huge.

I remember a facilitation truism that I learned years ago. If you spend an hour on an experiential exercise, then give yourself an hour to debrief it too because that’s where most of the value will be harvested. If you are taking people on a ropes course and they have a fun time but you never talk about it, much of the benefit is lost. If you simply have a conversation about fear and trust, but don’t pair it with an experience, it will likely stay as theory and simply be an interesting conversation. It’s the combination of experience and reflection that gives these things their full measure of power.

And so it is with this learning you call being in business. When you first begin, consider giving yourself one hour to reflect on every hour you work with someone. If you lead a weekend long workshop, consider that you may need a weekend to reflect on what you learned from leading it. 

If you really take this on (meaning if you really take seriously the proposition that your work is actually just the continuing education in which you’re engaged) then you’ll realize that it may ask more of you than you’d initially bargained for. If you plan to really be responsible about your work and to master your craft, you’ll see what the actual demands are. And it might be a price that’s too high to pay. Good to know. Let yourself walk away in good conscience. 

It will also lift up that your life may be, currently, too full for you to really learn well. 

It may not always be a 1:1 ratio, but when you’re starting off, you could do worse than to take this into consideration and put it into practice. 

 

Reflection #30 – Your Failures Are Your Credentials:

It’s easy to get lost in, “But I can’t teach this. My life has been such a wreck. I’ve made so many mistakes.

But those mistakes are actually what make you trustworthy to the people you want to help.

The fact that you’ve overcome some of your own struggles in, perhaps the deepest source of credibility you have. 

Our deepest wounds are often not only the doorway to our trust niche but what make us trust worthy. 

It’s the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous, partnering those just coming in with those who’ve been there too but are a bit further down the path.

Looked at another way: I’ve often heard it said that “we teach what we most need to learn (and needed) to learn.”. This reminds us that we never stop learning. That because of the wounds we’ve received in our life and because of the nature of who we we are when we’re born – we find ourselves, in this world, curious about certain things. Drawn to things. Needing to know about things.

We try things and they don’t work. And we wonder why. We try to be healthy – but we get sick. We want to be happy but find ourselves depressed. We want to make a good living – but find ourselves broke.

And in our struggle to figure out how it all works, we learn things.

Things we quickly take for granted as if everyone knew them.

That’s the assumption that has us feel as though we’ve got nothing much of value to offer.

We look at what we know and think to ourselves, “Sure, but everyone knows that.” I encourage you to ask yourself if that’s really true.

We all struggle with things (e.g. dating) and so we try to learn about them. And this learning gives us things to share (e.g. becoming a dating coach).

And this truism reminds us that the best way to learn anything is to teach it – to sit back, reflect and ask ourselves, ‘how could i express this so that others would understand it?‘ And in our efforts to articulate and express the thing we know from our own experience – we come to understand our own experiences better. And understanding our experience helps us hone our own particular point of view and map on the best way to make it from point a to point b. The clearer our map is, the more trusted we are. But, if we’d had no first hand experience of struggling on the terrain, we’d never make such a fine and helpful map in the first place.

Your failures aren’t a reason for you to opt out, they’re the prime reason potential clients want to opt in.

To make this one even better, your past failures and current foibles are actually also what make you human and relatable. My colleague Meredith Broome put it brilliantly when she said, “I like to remind people (and myself) that we are humans working with humans, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Nobody actually wants to work with a know-it-all. I know that for me, the second I think I have the answers to someone else’s life is the second I have stopped listening to them. In the coaching profession, I think that’s a kind of violence we risk doing to our clients, to stop listening. The second you have it all figured out is the second you stop learning and growing. And that’s usually when clients stop showing up, or its hard to sustain your practice, right?”

Your failures are your credentials because they were your most important education.

 

Reflection #31 – This is Not About Self Worth: 

At least not entirely. And, again, this idea might just save you years of therapy.

When talking about ‘not feeling ready’, I think it’s useful to remove ‘self worth’ from the conversation because it can be a terribly seductive red herring. It’s something I’ve written about extensively in my post Charging what you’re worth is bullshit.

In fact, the way we make it about ourselves and take it so personally is telling.

There can be a kind of narcissism here where we obsess about how we’ll be seen by others. The story of Narcissus, in brief, is thus: there’s a guy. He has a fling with a goddess. He’s a cad of a man. She’s upset. She curses him to fall asleep and fall impossibly in love with the first thing he sees when he wakes up. When he wakes up he looks into the body of water he’s sleeping by and sees his own reflection. He falls in love with it so much that he falls into the water. Many take the message of this to me, ‘don’t fall too in love with yourself’ but the message is actually, don’t fall in love with your reflection. Don’t fall in love with how others see you and base your self worth on that. If you base your self worth on what others are willing to pay you or whether they think you’re ready or not, you’re in for one hell of a roller coaster ride.

This constant focus on ourselves can be a slippery, spiralling slide into neuroses. 

What does a reflection need to survive? Your presence. When you withdraw it, the reflection goes away.

So I commend, withdrawing your attention from yourself and pouring it into creating beautiful things. When you do that you might just find that the self doubt goes away because you’re no longer paying attention to your self. Stop obsessing, start creating. Stop journalling and start making your art. 

I’ve seen so many people spend years trying to get their thoughts perfect, their sales letter exactly right, their website perfect before starting when they should have been getting out there and giving talks and learning as they went. 

 

10402504_10155030021850195_1946557437040297243_n

 

Reflection #32 – Remember Why You’re Drawn to do it in The First Place:

It can be easy, in the midst of our fears that we’re not enough, to lose track of why we are drawn to do this work in the first place.

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words when I asked about this topic, I would be inclined to ask questions that expand the focus beyond their limited-self focus. For example.  1. Why do you feel called to do it? (Put the focus on what inspires them about the idea, rather than their own sense of insufficiency). 2. What difference does this have the potential to make? How could doing this work change the world for the better? 3. If doing this work wasn’t about you (if it was solely about the impact it makes), would you do it?  4. If you have the gift to do this work, and the world needs this work, who are you *not* to do it?

You can read more blog posts on this notion of discovering your why here

Action: Journal about why you felt drawn to this work in the beginning.

 

Reflection #33 – Make Your Case As To Why You Can’t Do It, And Then Debunk It:

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words, “I might also be inclined to have them make a case for why they can’t do it, and then have them refute that case, point by point. Maybe even have them make a counter-case for why they can. The more clarity people have about the stories they’re making up (and it’s all made up – some of the stories are just more productive than others), the more potential they have to shift into a more supportive story.”

Action: Do that thing described above.

 

Reflection #34 – Give Your Clients Some Credit:

This isn’t an excuse to be careless or to feign greater expertise than you have, but give people some credit in making their own choices. If someone gets hoodwinked by a charlatan, yes, there’s a lesson around integrity for the charlatan, but there’s also some lessons there for the one who got conned. If people fall for a fake guru, there are lessons for them in how they fell for it. All you can do is do the best you can. I’ve had people sign up for workshops and, because they hadn’t read the sales letter, demand a refund. Not my fault. Did I learn from that and make systems to make sure it didn’t happen again? Sure. But the people spending money have their responsibility too. 

 

Reflection #35 – Your Story and Point of View Has Value: 

It’s easy to feel like ‘it’s all been done’.

It’s easy to look at the market place and think, “Oh man. There’s nothing I could possibly add here.”

And maybe you don’t have anything to add yet.

But it doesn’t mean you never will. And, just because the market seems flooded doesn’t mean that other voices aren’t needed desperately. 

Consider this: have you ever gone to a seminar or class on a topic and found yourself totally confused only to have another teacher explain it in such a way that you totally got it? Something about the examples they used or the way they broke it down had it land inside of you with a solid ‘thunk’. Imagine if they’d decided, ‘There are already so many people teaching this. I’m not needed.’

Imagine if a musician listened to Bob Dylan and thought, “I’ll never be better than that” and decided to quit music and thus selfishly robbed the world of what he had to give. 

I teach marketing. You might have noticed that there are quite a lot of other people out there doing it. And yet it never occurred to me not to do it because of that. And here I am with over 10,000 people on my email list years (and an appalling lack of effort and strategy) later. There are a lot of people who seem to like what I say and how I say it.   

Because of your life story, you bring a unique perspective and point of view to any issue with which you’re grappling. Don’t discount that. That doesn’t honour all of the investment that people and this world have poured into you just to get you here. 

And this video by Marie Forleo says it so well…

 

Reflection #36 – You Can’t Charge For Your Gifts

I leave you with this final thought from Mark Silver to meditate on. 

Here’s the truth that I’ve seen: we can’t charge for our gifts. The Divine gives always to the human. We can be humble enough to receive from others, and we can be plugged in enough to let the love come through us to others. Like this image below...”

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mariannewilliamsonquote

 

More Resources:

Check out Seth Godin’s new book Your Turn.

My ebook, The 22 Myths of Building Your Practice

To help you uncover your niche (the place you’re most likely to do well in business) go to www.NichingSpiral.com 

Guest Post: The Natural Business Cycle: How to Grow Your Business Organically Starting with a SEED

 

by Julie Wolk

 

What if, instead of feeling overwhelming, growing your business could feel as natural as the growth of a plant or tree? 

This post is about relaxing into a natural process to grow your businesses organically by:

  • Starting with a powerful core vision – the Seed,
  • Putting down the Roots of a solid business concept and model,
  • And continuing to follow the fundamental natural cycle of growth, maturation, and rebirth.

Natural cycles are engrained in us, whether we notice them or not.

The cycles of a day, of the seasons, and of our lifetimes are the most routine things on earth – and we are part of the earth.

In fact, I would say that pretty much everything can be tracked around the natural cycle… how we learn, how we build community, and how we start and grow a business.

So, since pretty much everything is a circle, let’s stop thinking in lines and start thinking in circles. And spirals!

Because here’s the coolest part: as an evolving person and business owner who is constantly growing and changing, you get to circle round the wheel again, further and further refining your gifts, your business, and your life each time. Like an upward (inward?) spiral (like Tad’s Niching Spiral!).

Don’t get me wrong, you CAN create a business with even one pass around the wheel, but for those of us on a personal growth path, it’s actually a relief that we get to go around again. We can relax knowing business and life-building is an iterative process – there is no moment of “arrival” or perfection – and that we are constantly evolving; just as a tree grows, blossoms, fruits, sheds its seeds, takes a rest, and sprouts again.

Stage 1: So What’s this Natural Business Cycle and Where Does it Begin?

The Natural Business Cycle meshes essential business development processes with the life cycle of a plant.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.30.34 AM

And just like a plant, our businesses start with a Seed. And seeds are totally magical – right? I mean, all of that possibility inside a tiny little speck. A whole oak tree, or a gorgeous lily, or a sweet blackberry bush. The seed is a mystery. It’s all about potential and vision.

As a conscious business owner, mission-driven entrepreneur or however you categorize yourself, I have a feeling that your business began from a seed. From a vision. From something that came from way beyond you in some mysterious place. A vision was planted inside of you, and your business is an outgrowth of that. A special gift or talent was bestowed upon you… and it’s unclear how. Why am I so damn good at organizing things?? I don’t get it. That’s the magic of it.

And when you tap into that vision, or that unique gift that was given to you, then you can create a business that you love.

I always say that if you’re a remotely conscious human and you’re going to start a business, you best take the time to align that business with your vision and unique gifts, or a few years will go by and you will really be wondering what went wrong – why you’re exhausted, not making money, or feeling stuck and uninspired.

But if we nest our businesses inside our deepest visions and gifts and create a business model from that place, we are so much more likely to succeed and thrive.

Here are some questions to ponder to help you get to know your vision and gifts:

  • What’s my vision of an ideal world? No holds barred.
  • What are my greatest gifts? What comes so easily to me I could do it with my eyes closed? What makes me lose track of time?
  • What’s my purpose? Don’t get too tripped up on this one… Try filling in the blanks: I am the ___________________________ who ________________________________.
  • What’s my mission? In other words… what’s the strategy I want to use to offer my gift to the world? What do I want to offer?
  • WHY do I do this work? What makes me care so damn much?

Answer these questions whether you have a business or if you are just starting out. How does it feel to clarify your vision?

This stage of business growth corresponds really nicely to Tad’s Steps 1 and 2 of the Niching Spiral.

Stage 2 – Setting Down Roots

Ok, so we have a vision. We know our gifts. We’re ready to build a business. Stage 2 is all about putting down Roots.

Imagine a BIG ol’ tree. Did you know that there are as many roots below the surface as there are branches above the surface? Truth.

Your business needs Roots. It needs a solid foundation built upon a powerful vision.

This stage is super important, and people tend to gloss over it. I make all my clients do a Seed and Roots process with me before we dive into coaching and the rest of the cycle, because I am so clear that defining this stuff is foundational to a successful business.

Here are a few of the things that we figure out in the Roots Stage:

  • What’s my special sauce? How do I offer my product or service that’s different from everyone else?
  • Who is my ideal customer? Who do I really want to help, and what are their challenges and desires?
  • What are all the amazing benefits and results that I provide for my customers?
  • What are my business goals, both financially and in terms of impact?
  • What is the business model that will allow me to achieve those goals?
  • And, what administrative systems must I create and what help must I get to build a successful business?

When we know the answers to these questions, then it’s time to go public with a brand, message, and marketing strategy that align with our Vision (Seed) and our Strategy (Roots).

This stage of business growth corresponds really nicely to Tad’s Steps 3, 4 and 5 of the Niching Spiral.

Stage 3 and Beyond

Of course, there are more stages to a plant’s life, and more stages to manifest a business from a Seed. We’ll have to leave those for another blog post.

But the bottom line is that having a system like the Natural Business Cycle provides a logical order of operations, a structure to lean into, and a place to start.

For overwhelmed business owners, knowing where you are in the process and focusing on that stage, instead of worrying about what’s to come, can by itself be a huge relief.

When we slow down and tune in to the cycles of nature, we gain a lot: patience, for one, and the understanding of what organic or natural growth really is — that one thing follows another, and we can’t do it all at once. 

If you’re interested in creating or growing your business through the lens of the Natural Business Cycle, please get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation to see if we’re a fit for individual coaching. I love helping consultant-experts, teacher-guides, holistic practitioners and other mission-driven entrepreneurs who truly have gifts to give, really rock the business side so they can thrive.


Website Bio PageBio: Julie Wolk, Business Coach, CPCC:
For 15 years, I’ve worked with talented business-owners, visionary leaders, and passionate change-makers who have gifts to give. My clients draw from the business and nonprofit worlds and are teacher-guides, consultant-experts, holistic healers, and other mission-driven entrepreneurs. I facilitate the creation of transformative and connective experiences, programs, businesses, and organizations. I move easily from idea to action, I love the way structure creates more freedom, and I get totally lit up encouraging people to follow their passions and offer their gifts and visions to the world. I’m a natural leader, and I plan businesses in my sleep. (Literally. It’s hard sometimes). I am co-founder and former co-director of a thriving nonprofit dedicated to reconnecting people to the earth.

 

 

 

 

The Four Stages of Business Growth

wood-outdoor-stairs-landscaping-steps-1Business is like a staircase which it’s best not to skip any steps.

One of the things that can put us squarely and repeatedly into what I call The Meantime is not understanding what stage of business we are at (or even that there are different stages of business). A classic blunder is for people to try and skip a stage. They are working a job and quit it to start their business hoping to land right in Stage Three when they’ve barely begun Stage One. And, the reality is that it takes a year and a half (at the very fastest) to three years to develop a solid business – and that’s with consistent focus. All due credit to my dear friend and colleague Mark Silver for introducing me to this idea. 

So, let’s look at the stage of business growth and see if we can’t find where you are.

Stage Four: Independence – At this level, you could go on vacation for six months and your business would still be making money for you. You likely have many people working for you and airtight systems in place.

Stage Three: Momentum – At this stage, you likely have a full time employee or two and your business is generating enough revenue that everyone is getting paid a fair amount. You are thriving. Your have a solid niche and business model. In momentum, there’s a firming up of your business just as plants get that woody growth that prepares them to bear fruit later.

Stage Two: Concentration – At this stage, you might be beginning to get some part time help but you’re only barely paying the bills in your business. You’re squeezing by and the money is up and down. You focus on your marketing and money comes in but then you focus on delivering your products and services and the business dries up. Back and forth. Feast and famine happens a lot here. But, at this point, you’ve figured out your niche and what your business is about. You’re getting the business model down and developing the systems you need. This phase is like the phase of rapid growth of a plant. There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of learning here.

Stage One: Creation – In stage one, you’re doing a lot of experimenting still. You don’t have a clearly defined niche yet. You likely have no help at at all with your business and you are absolutely not able to sustain yourself financially – you can’t make a living at this level. In creation, things are new. You’ve had the idea to start a business and are full of excitement. The seed germinates and begins to sprout. At this stage the plant is far too soft and flimsy to bear much weight. It’s very flexible but not that sturdy.

Which stage are you at?

The enormous payoff of knowing this is the dissolution of stress when you realize that you are precisely where you’re supposed to be (e.g. If you’re in stage one and confused why you’re not making a living, well… be confused no more! You aren’t supposed to be! You’re supposed to be sorting out your niche). 

 

Video Interview: Danny Iny on The Positioning Matrix

As many of you know, I’ve just launched a new website all about how to successfully navigate the often difficult and perilous journey of figuring out your niche. More about that soon.
 
But one of the best tools I’ve ever come across in figuring out your niche was something I heard about from one of my favourite colleagues Danny Iny. It’s called The Positioning Matrix. I recorded a 45 or so minute conversation with him about it where we tried to figure out the niche of Danny’s ideal massage therapist. Good times. The film quality is pretty fuzzy but the sound’s good. 
 
This tool is so simple but can have such a profound impact. Go watch the video and then give it a try and let me know, in a comment below. what you come up with because I’d love to include your example in a thing I’m working on.

 

Here’s the PDF of his notes.

Seven Reasons to Sign Up for The Meantime Today

meantime-336x280Just a brief courtesy reminder that my 30 Day Cashflow Challenge – The Meantime is launching in two days on February 3rd.
 
If you’re thinking of signing up, selfishly, I’d love it if you did it as soon as possible. 
 
Last September, we had 70 people sign up in one day. That was wonderful from a financial standpoint but, frankly, hellish from an administrative standpoint – to try and process 70 people in less than 24 hours so we could be ready for the program. And I’d rather not put my assistant Susan through that again.
 
But, that’s about me. 
 
Here are seven reasons that might be relevant to you
 
Seven Reasons to Sign Up Today:
 
REASON #1: It’s Super Affordable.
 
This program is only $300 and I can promise you it’s worth much more than that. 
 
If this content helps you get even one new client, just one, you will have likely immediately made back your money for the program. If they come back more than one time, you will have made a handsome profit. My guess is that the combination of the material you’ll be learning in this program and your intensive focus on applying it for thirty days will get you much more than one client. 
 
REASON #2: I Won’t Be Doing it Again Until September, 2015.
 
‘Nuf said.
 
REASON #3: Fast Acting Content.
 
Of all my programs, it’s the one designed to bring in new income and clients the fastest. You’ll be learning more than 30 proven approaches that bring in clients and money fast. 
 
And a lot more. 
 
If you’ve been struggling to get out of the vicious downward spiral and start bringing in some income fast, you could be starting on that path in just a few days.
 
I suspect you may make more immediate, financial profit on this program than any other you’ve taken.
 
REASON #4: Get Meaningful Support.
 
For thirty days you’ll have my support and the support of peers from around the world to not only encourage and cheer you on but to give you meaningful feedback on your ideas and strategies. From my heart to yours, doing things solo is likely what’s gotten you into whatever pickle you might be in. Whether it’s this program or another, consider opening yourself up to help.
 
REASON #5: $100 Profit Guaranteed.
 
Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, I’m offering a double your money back guarantee on this event. Meaning, you’ll make at least $100 in profit on this event, guaranteed. Really, actually. 
 
REASON #6: A Chance to Make Big Changes in Your Business Life You’ve Been Putting Off.
 
Many of the people who’ve been in this program have commented to me that one of the biggest blessings of being in The Meantime (the program and the cash flow crisis) is that it opens up the opportunity to make big and bold changes to their business. Changes they have known they’ve needed to make for a long time. 
 
REASON #7: Three Pay – Just $100/month for Three Months.
 
$300 isn’t a lot, but, when you’re in a crunch, it might be more than you have. So, I’ve set up a payment plan option where you can do it in instalments.
I hope you’ll consider joining us, or at least check it out to see if it’s a fit for you. You can learn more (and watch a quick video from me) at the link below.
 
 
 
 
 
warmest,
Tad
 
p.s. I won’t be leading this program again until September, 2015. 
 
p.p.s. You are guaranteed to make at least $100 profit on it. If you do your part but, at the end of the 30 days you aren’t satisfied, I’ll refund everything you paid plus $100 out of my own pocket. Actually. 
 
 

Guest Post: What Packages Are, Why They Matter, Three Big Mistakes People Make With Them (and what you can do instead)

 

2417_2by Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life

This blog post is about the three big mistakes you might be making with your packages.

Of course, this assumes you know what I mean by the word ‘package’ and, if you do, that you are currently offering packages.

But let’s start with this…

Since I started my business 3 years ago, I have worked with hundreds of holistic practitioners (particularly service-based folks like life coaches and nutritionists) in the online space, and I have noticed that one commonality between most of them that really holds them back in business –  They are fantastic at what they do, but they aren’t offering it in a way that is best suited to help them grow their business.

Of course, this isn’t their fault.

They went to school, learned how to master their craft, and then were sent out into the world to figure out this whole business thing on their own. No one taught them how to sell, or how to market. If you’ve been reading Tad’s blog for a while, you know the story.

Chapter One – Excitement: They get into business and hang up their shingle. They make a website, list their hourly rates, and they are off to the races.

Chapter Two – Vanishing: They get clients, and work with them for a while, and things go ok, but eventually those clients start to drop off. This can happen for a number of reasons – people get busy. Budget becomes an issue. People start to make your work together less of a priority. They need more clients.

Chapter Three – Stress: They stress out, because the income they thought they could count on is up in the air with each client who drops off, so they have to constantly hustle for new clients.? But how many do they need? What if all their other clients drop off soon too?  It’s all a guessing game at this point – income isn’t consistent, there is no way to know how many people you will be working with at any given time, and it feels like a constant hustle.

Chapter Four – Exhaustion: Soon they are exhausted trying to find new clients. Will things ever even out? Will this ever feel sustainable?

Chapter Five – Realization: They realize they need to ask clients to come back. Or they need to find a better way to make sure clients stay committed to the work they are doing. But again – how?

Chapter Six – Asking: They ask. And then they ask some more. And they keep asking with every client they get. But they wonder if there might be a better way than asking individual clients to come back for individual sessions. Something better than will help clients commit to longer term work together, wihtout constantly having to awkwardly ask them if they want to keep going.

Chapter Seven – Packages: Maybe they hear about the idea of creating ‘packages’. Aha! They could ask their clients to come back for not only one session but a series of sessions. They invite clients to book three massages. Or to sign up for a monthly membership thing. They do this but they find the response to be underwhelming. Getting clients to commit to ongoing work together proves challenging, and the result sis till the same – people drop off and they are left back where they started.  They never know whether they will have enough clients to fill their roster, or enough money to pay the bills.

 At the end of this all they feel deflated, like giving up and like their business will never be sustainable (for their energy or their bank account)

 

 They know they need a better way, but what?

 

The solution is to create results-based packages for their services.

A package is a way of putting your services together that allows you to create some consistency in your business.

 

A Package Has Four Qualities: 

  1. a defined length of time
  2. defined results
  3. a defined price
  4. serves as a direct response to your clients needs.

It’s created to help give your client understand the full value of your services, and often includes more than just  your time (ie. you may include worksheets, or email support, or weekly homework – something that happens outside of the time they spend with you). It could be just a one-time session, or it could be a six month agreement – the key factor is that it is creating an experience for your client that is based on getting them a defined result.

YOU are the expert in your business, and it is up to you to tell a client how long they will need to get the results they want. Afterall – if a client drops off midway through your work together, they won’t get the full benefit of your service. Similarly if you are selling one-time sessions and billing by the hour. if a client doesn’t see results right away, they may not come back.

Packages ensure that clients are on board for the full experience with you.

 

Three Reasons That Creating Packages is a Fantastic Business Model: 

Reason #1: Packages are easier to sell. Like ten times easier to sell. Packages are results-based, which means instead of selling your time, you are selling results. Clients love this, because it helps them trust that they will get the help they need.

Reason #2: Having packages lets you predict your income. By charging clients the package price instead of an hourly rate, clients sign up to commit to the whole package, which means they are less likely to change their mind of drop off midway through your work, because they have already committed to a set amount of time and set price.

Reason #3: Packages can be a part of your sales funnel, and can encourage repeat business. Once a client has gone through one package with you, they will have (ideally) achieved the results they want. But that doesn’t mean ALL their problems are solved. You can have different packages that cater to different parts of their problem, which means that after they finish working with you (assuming they loved it – which they will!), you are able to make sure you have something else to offer them.

Creating packages is a great next step if you have been dabbling for a while and are ready to create consistent income and streamline your processes.

But not all packages are created equal, and there are ways that you can tailor your packages to make them unique in your marketplace, and easier to sell.

After seeing so many failed packages (and having created a few myself in the past in my business) I started paying more attention to what works and what doesn’t, and experimenting with my own packages. As it started to become obvious that there are common mistakes that many practitioners make with their attempt at packaging, I decided to do something about it, and developed my own system for helping people stop making these same mistakes, and learn to put together their offerings in ways that will sell. It’s called Hey, Nice Package!  – because every good package needs a good name, right?

 

Three Big Package Making Mistakes (and what you can do instead):

Mistake #1. Having open-ended packages with no defined end date.

This happens a lot with life coaches in particular (ie. Work with me 3 times a month, for a minimum of 3 months, and we’ll go from there). Creating packages that have no defined scope is like waiting for your partner to propose when he keeps saying it will happen “someday” – it leaves your clients wondering if they will ever get what they want.

Imagine going to the dentist for a filling, and him telling you that it will take minimum 3 appointments to complete, but that you’ll continue to come in once a week after that, for an undetermined amount of time, because the results really depend on YOU… oh, and each month you’ll pay him a fee. No thanks.

Then imagine going for a second opinion, and having the dentist tell you “Yep – I can fix that in 3 appointments, and it’ll cost ya $500”.

Which dentist are you going to? That’s what I thought.

It’s the same with selling services online. No matter what you do, whether it’s tangible or super vague, you need to outline a timeline for your clients

What to do instead: Create packages that are just that – the whole package. Tell your client how long it will take them to get the results they want, and the total price. Yes, this can be scary, and of course, there are never any guarantees, but YOU are the expert, and people want you to take charge and let them know what they need to do.

One of my clients Sarah made this small change, and it has done wonders for her confidence in selling her services. She was offering really long-term coaching packages (6+ months) helping people who are dealing with grief, because she thought that’s what she was supposed to do as a life coach. But it never felt right to her. After working through Hey, Nice Package! she realized she could have the same impact in a shorter amount of time, so she created her Good Grief 4 week package and has never looked back at the old model. You can check out her package here to see how she did it.

Mistake #2: Having a zillion different package options available.

A confused mind is a non-buying mind. If you have so many options for ways to work with you that people can’t even keep track, or don’t know which one they need, they will turn away, never come back, and shake their fists at you from afar. This would look something like giving your clients the option of a one hour session, or 2 sessions a month, or 4 sessions a month, or one session every 3 weeks, or, or or… Confusing, right? If a client doesn’t know which one they should buy, they might just click away. The easier you make it for them to say yes, the more likely they will do just that.

What to do instead: Start with 1 or 2 focused packages and take your time to fully market those. When you offer something super specific and unique, people pay attention, and it’s much easier to sell! Once you’ve built up an audience and have become known as an expert in one specific area, it gives you some traction to be able to expand your business down the line.

My client Joanna, an intuitive healer, took this approach and it helped her create a waiting list for the first time ever! Her biggest struggle was that she didn’t know how everything she did fit together into a whole. She was offering channelled readings, past life readings, intuitive art workshops, soul messages – all kinds of things, and it was all feeling disjointed and overwhelming not just to her, but to her clients too. Once she figured out how these things work together as a coherent whole, she was able to create a really targeted package called Magic By Email and focused on marketing just that one package – and it continues to sell out weeks in advance!  You can see how she has structured her package here.

Mistake #3: Selling intangible results

This is typically a life coaching problem, but it can show up in other industries too (read: no one is safe.) As holistic practitioners, we tend to be shy about guaranteeing anything for our clients, and really taking a stand with confidence in what we are offering. This problem usually arises for anyone who does work that is more intangible and has somewhat vague, undefined results. Telling someone that you will help them “realize their dreams” isn’t tangible enough of a result. Neither is telling them “You will get out what you put in”. That’s all well and good – but assuming they put in 100%  – what will they get? If you can’t tell them, they won’t buy.

What to do instead: You need to determine what exactly the tangible results are that you’re offering. And those results have to be something they want. Doing some market research and really tapping into your client’s language is the best way to make sure that you are speaking in terms of RESULTS in your packages. This is pretty easy to do too! Simply find 5-10 of your ideal clients and ask them if you can hop on the phone with them and ask them a few questions. Dig into what they are struggling with, and what they want that they don’t currently have – and be sure to record the call so you can listen back to their exact words, and then use those words in your marketing. Voila – copywriting done for you, and a WAY clearer picture of the tangibles of what you are actually selling.

For example, a client of mine Makenzie is a career coach who was working with people to help them “find their life purpose”. The problem was, most of her clients weren’t really looking for life purpose – they just wanted to quit their jobs and find work they loved. They kept saying they wanted to stop hating their Mondays!

As you can see, there was a disconnect in what Makenzie was selling, and what her clients really wanted. Once she got clear on the tangible, real world results of finding one’s life purpose (that finding life purpose, to most people, really means finding a new career they LOVE), she was able to create a unique system for working with her clients, so she now has an effective system and a streamlined way of working, AND people are clear on what they will get when they hire her, which saves so much time emailing back and forth about what they can gain by working with her. If you haven’t made your packages tangible yet, this is a small tweak that could start bringing in new clients immediately. Check out Makenzie’s package here to see how she did it.

If you’re a service-based business and you’re selling packages online, avoiding these 3 mistakes will go a long way in helping you attract the right clients and stand out in a sea of sameness in the online market.

If you’re still struggling to figure out how to create packages, or want a deeper dive into how to create packages in a way that will help you build a solid, sustainable business model, check out Hey, Nice Package! – an online course that will give you a step by step system to creating your packages, getting clear on your pricing, and learning everything you do fits together so that you’re never left guessing what to create next – you will always have a system to come back to so you never run out of new ideas. Grab it here.

Bio: Rebecca Tracey is the head/only honcho at The Uncaged Life where she works with clients from all over the world who want to have the freedom of working from anywhere by running their own online business. She helps people figure out what their true business message is, helps them create packages that sell, and helps them actually take action on the things they want to do. Rebecca runs an online community of over 2500 solopreneurs. She started her business while living in a van, loves rock climbing and riding her bike around Toronto, and is genuinely obsessed with helping people live their version of Uncaged.

How Do I Fill Up My Weekend Workshop or Retreat Last Minute? 21 Practical Ideas

conference roomYour situation: you’ve got a workshop coming up soon and you don’t have the numbers to make it fly.

Maybe you’ve already put money down on the space. Maybe you’ve sunk a lot of time and/or money into this event and you’re counting on it for revenue. To make things worse, you’ve done everything that you can think to do to fill it. And your room is still, basically, empty.

This shit is stressful.

So what do you do? What follows are twenty one of the most practical, actionable thoughts that myself and my colleagues were able to come up with. 

Important caveat: these are not the long term fix. These are crisis management to help you get out of a pinch. These approaches, alone, are not only not sustainable, they could exhaust you and kill your business. 

The long term fix is to really get a handle on your marketing at a core level.

 

Idea #1: Reschedule

If you have an event that’s not filling and seems like it won’t my biggest piece of advice would be to reschedule the event if at all possible.

An important reality around programs: People tend to RSVP last minute: That’s just how it is often. My first Meantime program (a 30 day cashflow challenge for hippies) had 115 people in it. 70 of those signed up in the 48 hours before the event. This is not uncommon. I suspect this is more true of online programs than live ones where a deposit must be paid and travel plans made. But, given this, a final email 48 hours before can often work wonders. There’s a chance it might just be about this.

My colleague Morgana Rae expressed her familiarity with this dynamic when she said, “I’ve been doing this for so long that I’d say that’s NORMAL– to have only 1 or 2 people the week or 2 before. People make decisions at the last minute.”

But that’s not likely.

What’s more likely is that you’re missing some very important things that may take some time to fix. I’d bet big money that there are some big things about your offer and your marketing strategy that are simply ‘off’.

Mark Silver has written an excellent post on the five things to check if an offer doesn’t fly and Callan Rush has some important insights on how to fill up workshops from a more strategic level. And you can read all the posts I’ve written on event promotion. And you might want to dig into my top ten posts on clarifying your platform too. 

My colleague Jason Guille of Sunset Labs in Victoria pointed out that it, “Totally depends on the situation. When we arrive to this state, it’s likely that there’s SOMETHING that we’ve been doing to express our offering – and we would want to start by acknowledging that it isn’t working. Here is where we deeply reflect and ask a few key questions to help craft our next moves. At minimum, we need to know: A) is our offer reaching people at all? Where? Who? B) does our offer communicate? does it make sense? C) Is there a specific unknown obstacle – price? competing event? location? over-communicated / burnt-out audience? Armed with this information as a starting point, we can take intelligent next steps to fill seats. Do we need to rework our marketing language? Do we need to change dates or locations? Do we need to ramp up social media? Do we need to reach totally new prospects?

If you don’t have a plan to fill it, stop, regroup and create a plan that will work.

And this isn’t something you want to do very often, because, as Betsey Garland points out, “I’ve had this happen. I continue to hold the space because if I am consistent then my clients/students will & do rely on me. If I flake out and cancel repeatedly because of delays, not enough enrolls, sick partners, etc then others get the impression that my events are not solid. 

If you’re not able to do that then…

 

Idea #2: Identify your hubs and ask for their help.

The notion of hubs has, since the beginning, been my core understanding of how marketing works. Instead of reaching out to people cold, can you find people who already have warm connections with the people you’d like to reach and have them support you in connecting with them? You can read my twelve best blog posts on hubs here. The clearer your workshop is, the easier this will be to do.
 
So, if someone was doing a workshop on how to get over heartbreak, I’d be wanting to reach out to all of the counsellors, therapists, holistic practitioners, yoga teachers, relationship coaches etc. that I could find to see if they could help me spread the word.
 
If someone was doing a workshop about how to make more money, then I’d be wanting to reach out to all of the financial advisors, business coaches, marketing workshop leaders, small business networking groups, local chambers of commerce and people who run those types of meet up groups.
 
The clearer the platform is, the easier it will be to hone in on the right hubs.
 
My colleague Tova Payne, who knows a lot about the best way to approach hubs, “If it was me – I’d write every person I know personally to help me spread the word and tell their friends about it. We all need help sometimes, and it’s ok to ask for it.

Jason Guille of Sunset Labs makes a point that is transferable to many of the other ideas, “be transparent – don’t be afraid to let your community know where you’re at, WHY you’re there, and the difference their participation makes for you and your work.”

My dear friend and colleague Carmen Spagnola put a different twist on this, “In addition to calling or emailing people to personally invite them, I’ve contacted leaders of community organizations to see if there’s anyone they know who’d benefit but can’t manage the fee. I’ve then gifted them a ticket to sponsor that person. (So they’d contact the person and say, hey our organization would like to give you a scholarship/sponsorship to attend this workshop that looks like a great opportunity for you). I let that leader know I’d love them to attend and asked if they could invite their team and members of their community. Sometimes they’ve even offered to send out an e-blast on my behalf and it’s worked for me every time. There are so many benefits this way: sponsorship for those in need, greater exposure for me, the glow of endorsement from a community organization, the ability of an organization to help someone out at no cost to them. It’s always felt wonderful for me.”

An important piece here is to not only ask them to spread the word but to ask for their advice on how they think you could best spread the word. They will likely have gold to give you.

And, with hubs especially, this is a very good place to offer an affiliate fee or commission for anyone who signs up as a result of their efforts. This doesn’t have to be fancy or formal. You can just ask participants how they heard about it when they sign up and make a note of it. The more worthwhile you make it for a hub, the more likely they are to make time in what I can promise you is there already very busy schedule.

  

Idea #3: Ask those who’ve bought tickets to help.

This is a simple on which can have a big impact.

The people who’ve bought tickets to your event clearly already dig and trust you enough to have spent money. So, they’re some of the most likely people to help spread the word. Consider reaching out to them. One on one will be ten times more effective but, in a pinch, a group email could work.

If you do the one on one approach, I recommend sending them a short email saying something like, “Hey there John, Looking forward to having you at the workshop this weekend :-) And I’m wondering if I can ask a five minute favour of you in terms of helping to spread the word on it. The numbers are a bit lower than I would ideally like and I thought perhaps you might know some folks who would be interested in checking it out. I’d be able to give you some pre-written things to make it easy. No pressure on this at all.” And then, if they respond, you can give them more of the info they can use to spread the word (e.g. pre-written emails, tweets and facebook). 

 

Idea #4: Make personal invitations.

This is maybe more of a principle than an idea. It will show up in most of the ideas here. When you really need bums in seats, a mass email is not going to cut it. You need to start emailing people personally or calling them.

 

Idea #5: Make a video explaining the event and inviting people to come.

Sometimes people will watch a three minute video rather than reading a long sales letter. The video might grab them where your sales page and Facebook event didn’t. It might actually be the first thing they even notice. 

Here’s an example:

 

 

Idea #6: Host as many intros as you can before it arrives.

This is so huge. 

Years ago, Verge Permaculture came to me needing to fill up their two week long Permaculture Design Certification.

Do live 2-3 hour intro workshops.” I told them.

They didn’t have the space in their lives to do that. But they were getting some traffic to their website’s sales letter for the course. So, we fixed that and it seemed to help a bit. But, the next year, they did the most brilliant thing. They reached out to the key hubs in western Canada and invited them to host an intro workshop for them. This was their pitch, ‘Charge whatever you want. You keep all the money. Just pay our gas to get there.” 

So, I hosted their Edmonton workshop via our network The Local Good. We made about $800 that evening. Which was an incredible gift to us. And they sold out their PDC.

I encouraged them to make it a 50/50 split the next time they did it.  

The more live intros you can do in the lead up to a big workshop, the more likely it is to fill. There is no better way to do it. At a live workshop, people get to meet you, get a sense of your vibe and point of view and see if they’d really want to spend more time with you.

If you are able to do 3-9 of them in a row, you will get a ramping up effect. People who go to the first one will tell their friends who will come to the third one who will tell their friends to go to the 7th one etc. 

Also, if you have intro workshops, this is what you should be inviting hubs and ticket purchasers to send their friends to. It’s a much easier and more effective pitch to send their friends to a free or cheap workshop than a multi-day event.

My colleague, George Huang shared this experience, “In 2005, when I first started my business coaching practice, I had 2 weeks to promote a workshop. But I had no email list, referral sources, or list of prospects. In fact, I had never had any paying clients before.   At first, I cancelled my workshop in a moment of despair. Then a couple of days later, I decided to give it a shot. So I printed out flyers on legal-sized paper and went to every networking breakfast I could find for the next two weeks. 18 people registered. 19 people showed up. That event jump-started my coaching business. Within 73 days of scheduling that event, I had enough clients to be bringing in $10,500/month; I’ve grown that revenue ever since.”

 

Idea #7: Tell people who’s attending.

I’ve not seen this done by many of my colleague but man, I recommend it. 

In my experience, a major component of why people go to events is who else will be there. 

So, why not tell them? 

For many of my weekend workshops, I create a secret page where they can see the photos and read the bios of those coming.

You can see an example here

 

Idea #8: Move to a smaller, cheaper venue.

This will do two things: 1) save you money and 2) get scarcity working in your favour because suddenly you only have space for 10 more people instead of 50 more people. 

In Edmonton, I lead most of my daylong workshops in my living room.

 

Idea #9: Take such good care of those who’ve enrolled that they can’t help but tell their friends.

What could you do before the event to impress the hell out of the people who are signing up?

Could you have your assistant give them a person welcome call to the weekend the second they enroll?

Could you make that call?

Could you give them a surprise gift for signing up?

Could you offer some free group calls in the lead up?

Offer free email coaching to help them get ready? Or a free one on one call to help them really design their focus for the weekend?

How could you add so much value that they just can’t help but tell everyone?

And, once you do, you can still ask their advice on how else to promote and if they might know anyone.

 

Idea #10: Let people bring a friend free.

My colleague Allison Rapp had this gem of an idea, “I generally tell my clients that if it gets down to the last few days and the workshop isn’t full, let people who are coming invite a guest. Looks great for them, helps someone else, gives the presenter better energy, more credibility and greater word of mouth.”

Plus, if you offer any higher end programs, they might buy something from you after even though they haven’t paid.

And, if you suddenly have another 10 people sign up your workshop is more full, more momentum is created and you have a natural scarcity of their only being so many spaces left. Plus the weekend is more useful because now they get to share it with someone who’s in their life. 

 

Idea #11: Make the best use of your Facebook event that you can.

I have so much to say about this that it could, and likely will become it’s own blog post. But here’s the down and dirty.

First thing, Facebook is the best/worst. 

Facebook events are great but I wouldn’t rely on them. The vast majority of people don’t ever even look at them. Like, ever. 

And a Facebook RSVP is not a real RSVP. They’re not actually committed to coming. 

What you want is people buying tickets or getting heir free ticket with their email address. 

I use Eventbrite for so many things. Of all the event promotion tools I’ve seen online, Eventbrite is, hands down, the best. 

And, when you create your event, you want to have the link to get actual tickets right at the top (you don’t want for them to have to click ‘See More’ to find that). See the example below.

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 3.30.44 PM

 

The next thing you want to do is regularly post useful things and updates in the event Everyone you’ve invited will get notifications which might have them notice it for the first time (even though they hadn’t noticed it when they were invited).

But, to stick to the personal outreach theme, the most important thing you can do with your Facebook event is to sending personal message those saying they’re coming (but haven’t actually registered) and the maybes to see if they are, in fact, coming. 

 

Idea #12: Rework your sales letter.

The best resource I know of to do this is Carrie Klassen’s Sweetly Selling ebook on how to write sales letters. 

But I’ve also written many blog posts about this. You can read my Nine Thoughts on Copywriting for Hippies and you can also read the rest the other posts

 

Idea #13: Put up posters in the right places.

This is a simple thing to do but can make a huge difference.

 

Idea #14: Ask everyone you know for advice.

I’m talking posting on Facebook about your situation and asking everyone to throw in ideas, emailing or calling every smart person you know for ideas. Put it out there. 

 

Idea #15: Identify and deal with the risks they perceive.

This is a big one that deserves more space than I’m going to give it here, but the nutshell is this: one of the major reasons people aren’t signing up for your workshop is that they perceive certain risks to doing so. If you can accurately identify and effectively deal with those risks you will see an immediate spike in enrolments. The big question is, ‘how can you make it safer for them to sign up?’. Read more about that theme of safety here

 

Idea #16: Email your list again.

This was likely the first thing you did, but, in case you missed it, remember that regular emails to your list can help numbers grow. Key things to highlight in those emails are: 

  • who else will be there
  • the number of spaces left
  • the self serving reasons they should come to your workshop now vs. later
  • answers to FAQ’s
  • directly addressing the risks they perceive
  • Morgana Rae shares this idea: “I remember sending one out years ago with the subject line “Wrath of Morgana” declaring I was never going to do that workshop again (I meant it), and don’t come complaining to me after it’s over. I over sold-out my event the day before the event. (People were till showing up the day of, after I’d sold out.)  Something about taking off the “nice” mask and having a hissy fit can be really appealing.”

 

Idea #17: Get on the phone.

Why not just call people and ask people to come? Why not just be personal and direct? My dear colleague Russell Scott came up with a way of doing this that felt incredibly warm and thoughtful.

My colleague Allison Rapp had this to say, “I usually tell people to get on the phone and if they can do it, get on the radio. If there were emails, write again to the people who clicked but didn’t register, or if you can, call them — find out what challenges they’re dealing with and let them know how the workshop is going to help. Call past clients, offer them a two-fer to bring a friend. On the call, help them craft the testimonial they’re going to use to get that friend excited about going.”

Indigo Ocean added this, “Personal touch. Time to get on the phones and start calling people to personally invite them and ask for a decision on the call.” 

Dave Rowley said, “Until recently I would never have called people to invite them personally, thinking that was too pushy a move. Until someone I had done training with called me recently and did just that. It was a really pleasant experience and I earned a lot from it. We chatted about what was happening to me post-training, and she told me about her new thing, gave me the details, then offered a place if i wanted it. I wasn’t able to do the training but after the call felt really good that the she had thought of me and probably would have signed up on the spot if I could have afforded it. My takeaway from that experience is that thinking of people who would be a great fit for the training and personally inviting them is not ‘pushy’ at all provided you are making a respectful connection and offering something that you genuinely believe is a good fit for them.”

 

Idea #18: Offer free spaces to key people.

Michelle Barr says, “At the same time I am working to fill my workshop with paid people in seats, I would also be gifting spaces to select people I would love to have there that would add some value and also fill the room.”

I very much agree with this. If there’s someone you know who maybe couldn’t afford it but would make the workshop better if they were there and would get value out of it bring them in. Once they’ve registered, you might find that they’re very open to helping spread the word too.

 

Idea #19: Reach out personally to past clients who love you.

My colleague Erin Stephanie offered this, “Personally reach out to past clients, and even friends who may be interested in taking part. Past clients who rave about you are always thrilled to share your work with the people they love the most.” 

You might be amazed at how many of them hadn’t even heard about it yet until your personal outreach.  Or that they’d heard about it and were on the fence but that your personal outreach had pushed them over the edge to coming. 

 

Idea #20: Slow down and get centered.

Jason Guile offers this, “Slow yourself down enough to be creative & to listen. Creativity & guidance will arise, if you’re a space for them.”

This is a big one and is a core premise that my program The Meantime is based on. If you’re in a crisis, the first thing to do is to create space. 

The first kind of space I recommend creating is physical. Tidy your office. Get your things organized. And then create as much emotional, social and financial space as you can. Get some breathing room. Exercise, meditate, get out of every commitment you can. Clear your calendar so you can focus. Coming from a place of desperation and panic is a bad idea when you’re marketing something.

 

Idea #21: Facebook ads targeted to locals.  

This is one I know very little about bit. But you can learn more about that in the posts below:

The Basics of Creating a Facebook Ad

How to Create Effective Facebook Ads – Social Media Examiner

10 Examples of Facebook Ads That Actually Work (And Why)

 

Bonus Idea:

If it’s a weekly program, or program that is happening over a period of time, consider letting people sign up after the first session and telling everyone in the first session that their friends can still sign up before the second one. I’ve seen this used many times and to great effect. 

Sales Letter Case Study: Natural Face Cream Workshop

me-with-violet-150x150

 Today in my Meantime program (a 30 day challenge for cash strapped entrepreneurs) one of the participants (a brilliant herbalist from the Kootenays named Garliq) share a sales page he’d come up with and asked for feedback. We made a few changes to the first chunk which I thought made it so much better and warmer that I had to share it (with his permission). For more on this you can read my blog post Nine Thoughts on Copywriting for Hippies and more about my thoughts on sales letters in general here.  

The sales page is for a workshop he’s running about making your own skin care creams from natural ingredients. You’ll read my comments interspersed throughout. 

 

Before Version:

 

Would you like to be able to make your own luscious face cream that’s totally free of any petro-chemicals?

This headline felt pretty clear but felt like it could be said with a bit more punch.

(Do you flip-flop between what you can afford and what you really want to put on your skin and into your body?)

Not bad. Names a struggle people really have. Though not sure this is the core struggle to which we wanted to be speaking.

You care a lot about what you put Into Your Body – the food you eat and feed to your kids. You’re conscious of the environmental and health impacts of pre-packaged and/or conventionally grown foods, so you buy organic whenever you can.

You work hard to keep petroleum products off of and out of your food.

But then you check the price of the organic face cream at the food co-op or health food store. Yikes!

The above was clear, but read a bit like an infomercial. It’s something I’ve noticed can happen with the approach of speaking ‘directly to the reader’. It can feel incredibly leading. The questions can land as rhetorical, guiding and insincere designed only to get agreement to a premise which will end in them buying from us.

It’s easy for the price take priority over the ideals. It certainly happens me. You buy the one that you can afford even though it contains a few things that you’d rather not be rubbing into your body.

But what if you didn’t need to choose? What if your budget could afford the body care products you’d really like to have?

Again. This feels clear but a little bit leading.

The answer is simple. Make Your Own Face and Body Creams.

 

After Version:

 

 

How you can make enough of your own luscious, natural, petrochemical free face creams to last you months… in just one hour and for 10% of the price.

This was a new headline I suggested to him. I felt like the savings of time and money needed to be woven in here. And that the results could be made more specific bases on what I learned in the rest of his sales letter. 

Most of the people I know in the Kootenays care a lot about what they put into their bodies – the foods they eat and feed their kids. They’re conscious of the environmental and health impacts of pre-packaged and/or conventionally grown foods, so they buy organic whenever possible. You work hard to keep petroleum products off of and out of your food, right?

Somehow the above paragraph, while saying almost exactly the same thing as a the before version, has me relax more. He’s telling me a story and inviting me in.

But then there’s body care products. And lots of us put these into a slightly different category… the Flip-Flop category.

On one level most people understand that ‘what goes onto your skin goes into your body.’ (That’s why we’re putting it on, so it’ll absorb in and do its thing moisturizing or toning or relieving the itch.) And just like with food, we’d like to keep petroleum off our skin and out of our bodies.

Again, he’s expressing a lived reality that many of his readers will be able to connect with. He’s expressing the symptoms people experience with a bit more clarity. But not doing it in a pushy way.

So, you check the price of the organic face cream at the food co-op or health food store. Yikes!

And that’s the flip-flop: price vs. your health and your values. It certainly happens me.

I like that he also admits it happens to him. That he feels the same thing I do.

What do you do? Truth be told, we usually buy the one that we can afford even though it contains a few things that we rather not be rubbing into our body.

But what if you didn’t need to choose? What if your budget could afford the body care products you’d really like to have?

The answer is simple. Make Your Own Face and Body Creams.

Overall, the above feels simultaneously more direct but also warmer. I think it could still be trimmed and reworked. But, with a few small changes, I noticed I felt much better about it.

micro case study: author gives sample of his writing.

IMG_7839I was just picking up an order of books from Audrey’s Books (an independent local bookstore in Edmonton) and I saw this little ‘book preview’.

And I thought it was a great example of a pink spoon in their marketing. Giving people a free sample of what you do. A taster. I’d heard of previews online or in magazines but never a mini book excerpt I could take with me. And it was right there on the counter where I was paying, so easy for me to see it.

For more thoughts on book publishing read these.

Four Thoughts About Email Subject Lines in Marketing

 

engaging-subject-lines1-300x251First of all, this is not a blog post about how to write email subject lines that sell (though it may help you do that).

It’s also not a blog post about how to write good sales copy. I’ve got nine thoughts on how to do that here.  

When you get an email, there is, like the title of a book or a chapter, the subject line. 

It is, in many ways, the headline to your email.

My mentor Robert Middleton said this recently, “I agonize over subject lines. It’s kind of an art.”

I think that’s the right attitude to have.

This blog post came from an email that myself and many colleagues received from someone in our industry (you’ll hear more about it in Though #2). This inspired a lot of big conversations about it, and tactics like it, in a private facebook group. And that all inspired this blog post. 

 

Thought #1: The subject line is not the most important factor in an email being opened.

Not by a long shot. It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s just that they’re a distant number two from the most important reason – who it’s from. If the email is from someone they deeply love and trust, they’re almost guaranteed to notice it and far more likely to open it. There is so much attention given to the subject line but it’s just not the most important thing. 

Two things this means:

1) Having your message delivered by key influencers and hubs will have a lot of impact.

2) If you are not trusted, it doesn’t matter how good your subject line is. So, if you do things that break trust with your followers, your emails will be ignored. This leads neatly into thought #2…

A colleague of mine Kathy Mallary said this, “Another thing that rarely gets mentioned is that if you are doing a good job of building a meaningful, value-based relationship with the people on your list (a first step might be to refer to them AS people, rather than “my list”!), then your subject lines will probably get better results no matter what — even if they, shall we say, ‘suck‘.  For instance, if Mark Silver or Robert Middleton were to send me an email that said “Sorry, but I have to move on…” I would DEFINITELY open it, and even if inside they were to (accidentally, I’m sure) say something silly like “I’m really sorry that I have failed to communicate the value this program could create for you and that now we are leaving you behind!” I would most definitely email them back and check to see what the heck is going on, because that kind of message affects our relationship. Because both Mark and Robert have consistently taken the trouble to build a relationship with their audience, and as one of their tribe, I trust them and care about what they’re up to. So if you’re the marketer, I encourage you to get up to speed on relationship marketing — it’s actually a “thing”. And getting good at it might actually create the space and forgiveness you need so you can afford to make a silly mistake once in a while (who doesn’t?!).”

 

Thought #2: Your subject line is a promise that the email fulfills (or not).

Whatever you write in the subject line is a promise to them.

The email is where you fulfill that promise.

If you consistently make good on your promises (and maybe even over deliver) people will trust you.

If you consistently break your promises, people will trust you less.

Here’s the story about how this blog post came to be (it includes an epic rant).

One of my colleagues got an email from another colleague which had a subject line that she felt (and I agree) was misleading. 

The subject line was, “Here’s my phone number”.

But the email she gave in it, was not her personal cell phone number. It was a conference bridge line. This is a part of the email.

“I’ve never done this before – so TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME! 

Here are the details:

Primary dial in number: (425) 440-5100 
Secondary dial in number: (513) 233-7881
Guest pin code: 834536#

Give Me a Call … I’d LOVE to Meet You!!!”

My colleague was upset and ranted, “Oh for the LOVE of all that is HOLY – do not EVER EVER EVER send an email to your list with the subject line “here’s my phone number” and then give a motherfucking conference bridge line. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? DO YOU THINK I AM A COMPLETE MORON?? WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?! She’s never done this before? What? Given out a bridge line? Who suggested to her she do this? Has she lost her mind. This is the most disingenuous, insidious and offensive marketing email I have ever gotten. She was trying to like dupe the reader into believing it was her personal number…. Just say you are having a Q&A call and you will stay on to answer any question – TERRIFIC – AMAZING – I LOVE IT – I DO IT – I ENDORSE IT…. but pretend you are giving out your personal phone number?!?!? Just a douchey move on my part. Way way way douchey and bad for the entire industry. My point is – say that – “I’m having a Q&A call and I’ll stay on the line until every question is answered.” But don’t pretend we are friends and you are giving me ‘your’ phone number and that it’s something you’ve ‘never done before.’ That’s the dirty creepy gross part – to me. I think we can all still make lots of money and make a huge difference without lying or manipulating people into it. In my personal gut, heart and soul, I believe that they wrote that subject line to get me to think that inside there would be a personal number – maybe a cell phone, maybe a google number but not a bridge line. I have never used the phrase “here’s my phone number” to refer to a group call. It also implies – TO ME – in my interpretation — a personal call between me and the sender. So my vet just sent me an email with his number and I’m going to call him. I believe they wanted the reader to think they were going to have a private call with her before they opened the email.”

And I agree with her rant. I think it’s how more and more of us are feeling these days.

The email subject line made a promise.

The email broke it. 

You must deliver on what you promise.

Of course, it’s not always so blatant.

I’ve seen many email subject lines that I felt were misleading to me.

Here are the usual suspects that are just so clearly hyped up and disingenuous.

  • “The World’s Best ________” – In the world? Amazing. I know a donair shop that is the best in the world too! The sign says so!
  • “You can make a million dollars too – using my system” – Somehow I suspect this system will involve me sending emails to others with the headline, “You can make a million dollars too – using my system”…
  • “Meet the woman of your dreams – simply read this book” – Phew! I was scared I might have to actually start a conversation and risk something. 
  • “I saw what this ____ did with this ____ and I can’t believe it!”- Really? You couldn’t believe it? Were you actually that shocked? 
  • “You can lose/get _______ with this one weird trick” – Really? That’s all it takes? One thing? And, real talk, how weird is it actually?
  • “I’m a Nigerian Prince and I’d like to help you” – For once, I’d like to meet an actual Nigerian prince. I bet he’d be charming as hell. We’d go on adventures. It’d be the best.
  • “I Have No Secrets <- (Open BEFORE 3pm Pacific Today!)” Really? Or will the content of this email be annoying and all baiting. 
  • “This amazing product for you for such a low price, but I have to take it down forever after ______ date.” – You have to? HAVE to?
  • “This is the best thing you’ve read all day!” – How do you know? Creeper. 
  • “‘Secret’ Leaked Video: Watch Here Tad!”- Whoa! What an exclusive scoop! Thank you for secretly leaking the video and then totally leaking it and secretly announcing it to your list of thousands. I’m so glad this isn’t some marketing ploy to make the video seem more valuable!
  • “watch this movie 3 times/week and watch your in…come go up by at least 10K, mine did” – If this worked, a dear friend of mine would be a horse whisperer by now. And I’d be travelling space and time in a TARDIS.

  • “This REVOLUTIONARY training” – Move over Che Guevera! THIS is what a revolution is all about! Packing old ideas in a new way and selling them for millions!

  • “Board Update” –  My colleague, Toronto based copy writer and social media strategist, Rachel Foster sent me this appalling gem. “I can’t recall where I saw your post on bad email subject lines. I just got one that said “board update”. The mailer was targeting executives and assumed that most of them are on boards. Sneaky jerks.”

All of the above, could be legit. If they’re legit and sincere.

As one of my friends said, “a red flag is anything that promises to blow me away, blow my mind, blow up my sales, etc. Just talk like a normal person already.”

You must deliver on what you promise.

Here are ten more examples of email subject lines that are often subtly misleading…

EXAMPLE #1: “I’ve never been so vulnerable!”:  Subject lines like, “This is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever shared” or “I’m really scared to share this with you . . .” only to read it and have the vulnerable thing be something salesy that is clearly not very vulnerable at all. They used my caring of them as a hook to get me to open the email. That didn’t feel good. As another colleague of mine, Teray, shared, “When someone sends too many “vulnerable”, “embarrassing” subject headings in a row…it starts to feel like me me me me.”

EXAMPLE #2: Using Family Photos: My dear colleague Morgana Rae expressed her discomfort at marketers using truly heartfelt things as bait, “I heard about a colleague who recently shared pictures of her newborn baby, then tied that into a marketing campaign. At the end of the day, be a person.

EXAMPLE #3: Feigning Vulnerable Stories: My colleague David Jurasek expressed how, “The ones I get fooled into opening and annoy me most are when folks I generally trust pretend to get all up close and personal about their own story and then I find out in the email they are being quite superficial and linking me to their “good friend” who helped them once and is now selling a program.

EXAMPLE #4: re: Other colleagues of mine pointed out how much disdain they had for emails that began with “re:”. Kim Page Gluckie said,  “I don’t like the new trend to start with “Re: ……” It implies we have had a personal conversation or exchanged a 1:1 email. When it shows up in the subject line it feels overly familiar and contrived. Because it is. It happens on the lists I’m sure I never actually subscribed to.”

EXAMPLE #5: provocatively misleading: Kathy Mallary shared, ” I think the worst I’ve gotten from an “expert” started off with this subject: ‘Sorry, but I have to move on…’ and then went on to say: ‘I’m really sorry that I have failed to communicate the value this program could create for you and that now we are leaving you behind!'”

EXAMPLE #6: “I’m puzzled.”: I-ching worker Hilary Barrett of the UK was not too impressed when she opened an email with the subject line “Hilary, I’m puzzled.” and how the email went on to explain how puzzling it was that she hadn’t signed up for whatever-it-is. “I think these are generally the last one in an auto responder series, sent with the thought, ‘Well, if she unsubscribes now it’s fine, because she’s not buying anyway.'” I’ve gotten a few of these and felt like, ‘I’m puzzled why you feel entitled to my business…’ Another colleague sent out an email with the headline, “So… What gives?” and a different colleague, Thea, commented on it, “I know you agree with me, but I just had to vent. Why do people use guilt to try to get clients?!!! Pisses me off. Just received this email with the headline, “I thought building a business was important to you. I thought having the freedom to live life exactly the way you wanted was your dream. And I surely thought if I gave you the fastest path I know to big money … and made it absolutely free … you’d jump at the chance. I’ve done all that for you … and you still haven’t signed up for the FINAL encore of ….” And my colleague Rachel had this to say, “Ahhhhh!!! This happened to me a few months ago…where when I decided to opt out of doing a program, I was told that I *clearly* didn’t care enough and I preferred to just sit back and let my dreams and goals pass me by. UH…WHAT??!?! You were just trying to SELL something? Buh bye.” And Robert Middleton insightfully noted, “I’ll admit it. I want to send that kind of email all the time. But I restrain myself! Instead, I try to find an inspiring reason for them to take action. Sure works better. We need to remember that people do things for their reasons, not your reasons. The more you understand those reasons, the better results you’ll get.” Fact.

EXAMPLE #7: “I’m about to explode!” Or the Jay Abraham classic headline, “I’ve got to get this off my chest before I explode”. If you have something you feel that intense about, then sure, use that headline, but many of the times I’ve seen it used it felt like a contrivance. Like they knew that was a winning headline and then sort of reverse engineered it to try and come up with something they needed to get off their chest that might possibly relate to what they’re selling.

EXAMPLE #8: The False Promise of Info: Another colleague of mine shared this, “I can’t stand when a title implies there will be info in an email, and they try to redirect me somewhere else to get said info. I usually find this with business newsletters. They bait you about finding out about some incredible opportunity and inside there’s a link to a promo video on a website, trying to sell you access to the info you were interested in.” Again, the promise implied one thing but the reality was another. A friend of mine shared with me, “I  just foolishly clicked on one a few minutes ago, thinking I was going to read some research: “Surprising ways to reduce neuropathy” with a picture of a woman rubbing her foot. The ‘article’ an add for some kind of supplement.” The photo seems to have been used to imply that massaging your foot could do it when the real intent was to sell a supplement. Another colleague of mine vented about someone she used to love, “Dr. Mercola (who I LOVE for his pioneering on alternative healthcare) now clearly has a copy/article writing staff and they’ve been using an article summary gimmick in his newsletter that contains 5-6 articles. It’s a complete turn off the last couple of years. Something like “This food will give you Alzheimers and your won’t believe what it is!!” And then the article never actually mentions a specific food. I’ve gotten so I won’t read any article with that kind of sensational come on. When you grow to have a staff, you have to watch their brilliant marketing ideas!”

EXAMPLE #9: “Help!”: A few of my colleague vented about the subject line, “I really need your help!” Really? You actually need my help? Or is this just a sales ploy. I love helping if I can. But I don’t like being used. One colleague of mine shared how he opened an email with such a subject line and saw that what was meant by all that was, “I really want to help you be successful but I need your help to do it. ” followed by an offering or invitation. Boo. 
 
EXAMPLE #10:  “Can you meet/call/”hang out with” me today?”: This is designed to sound like a very personal message. Why? So you’ll open the email. It’s designed to make you feel important and like you’re getting invited to an exclusive opportunity? Why? So you’ll open the email. But it’s not. Another one I saw was the “Tad (Personal Email)” – is this REALLY her personal email? or an email just to me? Let me check! Oh. Wait. It’s not. 
 
EXAMPLE #11: “I want your opinion on this…”: I just got an email from a colleague of mine with this as the subject line. So I opened it, busy as I was, because I like this colleague. And nowhere in the email was there ever an invitation for me to share my opinion. Nothing. My time was wasted. Here was the email below…
 
Hi Tad,

Here’s a quick POP QUIZ …

QUESTION:

What do the billionaire Michael Dell, talk-show host Conan O’Brien, his Holiness the Dalai Lama and U.S. President Obama have in common?

ANSWER:

They all conduct Google Hangouts to get more media EXPOSURE.

Even CNN’s Anderson Cooper is on the Google Hangout bandwagon to conduct live social commentary for the millions in his audience.

What am I telling you this?

Because on November 20th, you’ll get a rare opportunity to learn from  the “Larry King” of Google Hangouts.

It’s true! I’ve made a very special arrangement to get you access to a live, private interview on how G+ Hangouts can and will MAXIMIZE the EXPOSURE of your message.

Even if the date and time listed on the page below is inconvenient, get registered to access the replay.

Who is the “Larry King” of Google Hangouts?

Check him out here.

Watch the brief video, register and then forward this email invitation to a friend or colleague who could also benefit from attending this Hangout!

The 5 key lessons you’ll learn and your surprise bonus gift awaits you after you register for this event.

To Be Continued,

PS. Hangouts are a joint venture between the two most important websites on the planet – Google and YouTube – so don’t you want to strategically align with them? G+ Hangouts are ideal for tech-

dummies who want to become #1 on Google without SEO skills.

You’re ONE click away right here.

 
 
Cate Richards shared with me, “One interesting thing Tad is that they teach this stuff in copy school saying they work. What no one ever quantifies is how many ideal customers are switching off because they feel manipulated.”
 
So true.
 
Even so, all of those could be great subject lines if…
 
They really meant it.
 
If it really was a vulnerable thing they were sharing (and they weren’t using it as a pitch). If they wanted to share the joy of their new child and leave it at that people would be thrilled and loyalty and connection would increase. Do you really need to get something off your chest in a big way? Awesome. Use that headline or something like. If they were really puzzled about something and needed feedback, that might be a great subject line. If you really need help from your list, by all means ask for it. It can be dangerous to demonize a tactic and write it off entirely. 
 
The key idea here: You must deliver on what you promise.

My colleague Nick Pfennigwerth wrote this, “In the past two months my best email subject that received a 33% open rate was: ‘90% of Your Business Problems are Solved with This Change'” That’s a big promise. If he delivers a solid answer to it in his email that makes sense to people, he will build a huge amount of trust. But if it was something like, “Think more positive” without much of a unique take on it… he will lose trust and followers fast. 

You must deliver on what you promise.

My colleague Steve Mattus of Heart of Business wrote that the subject line should, “sincerely represent the subject of the email”. Truth.

What’s the point of enticing people to open gifts from you if the gifts are always disappointing. That will hurt your reputation.

Another important reason to avoid sneaky subject lines that has nothing to do with you…

But it’s more than that, and this is important, it hurts the reputation of the industry. My dear colleague George Kao speaks beautiful of the notion of sustainable marketing. He urges people to look at any marketing tactic through the lense of “if everyone in my industry marketed like this, what would the impact be?”

And, I put it to you, if you knew that every email you got from a marketing coach like myself was a lie, what would you do?

I tell you what I would stop doing – opening the emails. 

One colleague put it this way, “To further prove your point, I know exactly which email you’re referring to in your friend’s rant of Point #2, because i received it, too. Up until that email, I’d appreciated the value in what that particular person/company had to offer, even if the emails they sent weren’t totally my style. I am a good listener so I can make allowance for communication style. But that particular email tipped me over the edge and made me ask if that person/company had now dipped into the “dark side” of marketing. I thought of unsubscribing, haven’t decided yet. Even more interesting, though, is that it got me wondering about all of the other people in the industry who sometimes forward me that company’s programs as affiliates. They were sort of tainted by associate n. (sorr y, I think that might mean you too, Tad, but by now you know I’m a devoted fan of your stuff :) So, your friend’s point about it casting a shadow over the whole industry is well-taken. I guess the other very practical thing that occurs to me is that poor subject lines mean that, as a small business owner, you are much more likely to have people identify your email as spam, which will hurt your ability to spread the word in future.”

The way we conduct ourselves in business doesn’t just impact us, it impacts our colleagues, our industry and the level of trust in the marketplace as a whole. Using unethical marketing approaches, no matter how successful they are, is, ultimately, a very selfish act.

And one could legitimately raise the case that, “Everyone does this!” Sure. That’s true. But old man Hargrave asks you, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” Yes. Newspaper and internet headlines are full of hype. But is that the world we want where our word means nothing anymore? Where we assume everyone is lying to us?

Ask yourself, “Based on the subject line… Will people feel satisfied with this email or disappointed?”

This matters, because, especially in the seminar industry, we often see a pattern of broken promises. The subject line promises something that the email doesn’t deliver because the email is promising those answers can be found in a free live workshop. But the free live workshop leader tells you that, of course, those questions are too big to be answered in a single evening so you should sign up for the full weekend… Which turns out to just be a weekend of being sold into a high end coaching program. And yet, at no point was much value delivered.  

Be wary of over promising. Sure, it will fill up your workshops. But with people who quickly wither on the vine and become bitter towards you.

I’m not arguing that these tactics don’t work. They do… in the short term. But they erode trust in the long term. Simon Sinek makes this point brilliantly here

Are we impeccable with our word or not? This is the real question.

You must deliver on what you promise.

 

Thought #3: The point of the subject line is not to get people to open the email.

This is a bit of tricky wisdom.

Yes you want your email opened. But not by ‘people’. ‘People’ is code for everyone. And you do not want everyone on your list to open every email you send. Whaaaa??? 

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. 

If I really wanted to get people on my email list to open an email, if that was my only goal, the subject line would be something like, “I”m dying and this is my last email to you.” That would go gangbusters. Except for the small peccadillo that it’s not true at all (beyond the dying bit which I’m hoping is a very, very long ways away). But you feel me. If the point was just to get them to open up your email, surely we could come up with more compelling things! “I’m pregnant!”, “I’m getting married!”, “This simple trick could double your profits overnight! Actually! No Hype.” etc.

But then we become the boy who cried wolf. And people come to learn, “Oh. Their subject lines are always provocative but the content is just the usual.” 

And then there’s the whole ‘using-people’s-names-in-the-subject-line-thing’. Like a friend shared with me, “I recently got an email where the email subject line was, “We’re meeting today, right, Brenda?” And then it was a teleclass promo. I hate it when it’s made to look like it’s an individual email specifically for me.” I am also not a fan. It is insincere. It’s trying to give the impression that this email is just for me. Why? So you’re more likely to open it. But it’s not just for you. As my friend Craig Martin put it, “When I see my name in the subject line, 99% of the time it’s a Constant Contact user trying to appear more personal while sending out mass emails that have nothing to do with.me. If it’s something useful, tell me what it’s about and let me decide. Don’t pretend to be my buddy.”

I don’t think the purpose of the email subject line is there to somehow, by any means necessary, get everyone on your list to open every email. The point of the subject line should be to help people know if this email in particular is one that would be relevant to them and to state that in the most compelling way possible.

To state it another way: the purpose of the subject line is to get the right people to open the email (and make sure people the email isn’t a fit for don’t). 

I just got an email from my dear colleague Bill Baren, “SF Bay Area Peeps Only: In-Person talk with Bill Baren”. What was in promoting? An in-person talk he was leading in San Francisco. So clear. No one’s time gets wasted. 

To give a specific example. I recently sent out an email with the subject line ‘Do you lead workshops (or are you thinking of leading them)? It got a 22% open rate (my average these days is around 20%). Some people saw that headline and thought, ‘I don’t lead workshops and I don’t ever intend to. This email is clearly not for me.’ and they didn’t open it. 

In my mind, that’s a success. 

The goal of marketing isn’t to get people to say ‘yes’. There are three roles. First, to get their attention. Second,  to filter and establish, as quickly as possible, if there is a fit at all between what you’re offering and what they’re wanting and needing. And third, to lower the risk of taking the first step.

Ideally your subject line does as much of the following as possible.

It lets them know what to expect in the email, who it’s for and what the benefit of that all is. It explains the value in the email. It helps them, in seconds, decide whether or not to open it. 

It gives them a compelling sneak peak inside. A teaser. A micro summary. It piques their interest. Intrigue, engage, and intoxicate with the promise of real value (and then the email must deliver on what was promised).

What’s the point of getting them to open the email, if it, even in a small way, breaks trust with them?

It has the right people say, as my colleague Leslie Nipps put it, “Well crap! I gotta open this!” Rather than “Oh, one of my five bazillion emails in my inbox. Delete.” It’s got to give the right people a good reason to read more. 

An important, and perhaps obvious note: the purpose of the subject line isn’t to get them to open the email. People who aren’t a fit deciding not to open your emails because of the subject line is a big success. But, you do enough of the right people opening up your emails to sustain yourself. So the key is to be focused on making sure you’re sending out the right things to your list rather than focused on the subject lines. And I suspect that this is a sticking point for many entrepreneurs with email lists, they haven’t really settled on a niche and so their emails are a bit all over the place. If someone had a laser focused niche and sends out emails that are 100% on topic for the people in their niche with compelling subject lines… they’ll do very well. The subject lines are the lipstick. The email is the pig. Pigs do not look good in lipstick.

You must deliver on what you promise.

But you also need to be promising things that are relevant to your people.

And, of course, this means that you need to know who your people are. Which most entrepreneurs don’t.  If you can’t articulate what you do clearly, no fancy subject line will save you. 

 

Thought  #4: The subject line should be as clear and compelling as possible.

You might be thinking that I mean email subject lines should just be literal, factual and to the point. 

But that’s not what I’m saying.

Toronto based copywriter Rachel Sparacio-Foster points out “anything that says something like “Latest Newsletter” is boring. It should tell me more about what’s in the newsletter.”

A blog reader, Monica O’Rourke backed this up with her words, “I recently unsubscribed from a recipe email list because every single time the subject line was “Check out our new recipes.” I bit once or twice, and the content was equally boring. So, ummm, no thanks. You can’t take a moment to highlight an interesting recipe to get me to open your email (as every other list I’m on does)? Then I’m not interested.”

So, I’m not arguing for being boring. As author Derrick Jensen says of the central rule of writing, “Don’t bore your reader.”

I’m saying that your subject line should be making it clear if the email is a fit for them to open and to do that in the most clear and compelling way possible. And we will all have a different style in doing this. Some of us will be very direct, some more coy and evocative. It’s all good as long as it’s working for you. My colleague Leslie Nipps said, “My most opened email ever had the subject line: ‘for two who slipped away almost entirely…’ It was the title of a poem by Alice Walker that I quoted in my article. I usually average 18-22%. This one was almost 40%. I’ve been trying to find that special vibration ever since. Gotta hand it to the poets…” That’s a subject line that was evocative and, my guess is that the email delivered on speaking to what was evoked. But that’s the key. Are you actually speaking to what you lifted up in the subject line?

But, as Robert Middleton pointed out, it’s an art. 

I remember hearing a story about three different headlines created for the same public speaking course. The first one, that got an okay response, was, “Public Speaking Course”. That’s very clear. Their second attempt was, “Learn how to speak confidently in public.” That feels a bit closer to the bone. That’s a bit closer to what people are actually craving. They don’t just want to learn the technicalities of speaking. They want to not feel so scared to do it. The third headline was the most successful, “How to Get Rousing Applause, Even a Standing Ovation, Every Time You Speak”. This spoke to what people were craving at the core. The response. Now, we can have a meaningful debate about whether feeding people’s egos like this is a good thing to do but that is a better way of saying the same thing and likely something they can deliver on (as long as their marketing also filters out people who wouldn’t stand a chance of succeeding) and the rest of their marketing clarified the promise.

Don’t bore your reader.

But there is something even more important here and I am underlining it so you get it.

Do. Not. Waste. My. Time.

Do not trick me into opening an email that isn’t actually useful or relevant to for me.

Do not bait and switch me. 

That doesn’t turn annoy me. It angers me. It speaks to a level of disrespect that I have zero time for. 

I am unspeakably busy with things that matter to me. Do not steal my time. 

Be direct. Read this important piece about the relationship between directness and clarity in marketing by Lynn Serafinn.

Do. Not. Waste. My. Time.

And this post isn’t about how to write a compelling subject line.

Although here are a few simple tips:

  • Geography: If you’re promoting a workshop in a certain city, tell me that in the title. Don’t raise my hopes and make me spend 30 seconds opening and reading your email to find out the workshop is happening on the other side of the planet.
  • Dates: Is it time sensitive? Tell me in the subject line.
  • Problem/Result: Can you let me know what issue this email will help me with? What result it will help me get?

Basically, just help me understand what’s in the email.

 

Want to know how to do write more compelling subject lines?

Here are a few posts to get you started:

Megan Mars wrote a fine post called The 9 Best Email Subject Line Styles to Increase Your Open Rates. Affilorama had some good pointers here. Entrepreneur magazine share their thoughts here.

But my favourite post I found on this was from Copyblogger – read it here.  

 

There are a number of examples of how I’ve done this with clients in my case studies and sales letter makeovers