Opinions expressed by Contractor the contributors are theirs.
You are reading Entrepreneur United States, an international Entrepreneur Media franchise.
Two steps forward, five steps back, a wheel and a half, throw back, and start again tomorrow. This is how entrepreneurship works, isn’t it? If your answer is yes, you are certainly not alone.
So many people think their first business idea will be the thing that takes them from zero to a selfie yacht in one fell swoop. This kind of linear, relentless progression is rarely the way things play out in the online entrepreneurship space, despite what social media might have you believe. The most successful companies that go all the way pivot and repeat often; a 2009 IBM Institute report found that 98% of CEOs are tweaking their business models. Innovation is the norm, all of you.
I have been in the online business for seven years and have built a good network as a consultant. But I knew I wanted to change the direction of my business this year. Then my sciatica flared up and chronic pain started to show up this summer. I didn’t just want to change; I had change if I was going to stay alive in this industry.
So over the past few months, I’ve formulated a plan, reduced my fees and other funnels, and focused it all on one offering: Camp Wordsmith, a business and writing incubator for small business owners and online entrepreneurs.
Burning the very thing that delivers your paycheck to you is terrifying. Having setbacks along the way – firing my web developer, a personal emergency that required me to return home, and other unforeseen expenses – makes it even more terrifying. But as entrepreneurs, it’s all part of the job.
I redesigned my online business in 100 days – and now I love it. If you’re an online entrepreneur selling products, programs, or services and considering a transition, here are five steps you can take to do the same.
Define your “income bridge”
Let’s take a look at the elephant in the room first, this is how you are going to make money flow as you navigate your business transition.
I’m assuming you’re in one of three situations:
You have the capital and can fund your entire pivot now.
You have some of the capital you need and need to maintain certain sources of income during your transition.
You don’t have the capital you need and have to go get it somewhere.
If you are in the first category, you are good to go, but it may be a good idea to continue to generate income streams with the goal of smoothing cash flow.
If you’re in the second or third category like I wasâ¦ get ready to scramble. Go out and offer one-off packages or services that can help you get cash fast. Make monetization a game. Often times we denigrate dollar trading for hours, but in this scenario putting in hours to get money is a great idea.
Believe me: the transition itself is already quite tumultuous. Your schedule can go on forever, and unexpected expenses are almost certainly going to pop up along the way. The last thing you would want to happen is get off the runway just before you take off.
Keep generating income and focus on short, bursty plans that you can sell to people under 90 days old. This will help you resist overcommitment.
Related: Why Diversifying Business Sources Of Income Is Crucial To Your Success (And How To Do It)
Audit your existing content
Some of us have been working on this for years, and we’ve produced dozens if not hundreds of social media posts, email newsletters, blogs, and other content. We have developed standard operating procedures, built online courses and had sophisticated worksheets designed. You’re probably sitting on a lot more content than you think.
Set aside a few hours, pour yourself a refreshing drink and audit your content – all. Going through everything you have produced over the years, look for material that is still relevant and valuable to customers. Instead of reinventing the wheel, take the content you already own and think of ways to deliver it to your customers in a different and more effective way.
Many of your old articles or social media posts don’t need to be deleted; they just need to be refreshed and modernized. Once you realize that the content you created months or years ago could make you money today and tomorrow, the prospect of pivoting seems a lot more achievable.
Build your dream team of entrepreneurs
You probably already know Hofstadter’s Law without even realizing it. Hofstadter’s Law states that the more complex a task or project, the harder it is to accurately estimate the time you will need to get the job done.
Related:Why entrepreneurship always takes longer than expected
If you pivot your business, the chances are good that you will explore new territory that will sometimes seem disorienting and complex to you. I was definitely in this category as I was about to merge my consulting business to stud.
I was moving from individual advice to a more optimized group program offer. And I knew I wanted to âown my techâ and minimize the number of SaaS expenses I was paying each month. So I brought in someone to help me plan the creation of a custom website.
I wanted this offering to have an “enhanced” quality and to be visually different from other similar offers on the market. So I hired an illustrator to create custom graphics.
Then I hired a developer and gave them the vision. I also brought in a coach who would help me participate in the program and a trademark lawyer to help me lock the mark from day one. I increased the hours of my virtual assistant for eight weeks to help us with the smallest details.
Writing all of this down is a lot, especially since I normally operate mostly as a solo band. But there is nothing more expensive in entrepreneurship than inaction. The lack of knowledge, motivation and / or support very quickly becomes very expensive as an entrepreneur.
Having a temporary dream team was an investment, but it’s also what helped me achieve my pivot in little more than a fiscal quarter. Use contractors to help you navigate your transition.
Encourage the first to adopt
It is important to have early adopters who are excited to test the product, give you their feedback, and use it to get results. In those early days, optimize for learning, not for money.
Think about how you might encourage being an early adopter. From quick action bonuses to additional one-on-one coaching calls, don’t be afraid to sweeten the pot. For many early adopters, the trade-off of being on the ground floor of a new product, program, or service – even if you troubleshoot any remaining issues – is that they will benefit from additional attention and support. . They will also see you building something exciting.
Stay flexible and look for win / win deals with your potential customers; the extra sweat equity up front is definitely worth it.
Related: The art and science of finding the right set of initial clients
Dazzle your first 100 customers
I will always remember this anecdote from a job in retail that I had as a teenager: âWhen people have a great customer experience, they tell seven people who then talk to seven other people. When they have a bad experienceâ¦ they do the same.
Dazzle your first-time users. Think of ways to create surprise and pleasure outside of your usually day-to-day online business endeavors.
One of my added values ââis very simple: we send every customer who purchases our full program flowers before their first call. We’ve even implemented free automations to make this easier: Customers include their mailing address in our intake form in Google Forms, and an automation in Zapier sends the information directly to us as a task in Asana.
Integration is so important for customer experience and branding. Online entrepreneurs speak; if you have a great product that gives people a great experience, you’ll be well on your way to building a great reputation.
If you dislike or hate your online business, now is the time to take action. Your transition doesn’t need to take years; by taking the right steps in the right order, you can make a difference and start a business you love much sooner than you think.