The Exact Strategies I Used To Launch My Online Creative Business In Under 30 Days
When I first launched my coaching business there was a huge sense of urgency for me to get up and running. I could not afford to procrastinate for I had up and walked away from my network marketing company after 4 years and not only a full time income but my only source of income. I was in full blown "oh shit, what am I going to dooooo?!" panic mode.
What I did have going for me is I had my game plan together, I knew I wanted to share my experiences and show other creative women how they could personally brand themselves to build more authentically and have more success. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to build 100% online. As an introvert, the networking scene is just not my jam. As a creative who loves to write, being curled up with my MacBook and cup of coconut oil coffee while lounging in buttery soft yoga leggings and fuzzy socks is my personal dream scene for "working from home".
I knew that in order to launch my business I needed certain tools to help me create and deliver valuable content that would attract my online audience and people to work with as clients. While this sounds super simple, if you have ever started researching "how to grow an online business" the information out there can be overwhelming to the point of saying "screw it, I can't do this!" and crawling back in bed to veg out watching a Fixer Upper marathon and pinning new ideas for that home office on Pinterest. Because having a beautifully designed space to rock out those goals IS an important super productive part of any business plan, right?! (Or maybe more like a diversion to avoid all the hard stuff that requires a lot of frustrated late nights while we convince ourselves how productive we are being).
In order to help you avoid the fetal position procrastination that may be keeping you from launching your own business, I am going to walk you through the exact steps and resources I used to launch my own online business in under 30 days. I hope it will lessen the pain of Google overload and give you some direction to start taking action. Without action there can be no pay off and you deserve to be paid for your expertise beautiful creative!
A little bit of housekeeping before we dive in, what I have laid out here are the action steps to take once you have clear direction on your vision, direction, target market and services/products. If you are having a hard time with that first step be sure to grab my Branding: A Love Story guide to help you flush out all those details first and then come back here to get up and running.
Here are the exact steps and resources I used to help you hit the ground running to launch your own online business in under 30 days:
A website is crucial to marketing yourself online. Your website acts as a central hub for your business. Where all of your information, resources and content can be organized one place. A website gives you a professional edge over those who do not. A blog allows you to create consistent value driven content for your audience and attract the right people to work with. Giving value builds trust and trust earns you business, clients and sales.
Several years ago when I had first attempted to build an online business, I jumped in with both feet with a Wordpress website and I spent more time learning all the ins and outs than I did actually growing my business. I became so frustrated with the constant updates needed to the platform, theme and plug-ins that I ended up just ditching the whole thing. When I got ready to launch my coaching business I was determined to find an alternative that was just as good and ran across Squarespace. I did some research and loved everything I read about it.
Don't get me wrong Wordpress can be a great platform if you are the techie type who loves custom design and robust features who doesn't mind spending time on the learning curve or you have the budget to hire someone to customize and build it for you. Squarespace can also be a great platform to help you get up and running to get your products and services out there NOW and as your budget allows have someone design a Wordpress site for you. My mantra is progress over perfection. Do what you can do now v. needing it all to match the perfectly designed picture in your head which usually takes more time, resources and a larger budget.
I have LOVED Squarespace and can't say enough great things about it. Below are the resources that I used to learn the basics and learn them quickly. It is very user friendly with themes, plug-ins and hosting built in and they have 24/7 support if you get in a jam. They have different plans to choose from depending on the needs of your business but average will run you $16 a month.
Tyler Moore How To Create A Squarespace Website FREE Training
I absolutely adore Lauren Hooker with Elle & Company. She is running her design business on Squarespace with a wealth of informative blog posts about how to use and optimize the Squarespace platform as well as tips for the design of your website. She is my go-to Squarespace guru.
If you are more woman than me and ready to dive off into the world of Wordpress (you go girlfriend!) here are some great resources for you to look into:
Tyler Moore How To Make A WordPress Website FREE Training
If Wordpress is going to be your choice of platform and have the budget to hire someone to customize it for you to get up and running faster and to save yourself the next few weeks of being glued to your computer learning Wordpress Aymee Buckhannon is super creative and an amazing gem to work with.
At a minimum you need a home page, about page, services or products page (Squarespace has an eCommerce plan too. This is what I use to sell my digital products), connect with you page and a page for your blog content. As you grow and expand your business you can add other pages but these are the basics for your website to get up and running.
2. Logo/Brand Design
This is an area of your business that you can blow a ton of time and money on but when I first got started I was trying to launch my business as quickly as possible so I could start making money, not go into debt while I waited weeks for a customized logo. While I am the biggest snob when it comes to design I also know that the perfect fancy graphics are not going to explode my business. I needed a cost effective quick turn around solution and Etsy is an amazing place to connect with logo designers that range in $20-$150 depending on your budget. When I first launched and needed a logo for my website I paid $18 for this simple logo that I still love and use even though I recently went through a rebrand.
Have some ideas in mind for style of logo so you can save time and narrow down your searches. Maybe you love arrows, so search for "arrow logo" in the Etsy search bar or maybe you love a certain style like bohemian, then search "bohemian logo" or "boho logo". Be okay with choosing something that you can love for now. It may not be exactly what you had envisioned or see using for the long term. The idea here is to get up and running as quickly as possible.
3. Email List Building
Your website is like a funnel. As you are creating content to drive targeted traffic back to you it becomes critical to capture that traffic in the form of leads so that you can continue the relationship trust building process turning those priceless leads into clients and/or customers.
You need an email service to help you capture those leads when they visit your website and opt-in to your list. When I first started out I was using Mailchimp because it is free up to 1,000 subscribers. It worked out okay as I was on a tight budget and did not want to pay monthly for a service until I had some income from client work coming in.
There is a learning curve with Mailchimp but there is an abundance of tutorials on YouTube and it easily interfaces with Squarespace so that is a bonus. I upgraded to ConvertKit about a year and half into my business and have loved it. My open rates and click throughs are higher with ConvertKit but its okay to start out with something free like Mailchimp until you get a rhythm and strategy going in your business.
If you are looking for a service with more bells and whistles you can also research other options and their cost. This blog post by Capterra does a great job of giving you a quick overview of the different email marketing companies with their respective pros and cons.
4. Stock Photos
If you are new to the world of blogging, choosing images for your blog posts that are cohesive to your branding and speaks to your target market can be very time consuming. I know the old saying goes "don't judge a book by it's cover" but when it comes to photography, colors, style, logo, design (what is known as your brand identity) the cover of the book really does matter. Truth be told I am a huge snob when it comes to imagery. If I don't like the style of a website or blog I will bounce off quicker than a cricket in a hot fire. Does this mean you have to spend a fortune on imagery to make it look nice, NO. A clean design with good images can still give something a high end look if that is what you are going for. The key is to be consistent with your style.
Choosing imagery that is free to use, and I don't mean free as in some random Google search which can get you slapped with a huge copyright fine to the tune of $8,000 per violation, but imagery that is legal to use can also be very time consuming. I can spend an hour or more looking for just the right image to use for a blog post.
Here are some good resources for imagery (part of this list are free resources and some are available at a cost per image or via monthly subscription). Go with what you can afford. I try to use as many free images as I can and then if I can't find exactly what I want by digging a little using creative key word searches then I will bite the bullet and pay for one.
Try to stay on brand with your style and design when picking images. The more of a theme your website and content has the more relatable it will be to your niche and the more recognizable your brand will become (for example if you love retro style stick with that theme in every way or if bold rock-your-edgy-side type colors are your style find images with that color scheme).
To build your list and capture leads you need a resource that solves a specific problem for your network. Gone are the days where people will enthusiastically pop in their information from a call to action like "join my mailing list" (this is straight out of the Business of Boring 101 manual manual). People need a compelling reason to give up their email address.
When I first launched my website I wanted to think outside the box and create something fun. People in general love quizzes so I put together a branding archetype quiz for my opt-in using EmailMeForm, an online survey and web form builder. So if you are looking to put together something fun and out of the box it worked well for me the first year of my business. I have since created other opt-ins and disabled the quiz but it was an awesome list builder for me while I had it active.
You can also do something simple like create a free how to guide that solves an immediate problem for your target market as a Word document and provide it as a .pdf download. That is how I deliver most of my content. Fancy graphics are great but the more graphics the larger the file is to upload and download and I don't like my readers to have to blow through an entire cartridge of ink to print out a document so I like to keep my documents pretty clean and simple.
You can also create a a free audio training through FreeConferenceCall.com or an app like Soundcloud or a video through YouTube or a webinar that you can record through Zoom or Google Hangout if that is more your style where you deliver the resource link to your subscriber after they confirm their email address. Do what works for your personality, what you feel would relate most to your audience and tweak it as you go.
6. Create Graphics Like A Pro
I use Canva to create custom graphics for my website and social media pages to give it a cohesive branded look. Its free, there are done for you templates for every social media platform and its very user friendly. Spend a little bit of time to get familiar with it and you will look like a graphic design pro in no time. You can also use PicMonkey, Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator depending on your level of expertise.
7. Online Calendar
To kickstart my business and help get the word out about the services that I offered, I set aside a 2-3 days a week to provide free 20 minute coaching calls. In order to do this effectively and keep my sanity in tact, I used an online calendar tool (ScheduleOnce) to make it easy on my clients to schedule a call. I simply sent the link to the page of my website that outlined what they could expect from a free coaching call and added a button to that page that would click through to my online calendar. I was able to schedule days and times during the week on the back end of ScheduleOnce that worked with my schedule.
I found ScheduleOnce the most user friendly for me personally but there are several similar services out there available. Some are free and some have a monthly fee associated with it depending on functionality. This blog post by Zapier does a great job of breaking down many other services, options and price so you can choose the one that is the best fit for you.
8. Password Protected Content
Maybe you have plans to offer paid content through your website? A membership community? Password protected pages? Wordpress offers plugins for this but if you are going with Squarespace, the service I use for my membership and coaching community, the Creative Gristmill, is Sentry Login. Its a very low cost monthly fee and it interfaces with both PayPal and Stripe. You can set up payments that are billed automatically each month. Its been a great tool for my online business and to grow my income stream.
How I Launched My Online Business In Under 30 Days
• I buckled down hard for 2 weeks learning Squarespace and Mailchimp, getting a logo picked out, getting my opt in done, creating coaching packages and writing copy for my website. I set a launch date for my blog inside of 30 days and wrote it on my calendar to hold myself accountable.
• I set aside a couple of hours each day to research what I needed to work on for example "how to write a compelling about me page" (not days or weeks that would lead to wasted time and information overload) and then committed to taking action and implementing. (By the way this is an EPIC blog post on how to write a compelling creative about me page from The Sits Girls).
• I stayed away from time sucking activities like scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed or spending mindless hours looking at Instagram (as much as I love geeking out over beautiful photography, it was not going to help me get my business launched).
• I bounced ideas off of people that I knew and trusted to help me with honest feedback so I could make some tweaks and adjustments before launching. I offered them a free 20 minute coaching session as a thank you to those who took time out of their busy day and away from their to-do lists to look over my content. (Giving to receive is an invaluable way to serve others while growing your own business. A mantra I have lived by for 13+ years as an entrepreneur.)
• I created daily action items for myself, broke my goals down by day and put them in a desk calendar. I stayed laser focus on getting my to-do list done so I could launch on time.
• When I started to feel restless like I needed to get out of the house (yes us introverts do need to get out...every once in a while) I would take my computer and to-do list to my favorite local coffee shop, find a cozy corner and lose myself in "getting it done" while sipping on a peppermint mocha.
• I let go of perfectionism and got okay with not needing to have it all figured out first. If I got stuck on something like finishing my about page, I pushed through it knowing that if I didn't like it after reflecting on it for a couple of days I could change it. That is the beauty of the edit and delete button. Nothing we do is etched in stone, except, of course, doing nothing. Nothing, keeps looking like a whole lot of nothing.
• I kept it simple. I needed a website that clearly conveyed who I am, my passion for helping others and what I offered. This was critical to start driving traffic to my opt-in and free coaching call offer. When I found myself overthinking something or getting way ahead of myself, I re-focused on the priority of finishing my website and content. This strategy is what gained me 12 new clients in 6 weeks.
Stay focused on your goals and the immediate task at hand that will generate income. Yes, its always going to feel like you have 1,435 things to do and not enough hours in the day to finish even a fraction of it but what are the top 5 that need to be resolved in order to bring in revenue?
I know it feels scary to put yourself out there. I know it feels strange to "just do it" even when you don't really feel like you know what you are doing (I think Nike was on to something when they chose this as their tag line, don't you?). I get it. I deal with all of that myself too, the fear, the self doubt the uncertainty, the "OMGEEEE what am I doing??!!" moments.
Be okay with feeling like that and working through it any way. I can't tell you that it will be easy because there will be times when you feel like you are just not cut out for this but what I can promise you is that in those moments when you decide to do it even though you are a scared hot mess ball of nerves who is about to fall apart and lose her shit any minute you will discover how strong, confident, badass and capable you truly are and THAT is worth fighting for. You got this because I believe in the important impact you were created to make on this world xo
April Williams is the #CreativeMomista of two boys • Storyteller • Coffee Addict • Woman Warrior Of God • Texas Country Girl • Creative Expressive • A vintage soul passionate about living a simple life with a modern approach to business and branding