31 July 2009

4 Things to Keep in Mind about Multiple Income Streams

Lots of business coaches advise leveraging your time and developing multiple streams of income. Time leveraging generally means working with groups, whether that be via teleconferences or live seminars. Multiple streams of income for service providers may mean developing a product line, or adding a new service, which may mean getting another credential.

Generating lots of different ways to make money sounds like a good idea -- until you realize each one can become a new business start up. How many businesses can you handle having at one time, especially as a solopreneur?

Keeping focused on your central business purpose can be a challenge when you start adding additional ways to monetize what you know and do. But allowing yourself to scatter your energies can be deadly, resulting in no one "stream" becoming more than a trickle.

If your vision as a counselor, coach, or ND is to be a one-person show, here are four things I've learned the hard way that may help you become successful more quickly than I did.

1. Define your ideal client niche with great precision -- know what their problems are, what motivates them to seek help, where they turn when they do, and what they are willing to spend money for (the outcome they want).

2. As a coach, you naturally deliver one-on-one services. That's Stream #1. In what other ways will you deliver the same information and help? Local workshops? Teleclasses? E-books? Ezines? Sticking to one themed (signature) message throughout all these different delivery methods will keep things manageable.

3. Set out to become a topic expert in your signature field. Do one thing everyday that furthers your visibility in your topic. Select the things that either will create income or that promote name recognition, subject authority, professional credibility, personal rapport, and client attraction interest.

4. If you feel the impulse to spend time and money that doesn't fall into the profit or promotion categories, get some coaching on working SMARTer, and look at core beliefs and other self-sabotaging factors in your self-employment habits.
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28 July 2009

Are You Doing What it Takes to Succeed?

If I asked you to name the 3 top things you are doing to make your private practice succeed, what would you say?

What personal characteristic do you rely on most in making yourself a successful business owner?

Is there something that you know you need to have or do more of, before you will fully achieve your goals? What is that?

Most importantly, what will you do with your own answers to these questions?

For a little inspiration, I thought you might find this video of interest. For practical ideas and coaching, I'm here to help.

23 July 2009

Being Professional -- What Does That Mean Anyway?

One of the worst ideas -- in my opinion -- that mental health counselors and naturopathic doctors get saddled with in graduate school is the notion of what is or isn't professional looking. I'm not talking about ethics, record keeping, or other business practices. Just the more subjective qualities of professional appearance and personal conduct.

Hidden in this idea that there is some "professional" way to look and be as opposed to some "regular" way to look and be is, I think, a particular ego trip. It's an intention to feel better about ourselves by giving the impression that we are more successful, more competent, more experienced, more wealthy, more something than we actually are.

Or, it's an unconscious defensive posture designed to get past normal insecurities about being self-employed. It's trying to match someone else's level or idea of confidence or success, rather than being comfortable with what's real for us at any given time.

Either way, isn't that type of professional appearance or conduct dishonest? Seems to me it's an attempt to impress prospective clients and colleagues by being something other than what we are.

When I was first out of graduate school, I rented a room in an office park suite overlooking a lake, where there was a mix of solopreneur businesses and a busy reception office to serve us all. I thought this would make me look "professional."

It ended up making me feel like a pretender because it didn't fit who I was as a person or a clinician. I moved out when I realized that I was trying to emulate my father the lawyer -- putting priority on what his 1950s vision of "professional" was, rather than developing my own 1990s personal version.

Over the years I've decided for myself that being professional doesn't require having a receptionist, waiting room, or prestigious magazines on expensive coffee tables. It has nothing to do with what car I drive, or whether my address is in the "right" part of town -- although it does require me dressing one notch above the jeans and t-shirt attire of most of my clients. It's not about how much I spend to impress prospective clients or referral sources.

Being professional, for me, means:
  • being on time, every time, for every one
  • unfailingly doing what I say I will do, and being quick to say what I can't or won't do
  • taking nothing personally, not publicly showing discomfort, frustration, or anger when I'm annoyed
  • being clear and firm in interpersonal expectations and business policies
  • at all times remembering that my mission is to be of service, and to give a little more service than is anticipated
  • serving the clients best interests at all times, even when others disagree with what those are
  • using the common courtesies and normal social manners
  • being congruent -- that is, as good a model of what I advise as I can humanly be
What's your personal, confidence-based, ego-less vision of being professional?

22 July 2009

7 Shoestring Budget Marketing Musts

Lots of my clients allocate a miniscule amount of their business budget to marketing. Cautious about taking financial risks, and invested in getting trackable results, they tend to have a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) marketing mentality.

It's psychologically understandable to want your business to pay for itself. It may even be an absolute necessity for now. However, it is assuredly an unwise long term practice that won't lead to sustainable success.

So I have these suggestions for smart initial spending on a shoestring to get the most value from your marketing dollars.

1. Remember that nearly all marketing expenses are very likely tax deductible, even for sole proprietor businesses. Spending on marketing is like putting money in a savings account -- the pay off grows over time, and you collect nicely on your year end income tax return.

2. Spend all you can on building an attractive, sticky, interactive, user-friendly website with a compelling marketing message.

3. Invest in help for crafting the best marketing message that makes the deepest emotional connection with your ideal client if writing isn't fun and easy for you. (remember that writing for marketing purposes is different from all other writing)

4. Use an inexpensive online printer like www.VistaPrint.com for your business cards. Don't bother with ordering brochures at first.
Print fliers, tipsheets, even brochures from your own printer on an as needed basis, unless you need more than 30 or so at one time.

Take advantage of all the low cost online locator services, and free social media and blogsites to connect with potential clients.

6. Pay for online credit card processing capability -- such as PayPal, as one of several examples -- to make it easy for clients to buy your services and products.

7. Develop a marketing plan that gives you a clear path for growth within the limits of sensible, reinvestment in your business spending.

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5 Marketing Lessons from Getting My Deck Rebuilt

1. Over-protective preparation may be a waste of time, but will make you feel more in control of the chaos.
  • They told me to cover all my electronics, so I bought huge plastic bags and encased everything, then I sealed all the windows with plastic sheeting to keep construction dust out. Probably a bit over the top, eh? LOL
  • In marketing, solopreneurs often think that more is better -- it's not. Do only what is needed for the purpose you are aiming at. But you won't be sorry if you take the time to hone your marketing message and develop your marketing plan to it's highest potential effectiveness.
2. Making big noise is okay -- do it early in the day, in small bursts, then take an early lunch, and quit at 3 pm.
  • Workers are hammering and drilling and sawing and banging on the walls at 7 am. Oy! That's practically like the middle of the night for me. But they are efficient, the sounds have variety, it doesn't last long, and they are done early.
  • Marketing is effective when it makes some big noise to get your prospective clients' attention. It's even more effective when it makes the right kind of noise, using various approaches, in limited doses, then respects the clients' ability to make their own choices.
3. Take frequent breaks -- work a little, get coffee, work in a different area, confer with colleagues, work some more, rest, etc
  • Frequent breaks allow for proper pacing of the job, while conserving personal energy. Corrective consultation, new directions, a little social interaction, all make the work go faster and be more pleasant.
  • Self-promotion becomes over-bearing when endless. Clients hate the constant sales pitch, and you don't get useful feedback and input from colleagues. Better to pace yourself, evaluate results, make changes, and come at it again.
4. Be careful about promising a timeline or a specific result.
  • I think it's a genetic pre-requisite to be in the building trades to never guarantee how long things will take or exactly what it will look like when it's done. Ever try getting a firm answer from a contractor? Forget it.
  • A coach might argue there is an accountability issue here, but there is a good lesson too in not setting up expectations that can't be met. Novice self-employed marketers in the healing arts will do well to perfect how to be accountable without inflating unrealistic expectations with their marketing message.
5. Ultimately, it won't be as awful as you imagined -- the disruption won't be as bad or as unrelenting as you may have expected.
  • Being used to an exceptionally quiet work environment, I imagined needing alternative office space for the 3 weeks or more this construction may take. I fled the premises yesterday with my laptop and cell phone. Today, with my desktop computer unbagged, I've barely noticed the work outside my office door.
  • Marketing is an unfamiliar activity for many self-employed business owners. You might imagine all sorts of hassles, challenges, and results that never manifest. Putting yourself in the experience of it is the only way to know for certain how to work around the frustrations.

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14 July 2009

How Much Do Prospective Clients Know About You?

What do you tell prospective clients about yourself? What will they know about your passion for your work, and what led you to your choice of career field? Do you generate trust and rapport with bits of your own life story?

If you are like most of my clients, you probably feel uncomfortable with those questions.

A big issue in marketing among many of my clients is how much to disclose about themselves. As counselors, coaches and NDs, we've all been taught to keep extremely tight lipped about ourselves.

That training is a huge obstacle when it comes to effectively attracting ideal clients.

There is a natural conflict between the standard ideas about no personal disclosures and the need to talk about one's personal unique selling points and compelling story in relationship-based client attraction marketing.

Successful business owners work through this uncomfortable conflict.

Strong, prohibitive indoctrination about revealing anything about yourself generates fear of judgment from peers. We're left with a serious misunderstanding of what might or might not be ethical in marketing ourselves.

most solopreneurs in the healing arts err on the side of just listing educational credentials and licenses, which often has a cold, egotistic, and distancing effect.

This is institutionalized, professional self-sabotage, similar to what doctors and lawyers faced decades ago when the AMA and ABA frowned on marketing private practices. It's a fear-based mindset that belongs to a past century, and that's out of step with today's business world.

It's a mistaken idea that marketing a self-employed business means talking about yourself. That type of self-promotion doesn't work very well.

A bit of your own life experience helps establish the know you, like you, trust you factor that is important in relationship-based client attraction marketing.

08 July 2009

Is Your Fear of Risk Slowly Killing Your Practice?

These two terms -- solopreneur and risk-taker -- are operationally synonymous, when looking back from the vantage point of success. Businesses that succeed engage in continuous investment in marketing foundations and growth structures.

This is especially true of one-person practices in the helping and healing arts.

Yet, when looking forward from the mindset of a novice self-employed business owner, taking risks seems to be an anathema. I see a lot of this anxiety in those who are used to working for others and getting a steady pay-check.

Therapists, NDs, and coaches who aren't experienced with or temperamentally suited for wise risk-taking get emotionally, financially, and operationally paralyzed. When they can't overcome their fear, they soon find themselves out of business altogether.

It doesn't have to be that way. Fear of investing in your practice can and must be tamed.

One way to do that is to relate to your business as if it were your own child. It needs care and feeding, and new clothes on a continual basis. You can't feed it once in July and expect it to thrive on its own until October.

If your fear of risk is slowly killing your private practice, here are the action steps to turn that around.
  1. Set a monthly budget -- think of it as an allowance for your child
  2. Use all the do-it-yourself resources you can
  3. Get expert help in outlining a marketing plan so you know the right things to do and when to do them
  4. Discipline yourself to tend to marketing your business every day
  5. Increase your budget as your practice grows
  6. Develop and market multiple streams of income
  7. Track the results of your efforts, discard what isn't paying off, increase what is
Above all, don't focus on the fear. Focus on the steps you are taking to nourish your child.

07 July 2009

This Personal Resource Makes the Difference Between Success and Failure

As a self-employed professional in the healing arts, you may have already realized that your success in business depends on much more than your graduate or post-grad education. Yes, there are business operations that to be learned and tended, and marketing strategies and techniques that need to be honed.

But even more than these practical application elements of being in business for yourself, what makes the difference between success and failure is your inner dialogue. What you tell yourself about what you do and don't like about the work of getting clients, what you can and can't do in promoting yourself, and what is okay or not okay in helping prospective clients select you as their provider will determine how long you stay in business.

The most valuable personal resource any of us can have is a mindset of success, and the follow-through to put it into action.
This starts with not just telling ourselves some specific confidence and trust building statements, but whole-heartedly believing them as well. Statements like:
  • I am good enough to specialize in any area of interest I choose to focus on
  • I know more than the people who come to see me about how to help them
  • My training makes me a specialist in helping resolve issues, find and treat causes, or move others forward
  • I can figure out how to market without being manipulative or "cheesy"
  • Promoting my services gives people choices and information, and that's a good thing
  • The more I appropriately reveal about myself, the more people will like and trust me as a provider
  • I can take small risks in building my practice, and enjoy small successes that lead to bigger ones
  • If I make a mistake, I know where to get help to recover from it
I recommend developing a mantra or belief chant that will help reinforce the positive mindset that's needed to keep you focused and determined. Taking small risks and moving forward require confidence and trust, and the pay off in terms of business success is enormous.

06 July 2009

2 Marketing Tasks to Rethink, Redesign, and Relaunch

We're half way through the year ~ how's your marketing plan working? Time to take stock of how well it's serving you.

Marketing is a dynamic process. That is, it's always in motion (or should be). If you aren't adding new ways to reach and interest your potential clients in your services, you won't have a steady flow of income. It's not enough to order business cards, set up a website, post a profile, and wait by the phone.

Every marketing tool -- which is anything a client comes in contact with -- should be evaluated periodically and changed if it's not putting clients on your appointment schedule. Here are some essential taking stock coaching questions for you:

Rethinking Your Business Card
  • Does your card have a powerful, catchy, motivating tagline?
  • Are you using the backside for brief tips, questions, or a compelling call to action?
  • Do the colors coordinate with your website?
  • Is your photo or logo displayed?
  • Does it have your website or blog url, and your email address?
  • Have at least 5 people told you your card is a keeper?
  • Can a 10 year old tell you what your business is all about from looking at your card?
  • Is it time to redesign your business card?
Redesigning Your Website
  • How many sticky elements are on your home page?
  • Are you tracking where people come from to get to your site, and how long they stay to read?
  • Are graphics supportive or distracting? Do they reinforce your message?
  • Are you giving prospects a way to interact with or request content that they are desperate to have?
  • Does your content exude your personality, and generate trust?
  • Is your contact info on every page?
  • Is your photo prominently displayed on at least 2 pages?
  • Are you using the same tagline on your website as on your business card?
  • Does your content speak directly, simply, and emotionally to prospective clients?
  • Is your content 80% about the client's problems and want they want, and only 20% about you?
  • Have you written in the 1st person tense?
  • Is it time to do a major rewrite of your website?

Ready to kick your business up a notch? The fastest way to do that is to determine which marketing pieces you have in place are stale, inaccurate, and not performing for you, and to rethink, redesign and relaunch them.

And after that? Let's talk. :)

03 July 2009

How 6 Psycho-Graphic Factors Will Fill Your Practice

A few days ago I used the word psycho-graphics and was surprised to learn that it was an unfamiliar term among some of my self-employed healing arts colleagues. Whereas demographics outline the objective facts of what age, gender, ethnicity, location, income range, education level, etc, pertain to specific individuals or groups, psycho-graphics are the more subjective factors that pertain to their buying decisions.

In developing an ideal client profile, it's best to know both the demographics and psycho-graphics of your niche market. This knowledge tells you whether a specific group is viable for you as a population to pursue. The psycho-graphics will also suggest how many and what kind of obstacles you may encounter in reaching that niche market.

In crafting your ideal client's identity, it's not enough to know what you can do for them. What you must focus on is what they want and don't want, when are they actively seeking change, and what are they willing and able to pay for. So you aren't done with defining your ideal client until you can provide specific answers to these six questions:

  • What are they experiencing that they don't want to experience?
  • How does it impact normal daily functioning in job, relationships, and personal satisfaction?
  • What motivates them to get help?
  • What compels them to be willing to pay for help, and when will that occur?
  • Who do they turn to for referrals or recommendations?
  • Where do they look for resources and information?
When we know these psycho-graphics, we know where and how to deliver marketing strategies that will connect with our ideal clients at the moment of their readiness to pay for our help.

If we concentrate our marketing efforts on connecting with this moment, the urge to hire us is almost irresistible. Filling a practice then is so much easier, because clients practically beg us for appointments.

01 July 2009

Are You Planning to Become a Successful Solopreneur?

Everyone in business intends to be successful. But are you planning how to actually get there?

Plan?? Who me? I hear you groaning.

When I ask clients, what's your current marketing plan, most often the answer I hear is: My plan is to get more clients and make more money.

Uh huh, I say. And exactly what are the structures and action steps that accomplish that?

Well, uh, I hear, I put a profile up on the internet, and I have business cards, and I sent a letter announcing my services to chiropractor's offices but I haven't really gotten much business yet. I guess I just need to do more of that.

Okay, let's stop right here. This is not a plan.

A plan at minimum identifies what you want (goals), what you need to have and do to get it (actions), how you will know it's working (measures), and when you are holding yourself accountable for getting things done (timelines).

A marketing plan is your road map to success. It keeps you focused on the effective and efficient actions that will have the desired payoffs. It helps prevent detours into the land of self-sabotage.

And even prior to thinking through your marketing plan, there are 3 very necessary steps you can take, starting right now.

That's why I introduce my clients -- most of whom are introverts just like you who go into heart pounding, sweaty panic at the idea of promoting themselves at networking events -- to the step by step foundation building and advanced actions that get them on that road to private practice success.

What are the first necessary steps -- before a marketing plan, business cards, profiles, and referral solicitation contacts?
  • carve out a minimum of 3+ hours every day for developing your marketing plan, building the structures, taking the actions, and evaluating the results
  • start with narrowing your marketing to one ideal client type
  • know their psycho-graphics inside and out
If you haven't done these three necessary steps, no amount of planning, or profiles or business cards or letters to others will help you fill your practice on a consistent basis.