It took years to finally figure out how to grow a website into a business.
Every resource I tried to learn from either taught me how to grow a blog or how to grow a business with few overlaps.
The problem is that building a community of readers doesn't mean you're making money, and building a business doesn't mean you're building your reputation.
I've had plenty of readers and no money. I've also had a lot of money and a small reputation outside of working for my clients. It took me years to figure out how to build both at the same time. (This is also called "branding", but every single idiot marketer out there has ruined that word.)
It took me years and years to develop this weekly and monthly checklist so I could actually grow my site, make money, and also bring opportunities my way.
I thought I'd share it here for free so a starting business owner doesn't need to punch themselves in the face for years trying to figure it all out.
Just so we're clear, this is how to build an ACTUAL business where you have products and services. This is quite different from something like an affiliate website.
This is also A LOT of work. If you don't have time for all this, you might want to re-evaluate if you truly want an online business. If you do, here's what you need:
1. Decide on your goal
I break my goals down by: year, quarter, month, and week.
You have to limit each section by three. It's easy to write a list that consists of "1,000,000 Twitter followers, a billion dollars, all the speaking gigs, to write a book, to travel to Europe, to HAVE IT ALL, redesign my website, have a billion newsletter subscribers... but you'll quickly get overwhelmed and shut down.
Small actions towards the BIGGEST goals is the real secret.
So, how do you decide on a goal? Go for the ones that you want in x amount of time. Where do you want to be by the end of this week? Next month? In three months? This time next year?
Personally, I like to go by the biggest ROI. So, for my business, I need to keep a roof over my head. This IS my job, so one of my top goals is a certain revenue goal for each category.
(P.S., you can grow your income and your readership at the same time. It's not a chicken or the egg thing. Those bloggers who tell you otherwise are dumb.)
If you want to make a living from your blog, you have to have a monetary goal. If that is the case, you also need something to sell. So another thing you need to add onto your list is either a product or service to sell.
What would have the BIGGEST impact on your life and business? Those should be your goals.
Studies have shown that the more "to do's" we have in our head, the more exhausted and stressed out we feel all the time. If you have ideas for what you want to do, but you don't want to execute on them yet, put them in a notebook or an Evernote file titled "Later On", and make a note to review them in a few months.
I have a Later On folder that I review every three months. I take from it when it's time to act on those ideas. It's over 50,000 words and if I tried to keep a running memory of that 24/7, I would be in a padded cell. Get it out of your head so you can focus on what matters.
Some ideas for the biggest ROI include: a certain number of posts, landing your first speaking gig, a certain number of social media followers, networking with 10 people a day, launching your first product, or gaining one new client a week.
If you don't know where to start, start with:
1. First 50 blog posts.
2. E-mail 10 new people a day to connect with them. DO NOT PITCH. Just meet new people. This will help you develop content, products, and services.
3. Create a list of 5 things you could sell or do for other people. One of these will eventually repeat all the time or really excite you. Star these ones.
Having a network continues to be the best thing I ever developed. When you finally launch a product or service, having people to tell is essential.
Your blogging strategy must tie into those goals stated above. Shooting blogs into the never-ending internet world doesn't always work.
If you want to make money, you need to have a blogging plan that compliments that goal. You'd start dropping hints of products and services you want to offer.
If you want a bigger e-mail list, you need to plug it throughout the post. Release something special ONLY to your e-mail subscribers.
If you want to establish your reputation in your niche, start pumping out the best "how to" guides, tutorials, free information, what you've learned, etc. Ignore what your competitors are doing and focus on how you would help someone who came to you for advice and wanted to get started in your niche.
This is one that I need to work on. I usually spend so much time on client work that I forget to plan out my blog and YouTube strategy. I only recently started tying all of these together and the results have been better than I could have ever imagined.
Personally, I love YouTube. It helps with Google search results and it helps mix it up from writing so much. If you need to reach the younger demographic, YouTube is ESSENTIAL to your plan. Of course, if video isn't something you feel comfortable with, avoid it. Instead do something like podcasting, writing on Medium.com, or writing on Quora.
Just be somewhere else outside of your website.
4. Top 3 social channels
While everyone says to be on ALL the social channels, if you're still building your business just pick the top three. So far, I receive the most benefits from Reddit, Twitter, and Quora.
Stay native to the platform, read Gary Vaynerchuk's work, and do your best.
Be active on your social channels every day. Share great content, talk to people, and plug your stuff when it's appropriate. Social media is for SOCIAL sharing. Not just a platform for you to plug your own content 24/7.
I recently bought a tiny notebook to keep next to my computer to remember all the social channels to participate in every day. Remember what I said about keeping things out of your head and instead putting in systems to get things done? Yeah, that helps a lot. I get consumed with work and creating content and for weeks can forget to post to my Facebook page.
I might be developing early Alzheimer's, but for anyone else who works an exhausting amount of hours, the less to remember the better. I'd say it's better to use that brain space for bigger things.
5. Top 5 things to do every day
These are the steps outside your content, client work, and social media work. You're building a business, and that requires all kinds of extra things such as responding to e-mail, catching up with past and current clients, practicing your craft, brainstorming new ideas, etc.
As a copywriter, I make sure to actually practice my writing every single day. I work on creative writing, business writing, journalism-style pieces, and copywriting. All of them help me tweak my skills. Although I've bene writing for most of my life now, I still realize there is so much to learn.
Make time to study your craft and niche.
6. People to pitch
This is where the hard work comes in. Creating content and posting on social media is time consuming, but you HAVE to make room for clients and customers if you want a real business.
After awhile, clients start coming to YOU because of your reputation, but until then it's up to you to go find them.
This list could include new clients, brands you want to work with, a guest post opportunity you want, etc. Send ideas to people as often as you can.
7. Make sure everything has one call to action
Search through all your blog posts, social platforms, and every other place you are online to make sure your call to action fuels your goal.
If your goal is to build your e-mail list, you need to have all your channels include the link to where they can sign up. Nothing is worse than someone WANTING to be on your list but not being able to get there easily.
8. Free stuff to give away
As you get deeper into your industry by talking to your customers and clients, you will know the different things they need help with.
Keep a running list so you can create content to serve those needs. People will come back time and time again for someone who actually solves their problems. Create ebooks, Google documents, or however else you want to distribute your information.
People love things that help them achieve their goals. You have the knowledge and the shortcuts so put it together and get it out there.
9. Develop an enticing e-mail offering
E-mail lists are great. If you provide value, people will stay on your list. If you don't, they'll abandon ship faster than you can snap your fingers.
I gauge my content value by my e-mail list. If a post gets subscribers, GREAT. If not, what could I do better next time?
If you want to build your website into a real business, you will need an e-mail list. Since opening my business, my e-mail open rate has not dipped below 50%, and it's one of my proudest statistics. I focus on putting content in my e-mails that can't be found anywhere else I publish.
10. Next 5 marketing steps
So, now you'll have your next content pieces to publish, your social media platforms to post on, the next people to pitch, and now your next five marketing steps. They all sound similar, but the results are different.
Marketing is one of the best things you can do for your business. This area includes how you are going to get in front of people who have never heard of you before. This might be guest posting, giving free workshops in your town, commenting on other people's content, creating something newsworthy, or partnering with other people.
The people in your network already know who you are. These steps should be how you're going to get in front of people who don't know you. I know I just said that earlier, but it's really important to understand. The faster you accomplish the steps in this category, the faster your name grows.
11. Sales funnel development
Always, always be looking to provide value without giving more of your time. It's great to meet people and help them, but at a certain point you'll need to take what you already know and sell it. I have Launch Yo Biz. After the 100th e-mail consisting of, "How do I become a full-time freelancer?!?!?!?", I was like okay clearly I can't keep typing 500-word e-mails. I need to actually put all the steps together.
I only have so many hours in the day, so putting it all together was SO important. Depending on what you do, this could include e-books, online courses, in-person courses, bootcamps, retreats, physical books, or anything else that makes sense.
12. Closing contracts
This is my list of contracts to close this week and this month. I also keep track of what steps I need to take to close all the pending sales. Did someone ask to see my portfolio? Did someone need a quote? Did someone ask about my services last week?
13. Documents to create
This one is not as fun as the other steps, but still an essential part. This is all the legal stuff I need to create throughout the week and month to close all the legal loops for my business.
This involves contracts, questionnaires, pitching templates, questionnaires, and every document I need to automate as much of this business as I can.
14. Test what worked
There were many parts of my business I THOUGHT would work, but failed completely. Other parts I didn't think would work and absolutely took off.
This part is tedious, but track what pitches worked the best, what social media posts brought attention, what Facebook ads converted the best, etc. Track everything. This is how you become a well-oiled sales-making content-producing machine.
15. BIGGEST ideas
It's important to let your brain go wild and imagine all the possible big things this business could help you do. Maybe you'll create an international business, build a non-profit as an extension of your knowledge, become BFF's with Oprah (just me?), buy a warehouse and bring your business into your community... Who knows!
You need a big vision to get yourself out of bed in the morning and push you toward a way to help the world. Keep this list nearby because you need to stay focused on the long-term otherwise the day in and day out struggles will bury the reason you started your business in the first place.
I really hope that helped. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you achieve your goals in the comment section below!