Now before I get started, I want to underscore that depending on your leave from work, the decision to start a business and receive an income may impact your benefits, so make sure you’re up to date on all of the current laws in your country and with your employer, ok?
Today we are going to talk about the first things you need to think about, if you are going to start an online business on maternity leave.
I began the early foundations of my business (blogging, creating content, etc.) during my maternity leaves. In Canada we have a year off, so it allowed me to build content, a community and really think about what knowledge I wanted to share with the world.
Then, as I returned to my career, I continued approaching my business as a fun side project. To be honest, I’ve had so much fun with figuring out online business. It has been so much googling and so much growth.
I needed a project on maternity leave to keep my mind engaged. I also wanted to do professional development on maternity leave as digital skills are evolving so fast and I work with millennials and Gen Z who are keeping me on my online toes!
In talking to many of you on The Great Maternity Leave Instagram Account (instagram.com/thegreatmaternityleave) it seems many of you are also solopreneurs, entrepreneurs or figures working on your online presence or building the foundations of an online business.
It’s SUCH a good time to be where you are. Digital technology (and knowledge) has truly been democratized. It’s affordable, user friendly, and you can get started with the basics of business building yourself, and bring on professionals and freelancers as you begin to generate an income.
But that’s down the road. Today I want to talk about the VERY first steps of building an online business. I’ll be speaking to those of you who are in a service-oriented or coaching style business, okay? I’ll save online products for a separate series, because they have their own fun strategies.
So if you are ready to go, here is a really fascinating way to explain how to start out in building an online business and what it REALLY comes down to. I like to use visual imagery in my teaching as it stays in your memory. I don’t know about you but I can NEVER remember the acronyms I’ve learnt in all of the courses I’ve taken!
The 4 Key Things to Focus On As You Build Your Online Busines
I absolutely cannot wait to share with you some of the skills and the many pieces that are involved in how to get started as an online entrepreneur or professional coach.
I originally posted this article on my blog for coaches, but it really is applicable to anyone seeking to establish an online presence and a business that monetizes your knowledge.
Many parent entrepreneurs are exclusively online and are making a great income without having a single in-person meeting with their clients; they are meeting over skype, facetime, and zoom and co-creating incredible results with their clients while managing an intentional lifestyle that works for them.
It is false advertising to say that it is quick or easy to build an online business.
It is not easy to build an online business.
Establishing an online presence is hard work. It takes consistent work and courage. Do this consistently, and reap the benefits later. You’ll butt up against your obstacles to learning and fixed mindsets over and over again and you will be on a steep learning curve from day one. You have to ask:
Is online coaching right for me? Should I launch an online business?
Building an online business is totally overwhelming for non-techies, and like many of you, I found it hard/overwhelming/confusing/discouraging to sort through the bajillion things I felt that I needed to do. Email lists? Website? Domain? Funnel? Liquid code? What’s that? Metrics? Analytics? Conversation rates? What?!
The Number One Mistake of New Coaches and Online Entrepreneurs
The number one mistake I see new coaches and online entrepreneurs doing is getting caught up in the minutae, analytics and systems, and they lose sight of the core of their business and spread their time too thin, picking away at the multitude of projects that can pile up.
Another Common Mistake of Online Entrepreneurs
Comparison. Everyone gets caught up in comparing their chapter 1 to others’ chapter 10. Because social media is a highlight reel, many people do not realize what is going on behind the scenes of a succesfull online business that is scaling well.
With those in mind, ask yourself. Am I going to be able to avoid focusing on these two key mistake areas? Does online business still sound appealing? Yes?
Now, take my arm and walk with me – take your first steps right now.
ADVICE FOR COACHES BUILDING AN ONLINE COACHING BUSINESS
Literally, you’ve just finished your ICF Coach Knowledge Assessment, graduated from your Accredited Coach Training Program, have your potentials and you are ready to make an impact on the world as a coach ( you’ve always known it was coming by the way, congratulations on listening to your intuition!)
Or maybe you’ve finally decided to take on a project that fulfills your sense of purpose and entrepreneurial desires (by the way, I am a huge advocate of beginning this journey on mat leave! It preserves your sanity, sense of purpose and gives you something to fire you up!)
First, you must build your property:
Build the foundation:
Buy a domain (I use GoDaddy.Com)
Set up the Building:
Set up a free WordPress website (blog.) Map your domain to this website. You will spend some time getting used to the WordPress platform, then learning SEO and a bajillion other things I alluded to above, but that comes with time. They become fun projects and mini modules to cover in your rapid learning curve this year.
Paint the walls and decorate:
Spend some time writing blogs, getting to know WordPress and building out a basic menu and content. There’s lots of googling and some frustration in this stage, just like any house building or renovation project, right?
Want to make it look nice? Sign up for free, user friendly graphic design tools. At the end of this article I’ll send you over to a free pdf that lists all of these great resources for you in a nice step-by-step process.
Put up an Inviting Sign:
Signs will show people what you’re about. Follow SEO principles so that people find your website and blog on google.
Sign up for a Mailchimp or other free email marketing account and begin building an email list. Want tips on how to do that? That will be in the pdf, too. But I want you to stay focused and with me on this first topic.
Again, there will be learning curve with mail chimp or whichever platform you’d like to use. Embrace it. Again, think of it as another fun mini module or learning module for you to check off. Spend some time painting the signs.
Create a Lovely Garden for your Guests:
Choose a social media platform that will be your own garden. I’d recommend Facebook and Instagram for coaches or service based businesses because you’ll be focusing on your community, the tribe that you want to attract, and there is no better way to serve your community as a coach than with live video and the utility of these two platforms. As a mom, I also find these two platforms best for running a business from my iPhone!
Remember, a house can have different gardens. Some people might like a contemporary, visually rich garden (Instagram) with lots of interaction – others may like more structure and traditional gardens (Facebook where you can drop files and have private groups.)
Your guests will enjoy your lovely gardens. They may wander between them or stick to one. It’s okay. They’re getting an experience they enjoy. Make sure your gardens have nice features and flowers. Start planting more seeds in your gardens. What are the resources, tools, insights and learnings you want to offer that give them a taste of your business?
You’re enriching their lives with every seed you plant in that garden and every smell they take in, or gaze over the garden they make.
Water these seeds with conversation and interaction. Talk to your guests about the seeds, and what type of flower they will grow into.
What Type of Guests Would You Like to Attract?
As you stand and admire the lovely gardens and structure you’ve created, think about what type of people would appreciate what you offer.
Now, here’s a really important part – this ties in with what we call attraction-based marketing.
You can try to appeal to everybody and have a rather haphazard garden. Certain features will draw people in, but they won’t stay because there’s not enough of what they like. OR, you can cultivate something that touches your soul that you are happy to tend to every day, day in and day out. It has a theme and attracts guests who love and want more of that theme. They stay longer, and they are drawn back. This is exactly what you want to do!
Decide what you are about, what you want to offer, and don’t try to appeal to everybody.
You may say, wait a minute Carina, is that niche marketing or finding your niche? Why yes friend, yes it is.
This visual really helps you with thinking about your ideal customer, your customer avatar as they say in fancy online marketing forums. Who would be drawn to this garden? What do these types of guests like more of? Who do you want to spend time with in your gardens, what type of conversations do you want to have, and what are the characteristics of people you truly resonate with? Your vibe attracts your tribe, and your online garden will, too.
If you haven’t done any work yet on your personal strengths as a coach and your online leadership style, I invite you to have that conversation with me.
What Will You Serve Them?
As your guests enter your different gardens (Facebook, Instagram, Blog) and you get an idea of their tastes (similar to yours) you’ll want to keep them in the gardens, have the time to speak with them, and cultivate a relationship. What kind of refreshment will you serve them?
How can you serve your guests?
As I think this, the British part of me is thinking of standing around drinking Pimms.
Think about the coaching models and tools that you loved in coach training, or the solutions your business is providing to your customers and how much they touched you when you first experienced them.
What changed your own life? What did you come out of coach training most wanting to share with people? Why do you believe in your service? how did it make YOU feel when you first experienced this service?
I encourage you to generously share little gifts with your guests, to elevate their experience and have the walk away feeling inspired, positive, lighter, happy and more confident – or, whatever feeling it is you want them to have.
At the end of the day, building an online business (and your tribe / community) is not about you as a coach or an entrepreneur.
It’s not about your models or the best systems or the best tech – it’s not even about the biggest email lists or followers. It’s about the unglamorous work of kneeling in that garden, tending to it day in and day out, planting seeds and waiting for them to grow patiently, watching carefully what your guests enjoy the most, talk to you about and ask for more of, and then feeling deep appreciation when you see the smiles on their face as they walk among the garden and chat with other guests.
At the end of the day we don’t remember what people told us, but we remember who people made us feel. Online, or IRL.
Through our online interactions we are leaving an energetic footprint. We are setting a wavelength that other people will be attracted to (and compelled to join.)
Remember dear entrepreneurs, it will always be about the recipient of your service. How you made them feel, how their life was elevated, how you solved their problems.
You have a special gift that the world has been waiting for. You have the tools, training and the experience of someone who elevated their own lives and can now can share it, in a beautiful cultivated space (your online garden) with enticing refreshments (samples of these tools.)
I hope you enjoyed this visual and that it serves you as you begin to think about the presence you want to establish, which platforms to engage in online, and how to begin cultivating a community of like-minded people. People who you’d want to be with – whom you can serve with your unique mix of talents, energy and background.
There’s someone out there waiting for what you are doing, in the style you are doing it, and the way you are delivering it online. This, no-one else can replicate.
There’s someone out there waiting for you to help them…but they can’t find you. They like your style, the way you do things, they think like you and know that you can help them. But… they don’t know you are out there. They don’t know how to find you. Tie to step up, share who you are and what you do, and claim you place online. It’s time to share your voice and play big.
And I’m here to tell you, go for it!