Important: This article is really for people in the beginning stages of business and feeling overwhelmed with all of the things they “should” do.
*I list some resources in this article that I whole-heartedly believe in and they are affiliate links. I would be posting this same info without the links so if you prefer not to click on the links below, simply google the name of the resource to explore what I’m talking about.
What inspired me to write this was when I saw a post in a business Facebook group from a woman who is so excited to build a business to replace the income from her job and was stuck because she didn’t have a logo.
You DON’T need a logo to get clients but I’ll get there in a moment.
I fully understand that you want to present a professional and polished image to the world.
Your ideal clients are people who want REAL over someone who is perfect.
Does this mean, lookin’ like a hot mess who is totally unorganized and telling yourself that it’s just fine? Sometimes, it feels that way and keep showing up anyway. But sometimes flying by the seat of your pants is really just following the flow and trusting that the perfect people always show up to be your clients.
By no means am I saying that flying by the seat of your pants forever is a great idea. I do recommend getting organized, creating plans and taking bold action, too.
Plus, I don’t think anyone is really as polished as they think they should be, so give yourself a break.
When you see things like “Grow a business,” or “build a business,” what this really translates to is “having consistent clients.”
I bootstrapped my business at the very beginning and you can do it, too.
Would it be awesome to have someone hand you $20k to get all of the stuff I’m talking about in this article? Sure. Is it necessary? Nope. I think bootstrapping things also builds a great discernment muscle between what an investment in your business vs what’s an expense.
There are a lot of things you think you *might* need but you really don’t. You can get clients without these things that I mention.
All you need to get your first client is the willingness to talk with people and invite them to buy what you have.
Sounds easy, right? But we complicate this SO much.
All of the things I list below, with the exception of #7, are great things to have. BUT if you are in the beginning stages of bootstrapping your business, consider that you don’t need these things.
Here’s what you DON’T need:
1. You Don’t Need a Website
If you need someone to make appts with you, you can use a Facebook business page almost as a mini-website and a link to either call or email you.
While it’s convenient to have automation like an email list and a scheduling system, work on getting clients first and provide them with stellar service and get some cash flow going in your business. THEN you can put some of that cash flow toward things like a simple website, email system, etc.
When you do get to the point of a website, I highly recommend the WordPress platform over Wix or SquareSpace. AND choose the platform that you feel the best about.
2. You Don’t Need a Logo
Logos can range from $5 on Fiverr to well over $20k for a branding agency for a larger business. I used to work on advertising and branding campaigns that charged companies $25k for a logo and a style guide. (A style guide is a document that illustrates the brand colors, fonts, and brand guidelines.)
Tips for a logo:
Please don’t google pictures and then use them for your logo. You don’t have permission to use stuff you Google. Respect people’s intellectual property and copyrights.
If you’re not a designer or have any design experience, then don’t do this yourself. I met someone who was taking free classes in Photoshop to teach herself how to design her own logo. The dozens of hours she spent taking Photoshop classes could have been spent getting actual clients who paid her money.
We all do stuff in our business that’s incredibly time-consuming because we think we can’t afford to hire it out. however, is that true? Do you really need it? If you do, get creative and be open to all of the possibilities of how it can show up. Perhaps it’s a trade or an intern needs a really great project for their portfolio.
You can start out with a simple text-based logo and make sure you get that logo in what’s called a Vector file. A Vector file means you can make it ginormous and it won’t get pixelated. Any designer knows what a vector file is. If they don’t, work with a different designer.
3. You Don’t Need a Big Following
I recently saw someone with over 10k followers on Instagram doing a Go Fund Me Campaign because she wasn’t able to pay her rent.
Dang, this bums me out. People spend all of this time and effort building a following, yet wonder why they’re not making money.
On one hand, a massive kudos for this person being willing to ask for what they need! That takes courage and vulnerability and I applaud that.
On the other hand, if you have a huge following and not enough clients to pay your rent, you have a pipeline issue.
In other words, if you don’t have a simple pipeline or funnel for people who follow you to get more info from you and eventually pay you for what you offer, I don’t care what kind of following you have.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the popularity contest on social media. Focus on real connections. Focus on having a simple pipeline to authentically invite people who are following you to receive more value from you through an opt-in of some kind or to book a conversation.
4. You Don’t Need a Big Email List
In the coaching and online marketing world, a popular thing has been to host online summits that feature a bunch of experts but the requirement is you have to have an email list of 5,000 people and you have to email your list at least twice.
Here’s why this standard is so ridiculous: 5,000 people on your list tells you absolutely NOTHING. It doesn’t measure engagement. It doesn’t measure how many people are regularly reading your emails. It’s often a vanity number.
You can “technically” have 5,000 people on your list and 2,000 of them have unsubscribed or 50% of them haven’t opened an email from you in over 90 days.
I’ve hosted experts with 1,000 people on their list and they get 10x the engagement than people who say they have a list of 10,000.
What’s more important than the vanity number is engagement.
I’ve had a healthy six-figure business for several years with less than 2,000 people actively opening my emails. And I’ve been sporadic in sending emails and until some recent cleanup, my email list was not the most engaged.
Now, if you are a massive email marketer, throw everything I’ve said about email out the window. You need lots of email addresses and lots of emails to that list to sell your goods. My guess is you are not a massive email marketer, which is why you’re reading this.
Have you ever had the experience of opting into someone’s email list because you’re genuinely excited about what they are providing? After you opt in, two things are common: it’s crickets and you don’t hear from them unless they are selling the next thing. Or you hear from them SO much that you unsubscribe because who has time to ready daily emails for weeks on end?
Don’t be either of these types of people. Show up consistently in people’s inboxes. (Trust me, I’m working on this one myself.)
I have clients who have six-figure businesses with less than a few hundred people on their email list. I know people who have healthy profit-producing businesses with NO official email list.
Please stop buying into the hype that you need to grow a massive email list to be successful with your business. It’s simply not true and is likely a giant distraction from getting you to do the real income-producing work.
Is an email list helpful? Yes. But don’t fixate on it.
*Remember, at some point, you will very likely need this stuff, but you can actually get awesome ideal clients without it.
5. You Don’t Need a Shopping Cart
If you have PayPal, you can receive money from people.
And yes, you do need some way of receiving money from people. Whatever you choose, please don’t charge a fee if people use a card to pay you. If the 2-4% that PayPal or credit cards take as the processing fee makes you lose money, raise your prices by 5% and accept it as a cost of doing business.
Again, while it’s nice to have automated systems like a shopping cart, you don’t HAVE to have it to receive money from people.
One of my clients has two offers: single sessions and a package of sessions. When people want to work with her, she sends them a PayPal invoice. The rest of her work is done with higher-end consulting and people are paying her with checks for larger contracts. She has no shopping cart and doesn’t need one.
If you are wanting to deliver digital products like an online course, then I highly recommend MemberVault that can essentially act as a website, a place to host ALL of your digital products, and it includes a payment gateway (how people pay you.)
After using several different systems to deliver my courses, I LOVE MemberVault. Their pricing is uncomparable and the founders and team are amazing, too.
If you are in the place of looking for a shopping cart, my favorite shopping cart (so far) is ThriveCart. I especially like that it’s a one-time cost and not a monthly expense. If you want to check out their 1-time cost, here is my affiliate link to do that: http://bit.ly/yourthrivecart
6. You Don’t Need an Email Provider
First, do NOT send mass emails using your personal gmail or hotmail email address. It’s spam.
Second, please don’t use InfusionSoft or Ontraport. It will be overkill for your bootstrap business. SO many people have been sucked into this fantasy that you have to have this robust system, such as InfustionSoft, and what it ends up being is paying a car payment each month to *maybe* send out a handful of emails per month.
Just use something simple.
I’ve never used MailerLite but in my research, I recommend this one over MailChimp. MailerLite also has a free option to get started with, which is nice when you’re bootstrapping.
The one I personally use is ConvertKit. Another one that I’ve heard good things about is ActiveCampaign.
When I switched from Ontraport to ConvertKit, I got a trial account for both ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign and for me, I felt that ConvertKit was more intuitive to use AND I really like their brand and how they treat their customers. You can read a detailed report of this shift and how I simplified my business in this article.
Plus, Convert Kit’s annual event, Craft + Commerce, focuses on having more female speakers on their stage than men and they are committed to diversity in their speaker selection as well. And in a world of online marketing, which is notorious for old-school white men who primarily perpetuate fear-based marketing (also called “bro-marketing”) and events who primarily feature white men as their speakers, their conference is really refreshing.
Yes, I just went there.
7. Click Funnels
Here is what you need to make Click Funnels work:
- A list of people who will buy from you OR a minimum of hundreds of dollars each month to invest for paid traffic
- A digital product that you know you can sell
- A pipeline or funnel that converts viewers into paying customers
This may seem obvious BUT I have had dozens of conversations from really excited people who are GREAT at what they do and they can’t wait to make money while they sleep with Click Funnels.
After months of NOT making money with their Click Funnels, they usually reach out to me thinking that they have a messaging or marketing problem. They are tired of paying a fee every month that isn’t making them any money.
When I ask them if they have the three things listed above, the answer is usually, “no, no, no.”
Problem solved! Get that stuff done FIRST, then do something like ClickFunnels. And for anyone who’s reading this saying, “Yeah, but if I invest in this now, it will be the motivation to get the stuff done to make ClickFunnels work.”
You can most definitely try that strategy. Let me know how that works for you. 😉
And notice if the ClickFunnels account manager or the person who referred you who’s receiving a commission every month you’re paying for the service is the one encouraging you to do that.
A lot of people I talk to have usually been sold ClickFunnels while attending an event, retreat or from their coach and the person referring them to ClickFunnels is conveniently getting a commission on anyone who buys. Be aware of their motivation – is it to refer Clickfunnels because they make a commission or because they asking the honest question if you REALLY actually need it and more importantly, are you ready to implement it?
What do I use? I use simple sales pages on my website and opt-in forms using ConvertKit. I use the Divi theme and have a WordPress site. People either love or hate the Divi theme. Choose a website platform that works for you.
8. You Don’t Need a Long-term Lease for Office Space
This one is for practitioners or people who like to do sessions in person. A client I worked with years ago reached out to me originally because she just got done signing a 5-year lease on office space with multiple treatment rooms and she was already losing money every month because she didn’t have enough customers to cover her rent + a reception person to manage the front office.
If you are a massage therapist, practitioner, or a coach who prefers to do in-person work, then get creative. But don’t go overboard on a space then put a ton of pressure on yourself to get ANY client who will pay through the door.
A colleague of mine is a consultant and does a lot of in-person work with her local clients. She has part of her house as her office. Look at a co-working space. Get creative!
While there is magic when you lean in and trust the universe, don’t make decisions that put you into such a state of desperation, that you can’t consciously create the flow of clients you want to work with. Make sense?
9. You Don’t Need to Heal Completely or “Feel” Ready
Here’s the thing – I have yet to meet someone who felt totally ready and confident before they launched their business. I had a mentor tell me years ago, “You know that you’re playing big enough when you want to throw up every day.” haha, there’s some truth to that.
We all have our shit. Building a business is a great way to bring that shit up. It’s usually very uncomfortably and highly inconvenient.
It can also be a trap that sounds like, “I should have my shit together better.” Or, “What if people find out I’m a fraud?”
A beautiful thing happens when you witness yourself working with people – you see just how awesome you are. And while you may see some things you want to improve, you have to MOVE and actually do the thing you’re talking about or it will feel impossible to share your gifts with people.
Trust yourself more and the only way to build your trust muscle is to get into the habit of doing stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable.
10. You Don’t Need More Information
Stop watching all of the free webinars. Stop Googling how to make money on YouTube when you haven’t recorded or shared your first video yet. Stop trying to figure out the perfect signature talk if you’re not inquiring about how to get the speaking gigs. And please stop doing hours and hours of research on stuff you don’t need to use yet in your business.
Please just STOP all of the information.
You don’t need more information, you need to implement what you know right now. And you know more than you think you do.
Unsubscribe from at least half of the people sending you information. If you have FOMO that you may miss the ONE thing that will make or break your business, here’s the thing that will make or break your business: Success is merely a result of habits. And most of those habits are micro habits (stuff you do daily) and not these “pie-in-the-sky” habits that happen once a year.
While there are other things I can add to this list and rant about as I’ve done here, these are the big ones I see people spend a lot of time and money on.
These ten things are usually just a giant distraction from doing the real work:
- Connecting with and building relationships with real people
- Having clear offers and pricing
- Inviting people to work with you <== this is the BIG one
- And consistently showing up (yes even when it’s inconvenient and annoying
And MOST IMPORTANTLY, I say all of this in the energy of following what works for YOU. I’m not talking about taking action that’s aggressive and gross just for the sake of taking action.
Watch for Part 2, which will be shorter, about what you DO need in your business.