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Top Five Posts on SS101 to Start or Grow Your Business

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Hello, Steppers!

Today’s post is all about… ME!

Haha just kidding. It’s about you and wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey. I’ve gathered together some of the most helpful material for entrereneurs, yet produced by yers truly.

Not everything I write is pure gold. But every once in a while I get something write (er, RIGHT) that resonates with my Steppers.

So I’ve cobbled together an “internal roundup” of the FIVE most-read, most-shared, most commented and hopefully, most helpful posts so far on Shoestring101.

Inside you will find posts on:

Continue reading…

Results of my Most Recent 30 Day, Thousand Dollar Challenge

If you were following Shoestring101 in January, you know that I did another 30 Day, Thousand Dollar Challenge.

In case you’re tuning in late to this channel, I’ve been able to start a number of small businesses with no capital. Or less capital than you might take from the first hour of a garage sale (hence Shoestring101).

Some businesses I’ve started publicly and documented in real time on this blog. January’s Challenge was no exception.

The 30 Day, Thousand Dollar Challenge is meant to show how possible it is (with a little hustle) to start a small business on the side and make a decent income WITHOUT:

risking capital,

borrowing money,

or taking on partners that may or may not share your vision.

I’ve done a number of these Challenges to demonstrate the Shoestring101 principles  in “object lessons” for my upcoming information product…

Side Money Blueprint: Start Your Own Profitable Business From Scratch in 30 Days Without Risking a Dime (or Wasting Your Time).

Last month, rather than choosing the kind of business I was going to start in 30 days and make $1,000 with, I asked YOU (my good-lookin’ Readers, the Shoestring Steppers) to pick what kind of business to do and whom it should serve.

The results are in.

The Business You Chose for this Month’s Challenge

So, starting a business centered around writing ad copy (copywriting) and designing sales funnels for middle-class small business owners around the world has finally invaded the lower layers of my subconscious.

Last night my German Shepherd, Jovi (yes, kinda like Jon Bon Jovi) was put out to do his business at 10:30 pm, but he didn’t do his doody. Ahem, duty. SO he got me up at 2:30am instead for an emergency outing.

In my mind rather than thinking,

“Damn dog, okay wait a minnit I’ll get up and let you out”;

instead what bubbled up in my grogginess was,

“I’m sorry but you have come to a portion of the site that only members can access. In order to get this amazing benefit please register for our free gift and give us your email…”

Heh.

YUP, sales funnel strucures and copywriting are actually coming out of my ears… though during the 30 Day, Thousand Dollar Challenge I only actually earned a couple hundred dollars.

$216 to be exact.

That’s a durn sight SHORT of the thousand clams I claimed I would be able to make from scratch.

I guess that here I should point out that:

  1. It didn’t end up COSTING me, like most failed attempts at business cost their owners.
  2. I DID have some very beneficial side effects as a result of starting this biz!

Side Effects of This 30 Day Challenge

Before examining why I didn’t end up making one thousand spendable dollars in thirty days, let’s expound the benefits and lessons that DID come out of this month’s Challenge.

Learned the Process

Shoestring Step ONE is Get OFF Your ASS… which I did, at least for thirty minutes to two and a half hours a day.

Now, I realize that a “real workday” is much longer than that. But in the spirit of “Side Money Blueprint” I wanted to show it’s possible to make a side biz with side time. After all, most folks are not gonna QUIT their job to start a business… at least I seriously hope they don’t… they’re going to start a little something in their spare time. Well, with three other businesses of my OWN to run I didn’t “quit my job”… but what I did do was to try and eke out a little time every day to dedicate to working at this side gig.

Either I would be writing copy and constructing sales funnels or finding people for whom to write copy and construct sales funnels, for thirty days.

Shoestring Step TWO is Find Out The W’s.. Who Wants What, Why they Want it, Where and hoW they may be found. “Marketing” should really be called “finding”. My son asked me what is the difference between marketing and sales, since they seemed to him to be the same thing.

“Nope,” I told him. “They’re nowhere NEAR the same thing. Sales is what you do to convince someone they need something. Marketing is finding the people that are already convinced they need something, and letting them know you have it.”

Thanks Professor Kurt. 8-)

So this is another thing I did daily… I looked for the W’s. I thought I would find them on Fiverr, but in truth it was harder and more time-consuming than I thought it would be. We’ll get to that later when we look at why I failed this time around. But first, some other side benefits:

Shoestring Step THREE is Learn To Create Value. This I did by playing with free trials of ClickFunnels and LeadPages (btw of the two I found LeadPages to have the best educational value, and ClickFunnels to be easier for this non-techie guy to use).

Full disclosure: clicking on the ClickFunnels links ^ here takes you to a 60 second video about ClickFunnels. I found that ClickFunnels was easier for me to use and yes, this is an “affilliate” link. My opinion is not for sale… but if you wanna make your own sales funnel  and you’re not a techie I’ve already done some testing for ya.  ‘Nuff said. 

Now, I never did get to Shoestring Steps FOUR and FIVEMeasure Everything You Do and Now Write Everything Down.

Neglecting these two Steps was probably part of why this particular Challenge failed to bring in $1,000 of side money. More about that later. But doing at least the first three Steps had some real benefits, beyond just learning the process of the copywriting/sales funnel biz. Read on:

Revamped My OWN Sales Funnels – Made $972

THIS side effect was quite tasty.

Since it was tough going sometimes to find the people that needed my services most on Fiverr, I began to use the tools and tricks I was selling on Fiverr to improve my OWN local business gigs.

Physician, heal thyself.

In another post on this site where I speak about the importance of tweaking your own sales funnels, I mention that if you could choose between working for a HIGH hourly rate, say a hundred bucks an hour… or work on a process for your business that increases how much you automatically bring in by one dollar a day… you should choose the second.

Eventually (and sooner than you think) your automatic income will surpass your hourly, “worked for” income. But you won’t have to work to keep getting it.

So when work dried up from Fiverr, rather than do NO funnels and copy… I revamped some funnels and copy for myself

…and increased my income from one of my businesses by $972 in January, plus residual income of $239 a month afterwards!

That’s not a shabby side benefit.

Shucks… I don’t mind at ALL failing to make a thousand bucks last month creating sales funnels for others, if concentrating on my own sales funnels brought in that much extra bank ;-)

(BTW I’m publishing this post on the tenth of February, though I began writing it on the third. In that week I had another four sign-ups, one of whom paid for a YEAR of classes in advance. Of the four new Students, three came from the sales funnels I put in place in January. This is another $1970 received in February so far, ABOVE the $972 in January I mentioned at the beginning of this section. So again, not a shabby side effect)

Okay, couple more side bennies:

Made a Number of New Contacts, Strengthened Old Ones

By announcing to the world I was gonna make a thousand dollars from scratch writing ad copy and constructing sales funnels, I did attract a lot of attention and make some new friends. I also did some work VERY CHEEEEPLY for clients on Fiverr.

These fellas and fellerettes are sure to think of me again when they need some copy written… and I dare say they would be willing to pay a bit more for it. I treated each $5 job like it was a $50 job… and when those turn into $50 jobs I’ll treat ‘em like $500 jobs.

One of those contacts wants me to write her launch funnel and record video for it… what til you see it, I’m going to promote her product BIG TIME because I totally believe in it. More about that later, watch this space.

Got Some Testimonials and Exposure

I’ve decided from this little snafu that I really WANNA do copywriting and sales funnel creation. After all, I’ve done it for myself for years… but doing it for others has really sharpened the saw. Made me better.

Well, when I finally do hang out my shingle to really do copywriting in earnest… as a “real” business and not just a 30 Day Challenge…

…I already have a boatload of testimonials to quote.

Now here in February I already have some repeat biz… folks that ordered from me during the Challenge have come back ’round and ordered more.

(Heh… if they had placed their orders a few days sooner it might’ve spared me some of the embarrassment of missing my thousand dollar goal…)

But that’s all right. The ball has indeed gotten rolling and is picking up momentum.

The Biggest Side Benefit of All

The most important thing I’ve gotten out of this 30 Day Challenge is that my core Subscribers are still loyal, even seeing their “fearless leader” FAIL miserably.

I can’t thank my Steppers enough for the letters of encouragement during this Challenge. I DID have a couple (well, more than a couple) unsubscribe, but that’s okay… I’m not writing Shoestring101 for folks that think there will never be failures along the way to success.

I’m writing Shoestring101 for real people with real aspirations to start their own businesses.

Or if you already have a business… to point the way for YOU to own IT instead of IT owning YOU.

If you’re reading this, you’re in the category of the champions that I do this silly blog for in the first place.

Thank you.

Okay… Lessons Learned

Now, every failure is an EVENT, not a PERSON. sounds a little hollow when you’re licking your own wounds, but it’s still true. Rather than looking at myself as a total loser for taking on this Challenge, then making only $216 of the $1,000 I boasted that I would make… it’s time for me (and you!) to view the game tape and see where the mistakes were made.

The lessons learned fall into three categories. In this Challenge, I:

1) started off on the wrong foot,

2) allowed too many distractions,

3) finished strong but reached cruising speed about three weeks in… too late to make a diffference.

Let’s talk about starting off on the wrong foot. Before I do any endeavor like this, normally I take a step back and get extremely clear on WHY it’s important for me to succeed. I didn’t do that. Instead, I talked and talked on my blog and in my emails, thinking that this would motivate me while I was a-runnin’.

But I would have gotten a faster start… meaning I would make mistakes quicker and fix them sooner… if I had only followed my own directions. See recent my post, How to Get What You Want, for the “pre”-Step you should always take before the Shoestring Steps.

Next critique: I allowed too many distractions. If I had thrown more weight into it, I can see (looking back) that this Challenge could and should have made me $1,000. But I allowed other things to take precedence. I’m not talking about being a hubby and parenting and running my other businesses… those were necessary to do…

…but I AM talking about concentrating on those things when it was time for them, and concentrating on the Challenge when it was time for that.

Instead, I was thinking about my challenge during personal time, and during Challenge time I was thinking about my businesses and family.

D’oh!

By having a more clear statement of what I intended to do each day, I would not have been flying by the seat of my pants most of the time. If I had this Challenge to do over again, I think it would be a success. But as it is, I got to fail, fail miserably, and fail PUBLICLY (never fun) and mainly due to being unorganized and therefore unproductive.

Note to self: don’t handicap self.

Finally, I got my poop in a group and finished strong but it was too little, too late.  Specific actions I could have taken sooner are these:

I should not have started a brand-new Fiverr account. Since I ended up using the old one anyway, that’s where I should have begun instead of wasting time setting up a new one.

I should not have  taken some wrong advice… if you read about the “Fiverr Boss” debacle 20 days into the Challenge, you know that I picked up a program that gave insanely BAD and WRONG practices.

I could have gotten my Fiverr account(s) suspended indefinitely. As it turns out it just resulted in wasted time, but still: when something sounds too good to be true… well, you know the rest.

I should have gotten videos up quicker. Studies show that Fiverr gigs with attached videos are 220% more likely to sell. Now, I held off recording videos for all five gigs (I did record videos for two) because I got sick… but that’s no excuse. Whatever my voice might have sounded like, it would have been better to put up a crappy sounding video than no video at all.

I should have done more research. My “Aha!” moment came too late.  When I figured out the kind of gig titles that were getting traction and changed my gig title and offerings to match, it was the difference between night and day. Trouble is, that happened much later than it should have,

I should have been more prolific in promoting… don’t shoot self in the foot

use more channels… fb, pinterest, youtube, twitter and use ‘em more often and on autopilot

I should have asked for repeat biz sooner. Piles of repeat orders have come in already since Feb 1st.. not that they count for the 30 Day Challenge starting January 1st :-( Had I asked these customers for their repeat biz, they might have placed their orders before the Challenge was ended.

WHEW. That’s a lot of “shoulda”..! In fact, I should all over myself ;-)

Point is, it makes sense to go over one’s mistakes. NOT to wallow, but with the right attitude of “Okay here’s what happened. What did we learn and what are we going to do about it in the future?”

Ladies and gents… my beloved Shoestring Steppers… I can’t promise you I’ll never fail. What I will promise you is fair and honest coverage about the Challenges and to let you learn from my defeats as well as from my victories and the victories of other entrepreneurs.

Thanks for being a Stepper.

Next time I hope to win.

Watch this space.

Keep Stepping,

Kurt

How to Get What You Want

If you could be sure of success– if you knew that whatever you attempted to do would not fail– what would you try to accomplish in the next 30 days?

Today’s post is about getting off your ass.

30 Days, Zero Capital to One Thousand Dollars Challenge

I’m right in the middle of a 30 Day Challenge, and here on day 25 I just realized I didn’t start the Challenge the way I’ve started every other one: with a clear statement of the goal, and why I want to reach it.

Napoleon Hill, the genius writer of Think and Grow Rich, said that there is one way to be sure of reaching one’s goals: to write them down and keep them where you can see them.

Giving thanks for something that you don’t actually have in your possession.. YET… conditions your mind to think of it as already being yours, to think of it as being part of what is due to you.

In his many books and recorded materials he gave various formulas for how to write out these goals and use them daily. I’ve paraphrased my favorite of these formulas.

  1. Write Down exactly what it is that you want
  2. Write Down exactly what you intend to give in return
  3. Develop a plan to begin giving, right now
  4. Memorize your written plans above and repeat them at least a dozen times per day, along with expressions of gratitude that what you wish for is already in your possession. Possession happens first in the mind.

What Does Kurt Frankenberg Want for Shoestring101 Readers?

SO..! For the world to see, here is my Definite Chief Aim with Shoestring101:

I want to help 10,000 of my fellow human beings to achieve the happiness, independence, and income limited only by one’s imagination that owning a small business affords.

I will distribute both information and inspiration, drawing on my experiences and the experiences of others that have started their own successful businesses.

I will write and promote daily, creating and distributing blog posts, PDFs, books, podcasts, instructional videos, information products, webinars, consulting services, and other content dedicated to helping entrepreneurs.

I believe I can do it.

More importantly, I believe YOU can do it… you can be one of the entrepreneurs that drops the shackles of a day-to-day existence serving to build someone else’s dream and following their orders. Instead I believe you can call your OWN shots and work toward your OWN dreams.

Watch Shoestring101 for the best I can deliver in terms of why-to, what-to, and how-to. I won’t rest until I know that 10,000 entrepreneurs had the chance to say goodbye to the rat race and hello to true ownership of their time, energy and resources.

Conceive, Believe, Receive and Achieve! …Write Down YOUR Goals

Are YOU game?

Then let’s get IN the game.

Your first assignment is to follow the exact plan and procedure above: write down what you want, what you intend to give in exchange for it, begin giving, and give many expressions of gratitude daily that you already have what it is that you want.

Thankfulness is a powerful key to manifesting abundance. Giving thanks for what you already have is necessary to enjoy what you have. It conditions your mind to receive fully the benefit of owning what you own.

Giving thanks for something that you don’t actually have in your possession.. YET… conditions your mind to think of it as already being yours, to think of it as being part of what is due to you.  Once you begin to condition your mind that it is already yours, the situations that bring about it actually being yours will come to pass.

Okay, you super-good-lookin’ reader! 8-) I could write more about the importance of a written goal, complete with your commitment of what to give in return, a plan and most importantly, several expressions of thanksgiving per day until what you want becomes a reality. BUT..! It would be much better to hear from YOU.

I’d really love to hear from you in the comment section. Maybe put your plans there for what you want in the next 30 days.

I’ll look for your post.

Keep Stepping!

Kurt

 

 

20 Days into the 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge

Fiverr Gigs Getting Traction... But What I'm DOING is Learning What People Want

Hello Steppers!

Today’s post: an update on where I am in the latest 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge.

Toward the end of 2014, I sent out a series of emails and a coupla blog posts saying that I would again take a  Challenge to start a side business with NO CAPITAL… then grow it into a side income yielding $1,000 monthly…. and do it in 30 Days or less.

I started January 1st.

Today I get you caught up.

My Fledgling “Funnel Creation” Business: Day 20

For this 30 Day Challenge, YOU picked the market and the type of business.

Last time I did a 30DC  ( check out WE MADE it! 30 Day, 1000 Bucks Challenge) I decided everything on my own.

Back then I picked a local, service business… used weekends and took my teenager along for the ride, and made $1195

At first we used signs to advertise. Now Google serves up customers without charge---NICE!

At first we used signs to advertise. Now Google serves up customers without charge—NICE!

profit in 30 days. We offered screen repair services to my local area of Colorado Springs.

An interesting side effect of that project was that I learned how to hack  Google SEO for  local results!

We started out using roadside signs for advertising, but later by measuring results of free versus paid advertising… we decided to focus on honing those methods.

Now as a result of that experience I don’t pay ANYthing to advertise my martial arts studio or my screen repair biz.

You can read about how to hack local search results here: 7 Ways to Hack Local Seo For a FREE Front Page Listing

SO back to THIS particular 30 Day Challenge:

This time, instead of picking out everything myself I put it to a SurveyMonkey test.

My esteemed Readers said, “go global”… make it a service biz again… serving middle class clients.

So the first hurdle to leap for me was to decide what kind of service I can offer that I don’t need to be physically present for.

Formula for Starting a Business. FIRST, Solve Your OWN Problem. THEN Offer the Solution to Others

Formula for Starting a Business. FIRST, Solve Your OWN Problem. THEN Offer the Solution to Others!

I thought, “I’ve solved my OWN problem a couple of times in the category of writing ad copy and cobbling together marketing funnels… why not offer those skills as my service?”

Now, I want to remind everyone that I have three successful businesses in place right now.

Plus I’m a Dad, a Grandpa, and a friend.

SO I’m generally busier than a one-legged feller in a butt kickin’ contest…

…but the purpose of the Challenge to to encourage people that despite crushing schedules, zero experience, and other obstacles, it’s more than possible to create a business out of thin air.

Rather than quitting everything and focusing 24/7 on making my new copywriting and marketing funnel biz sing, I’ve kept up my usual schedule.

But I’m following a proven path: the Shoestring101 Principles.

Principle One: Get OFF Your ASS

But enough about me... let's talk about what YOU think of me.

But enough about me… let’s talk about what YOU think of me.

Just like a lot of my Viewers and Readers, I don’t have a lot of time to spare. But I’m set to prove that with a little hustle, you can make a good income on the side. YOU can start a business without risking your life savings, taking on partners or taking out loans.

Ya just gotta start.

SO day one… I put out my shingle on Fiverr, the number one platform for promoting a service biz

Zombie Kurt. A Fiverr Account is a Dangerous Thing...

Zombie Kurt. A Fiverr Account is a Dangerous Thing…

that can be done from anywhere in the world.

I already had a Fiverr account that I use for validating business ideas (and to waste money, $5 at a time on silly things like Zombie-ifying my picture 8-) )

Now, Getting Off Your Ass may be the first Step to success in the Shoestring101 universe… indeed

in every endeavor…

but it always comes with a little resistance.

F’reaxmple, let me clue you in on some of the trials I’ve dealt with since starting this little business.

FIRST ROADBLOCK..! A FALSE START

First, I determined that I was going to use a brand spanking new Fiverr account.

This is so that no one could call foul:

“Well you already had a Fiverr account in place… so that step was already done BEFORE you started the 30 days!”

I wanted to show everyone a start from scratch. So I did.

I set up a new username called, “Funnelvision” (get it? ‘coz I make marketing funnels ;-) )

That’s all I could really do for the first day.

The next day I added a “gig”… a service offered for sale for five bucks.

The next day I added another.

When Something Sounds too Good to Be True, We-e-e-ell…

Now, realize that I’ve never used a Fiverr account to make serious profits.. only to do market research and get paid for it.

So to help me grow quickly, I was using a PDF somebody sent me called “Fiverr Boss”  to learn “How to Easily Make $4,000 Your First Month”.

Fiverr Boss. Disappeared like a Boss.

Fiverr Boss. Disappeared like a Boss.

Whoa.

So after trying to put in place some of the strategies this guy was talking about, it was evident that I needed a little help.

I tried writing him at the support email…

…tried pinging him on Twitter…

…tried going to the website Fiverrboss.com…

…and the Facebook support page…

…NOTHING.

The guy is just plain GONE.

Now, I wasn’t sure if there were some legal ramifications to this, but as I dove deeper into the book, I discovered that:
1) having multiple Fiverr accounts
2) joining a group of Fiverr-ers that leave each other a pile of positive reviews, and 3) taking on lots of work that is then outsourced to other service providers

…were all SERIOUS no-no’s in the world of Fiverr.

In fact, I could get BOTH of my accounts suspended.

SO rather than risk that, I took down the “Funnelvision” account, did my best to copy the gigs from there to my other account, confessed my sins to Fiverr central, and prayed for a couple of days.

A few days afterward, The Powers That Be granted me a second chance. I licked my wounds and went back to my shoestring101 account. Since then I’ve generated a whopping $15 in sales with my gigs related to this 30 Day Challenge.

But hang on. It was looking bad, but it gets better. And better. I’m still optimistic.

Second Principle: Find Out The W’s

Now hopefully you realize that I have no aspirations to be a Fiverr Super Seller.  Nor do I want to use black-hat techniques to try and stretch what Fiverr can do for me and you. I’ll be honest… I don’t think that Fiverr is where I’ll earn $1,000 this month, or any month.

But it’s an EXCELLENT place to conduct market research. There at Fiverr I’ve been Finding Out the W’s- Who Wants

Getting PAID to Learn How   Your Target Market Works... WOW.

Getting PAID to Learn How Your Target Market Works… WOW.

What, and Where and hoW to find them.

See, Fiverr is not just a platform to make little chunks of money at a time and hope it adds up to a lot… it’s a place to hone your skills while also learning your target market.

You may have seen a little post of mine on this principle called,

How to Use Fiverr to Validate Your Business Idea.

So many times, people miss out on this. Not just with Fiverr but with any “starter” platform … they look at how much they are making per hour instead of what the experience is bringing them.

Tell me, what college do you know of that will teach you a marketable skill… and pay YOU a nominal amount while you are learning?

Some folks want to go to school to learn marketing. I’d rather take my piddly per-hour PAYCHECK for launching my knowledge base… instead of drowning in student loans. :-)

That brings us to the Third Principle of Shoestring101…

Third Principle: Learn to Create Value

Y’know, that per-hour idea really sticks in some people’s craw and they can’t seem to remove it.

Interesting… in my first 30 Day Thousand Dollar Challenge I didn’t give daily updates. In THIS one I offered to give daily updates, but only to Subscribers that wrote me and said, “Put me in the list, Kurt”.

You're making two bucks an hour? You're WORTHLESS and WEAK!

“You’re making two bucks an hour? You’re WORTHLESS and WEAK!” Sigh. Read on, dude. It isn’t about the money… yet.

I have had more people unsubscribe in the last two weeks than ever before. Seems most folks want the dazzling numbers… they want to see me making a hundred bucks a day with a 1/2 hour effort when in fact I’ve put in two, three hours a day and so far I’ve made just over a hundred bucks with my copywriting and sales funnel designs.

Fiverr took its commish for the gigs it’s given me, so right meow we’re at $112. Figure it’s been 2.5 hours or so per day, times 20 days… well, YOU do the math. I’ve been gettin’ just over two bucks an hour.

But..!

The Amount is Not the Point; the STEPS Are

I like to point out that when you sell a used bike on Craigslist or in a garage sale… that’s a business transaction.

But! DO the steps that it takes to get bikes for cheap and get ‘em to bike buyers for less cheap…

… and record those Steps so you can do them over and over again..

…now that’s a business system.

Learn What Customers WANT. Then Provide That.

Learn What Customers WANT. Then Provide That. DUH.

Once the system is in place, you can start to bring up your hourly rate big time.

So I’m not concerned at all with the amount of cash coming in for this side venture; soon it will be more bizness than I can handle.

Because I’ve been learning the system… for marketing MY particular copywriting and funnel creation skills to the particular peeps that need them.

It’s all in how your market perceives the value you create for them.

And for the last twenty days I’ve been cracking the code of how to best communicate that perception in a way that makes folks get out their wallets.

For example, my

I Will Write High Converting Copy For Your Website For $5

and

I Will Design A High Converting Sales Funnel For $5“…

…fell flat on their faces.

So I took a stroll around Fiverr itself and noticed that a LOT of these (actual!) kind of gigs getting boo-koo attention:

“I Will Evaluate Your Website as a 1st Impression Viewer for $5″

“I Will Analyze Your Website and Blog for $5″

“I Will Give You My Professional Opinion Of Your New Business Idea for $5″

“I Will Read Your Stories and Tell You What I Think for $5″

Hey… do YOU see a pattern forming here? Opinion, evaluate, tell ya what I think…

Seems that more than anything,  small biz owners running websites want feedback. Honest feedback about how to improve.

I have to say that I’m in the EXACT same boat; it’s downright EASY for me to detect errors and things to improve in the websites and the small biz ventures of others. I can  see the forest because I’m not stuck in their particular trees.

But when it comes to my own websites and businesses… I need an unbiased, outside opinion to really get the scoop.

Creating Value For Customers

So, first thing I did on Fiverr (once I extricated myself from the multiple-account fracas) was to update the kinds of gigs I was offering.

Now I’m STILL offering to improve people’s web copy and tweak their sales funnels.

BUT..!

The element of  “provide my opinion”, “analyze”, “evaluate” has been added.

Creating Value with the Title

Instead of

“I Will Write High Converting Copy For Your Website For $5″

it’s

“I Will Analyze Your Web Copy and Improve it For $5″

Creating Value with the Images

Is Your Sales Funnel Clogged? Click This Image to Go See the Gig!

Is Your Sales Funnel Clogged? Click This Image to Go See the Gig!

One of my FAVORITE tools to mess around with images is PicMonkey. Here for free, or for $4.99 a month for premium features, you can add frames, effects, text, or other pics to your pics.

Check out my value-adding, attention-grabbing cover images, added in the last few days:

Is Your Web Copy Converting? Click HERE to Increase it Big Time

Is Your Web Copy Converting? Click HERE to Increase it Big Time

Creating Value With Video

Also, it’s been said that gigs with accompanying videos sell 220% more than those without.

So yesterday I put the following descriptive vids on Fiverr, and also on YouTube:

Creating Value for Myself

Now here’s a layered approach to driving traffic to my gigs:

The YouTube vids are easily shareable, and the links back to the actual Fiverr gigs are in the description so that adds another way for folks to find my solution to their problem.

I’ll share the videos myself on Twitter and Facebook. Those vids may also get passed around.

The links lead ‘em back to Fiverr. Fiverr makes them customers. Then I get more work and more testimonials, like these:

Above and Beyond. I didn't write the whole page, but check out the sales letter for Social Sinergy

Above and Beyond“. I didn’t write the whole page, but click to check out the sales letter for Social Sinergy.

What’s happening here is NOT me building a thousand-buck-a-month side gig on Fiverr. It’s me discovering what works… building a system… and fleshing it out.

WITHOUT hiring a coder to make me a killer website for $1500, then thrashing about in the dark trying to find out what works.

By getting my sea legs here on Fiverr, I’m finding out what kinds of words, what kinds of images, and what other factors create the response I’m looking for… the buying kind.

Especially among competition.

I’m learning the hopes, fears, and needs of my target market.

Couldn't Ask For More. Watch this space-- I'll be Linking to this little lady's Product Launch soon.

Couldn’t Ask For More“. Watch this space– I’ll be linking to this little lady’s Product Launch soon.

I’m gaining a reputation, and garnering testimonials.

Testimonials that I can use later in the marketing of my skills and the skills of others

…yes, WHY should I keep all the glory (and the WORK!) for myself?

No, if I can cobble together a system for grabbing customers that need web copy written and sales funnels designed, it only makes  sense to begin referring work to others more talented than myself.

Yup.

Right now, we’re looking at $112 profit on day 20 of this particular 30 Day Challenge.

But I’m thinking it might just be the start of something much bigger.

If I’m wrong, well! Instead of gambling borrowed money away… like a lot of folks do when they start a business venture…

…I will have gotten paid $112 to find out it’s not worth the time.

Beats the living snot out of debt and heartache, doesn’t it?

That’s the Shoestring101 way.

Okay Steppers! Sound off below. If you think I’m wasting my time with this month’s challenge say so. Or if’n ya think I might be onto something I’d love to hear that too! I’ve been getting equal parts “feedback” (like Subscribers quitting) and encouragement (we’re pulling for you Kurt!) and to tell you the truth, BOTH are helpful.

Put YOUR two cents in the bottom line.

Keep Stepping,

Kurt

Use Fiverr to Validate Your Small Business Idea

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Make a fortune, five dollars at a time.

This just in: “market research” shows that Readers of Shoestring 101 are more intelligent and overall attractive.

HEYA GORGEOUS!

;-)

Validate Your Business Idea: WHY and HOW

Today’s post is about how to throw your idea out there for an internet biz, then “VALIDATE” it to see if it has real merit. Also, an update on the 30DC (30 Day, $1,000 Challenge) so you can see how I’m doing on Day Three.

Other posts on this site about validating business:

How to Validate Your Small Business Idea With Craigslist

Validate Your Business Idea With the 3 Most Overlooked Social Media Sites

What is validation, you might ask? One of the obstacles to small business startups has always been tainted data from your friends and relatives, even well-meaning business contacts. Because of their prior relationship with you, the feedback that they give about your “great new idea” is totally unreliable.

Jealous, close-minded friends or relatives may shoot down your perfectly good business idea.

And just as bad… maybe even WORSE… they might nod their heads vigorously saying, “Oh, YEAH… DO that… What a GREAT IDEA… I think it’ll sell oodles and oodles.”

Even when the idea is a complete FLOP.

I actually believe that this false encouragement is worse than naysaying. ‘Cause I almost NEVER pay any attention to naysayers anyway. If anything, it spurs me on to a greater endeavor when somebody says I can’t do something.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Proverbs 27:6

Of course, it does make sense to get feedback about your product or service. But even “market research” has proven to be flawed. Remember those guys that would stop you in the mall and offer you $5 for your opinion about something? I do:

An attractive young lady with a clipboard would have you try these new flavors of Skittles, then those. You were supposed to try one, eat a cracker in between, then try the other. Then give your “honest opinion” as  a consumer as to which of the two you might buy.

Know why this form of market research is flawed? Because young guys like me would be thinking which of the Skittle choices would be more likely to get me the girl’s phone number ;-)

Use Fiverr to see if what you've got is worth buying

Use Fiverr to see if what you’ve got is worth buying

A better way to get the right numbers for your market research would be to do some actual selling of your product. I’ve done this for dozens of business ideas. Most recently -the newest 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge is testing its legs first on Fiverr.

The Most Reliable Form of Market Research

Here’s how to really, for real do effective research for fun and profit:

Don’t ask your friends, “do you think people might buy this?”

Instead, ask them TO buy it.

Then ask strangers TO buy it also.

When the strangers (that don’t owe you a dang thang)… buy your product or service with their own dollars… then you’ll know that you have a real shot with your business.

And you can then begin to scale it and later, automate it.

If they don’t buy… then rejoice! You’ve been saved from a monumental heartbreak, hours of wasted time, oodles of startup capital.

Then you can say, “Whew. Close one. Okay, NEXT!”

So Tell Me About This Fiverr Thing

In case you haven’t heard about Fiverr, it’s time to catch you up a little bit.

fiverr can help you grow your businessFiverr is only the 64th most popular website in the U.S., haven’t you heard? And it’s the number ONE platform anywhere for marketing services to and from people all over the world… all for just a “Fiver“, or $5.

Now, if you haven’t seen what you can get done on Fiverr.com it’s quite a treat. Best way is to send you there!

If you haven’t been, I recommend highly that you go to Fiverr.com and browse through all the categories. Fiverr has been a Godsend to me as a busy marketer and producer of books and blogs.

At Fiverr I got the cover design of my Kindle Book Get Paid TODAY! Structure Your Business Startup to be Profitable from Day ONE… done for only five smackaroos.

Someone in Bangladesh formatted that same book (about 40,000 words, plus charts and pictures!) for Kindle for just five clams.

Oh, and I was able to write said Kindle book by “speaking” a lot of the book into a microphone… which a lady from the Philippines transcribed into an editable Word doc for me for guess how much. Mmm-hmm. Fi’ dollah.

(Y’know? Editing about 25,000 already-captured  words and expanding on it is a helluva quicker process for writing a book than staring at a blank screen. I found that writing sucks! But it’s easy to simply edit your already-in-print thoughts… and clean ‘em up. If you’re a writer the transcription gigs are worth their weight in fine chocolate.)

Anyhoo, the point is that I’m very familiar with the buying side of Fiverr, having gone there for a number of tasks that I was either not talented enough or had the time to do.

But on Fiverr You Only Make Chump Change..?

Aggh. Aww, Lordy Pete. You’re missing the point.

I’m not on Fiverr to become some kind low-pay lackey… making less than it takes to buy a good latte… and having to wait two weeks to get it.

(Fiverr takes one dollarr of your fiverr as commish, then escrows it for two weeks to avoid online scams)

No, I’m using Fiverr to see if the service(s) I come up with are worth paying anything for.

See, Fiverr will validate my biz idea(s) as well as the ad copy that I write for them by seeing if someone will actually fork over real cash for ‘em.

MEANWHILE!

We’re deep in Shoestring Step TWO: Find Out the W’s. What people Want, Who they are, Where to find them, hoW to solve their problems.

This sets us up to reach more and more of the same kind of customer, while getting paid to do it.

Most of any legit business’ income comes from repeat biz or referrals. I’ll bet you MORE than five bucks that this platform is the same. And while some tasks take some time to perform, others can be outsourced or even automated. So one five-dollar order may turn into ten, fifteen… even hundreds of dollars of revenue.

ALSO! Bonus:

Though Fiverr prohibits sellers from contacting buyers directly, or even making one’s email address available… I know that I’VE personally tracked down folks that have done services there and asked them to do similar things that they don’t have listed for sale.

F’rexample, say I audit someone’s sales copy for a Fiverr… that customer just might track me down later on to do some actual copywriting.

And for that I’ll charge more than one portrait of Honest Abe Lincoln. ;-)

So while the plan is NOT to break any rules, I’m on Fiverr to get paid to get leads for my business. Read about that principle here:

Reversing the Traditonal Marketing Model: Get PAID per Lead Instead of the Other Way Around

Turns Out I’m Not the Only Fiverr Fan

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Make a fortune, five dollars at a time.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Make a small fortune, five dollars at a time.

I just read an article by Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation in which Nick used Fiverr to earn $920 in a ten day period. NOICE, Nick! If you want to check out a site that’s similar in its theme and mission to Shoestring101, go on over to Nick’s blog and start with his Fiverr post. Oh, and WHILE you’re there, consider leaving a thoughtful comment at the bottom of the page. We bloggers LOVE to hear from our esteemed Readers and Nick is no exception.

http://www.sidehustlenation.com/fiverr-homepage-earned-920-in-10-days

My First Fiverr Gig in the 30 Day Challenge

SO the niche I’m serving is folks that need help with marketing funnels.

This niche is one in which the customers can grow along with me; I help a newbie to internet marketing to make some actual bank, then I offer him more and more similar gigs from my handful of profitable, yet quick and easy-to-do services.

My EVIL marketing plans are taking shape…

Okay Steppers! Day THREE of this particular 30 day, $1,000 Challenge. I know you’re rooting for me. See you out there, and

Keep Stepping!

Kurt

Today’s The DAY! New 30-Day, $1,000 Challenge

To my faithful Shoestring Steppers:
Hey gang! ’bout 500 words in today’s post. Take exactly 2 minutes to see what the next 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge is about.

I’m not gonna get craaaazy today trying to make particular post super SEO-friendly, or chock full of pictures. Just the facts, ma’am.

Side Money Blueprint: Generate a Healthy Side Income Without Leaving Your Job (Yet)

SO, today is where I put it on the line again. You mighta been watching over my shoulder for the last Shoestring101 Challenge.

Starting with $62.66,  we patched together a local service business (window screen and screen door repair).

In 30 days, my teenage son and I used weekends, the Shoestring Steps, and a little elbow grease to come out on the other end with $1195 profit!

If you’re new to Shoestring101 check out the story here:

We MADE It! 30 Days, $1,000 Challenge

Since then I’ve used the Steps to convert this little  screen repair side venture into a bona fide, full-time business.

Most folks could live pretty well off of what the screen repair company makes…

…but it started with just a Challenge to prove (again) that the Steps actually work in real life.

You can read more about how we scaled up this local service based business from a “side hustle” to a real live company here:

Another Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures

What’s the Challenge ‘Bout This Time?

TODAY, I’m starting a whole new biz and doing it according to YOUR choices. Using the same Shoestring Steps as before, the Challenge is to (this time) make a $1,000 per month business starting with ZERO dollars.

Plus, it has to fit the following criteria that you gave me with the Survey Monkey result:

  1. Service Business
  2. Online or otherwise Global
  3. Market to Middle Class
  4. Must be duplicatable and scalable.

30 Days, part time effort, thousand bucks profit.

Perfect way to promote my newest project, the Side Money Blueprint. The SMB will be available soon, and include not only the time-tested principles from my book, “Get Paid TODAY”, but also the results of this month’s Challenge to get to $1,000 starting with nothing.

But enough talking big… the clock starts NOW. Actually, it technically started at midnight last night, but I’m rolling with it today at 0930.

Kurt Frankenberg, How Will You Start a Business With ZERO Dollars?

In the last Challenge, you saw that I took an investment of $62.66 and put it into signs that could be seen from the road. We later used some profits to buy even MORE signs, which helped us score more business, and so on. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But starting with NO ad budget? How on Earth can we go from zero dollars to a $1,000 per month income?

Simple. I’m going to start offering services on Fiverr.

I did some market research yesterday (hey, YESTERDAY. You’re not going to sweat me starting a day early… I wasn’t actually trying to sell anything… but did look at what people are buying) and found that the services in greatest demand that I also am willing and able to do.

Now, would it be CHEATING for me to ask you to go buy something from me there? Some folks would say yes. So I won’t ask.

What I am going to do is tell you how I’ll begin today.

After pressing “send” on this blog post, I’m opening a new PayPal Account and a grabbing a username on Fiverr to associate with it. There are a couple of simple services I can offer that relate to copywriting, advertising, and marketing. I’ll throw up a couple of “Gigs”… see what sticks… and begin using the Shoestring Steps to bring the heat.

Think I can do it?

Think I’m crazy?

Either way, love to hear from you in the comments.

Wish me well. Til then,

Keep Stepping!

Kurt

P.S. I’m putting together a special group

 

 

Help Shoestring101 Choose the Next 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge!

$1,000 a month side hustle... starting with less capital than you might take out of a garage sale

Greetings, Steppers!

Today’s exciting post is about YOU… picking out the next 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge for yours truly.

The idea of the 30/1000 challenge is to start with less capital than you might take out of the first hour of a garage sale… and with part-time effort make it into $1,000 in 30 days or less.

I did this challenge with my 14 year old son and we managed a $1195 profit while you were looking over our shoulders.

Check out the deets on how we made $1,000 on the side in my landmark post, “We MADE It[30-Day, Thousand Dollar Challenge]!

After making $1195 in 30 days on the side, the most logical thing to do would be to continue, right? Heh… this business later became a REAL mover when we ended up having a few +$500 profit DAYS. For the follow up read  “Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures a Month“.

Ready for Another 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge

If you’ve been following Shoestring101 for any length of time you know that I make a RIDICULOUS claim here… that all you really need to be in business are two things:

  1. Access to a thing of value and
  2. A way to communicate with folks that value that thing!

…that’s all.

$1,000 a month side hustle... starting with less capital than you might take out of a garage sale

$1,000 a month side hustle… starting with less capital than you might take out of a garage sale

True to the thought of “self-funding”… the principle that The Lean Startup and other similar movements profess… we’ve been able to start dozens of successful, but very different businesses.

Right now I’m running:

  • a local martial arts studio (a “sticks and bricks” location)
  • a global information product (internet- makes sales in 38 countries)
  • the screen repair biz I started as a 30/1000 Challenge (service biz, also local)

All of these businesses were started with less capital than you could take out of a garage sale. Using a Step-by-Step SYSTEM that’s simple to follow and succeed.

I’m kind of an addict… maybe need a 12-step program to quit starting businesses ;-)

But until a cure is found..! YOU can help me pick the next venue to demonstrate these principles again.

Announcing the Side Money Blueprint

My next project is “Side Money Blueprint“. This is a video course to help budding entrepreneurs get a good, solid side income while they’re doing other things… like:

a job

getting a college education

being a single parent

building a ministry

or even just growing up.

My 14 year old, for example, learned entrepreneurship principles hands-on… because he was too young to work for “the Man”.

;-)

Anyway, the Side Money Blueprint project is under way now. And what we need for it is a coupla case studies, including another real-time Challenge.

Use Surveys to Know Your Customers’ Needs

I’ve built a number of small bizzes. This time I wanted to leave it up to you.

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking the reason you follow Shoestring101 is to get insights on starting and/or marketing your business idea. Without risking a lot of money.

SO I figured if YOU have biz ideas of your own… maybe I oughtta start a similar one (not in direct competition, mind you…) but to demonstrate the SS101 ideas and thought processes in real time.

So in my last post about business systems and automation, I posted a quick and dirty SurveyMonkey link. Also emailed my list and put the survey out on Twitter.

The results that have come back so far have been as surprising as they’ve been enlightening.

Here are the results so far…

What Kind Of Business Would You Like Shoestring101 to Start Next?

The first question in the survey was what kind of biz should this next startup be. “Service” product just barely edged out “Physical” product. There was a pretty big amount of folks that wanted a physical product though, so I figure we should do one of those later on.

"Service" product barely edged out "Physical" product. We'll do both at one point or other, but start with "Service".

“Service” product barely edged out “Physical” product. We’ll do both at one point or other, but start with “Service”.

The next Q was, “Who should this business serve?” By that we meant where they are located physically. Only 22% said Local geographical area, where the rest either said Global area or “doesn’t matter”.

Your choice for the 30 day, $1,000 Challenge So far we're up to "Service Biz" and "Global".

Your choice for the 30 day, $1,000 Challenge. So far we’re up to “Service Biz” and “Global”.

And since we’ve already showed how a local service business could be started locally in one of the 30 Day, $1000 Challenges with a screen repair company. So Global wins.

Next up: “Can you think of a niche for this business?” Middle Class won out, BIG TIME.

Overwhelmingly, you chose Middle Class as the Target market. But there were other insights in the "Specific Group" category that I may yet use.

Overwhelmingly, you chose Middle Class as the Target market. But there were other insights in the “Specific Group” category that I may yet use.

Narrowing it down now. I’m going to definitely target Middle Class clients for my Global, Service oriented biz.

LOTS of rich input in the "Specific Group" category... I may yet use one of these

LOTS of rich input in the “Specific Group” category… I may yet use one of these

But the Specific Group category came in a very close second place… and there were a NUMBER of insightful ideas for who group this should be, including:

Dog Trainers

Hair Stylists

Massage Therapists

Jewelry Makers

Visually Impaired People

Urban Farmers (people with small pieces of land who have beekeeping equipment, a few chickens, a goat or two, etc.)

The ol’ gears are turning in my brain right now…

…but here’s where the rubber truly meets the road.

I’m NOT doing this next 30Day, $1,000 Challenge just to show that I can do it… but rather to add to the roadmap that the Side Money Blueprint is intended to provide for its users.

SO THIS question is the one that will ultimately make the most difference:

If I Make $1,000 in a Month Using an Idea YOU Provide, Would You Copy the Steps For Yourself?

This Challenge wil be more than an exercise. I want it to provide a checklist for YOU to follow.

This Challenge wil be more than an exercise. I want it to provide a checklist for YOU to follow.

The most important outcome that this Challenge could have is that it’s USEFUL and ACTIONABLE.

If you would genuinely be interested to follow the Steps I lay out, this Challenge will be meaningful to YOU.

If not, I’m just showing off.

And that just isn’t very interesting, is it?

Help Us Narrow it DOWN, Reader!

So far, it looks like a 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge that will serve the most “Steppers”… Shoestring101 Readers… will be:

  1. A Service business that’s
  2. Global,
  3. Serves the Middle Class niche, and is
  4. USEFUL  for YOU to follow if you wanted to go out and grab the same results or better.

We on track so far? GOOD…

SO this is what I could use next from you, dear Reader:

Some input on what specific service to offer my globally located, middle class clients.

I have a couple of ideas. For example, I know how to:

  • Write ad copy
  • Write blog posts
  • Construct sales funnels
  • Make simple videos to teach subjects online
  • Help with local search and SEO

… and a few other things that folks might find useful.

Maybe YOU can suggest a niche as well?

If you figure out something I haven’t thought of, you could win $101. I’m going to send $101 to a randomly chosen participant in my survey above already, but another $101 is up for grabs if’n you think of a specific profitable service (that I’m capable of rendering, or that I can find someone that is).

Put your suggestions and your reason for suggesting it in the comments below!

The 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge will commence on January 1, 2015. I’ll keep ya posted along the way, and 30 days later expect to report an income of $1,000 or more to ya!

Remember to put your service suggestion in the comments. Think of something that YOU need, and that you wish someone else could just do FOR ya that you’d be willing to pay for. If I can make a business out of it, I’ll not only render the service for you free, but pay you $101 to boot.

Keep Stepping,

Kurt

Business Automation: Use Checklists and Procedures to Replace Yourself

Hello, Steppers!

Today: How to effectively replace yourself (read: have more free time to work ON your business instead of IN your business)… and a chance for YOU to win $101 in the next 30 day, $1,000 challenge.

First off, a quick apology: in my last post here “The Most Awesome Paradox… Doing LESS Can Accomplish MORE” I said to watch this space because  I was going to re-introduce efficient business systems to my three businesses, and keep you up to date, week by week.

BUT THEN..!

Ana Hoffman asked me... nicely...  to guest post on here site. YES, ma'am.

Ana Hoffman asked me… nicely… to guest post on her site.  (gulp) I said “YES, ma’am.”

I got asked by Ana Hoffman, the undisputed Queen of Traffic, to guest post on her site about how one of my posts from here, “7 Ways to Hack Google for a Free Front Page Listing” got on the front page of Google for some very competitive keywords.

And what the Queen wants, the Queen gets.

Especially since I’m pretty sure Angelina Jolie’s Russian spy character from Salt… and Ana Hoffman… are the same person. Question: have you ever A.J. and A.H., both in the same room at the same time?

No?

Proof positive, I tell ya.

;-)

Srsly, though… you need to see my guest post on Ana Hoffman’s site if you have a desire to get on the front page of Google for local OR global search results. It’s all her fault (that I got #1) and I give seven of her best posts to follow directions and get your blog some TRAFFIC, baby!

Makes sense with a site called Traffic Generation Cafe.

Okay now, back to our regularly scheduled programming: how to automate & delegate aspects of your business in order to free yourself up to lead it properly.

Delegating Duties is NOT Laziness; It’s Your JOB

Somehow or other, I’ve allowed myself to get in my own way by micro-managing several aspects that should be left to others in the form of simple checklists.

Result of working harder?

LESS getting done, or getting done properly, because I’m trying to do too much myself.

SO I decided to go back to earning more, while doing a better job for my customers… by doing less.

Checklists Help You… or Others… Get it Right Every Time

My resolution to get more done by doing less is already under way. Starting with my martial arts studio first I’ve been following Shoestring Step FIVE: Now Write Everything Down.

Writing it Down #1: I had an apprentice/employee (my right hand man, named Dillon) write down the 17-step cleaning process we use to get the studio “spic and span” before classes begin.

Either Dillon or I would be responsible to get the studio into shape before classes. But that is a poor use of our time because we are qualified Black Belt instructors.

NOT that being a Black Belt makes you any “better” of a person… I believe that all work is honorable. It’s just that there are more folks qualified to clean mats and toilets than are qualified to train a cagefighter.

Or to do something REALLY hard… like teach a three year old how to sit still and listen ;-)

SO now, Dillon and I have handed off our responsibility to a new hire. The new guy follows the checklist, and at a much lower level of compensation than Dillon or I need to command for what we do. Delegating this task has left us fresher to and better able to serve the Student body at the top of our game.

So everyone wins.

I work less, Dillon gets to do more of what he’s best trained and suited to do, and another job gets created. Our Students get served better. Everyone wins.

Examples of Checklists for Business Automation

Writing it Down #2: I personally had to put this checklist together: my weekly inventory and supplies checklist.

As you might know, with a name like Shoestring101 I hate carrying inventory.

Inventory takes up space.

It freezes up capital.

It collects dust.

I hate dust.

BUT..!

Sometimes it does make sense to simply have something on hand to sell rather than making the customer wait for delivery.

And the sales you will make outweigh the above crap that you put up with.

Knowing What YOU Do Helps You Train Others

IN the case of my martial arts studio, watching the numbers over the years gives me an idea of what to expect and how to plan for it, so the inventory checklist is an indispensable part of the business.

Only NOW… I’ve handed it over to someone else to do.

By making the checklist silly-simple, it’s easy to train someone else to do this important, but time-consuming task.

I know from past patterns that as many as 5 small humans, aged 3-5 might join my school in any given week.

So it doesn’t make sense for me to carry any more than five uniforms for tiny rugrats, does it?

Especially since I’ve put in place a policy to order new uniforms every week on a set day.

Here’s what I did to make this weekly inventory-and-order task automatic:

  1. Make a list of EVERYTHING necessary at any given time for Students’ apparel and equipment needs
  2. Pare it down to the most common items broken down by size
  3. Track the numbers to reveal how much of each item needs to be in stock
  4. Make a commitment to use the list weekly and to make tweaks along the way

Business Systems Make it Simple

My weekly inventory checklist now gets done every Wednesday. Orders placed Wednesday night are delivered to the studio by the following Monday morning so  we begin the week fully stocked.

By tracking the numbers I know roughly how much of each item to stock.

For example, 5 “size 00″ black uniforms.

The checklist says 5… there’s a space to enter the actual amount in inventory, say 3… and another space for the difference. - 3 = .

Output: order 2 “size00″ black uniforms.

Simple.

The most difficult part about this process was actually handing it off.

It’s HARD to admit sometimes as a business owner that someone else can do as good or (gulp!) a BETTER job than you at any aspect of your business.

But unless you want to end up doing EVERYthing… at one point or another you’ll need to pass that torch.

But, Kurt. What Will I Do with All the TIME I’ll Save?

Ahh. Now therein lies the rub.

SOME of us entrepreneurs (ahem. AHEM! …not ME. But some people) tend to be workaholics.

SO we genuinely hold our businesses back in order to stay involved with them.

When they would do better, even THRIVE if we would just give ‘em room to grow.

Which is what I’m documenting here for you. I’m showing you by example the final Step in the Shoestring101 process: Now Write Everything Down. This one Step frees you up to do other things with your time… than chase around putting out fires.

Aere’s what I plan to do with the time I save over the next three weeks:

Shoestring101’s NEXT 30 Day, $1,000 CHALLENGE

You may have been watching when I started a business with $62.66 and blew it up into $1195 profit in 30 days. Even went on to make it a bigger enterprise in “Another Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures”.

It’s gotten to where my five-step system is gaining more than a little notoriety. In fact, I’m getting a little cocky… claiming that I can start a biz for less than $101 dollars and make a $1,000 profit with it in 30 days or less.

Heh… ‘Cause I can.

And more importantly, so can YOU.

All you need is two things to be business, remember?

  1. Access to a thing of value
  2. A way to communicate with folks that value that thing

So now I’m looking to you for a little guidance. I sent out a survey to my mailing list and it’s gotten a few answers so far. I’d love for you to help steer me further.

Could ya take a couple of minutes and fill out this quick survey below? The email address of everyone that gives me input will be saved and I’ll send $101 to a randomly selected voter.

Also, if I happen to use YOUR idea to make a profitable biz in 30 days I’ll send ya your choice of $101 or a “Side Business Blueprint” to walk you through the exact process.

Okay, dear Reader! Thanks for helping me to start out the New Year right with another 30 Day, $1,000 Challenge. Gimme your two cents below!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Thanks for making to the bottom, and especially  for taking the survey.

Keep Stepping,

Kurt

The Most AWESOME Paradox… Doing Less Can Accomplish MORE

The Most Awesome Paradix is that you can Work LESS to Earn More!

The Most Awesome Paradox is that with business systems you can Work LESS to Earn More!

Howdy Steppers!
A paradox of work, time, and money is that by working too much, you often actually profit less.
In today’s post: how to make more money by working less (whew!), and working on the right things.

The MAGIC of Shoestring Step Five: Now WRITE Everything DOWN

All I have to say to Tim Ferris is, “Four-Hour Workweek? Dude, I call B.S.!!”

Heh.

Entrepreneurs work harder and longer hours than anyone I know. Even His Tim-ness.

Of course, it IS truly possible on occasion to cut back your workweek to four hours or even less when YOU own your business(es) instead of them owning YOU.

This is the magic of Shoestring Step FIVE: Now WRITE Everything DOWN.

Paradox: Work TOO Hard, Make Less Profits

As you know, on this blog and in my books I’ve made the claim that I’ve started dozens of businesses… and that three of them have reached the level of five figures per month profit.

I’ve further bragged that these three businesses are in no way related to each other:

  • one is a sticks-and-bricks physical location,
  • one is international info product sales,
  • one is a service biz where the workers come to the customers.

Trouble is, I can’t help but feel a little disingenuous since at THIS time (November 17th, 2014) not one of those businesses is generating five figures all by itself.

I mean, between the three I still do VERY well… but while at one point or other each of them was generating at least $10,000 per month in profit individually, and right now none of them are.

So I’ll be bumping them all back up into the five-figure zone. ONE at a time. And I’m inviting YOU to watch over my shoulder as that’s done.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be documenting the Steps I’m taking to work a little LESS… but boost the profits in each of them.

The secret is the same as it’s always been: get out of your own dang way.

Business Systems: Real Ownership, True Freedom

A Pair O' Docs (snark, snark)... You can make more money by working LESS

My favorite Pair O’ Docs (snark, snark)… Ahem, PARADOX: You can make more money by working LESS

Q: Why is the “Five Steps to Five Figures”, you-can-start-a-business-on-a-shoestring “GURU”  complaining about working too hard for too little?

A: Recently, I’ve been running WAY too hard trying to handle every aspect of all three businesses. I’ve been emphasizing Shoestring Steps One through Four but forgetting the most important Step of all… Shoestring Step FIVE: Now WRITE Everything DOWN.

There’s a very real phenom called “decision fatigue”; it seems that each time you make a decision it takes a little out of ya.

And too many decisions is too many decisions.

Business legend Peter Drucker observed that after making a decision or solving any problem, the best business managers do this:

They make a rule, a policy, a written procedure or a checklist.

So that when they are faced with that same situation again, they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”

More importantly: with proper documentation about every process in your business… you can now hand that rule, policy, written procedure or checklist over  to someone else… so that someone else is empowered. and doing the job instead of you.

Duh.

Oh… and this is important! They’re also NOT bugging you every five minutes to answer the same questions over and over again.

;-)

Good ol’ Michael Gerber of “E-Myth” fame established the same fact:

By systematizing your business, by working on your business instead of always working in it… you are able to free yourself up and, ironically, produce MORE. For yourself, your employees, and your customers.

The Coolest Paradox: Work Less, Earn More

The 1st time one of my businesses broke the $10K profits per month mark was about six months after I read the E-Myth.

You’d think that I busted five figures per month profit with some gargantuan effort, but that wasn’t the case. Believe it or not, I was on my first vacation in six years when it happened.

After spending some six months writing out procedures, making checklists, making systems for each aspect of my martial arts business… I took my family on a drive to see the relatives in Texas. The fam and I were planning on spending Thanksgiving.

And the most qualified full-time employee I had at the time was a nineteen-year-old kid named Jason.

(GULP)

It was very, VERY tough to let go of the apron strings. But after spending six months on refining checklists and procedures I bit my tongue…  Held my breath… went on vaca… and came back over $10K richer!

Make Good Business Systems, then Hand Them Off

With good business systems in place, and good people there to implement them, you don’t just free yourself up. You create value for your employees and for your customers as well.

Here’s what happened while I was away: Nineteen-year-old Jason received an info call and followed my telephone script to a “T”.

He invited the caller to come in for an introductory program.

When they came for their first visit, he followed the “white belt 1st and 2nd class” procedure.

After two classes the whole family wanted to join. Jason explained that he was new to the sales process and to be patient with him… then he actually read the sales script I left with him, word for word off the printed page.  Then he shut up and let the family decide whether to join.

They did.

Afterwards he went down the checklist and outfitted everyone with the properly-sized safety equipment and gave ordered replacement items for the pro shop in our studio.

Result?

  • I didn’t have to shut down my lead generation programs for two weeks… just left them in place.
  • Jason… armed with procedures… handled calls,
  • set appointments,
  • got Students enrolled,
  • taught their classes,
  • ordered replacement items to restore inventory,
  • deposited checks,
  • basically ALL of the day-to-day operations I would normally be doing.

At the time we had two payment options: pay monthly or pay yearly with a 16% discount. The family chose the yearly route and wrote out a check for over four thousand dollars.

That $4K, added to the $9K that I had already built the school to in monthly revenue, tipped the scale to where I had my first five-figure month.

WHILE I was on vacation.

Great things happen when you get the hell out of your own way.

What to Expect While Documenting Your Business Processes

It’s a natural law that what you sow, you will reap in due time.

If you want peas, what do you plant? PEAS, duh.

So if you want to reap time, what should you plant? Right again. You plant time.

Take the time to write down every process that it takes for you to do business. Not just the broad strokes like how to bake the pumpkin bread if you run a bakery… do the step-by-step of how employees should sterilize their hands and the work area… sift the flour… suggest extra items or gift wrapping when the customer checks out.

It’ll take time to do this. But here are five benefits, including two unexpected ones:

  1. You’ll pinpoint exactly where you and/or your current employees are wasting time with that “reinventing” thing.
  2. You’ll be surprised at how much less time it takes to make decisions and get things done.
  3. Your employees… and if you don’t have them, YOU will be blessed with clear direction on what to do moment to moment.
  4. Everyone will be clear on what their job is, and your product/service will be duplicated… reliably… the way you want.
  5. You’ll wonder why on Earth you didn’t document before.
  6. (Bonus unexpected benefit) You’ll start making extra money, almost immediately, while working LESS.
  7. (Bonus unexpected benefit) You’ll be surprised at your new reserves of energy,  excitement, joyful anticipation and wonder about your small business.

Why You Should Follow SS101 in the Next Four Weeks

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, none of my three “bigger” businesses are performing the way they did at their peak.

The answer is not working harder… it’s actually working less.

I’ve allowed myself to micromanage (read: jump in the middle and try to do everything myself) rather than let systems do what they’re supposed to do.

Proper biz systems empower those that help you… to do their freakin JOB… which in turn frees YOU up to do YOURS.

Which is steering the company as a whole toward its ideals, serving both the customers and employees with a better life.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll keep you posted about each thing I’m doing… one step at a time… to restore each of my three businesses to the five-figure-per-month level.

Whether your biggest concern right now in your own business is capturing leads… increasing sales and conversions… retaining and/or upgrading customers… or even producing a better product, I think you’ll get a lot out of it. This is what I’ll be engaged in over the next four weeks and I’m inviting you along for the ride.

Sound off, Steppers! What do you think about using systems to take pressure off of yourself moment-to-moment… and automate most of the processes in your business?

Put it in the comments below.

Til then… Keep Stepping,

Kurt

How to Validate Your Business Idea on Craiglist

Learn to use Craigslist to test market your business idea. Build a buyer's list using Craigslist!

Making money on Craigslist. Yes it does take hustle, but as I tell folks here on my blog, it ONLY takes two other things to be in business:

Learn to use Craigslist to test market your business idea. Build a buyer's list using Craigslist!

Learn to use Craigslist to test market your business idea. Build a buyer’s list using Craigslist!

1) access to a thing (or thingS) of value and
2) a way to communicate to people that value that thing.

And Craigslist can provide you with both.

Genius..!

Now after having a single TRANSACTION… you find out how to lather, rinse repeat… and now you have a bona fide business.

Selling a Product on Craigslist

My teenage son really appreciates paintball.

Recently, he was able to pick up a screamin’ deal on a paintball gun on eBay.

But then a friend offered to buy it from him for more than we he had in it and an idea struck me.

“Son, list that gun for sale on Craigslist.”

“DAAAaaaad… I can’t. I promised it to my friend Christian.”

Use Craigslist to See if Your Business Idea is a Winner

Use Craigslist to See if Your Business Idea is a Winner

Sigh. Explaining the deep intricacies of small business validation to a teen seems like a daunting task. But since you’re a follower of my blog (RIGHT? ;-) ) I’ll spell it out for you.

I didn’t want Pierce to actually SELL his gun to a stranger. I just wanted him to LIST it for sale.

Why? Well, to see if there was a potential there for a small business! They call it “validation” when you actually make a sale or two at a profit. After validating a business idea with a few transactions, you can then make the steps you took to make those few sales into a system. Then you have a business.

Now back to the paintball gun. Pierce didn’t want me to sell it out from under his friend. But that was never the plan; I simply wanted him to list it. Then when the calls came in… if indeed they did… he could very honestly say, “Sorry but that gun is sold. But I know where to get more like it for cheap. WHAT KINDS OF PAINTBALL GUNS DO YOU LIKE? WOULD YOU LIKE FOR ME TO KEEP YOU IN MIND WHEN I SEE ONE OF THOSE?”

Heh-heh. Sorry to yell at you. I just wanted to make sure you saw those two key sentences.

I learned this trick while working a real estate investor that was a GENIUS at marketing. Richard would intentionally allow a newspaper ad for a home to go on for two or three weeks AFTER he sold it. In Colorado Springs, that’s saying something because the local paper gets confiscatory prices for little-bitty ads. One day I asked him about all the money he was “wasting” not only on ads, but on me, his telephone assistant to field all the calls that were coming in on a home that was already sold.

“I’m not wasting money Kurt,” he said. “I’m doing market research.”

Then I remembered my phone script: “No, I’m sorry that home is sold. What kind of home are you looking for? What area of town?”

Richard didn’t want me gathering that information just to sell another home in his inventory as I had previously thought. He wanted to know so that’s where he would focus his future buying efforts.

Last I looked, Richard had a database of literally hundreds of people looking for a specific kind of home. Then he would put out his feelers for and find that kind of home, BUY it, and THEN he would have me start making calls.

Okay, side trip into real estate. Now back to Craigslist.

Whatever you are selling… paintball guns, cars, washer/dryers… Step One is to place an ad. Even if you don’t really have something for sale (yet)!

Step TWO is to take calls and gather as much information from your prospective buyers as they are comfortable divulging.

“Thanks for calling about my widget for sale. DO you have other widgets? Do you collect them? Should I call you if I get another widget at a comparable price? What kind of widgets do you like?”

You get the idea.

A Marketer’s Most Valuable Asset

 Hey, if you’re not careful… by following the steps above  you might end up pulling together a buyer’s list… one of the most valuable

A Buyer's List is YOUR Key to Lasting Business Success.

A Buyer’s List is YOUR Key to Lasting Business Success.

assets you can possibly have as a marketer.

So many folks go about marketing the wrong way: first they make a product, or buy one… WASTING capital by acquiring unnecessary inventory and incurring expenses for storage… and THEN they go about trying to sell it.

That’s bass-ackwards! Getting all the trappings of a small business (business cards, a website, logo) is just “playing business”. Making sales is what business is all about.  So it makes sense to make the sales first, then fill in all the blanks later.

It may seem a bit surreal to make sales when you don’t even have something to sell. But as I’ve said here before, Just Because You don’t Own Something Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Sell It.

The best way to find an opportunity is to hang up a shingle… which you can do for FREE by the way on Craigslist… and see what comes back.

Keep a record of everyone that calls you, and for what. See if you can find a few products in great demand that you may also find cheaply.

Selling a Service on Craigslist

Here’s a podcast by a fella that figured this out; he discovered a Craigslist arbitrage niche. Literally overnight he established a business that pays him full-time profits. By buying used washers and dryers for cheap and selling them for a bit more, LaJuan Stoxstill-Diggs helped folks on BOTH sides of the equation.

The sellers might be moving, or getting a newer piece of equipment, and are faced with the problem of how to get rid of their appliance.

The buyers might be a new couple starting out, or a college student needing an affordable alternative to a brand new washer/dryer.

Along comes LaJuan and solves BOTH of their problems… and pocketing a nice profit.

Folks have even offered HIM money on the acquisition side… “How much do you charge to haul this dryer away?”

NICE.

Check out LaJuan’s story on my twitter pal George Meszaros’ site! This podcast is just an illustration of how ridiculously easy it is to put together a small business without any starting capital:

http://www.successharbor.com/how-to-hustle-and-turn-craigslist-into-a-business-with-lajuan-stoxstill-diggs

The Shoestring Steps, 2) Find out the W’s and 5) Now Write Everything Down are hard at work here.

 Validation: The Key to Establishing Your Small Business

Before I ever heard this technique called, “validation”, I was using it to test markets… before putting all my eggs into a basket with holes in it.

For example, waaaay before Craigslist I used The Thrifty Nickel, a newspaper filled with nothing but classified ads. The Thrifty Nickel made piles of money for me as a 19-year old… but more importantly it SAVED me money when I used it to determine if an idea was NOT in great demand. My lawn aeration biz was a screamin’ item; my apartment referral service and gift bag delivery ideas not so much.

“Validation” simply means this: BEFORE overcommitting to all the bells and whistles and trappings that normally go with running a business, try and make a few sales.  Duh. If people call to inquire, or better yet place an order, you’ve got a winner.

Sidgl Custom Computer Bags by Ben Trissel... check Facebook and now Etsy

Sidgl Custom Computer Bags by Ben Trissel… check Facebook and now Etsy

Social media is wonderful for this; a childhood friend of mine recently set up a facebook fan page on my advice to sell his custom handmade computer bags. He’s off to the races having orders come in faster than he can fill them.

But get this: before he read my book he HAD been saying, “I need to maybe get a loan… or use my savings… to buy a bunch of leather and get a machine and make a whole buncha bags…”

WHOA! Hold up there, Ben. Here’s an important question to settle first: Do your bags suck? Will anyone actually fork over enough money to buy them… and (this is kinda important) at a profit?”

Look, as a prospective small business owner you WILL have problems. Which problem would you rather have:

  1. Sitting on a huge pile of “frozen money”… inventory that you can’t even seem to give away, or
  2. Sitting on a huge pile of orders… being barely (or just NOT) able to keep up with all the orders coming in?

Sign me up for door #2, please ;-)

Beyond Craigslist: Other Social Media Selling

Craigslist's Tips against getting scammed- We get it, C-list. Go local or go home.

Craigslist’s Tips against getting scammed- We get it, C-list. Go local or go home.

Craigslist is good for validating and selling both products and services. The problem with it is that most folks trust local sellers, and with good reason. In their safety guide, Craigslist warns users off of buying stuff that’s not from your own ‘hood.

But there are other ways to test your biz opp for free.

Getting the word out by way of Twitter and Facebook makes sense, especially for services and information products.

You could use Etsy or eBay for physical products.

Same goes for Fiverr for services.

When you use social media to test your business idea, it makes sense to go to the ones where you already have a network. But don’t stop there. In my recent post, Validate Your Business Idea with the 3 Most Overlooked Social Media Sites I pointed out that not all social media is advertiser-unfriendly. In fact, visitors to Fiverr, eBay, and Amazon expect to be marketed to and they’re often in the mood to buy! If you don’t think of these sites as social media, check out that post and see if you agree.

Action Steps for Validating Your Business Idea

If you intend to offer your goods or services locally, Craigslist is a good start. But don’t overlook Yext, Yelp, Google+ Local, Thumbtack, and the plethora of other free and fee-based local directory ads. If your product or service is info-product, service-oriented and global in nature, try Fiverr and Amazon. But don’t overlook using LeadPages and Facebook to target customers to a squeeze page.

Here’s how to go about validating your business idea:
(translation.. here’s how you can know if you have a WINNER!)…

  1. Solve your OWN problem first.
  2. Write a short description of your solution that’s about your customer, not you.
  3. Post that baby on anything that sits still, with a way to get in contact with you.
  4. Ask every question you can think of your prospective buyers
  5. Maybe sell ‘em something! See IF and WHAT people will actually pay for your solution.
  6. Do some math. See if you can get your product at a lower price, or deliver it with less time commitment.
  7. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sell one used exercise bike on Craigslist, that’s a business transaction. But set up a system to find multiple buyers and deliver multiple exercise bikes (Craigslist or no), and that’s a real live business.

I’ll go over all seven of these steps in future posts… or maybe an information product (wink, wink) in the near future. But for starters let’s look at step ONE: Solve your OWN problem first.

Free Traffic Generation Strategies

Ana Hoffman’s Traffic Generation Cafe: Tips and Tricks equal HUGE amounts of traffic to your website!

My friend Ana Hoffman founded the extremely popular site, Traffic Generation Cafe by solving her own problem: she had another website that needed traffic. What she found out… and continued finding out… about how to generate free web traffic to a blog became the basis for a blog as well!

Ana’s tips and tricks for generating free traffic have led to her site having an estimated value of over a million dollars in about four years. I personally happen to think that’s undervaluing the help she has made available to bloggers and content marketers, but hey.

Check her out for yourself.

My point is this: validation is important before you invest four years of your life into something. Ana knew she had a winner early on… or she would be blogging about something else.

So validate your OWN business idea before you go getting fancy.

Okay, Steppers! Do me a favor: if you do go ahead and try using that seven-step system above to validate your business idea of Craigslist, or other free sites… and you get some valuable market intelligence that helps you make some real ca$h… rather than sending me half of your profits ;-) just leave me a comment below. Thanks!

Keep Stepping,

Kurt