Don't Miss A Single Step!

Discover the exact Steps I took to make a full time Income... Starting from ZERO

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,


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.


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?


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.


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.


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,


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.!!”


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.


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.


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.


  • 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,


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.


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?”


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:

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,


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

"Whaddya mean there was social media waaaaay before me?

Dear Reader:

Be careful, because two and a half minutes into reading this post… you’re going to have a REVOLUTIONARY change in the way you think about social media; what “social media” really is, why it works… and most importantly! How YOU should use the 3 social media networks (that NOBODY thinks of as social media networks) to test your business ideas cheaply. Maybe even super-profitably.

How’s THAT for an introduction? ;-)

What We THINK of as Social Networks

So, The Social Network.

I loved that movie based on the launch of Facebook. Though it wasn’t accurate in every respect, it did contain a lot of truth.

"Whaddya mean there was social media waaaaay before me?

“Whaddya mean there was social media waaaaay before me?

ONE truth that stands out in particular is the fact that most folks going to most social media sites find monetization and marketing a bit off-putting.

This results in a bit of a love-hate relationship both on the part of Marketers and the “Marketed-TO”.

The Marketers:

  1. LOVE having a targeted list of people to which they may hawk their wares… but they
  2. HATE having to pay per click, per view or per action
    and they
  3. HATE having to sell… without appearing to be  selling.

On the other hand,  the “Marketed-TO”:

  1. LOVE finding out about things when there is a good chance that they already will like it, based on their stated interests, likes, and dislikes.
  2. LOVE knowing what their friends and peers are already doing, trying, and buying…  but!
    They absolutely…
  3. …HATE, hate, hate the cheesiness of having commercial advertisements interrupt their social time.

Love and hate aside, learning to market using social media is not only smart.. in time it will be downright required of all business owners large and small. But for those of us that haven’t learned (or just plain hate) to “send 90% engaging content and 10% promotional” or “to succeed on social media you need cocktail party skills”…

There ARE some social networks you can go to where everyone expects, even welcomes being marketed to and sold. Because right now, even NOW, there exists a triad of well-known social media sites… where none of the hate and all of the love reside.

Three Social Networks Where People EXPECT to Buy and Sell

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube.

Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr.

These are what we THINK about when we hear the term, social media.

 When I typed, “What is a social network?” into Google, this is the first thing that came up:social network

Now here’s a question for ya… didja ever think of eBay as a social network? How about Amazon? Or the newcomer, Fiverr?

No one gets “put off” because they are being sold to on these sites. In fact, visitors to these sites come LOOKING for something to buy… or bookmark to maybe buy later. You have a free license to sell, sell, sell and no one thinks, “He/She is just a self-promoting jerk.”

Yet according to the definition above..! eBay, Amazon, Fiverr, and the other platforms belonging to this family are social networks. Why of course. Aren’t they “dedicated websites… [that] enable users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, etc.”

WHOA. Social media is older than we think, isn’t it? There were a number of selling platforms waaaay back in the beginning of the internet, but few have done better than eBay and Amazon. Why is that?

I happen to believe it’s the social aspect of these monolithic platforms that is the key to their success. These sites have always placed a good deal of emphasis on communication between their users. eBay provided social accountability and proof through its feedback (mine’s still at 100% BTW :-) ). Amazon has their reviews and recommendations. Now Fiverr uses both.

Marketing Consultant, Blogger, Speaker, Trainer, Author, Social Media Marketing Expert. Get Your Free Whatsit at my Site,  #nottryingtosellyouanything #noreallyniceimaguy #butseriouslybuystufffromme

Marketing Consultant, Blogger, Speaker, Trainer, Author, Social Media Marketing Expert. Get Your Free Whatsit at my Site,

Yes… so while YOU were thinking of sneaky/snarky ways to talk about your products and services on Twitter and

Facebook… without talking about your products and services on Twitter and Facebook… I was writing a catchy headline on Fiverr. So far,  nobody I’m aware of has thought of me as some cheesy salesman.

Check out the following tips on how to sell, while meaning to sell. You can build your social platform later on when you’re profitable!

Using the Top Selling Platforms as Social Media, and Vice Versa

As I’ve asserted here as a basic tenet of Shoestring101… you only need two things to be in business:

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

Another insight that I’ve posted is that when you sell your old exercise bike on Craigslist, that’s a business transaction… but when you lather, rinse, repeat the cycle and sell another bike… and then another and another… that’s when your side project actually becomes a small business.

It’s the systematic selling that turns a single transaction into a repeatable flow of income. And while a lot of us are trying to learn to market on what MOST folks think of as social media…

… I’M-a gonna point out that it’s much easier to break through the noise and actually sell something on a site where people go to buy stuff.

Oh, so I should first use the social media that's BASED around selling stuff to sell MY stuff?

Oh, so I should first use the social media that’s BASED around selling stuff to sell MY stuff?

Say it, Neo.


Let’s take a look at your small business idea:

Like to make stuff? Say you want to sell custom bags for laptop computers. SO the first thing you do is make a pile of it, then hire a “web guy” to build out a site. Then you go all SEO ninja on it and build a buttload of links.

NAW, silly. Make only a little inventory. Post a few pics on eBay or Etsy first and see if your stuff sells.

And at what price.

AFTER validating that people will actually fork over cash for your stuff (by actually making some sales, duh) THEN you can get fancy. You can probably scale up the price too, but not until after you’re making sales.

Hey, do you know stuff? Are you good at a thing or two and think you can slap together an information product? Why, shoot… go on Twitter and Google+ and Facebook and beat yer hairy chest (ladies… not for you. I hope ;-) ). Tell the world something snarky and funny in 140 characters or less at least three times a day, then let ‘em know you consult on the side or have an information product. That’ll make you welcome in anyone’s feed.

You know I’m being sarcastic, right? C’mon, track with me here… you know doing the above will just make you part of the noise. You COULD try to be snarkier and funnier than the rest of the crowd,

write meowOR..! Instead you could write a short book to sell on Amazon Kindle. It looks pretty official, and actually establishes you as an expert. If your ideas are good enough to sell, you can put in a lead capture device (come to my site for a free gift!) and actually be getting paid per lead instead of the other way around.

Right now my book, Get Paid TODAY! Structure Your Small Business to be Profitable from Day ONE is making okay sales, but the REAL gravy is when I get emails and calls from readers for consulting. I charge $1.01 to take a phone call, then $101 for a Personalized Side Money Blueprint. The Unique Selling Proposition is that the $101 is payable when and only when my Personalized Side Money Blueprint helps your biz idea make you $1000 or more!

It’s hard to say no to personalized attention from the author of a book on small business startup marketing when you’re starting up a small business.  The point is this: rather than beating my chest on Twitter saying, “I can get you sales!” and becoming one voice among a million or mare saying the same thing… Amazon puts me in your living room where I get to prove it. And the book is just the beginning of a relationship; one good sale leads to another, bigger one.

SO if it’s an information product you want to sell, I recommend getting on Amazon right meow!

Now, if you don’t make stuff or think you know stuff, don’t despair…

I’ll bet you can do stuff. If service is your biz, list it on Craiglist for local. Go with Fiverr for global.

I’ve used Craigslist as well as Thumbtack, Fixr, and Yelp to market my local businesses. It’s free and yes, it’s social media because you get to share information with other users including reviews and such. If you have a local business, it’s paramount to use these free services.

But what if you want to go global? And not leave your kitchen table or yer fave coffee shop (like yers truly)? Put out a shingle on Fiverr.

See if you can’t get paid five bucks to do what you do best. If not, you may want to tweak your title and description (heh… you can probably find someone on Fiverr that’ll do that for ya!) and try some more. Or try a unique twist to your service.

Remember, it’s not the AMOUNT that we are concerned with right now. It’s whether or not you can sell what you have to offer. Later on, you will make repeat customers of these folks… you’ll be able to survey them to find out more of what they want… you’ll be come up with more and unique ways to be of service. And you can then charge more. But your point of contact where you actually exchange money for services is key… not the amount.

I have offered and gotten money for three things on Fiverr:

  1. A short video and explanation of how to increase the number of pushups you can do in a minute.
  2. Copywriting services
  3. A PDF of an article that you’ve read here: 7 Ways to Hack Google and Get Your Local Biz a Front Page Listing Free

Check it: there were a number of gigs that I offered that did NOT generate sales. But it didn’t cost me a blooming thing to try. However, the above three things I DID get paid on encouraged me to look into them further. Por exemplar…

Coming Soon: How to Do 100 Pushups in a Row

Coming Soon: How to Do 100 Pushups in a Row

The pushup thing is going to become an info product. Look for it soon at

The copywriting service has put me in touch with a boatload of entrepreneurs and helped me sharpen the saw with my own marketing and copywriting skills. Get this: the Side Money Blueprints I put together for clients are being outlined as I’m getting paid to do learn more about my target market: entrepreneurs that need to market cheaply.

The last gig is just simple. Someone searches Fiverr for a way to get more local SEO, they see my gig and click on it.  I actually CHARGE ‘em five bucks to  send them a PDF of my article of the same name. Takes me two minutes.

Get this: after they’ve used the principles for themselves, these Fiverr clients of mine often become subscribers to this very blog. But think about it… I didn’t pay for the traffic. I got paid.

BTW, if you happen to be one of my wonderful Fiverr clients… THANK YOU for finding Shoestring101. I’ll continue doing my durnedest to give you cheap and effective ways to market your small business.

Conclusion: Learn Sell On Social Media the Easy Way

SO whether you have a physical product, an information product, or a service to sell… quit trying to flesh out your Google+ page until you’ve already made a sale or two. Instead, focus on the social media where your hawking your wares is not only expected… it’s welcomed.

Now, I’m not saying you should abandon your “real” social media marketing efforts. Yes, people do business with those that they know, like, and trust… so making friends and establishing contacts on traditional social media is still a must.

But..! I will tell you that I’ve made a number of friends out of paying customers, so it works the other way around, too.

SO sound off please dear reader! What do you think of using social media that’s intended for selling to sell your goods? Agree, disagree, “Hey, that’s bogus” or if you just had an”Aha!” moment… I would love to hear from You.

Until then,

Keep Stepping!


Get PAID per Lead: Reversing the Traditional Internet Marketing Model

kim and kurt vid

Today’s post is for: Intermediate to Advanced Marketers, but only the ones that want to get PAID per lead instead of the other way around.

Ahem… that’s YOU :-)

How to Get Paid Per Lead Instead of PayING for Leads

With a blog named Shoestring101, you can believe I like to deliver my readers cheap and simple ways to market their businesses.

Whether your biz is strictly online, or offline, or a mix of BOTH… of course it’s valuable to know how to get new customers for cheap.

But what about if there was a way… or several ways… to actually get PAID to get new business?

Up to now, how many customers you could acquire was limited by your ad budget. But with a principle like getting PAID per lead… there is no limit to how many customers you can acquire except how many you are set up to handle at one time.

Welcome to the “holy” GRAIL of marketing, dear Reader ;-)

These principles will work for any kind of business. Whether yours is internet marketing… a “sticks and bricks” local store… a service business… or other…  you’ll want to pay attention. Read on for a mental blast of money-making awesomeness!

How I Got Paid $270 to Market My Local Business

The first time I realized I had used one of the principles laid out for you in this post was a couple years ago.

My sticks-and-bricks business, The Freedom School of Martial Arts is mainly composed of kids aged 4-12. Now, we are a serious martial arts outfit, training adults in the art of self-defense as well as entering Mixed Martial Arts (MMA-cagefighting) competitions. But the majority of our Students are children.

So how many four-year-olds do you know that manage household expenses? Ha. Of course. My “target market” Student is widdle bitty… so my actual CUSTOMER is Mom.

Watch this one:

My wife and I put up an Events page on Facebook. The event was titled, “Fight Like A Girl: a Self-Defense Class for Busy Ladies”.

kim and kurt vid<== watch me get my butt kicked on YouTube We included a few pics of me dressed like a thug, getting my @ss whomped by women. One of those women was my friend Kim Lyons, who you might recognize from Seasons 3 and 4 of “Biggest Loser”. This was Great stuff for “liking” and “sharing”.

Anyhoo, the Event page spelled out the particulars: $45 per person for a three-hour clinic in self defense that guaranteed you would actually be fighting by the end.

We posted pics for friends to like and share in our regular timelines, with a link back to the events page. We also updated the Event Page several times to create buzz and excitement about the upcoming class. We mentioned that if you bring a FRIEND, your entry was free. That way we could nearly double attendance to the event.

Some folks took us up on that; others just paid for themselves. We ended up with over a dozen Students for the Fight Like A Girl class, but only 12 paid full price so it was $270 in revenue. Not a bad way to start, but wait!

It gets better.

After an empowering three hours (and a teeny amount of bruises on yers truly, even though I literally had a bulletproof vest on ;-) ), we had a wonderful group of ladies that had PROOF of how confident and positive one can be with a little martial arts training.

And some of those ladies were moms.

See where this is going?

“Hey ladies, if you thought it was empowering to learn to defend yourself… just think how this training could help a CHILD to grow up confident and strong. We’re having an enrollment special this week if you’d like to schedule and intro class for your little ones.”

Bada boom.

I don’t like to speak about my Students in terms of just dollars and cents… the relationship we have with our Students over years, even decades amounts to more than just money… but in strictly business terms I’ll spell out that the combined tuition of new enrollments from that one event have so far totaled in the thousands, with several hundred per month, every month still set to come in over the next several years.

Cost of putting a Facebook page together: $0 Updating and posting pics to like and share:$0 Having a happy roomful of your target market together at once: PRICELESS.

This is one example of getting paid per lead.

Four Powerful Ways to Get Paid Per Lead, Instead of Paying for Leads

When I first got involved in internet marketing in 2002, I learned quickly that I could do very well by reverse-engineering my marketing funnel.

That is, by keeping and analyzing metrics for my online biz:

  • How many buyers per webinar attendee…
  • how many webinar attendees per email…
  • how many email subscribers per click to my squeeze page…
  • how many clicks per dollar(s) I spent on pay-per-click..!

…by doing the math I could come up with a pretty reliable figure of what I would need to spend on advertising in order to get $1,000, $10,000, or $50,000 in sales.

This information helped me to “roll out” products with very little risk. For example, in 2008 I re-launched an information product that netted over $57,800 in about six weeks, and went on to make over a million more (you can get the detailed the report on that by leaving a thoughtful comment today) but I wouldn’t have sunk any time, effort, or money into it if I didn’t already have a proven winner.

By starting out small and tweaking the marketing funnel first so that you know that X amount of pay-per-click will result in Y amount of sales, you get to the place where you can set up a self-funding loop for your marketing.

But that is SOOOO last decade.


What I’m talking about today is instead of buying leads… you should be getting paid to get leads.


Yesterday my wife and I got new phones, with a special plan. The young gal selling us the phones said that as a part of a new promotion, we could listen to music “unlimitedly”, with none of it being counted against our data usage.

Heh… I don’t know if “unlimitedly” is a real word, but if it is then it’s my new very favorite adverb. “Unlimitedly” describes the Because if I’m getting PAID per lead instead of the other way around, that makes b00-koo sense. There is no limit to the amount of business you or I can attract with a setup like that.

Here are the powerful “Four Horsemen” of getting leads for your offline OR online business, “UNLIMITEDLY”:

The Power of Leverage: Increasing Returns I’ve recently been using Fiverr in my quest to prove that business opportunities ABOUND. The main, most important thing that I use Fiverr for is to “validate”; that is, you can use Fiverr (or eBay, or Craiglist, or any number of other cheap or free platforms) to TEST whether or not there is actually anyone out there that will pay for your services. It’s not the amount that matters; yes, it appears that you can only earn one “Fiverr” at a time, but that is only the beginning. And remember that we are learning to get PAID to get leads for our business. So I put up a couple of “gigs”, jobs that pay a Fiverr, or $5 a pop. One was for copywriting services, the other promised that I would teach them 7 hacks to get on the front page of local Google results for free. This last is essentially a PDF of my post on this blog, Seven Ways to Hack Local SEO for a Free Front Page Listing. In the last two months I’ve gotten scads of $5 copywriting jobs for all kinds of people and companies. Here’s the ticket: rather than shrugging and saying, “Ah, it’s only $5. I’ll give ‘em a minimal effort”… INSTEAD I pulled out all the stops and over-delivered. Essentially, I treated $5 jobs like they were $50 jobs, or $500 jobs. Napoleon Hill called this the principle of increasing returns. He said that if you consistently give more and better service than is expected, you will set in motion a principle that absolutely guarantees you a promotion in life. So some of what I did was piddly-widdly, like improving a leadpages ad for a total newbie at internet marketing, or tweaking a multi-level marketing page for a distributor of nutritional supplements. for these I earned EVERY PENNY of my $5 and worked my butt off like it was nobody’s business. And I may never hear from some of those guys again. But along the way, I also got:

  • A public speaker that asked me to do all of her PR work
  • A company that custom-designs computer apps that made me their lead copywriter
  • A travel firm that has me write all of their promotions now
  • A contact in India that makes amazing sites and programs and, like “Joe”, has given me loads of other contacts
  • A business consulting firm that again, has made me their lead copywriter and given me piles of high paying projects
  • A writer and lecturer in the Netherlands that paid me mucho cashola to help her rewrite huge sections of her website

…and a whole lot more. I should mention that I broke the Fiverr rules for NONE of these contacts; each of them sought me out by my Twitter handle @shoestring101 or they found my email by coming to my blog. They all started paying me directly for services related to what they found me for on Fiverr, but Fiverr is none the worse for it. Again, rather than PAYING for these leads, they paid ME. $5 a pop, or $4 if you count Fiverr’s commish. So that is another way of getting paid per lead: offer your own services cheaply and let that be the front door to your other paid projects.

The Power of Partnering

It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.

Oftentimes there are people in your life that are “connectors”… folks that will shout your name from the rooftops given the chance.

One such connector is my blogging friend, Ana Hoffman of Traffic Generation Cafe. Ana has an enormous following that digs in weekly to her “Marketing Skinny” emails and blog posts, as well as THE authoritative manual (that she gives away FREE) on generating free traffic to websites.

Besides being herself an expert on marketing, Ana brings in specialists to help her audience. One such specialist recently was Ryan Levesque, an expert on using surveys to radically multiply sales and conversions.

Get this:

I was on a webinar with Ana and Ryan where the latter was explaining how his “survey sales funnel” approach has gotten 175,000 customers (no, I didn’t say leads, or even dollars… that’s 175K paying customers, HELLO…) across 17 different markets in only 23 months. Whew!

During the webinar Ryan wryly answered an objection to an attendee’s question: “If you are doing so well with this ‘survey funnel’ thing, why are you selling the training for only $XXX dollars?”

Pay attention to this reply…

“Heh…” Ryan wryly answers, “I’ll tell you a secret. MOST folks will just buy the training and learn to set up a survey sales funnel for themselves. But a good number of people that know how effective this method is will be happier to have me set it up for them… and for that I charge a lot.”

Woo-hoo. The power of partnering: Ana invites her audience of dedicated followers that know her as a go-to gal for marketing. She hosts a program for Ryan to strut his stuff… gets paid I’m sure in the form of affiliate commish… but!

Ryan does VERY well because not only does he sell a boatload of courses… but those that want the benefit of a survey funnel but NOT the work, hire him to do the work. Win-win-win; Ana, Ryan, and their customers all do well from this arrangement.

What is Ryan’s biz? Setting up survey funnels. But by offering to share his training and share commissions Ryan is able to prospect for customers that want his services, while getting paid.

Getting paid per lead instead of the other way around. Well done, Ryan and Ana.

The Power of the Back End

My book, Get Paid TODAY! How to Structure Your Small Business Startup to be Profitable from Day ONE is also a get-paid-per-lead tool.

Folks that buy the book are paying for the info about how to properly “bootstrap”; that is, to take a business idea and get paid from the beginning.

But sprinkled all throughout the book are assignments and freebies that I give to folks that complete them.

A LOT of these assignments have resulted in people starting their own businesses and becoming their own boss… some on a small scale, some larger. But once a fella or a lady has begun to put simple marketing principles to work and seen them put real, actual, SPENDABLE CASH in their pockets…

…guess who they come to for advice on improving or expanding their already-profitable business?

Yup. Yers truly ;-)

One fella was able (and just in time, too!) to completely replace his income by becoming his own boss weeks after getting laid off. He asked me how to bump up his income, which I told him I would do and he could pay my consulting fee of $101 AFTER he had upped his income by a thousand bucks per month.

Now let’s examine what has happened here: my book, Get Paid TODAY! is sold on Amazon for about six bucks. Of that, I see about $4, or a little less if somebody borrows it or reads it as part of their Kindle Unlimited plan.

(which I recommend, BTW– I’ve been able to fully round out my collection of Steve Scott books and a few other guys and gals that I follow with Kindle Unlimited)

So I get paid $4… then I get a new follower on my blog and email list… that also wants advice on quickly expanding his fledgling biz… that I earn another $101 for doing.

If you were to get paid $4 to tell someone about your consulting biz and pull in another $101 wouldja do it? All together now, say it with me:

“Yeah! Every day and twice on Sunday.”


The Power of Giving it Away

Finally, one of the best ways that I’ve found to Get PAID for getting leads instead of the other way around is to simply give away things for free.

Before you discount the validity of giving things away free and eventually getting paid… think of some of the biggest success stories in the world.

Microsoft… gave away hotmail, free. Ever hear of ‘em?

Lifechurch, a ministry based in Edmond, OK grows quickly to 25 locations after developing and giving away “YouVersion” Bible app, as well as complete teaching resources for pastors. Free.

Google is based on making scads and scads and SCADS of useful programs, apps, and information available to everyone FREE… and now they are the second biggest company in North America, tipping the scales at $400 BILLION.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube. All grew by giving away a free, useful service.

Try this: give away something genuinely useful, and do it in a way that doesn’t add “strings” or “conditions”.

Eventually, someone is going to actually ASK to pay you for more… no kidding.

That’s the way one the most successful information products I’ve ever put together got started.

I was giving away free info on a new way of stock and options trading that I had developed, when I did a particularly cool move on EBAY that put money in my pocket, but allowed me to stay in a stock without risk of losing, even if the sotck’s price went down.

One of my free subscribers wrote in saying, “That’s probably the coolest thing I have ever seen. Have you written a book? I would buy that book.”


Again, I would LOVE to give you a PDF that tells my story on that. It’s the story of how giving something away FREE got leveraged into an information product that has grossed nearly $2 million in sales and related subscriptions.

My story is a leeedle bit long for a blog post, tipping the scales at 5000 words. So I want to give it away only to the folks that really, really wanna know how to get paid for what’s in their head. Just ask for it in the comments section (your email is automatically logged so I can send it to you) and you’ll get ‘er in the mail in two shakes!

Until then, dear Reader (you’re my favorite! ;-) )

Keep Stepping!


Inside the $2 Startup: Making a Real Business on a Shoestring In Two Hours

How the Flippiness book-flipping system works. Used textbooks are in great demand by students at university, but being dumped for cheap after the semester is over. MMmm, smell that? Opportunity!

Hello, Steppers! IN today’s post I interview Dinesh Agarwal, the “Head Dude” and founder at Flippiness is dedicated to helping people make thousands of dollars every month in their spare time by “flipping”;  buying and selling used books.

Dinesh started Flippiness with a whopping, TWO dollar investment (gulp! that’s a LOT ;-) ) and only two hours of his time.

Two hours, two dollars, and a real business (with the potential to make it BIG) gets its start. It reminds me of the Startup Bus that the Startup Bros talk about, where groups of designers and coders get on a bus, drive around… and by the time the bus comes to a halt they have pieced together an app and already started to make money! Or my epic post about Noah Kagan, who made up his mind to start a non-tech biz and kick it off with over $1,000 in profits in 24 hours… and actually pulled it off.

Two Dollar Tech Startup; Dinesh Agarwal Began Flippiness in a Couple Hours with Almost NO Capital Investment

Two Dollar Tech Startup; Dinesh Agarwal Began Flippiness in a Couple Hours with Almost NO Capital Investment

I’ll get to today’s interview in a sec, but I want to make sure that everyone reading this knows that wherever you are in the world, whatever you have in terms of talent and resources… YOU have the ability to become an entrepreneur and make it big. Shoestring101 lives by this principle that I’ve been shouting from the rooftops… that you only need TWO things to start a profitable business:

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

You don’t even need to be physically present in the market that you serve. Dinesh Agarwal lives in India, yet he has made a viable business supporting American college students and stay-at-home moms that need extra cash. Recently I helped Dinesh with some copywriting projects, including all the sales copy on the landing page at Here’s an important principle: Dinesh was already making money from the site before I hiring me to add the  copy that’s there today. He didn’t hire me until he had already proven the concept and collected a few dollars. This principle of self-funding is crucial if you’re going to build your business on a Shoestring. Here’s some snippets of my conversation with Dinesh.


KURT: Dinesh, thanks for agreeing to talk with me today about how you started Flippiness on a Shoestring. What is Flippiness?

DINESH: Flippiness is a system that identifies inefficiencies in market and serves them to its users at whatever level they want to participate.

Flippiness scours the internet to identify books in great demand but selling at different prices

Flippiness scours the internet to identify books in great demand but selling at different prices. Clickez to enlargez-vous.

KURT: What is the product that Flippiness provides its subscribers?

DINESH:  Flippiness finds books that can be flipped to make quick bucks. We find two websites, one selling the book at a lower price and the other buying the book back at a higher price.

KURT: How much of a capital investment did you need to make personally to make Flippiness a reality?

DINESH: I believe in Lean startup methodology. When I started Flippiness I already had a book database from another startup. I wrote the code to find inefficiencies in two hours and launched it. If you really want the number, I spent $2 on the domain. I used the servers I already had to host it. Now that Flippiness is working fine and got some traction and paying users, I have 60 machines running 24X7 finding books that can be flipped so it is a bit expensive now.

KURT: Were there funds contributed by outside sources, including self-fundin (incoming customers finance the next level of services offered)?

DINESH: Most of the money that we spend on Flippiness today comes from the subscriptions. We also get decent affiliate income from websites that we redirect users to buy or sell books.

KURT: A byline of Shoestring101 is, “All you need to start a business is 1) access to a thing of value, and 2) a way to communicate with those that value that thing.” Do you agree with this? In what way has Flippiness given a thing of value to folks that value that thing?

DINESH: I totally agree with that. When I started Flippiness it looked like a beat up version of However, people looked past the design and paid us! Our target audience is smart people who know how to make a solid side income. These people continuously source good deals from Internet. We took the pain of finding something worthwhile and served it to them via our website and over email. It struck a chord with them.

KURT: That’s awesome. So, YOU provide your customers with moneymaking opportunities… that’s what THEY value. But on another level, your subscribers are doing the same thing; with your help they connect people that need books with people that want to sell their books. Another layer of “access to a thing of value and a way to communicate with those that value that thing.”

DINESH: Yes. Flippiness lines up perfectly with that saying. Our audience needs an easy way to make money with least amount of efforts. We provide exactly that. We have created Forum to let our subscribers interact with us and other Flippers to get their questions answered.

KURT: I like that you provide a platform for experienced subscribers to share their learned lessons. Let’s talk about the business of flipping books… How much money can a Flippiness subscriber hope to make in their first month? In 3 months? In a year?

DINESH: People are making from $600 (on free plan) to $2000 a month. In the first month one usually loses some time and even money at times by jumping on the deals that are not good. As they get more experience, they become smarter and start making bank. A free user can make about $1000 in first 3 months and over $7000 a year. A paid user can make about $3000 in first 3 months and over $24K in a year.

How the Flippiness book-flipping system works. Used textbooks are in great demand by students at university, but being dumped for cheap after the semester is over. MMmm, smell that? Opportunity!

How the Flippiness book-flipping system works. Used textbooks are in great demand by students at university, but being dumped for cheap after the semester is over. MMmm, smell that? Opportunity! (click to Embiggen)

KURT: Who is your biggest performer?

DINESH: To be honest I don’t know. Not everybody has given me their numbers. But I know a person who keeps Flippiness open whenever he is on his PC. He continuously refreshes the page to keep an eye on books that get added. I know for a fact that some people have made over $3000 a month.

KURT: What is the most important thing a Flipper should know to start off right?

DINESH: It’s all common sense, but still we all make mistakes. I always suggest them that if the deal is too good to be true one should make sure everything is in order. The book should not have heavy wear and tear. Sometimes sellers list a wrong book under wrong ISBN and hence a seller’s reputation is important to know if the deal is legit. Then there are all sorts of editions of a book – paperback instead of hardcover, international editions, instructors’ edition etc. While our system takes care of most of it, one should always look carefully into all these factors. We have a best practices guide on our website that I ask every flipper to read before they jump on it.

Flippiness has a tiered structure for its members; free, paid, and premium. I tried the FREE plan and made ten bucks in about five minutes.

Flippiness has a tiered structure for its members: free, paid, and premium. Tried the FREE plan, made 10 bucks in 5 minutes.

KURT: What would you advise someone to do that has an idea like Flippiness? Can you steer them from making mistakes, or overlooking opportunities?

DINESH: Start small and see if people pay for it. Even if you have to source the deals by hand, try it out. If people pay you for it, then you can put more resources into it.

KURT: I totally agree Dinesh. Noah Kagan calls this process “validation”. I always called it testing. In either case, it’s important to see if your opportunity is going to be viable by seeing if actual customers pay actual money first. THEN you can scale up. So, what’s next for Flippiness?

DINESH: We get emails from people that they want us to launch in their country. We are planning to expand Flippiness to multiple countries starting with UK and Germany.

try it now

Who doesn’t LOVE a brilliant call to action? ;-) Flippiness’ unbeatable proposition: try it free, make some green, then get a paid subscription and scale up!

KURT: So international expansion for Flippiness, the tech startup that you began with a two dollar investment and two hours of coding! No one can tell me that there isn’t opportunity in this world to make money. All you have to do is recognize that people want or need to buy things and other people want or need to sell things. It ain’t rocket science folks, just hustle a bit. Whew…. soapboxing, sorry. So, I know that Flippiness, though it has fantastic potential, is only a sideline business for you. What’s next for Dinesh Agarwal, a name we’ll all soon be familiar with? What other things are you involved with now?

DINESH: My full time business is Pro Start Me ( I work with people who have great ideas and build it with them for equity. I have built 10+ startups in the last year. Some of them did not make it while some are doing well. The ones that are doing well are:,, and of course Flippiness.

KURT: GREAT interview Dinesh. I would love to add to it in the future, perhaps by expanding on what Folwd and Fan Harvest are all about. For now though, what am I forgetting to ask about Flippiness?

DINESH: You might want to know what kind of customer service I provide to my customers. Recently I sent an email out about a one-day offer where we offered $50 off on first month of Flippiness Gold plan. One person emailed me telling me how he hated it. I can take criticism well. I apologized to that person and replied to his email immediately. In his next email he applauded the fact that I cared about my customers and apologized for his rude email. I also got an email recently where the lovely lady told me that my emails motivate her to achieve her goals. I usually try to answer emails immediately. More than money I want people to know that I stand behind my products. I prefer people saying “The product sucks but the guy is nice” than saying “The product is awesome but the guy sucks”.

KURT: That’s a sound principle; treat others how you want to be treated. And have a thick skin to deal with complaints without getting ruffled! Dinesh, thank you for the time here to discuss Flippiness. Not a lot of people know it, but billionaire Jeff Bezos started the giant company on the same principle: disparity in the prices of books. He bought and sold books online before expanding into other things. Best wishes to you and Flippiness, and thank you for hiring me to write some of our ad copy and autoresponder follow-up emails.

DINESH: I will continue to send others your way. You are my go-to guy for copywriting. Let us talk more and see if we can do something together.


There you have it, Steppers! Opportunity is everywhere. Dinesh started Flippiness, which I happen to think has a LOT of potential, in a few hours’ time and with only two dollars to secure the domain name. He started out dominating a tiny niche: helping college students that are looking for cheap used textbooks on one hand, helping students that need to dump their old textbooks on the other. Dinesh began by growing organically; no “seed money”, “angel investors”, no loans to pay back or partners to divvy up the profits with.

Now Flippiness is looking to grow internationally! By the way, if you want to pick up a few extra dollars by flipping books yourself, I know from experience that it works! I checked it out, both with Flippiness and even on eBay. My biggest book flip to date has been a $180 profit, no joke. Took me two short investments of ten minutes each. To get started flipping books part-time for fun and profit, or to ask any question of Dinesh: Head “Dude” at Flippiness, check the graphic below:

Dinesh Agarwal is available for serious questions about Flippiness. You can start a viable business just minutes after opening your free or paid account.

Dinesh Agarwal is available for serious questions about Flippiness. You can start a viable business just minutes after opening your free or paid account.

Here on I share practical Steps (the “Shoestring Steps”) for starting, marketing, and growing a business organically. Dinesh Agarwal is just one entrepreneur that’s been able to start businesses with a ridiculously low amount of capital and turn it into a working income stream.

For other posts on the subject of starting your own business on a Shoestring, check out:

We MADE It! Results of Our30 Day, $1,000 Challenge

Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures

My Take on Noah Kagan’s 24 Hour Challenge: Sumo Jerky

Just Because You Don’t Own Something Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Sell It

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring: Part ONE

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring: Part TWO

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring: Part THREE

Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget: The World Domination from ZERO Strategy

Kurt Frankenberg blogs about and advises new business owners on how to start without gambling savings, taking out loans, or partnering with folks that may not share your vision. Shoestring101 is located in Colorado Springs, CO. To reach Kurt, use Twitter handle @shoestring101 or call  +1 719 360 9559.

Keep Stepping,





How to Game Starbucks for Free Drinks and Other Stuff

WAIT! Before you buy TWO items with one swipe, get 'em separately. That's worth another 50 Cent!

Hello, Steppers!

In today’s grande-nonfat-sugar-free-vanilla-triple-shot post, we depart from the regular talk about marketing your business with low dough… today it’s about How to Get FREE DRINKS (and Other Stuff) from Starbucks.

Free Coffee at Starbucks Thumbs Up

You Can Get Free Coffee at Starbucks if You Spend Enough Time and Money There Already…

Stick with me, toward the end I’ll show how I effectively got an Iced Venti (20 oz) Caramel Macchiato, a blueberry scone, PLUS a 20 oz iced coffee… for a total for BOTH drinks and the pastry of $2.14, .50 cents of which I’m going to get back… Intrigued? Read on.

BTW, though we’re talking about that beloved elixir of life, COFFEE (Oooga shaka, oooga oooga ooga shaka)… I do still think it’s important I give you the latest and greatest in marketing on a Shoestring.  So today’s post is brought to you by the lovely and talented Ana Hoffman of TrafficGenerationCafe.

I call Ana the “Queen of Traffic” because she regularly outdoes some of the great gurus in her space… WITHOUT the benefit of ANY paid advertising. That’s no money spent for regularly getting hundreds of thousands of views. Thass right, I said no money spent for hundreds of thousands of views.

Nix, nada.

Zilch. Zero.

No mas.

Traffic comes to naturally and for free because of Ana Hoffman’s penchant for delivering more value for free… than some of the gurus might charge $100′s for in an information product.

Plus, she has some killer hacks. I mean, genius in a box. You can pick up piles of unique, not-available-anywhere-else-marketing-wisdom without charge at her site.

F’rinstance, Ana’s recent post on how to reach “influencers” in your space is super-valuable to anyone involved in content marketing.

Plus there’s a mention or two of yers truly in there. ;-)

So if YOUR site could use more highly targeted traffic, without spending a dime on advertising… go read it, and quick! Here’s the link again to the latest and greatest in marketing:

Free Traffic Generation Strategies

While You’re Sipping That Free Coffee from Starbucks, Take a Look at PROVEN, FREE Traffic Generation Strategies from Ana Hoffman’s Traffic Generation Cafe!

So… back to ME. Ooh, and coffeeeee. Ah.

As a writer, I’ve inhabited coffee shops all over the fruited plain. MOST writers I know are also caffeine-based lifeforms, and though many of us prefer the mom and pop shops… we all have spent at least SOME time at the good ol’ corporate evil dispensary where cheery baristas and creepy pics of Oprah abound.

How to Get Free Drinks (and Other Stuff) at Starbucks

So I don’t feel TOO bad about teaching the general public how to squeeze SBUX for every last cent; they’ve gotten more than their “Fair Trade” from me over the last ten years since my good friend Emil got me started with ‘em.

That said! I’ve got a devious mind that concocts crazy stuff… woulda been a great bank robber or international jewel thief. So I come up with, shall we say… interesting ideas… that I’ve been known to try out and see what I can get away with.

My internal moral compass keeps me from going really far with things though.

I’m not going to encourage any “black hat” stuff designed to intentionally bilk Sixbucks… er, STARbucks out of what they deserve in terms of patronage. I don’t believe in straight-up stealing, not even from a behemoth like the Big Green and White.

But we DO wanna make dang sure you and I get full value for what we spend there, right? It’s almost confiscatory what they are charging these days.

SO here’s a checklist of what you’ll need to get maximum free drinks and free food at Starbucks:

  • Your Own Cup
  • A Registered Starbucks Card
  • Starbucks App for your Smart Phone
  • A charming, friendly disposition
  • A pair of Brass Balls

Armed with these, your trip to free drinkdom is ready to plan…

Bring Your Own Cup to Starbucks for Free Coffee

First off, Starbucks gives you a discount of .10 cents right off the bat if you bring in your own cup. It’s not much, but .10 cents IS .10 cents. It adds up, and starting small is always a good thing.

My daughter made me this cup at one of those crafty places. It’s still my fave, mainly because it reminds me of my little sweetheart. But there’s a side benny: the thing holds over twenty ounces!

If you order a Tall (12 oz) or Grande (16 oz), but hand the barista a 20+ oz personal cup, they’re likely to fill it to the top. Not that we’re trying to encourage that, wink wink ;-) … but it happens often enough to be worth it. That, added to your personal cup discount makes for more of that precious brown harbinger of happiness. For less.

Whether you squeeze extra free Starbucks coffee out of this little gambit, you certainly will pay the .10 cents less, while at the same time saving the planet from being overrun with paper cups and trite sayings from celebrities.

Register Your Starbucks Card for Free Coffee

There are at least four ways to get free coffee and discounted coffee and treats with a registered Starbucks card.

Free Coffee from a Registered Starbucks Card Tip #1:

First off, they give ya free refills! Now, that’s not for specialty drinks like lattes and mochas and shakes, oh my… it’s only for the plain drip coffee. But hey, for those of us that appreciate plain ol’ coffee that’s a no-brainer. Buy a drip, get a drip free.


I happen to enjoy a Caffe Misto. I’ll often get this 1st, then a free drip refill afterwards.

Here’s where the Brass Balls (from your list above) come in handy: Caffe Misto happens to be an even mix of steamed milk and drip coffee. Here, they charge ya over 3 bucks for a 20 oz.

So sometimes when I go for my refill, I say, “Just a drip coffee refill please… with LOTS of room.”

Then as the barista is getting ready to hand back my cup I tell her, “Um, and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you were to put some steamed milk in there.”

Smile big, shut up.


They know what I’m doing… but usually smile and give me the 2nd Caffe Misto fo’ FREE.


Hey, they would give me the milk free anyway out on the condiments table… but that would be cold milk, making for a lukewarm drink. And they don’t use microwaves in Starbucks, so… this is how I roll.

Don’t judge me.

Okay, next:

Free Coffee from a Registered Starbucks Card Tip #2: Happy Birthday!

Yes, Starbucks gives their favorite registered customers a free drink each time they make it around the sun. Now, I wouldn’t actually do the following plan… but it would work.

For a one-time investment of $260, you might set yourself up with a free drink a week for life. That’s $5 for each gift card… then go register them with different email addresses (those things are free, ya know) and different birthdays. One for each week.

Aw, shucks! You KNOW I wouldn’t actually do something like that. Setting up dozens of fictitious birthdays is definitely black hat. But I will tell you this: I’ve got a registered card for the birthday of every person in my household, even though I’m the only coffee drinker.

I can tell you’re quietly judging me again. Well, I take my kids to SBUX on their birthdays and I ACTUALLY BUY THEM SOMETHING while we’re there.

So Starbucks gets mo’ money.

But my coffee drink is free.

Free Coffee from a Registered Starbucks Card Tip #3: “Swipe” Some Free Coffee!

THIS tip was actually given to me by Mary, an employee at Starbucks who will remain nameless. Oops. Well, she’ll remain last-nameless.

“Ya know, once you register a card with your email and home address they start keeping track of you and your purchasing habits.”

Personally, I think it’s a plot by President Obama and the NSA to know exactly where they can find and recognize you in Starbucks by what you’re ordering. I’m KIDDING… kind of…

That said, there IS a tasty incentive for providing the NSA er, Starbucks with all kinds of personal information:

Each time they swipe your card you get a “star”.

Remember those from when we were kids? Gold stars are good. Get enough of ‘em and you get nice things from your Mom or your Dad, or your teacher at kindergarten.

Old motivations die hard; I’m still trying to make up for all the gold stars I DIDN’T get for being a good boy back then.


Mary, the last-nameless Starbucks employee advised me,

“Next time you buy two items, ask the partner to swipe your registered card twice, paying for them separately.”

WAIT! Before you buy TWO items with one swipe, get 'em separately. That's worth another 50 Cent!

WAIT! Before you buy TWO items with one swipe, get ‘em separately. That’s worth another 50 Cent!

Ahhhh. Cooool. Maximum gold stars.

“Of course,” she continued, “…don’t be that guy that’s holding up a line and buying six items, demanding a separate swipe for each. That’s no way to make friends with your barista or your fellow customers.”


Now, I did me some math. Every twelve stars gets you a free drink or food item. Since I’m often at a coffee shop all dang day putting finishing touches on a blog post or book chapter, I often get a food item. The Chicken Salad and Bacon Sandwich costs $5.95… or twelve stars.

That makes each star worth about .50 cents to me. Dayum.

Free Coffee from a Registered Starbucks Card Tip #4:

Perhaps the least obvious way to get free coffee and stuff from your Starbucks card  is to check your free Starbucks card app daily for specials and promotions.

Time and again there will be a notice in your “rewards” section that clues you in: $1.00 off a sandwich, double stars for any cold drink, et cetera.

It isn’t easy to find these specials… you have to check how many stars you have, then scroll to the right where the records are kept of how many rewards you’ve already cashed in. Then you will find the secret treasure trove of code-numbered offers. It’ll say something like, CODE 131: 20% off any packaged coffee.

Try and time your visits to those days when you get double stars, and if you were gonna buy packaged coffee or a sandwich or a merch item ANYWAY… the codes will get you the best price.

ANOTHER Way to Get Free Starbucks Stuff: ASK For a Discount

Here’s where those Brass Balls come in handy…

Sometimes I’ll simply ASK for a discount on an item I’m picking up.

Learned this one from good ol’ Noah Kagan in his How to Make Your First Dollar course: one of the first and most important keys to salesmanship is asking for the offer.

And one of the first and most important keys to being an entrepreneur is NOT being concerned what people think… and to simply ASK for what you want.

Got a pair? Pony up and prove it… it doesn’t cost you a thing and you (probably) won’t get thrown out for asking. Take a deep breath, hold it, let it out… and ASK for a discount.

The worst possible thing that could happen is that a judgey sixteen-year old barista raises her eyebrow at you for being a cheapass. The best thing that could happen is, well… you get stuff for free or at a discount.

STILL ANOTHER Way to Get Free Starbucks Stuff: Ask for a Markout

Gettin’ even brassier here…

Starbucks throws out lots of stuff.

Like pastries at a certain time of day.

They “mark it out”… meaning that they go into their computer and account for stuff that’s going bye-bye… then very often nip a li’l bite as they throw out piles of useable food.

It’s criminal.

And they know it.

So sometimes yers truly will mosey up to the counter and say, “Ummmmm. Yummay. That blueberry scone looks like it’s almost five minutes too old to sell.”


Your Friendly Disposition from the above list does well here.

If you’ve taken the time to make a few friends of the baristas, they will take care of you.

So long as you don’t ABUSE the privilege.

Keep Tuned In To Get Free Coffee and Stuff at Starbucks

Y’know? Every store has their “regulars”. Because we drink a lot of coffee, some of us are more regular than others… ahem. But puns and bathroom humor aside, the fact that I take the time to banter with baristas and ask after their families and such makes me one of their “favorite customers”.

Now, I don’t just do this principle and flatter baristas just to eke a bit of free coffee or stuff out of ‘em…. I would be personable and kind to anyone I meet regardless of  who they were or what they could/couldn’t do for me. Check out the post on Creating Value to see more about this principle, but in short it goes like this:

Be NICE to people for no good reason at all.

Because it’s the right thing to do, and doesn’t cost you a dime.

Sometimes, as a natural side effect, magic happens. And when it does, pay it forward by being nice to more folks.

Here’s an example of some magical side effects:

Things get hectic in the drive-thru and they make too many drinks. One of the extras happens to be your fave… and your favorite barista that considers you her favorite customer calls you up to the counter for a free drink.

I wouldn’t write about it if it hadn’t happened to me MULTIPLE times.

Now again, the idea is not “be nice and you will get free drinks“. Give to get. No, no , NOOOO.  It’s more like, “great stuff happens all the time, and to be in tune with the forces that send those great things your way once in a while… BE that force for someone else often as you get the chance.”

Ya dig?

Treat Receipts, Gold Stars, Refills, Oh My! The Ultimate Plan For Free Drinks and Stuff at Starbucks

Finally, the piece de resistance: combining strategies for the Ultimate Plan.

So I’m heading off to Starbucks to crank out a couple thousand words. Ironically, those words are about how to get free coffee and stuff at Starbucks.

It’s 1:45 in the afternoon.

I sniff out a good spot to perch and percolate the latest genius for Shoestring101, but FIRST! Head up to the counter and add $5 to my card.

My favorite barista winks and  hands me a “treat receipt”.

After getting situated, it’s 2:01pm. I walk back up to the bar and get an iced grande caramel machiatto (in my 20 oz personal cup, which they filled…so, VENTI not grande) for two bucks plus tax.

That’s because when you get a “treat receipt” before 2:00 in the afternoon, then “return” the same day you can buy any iced grande drink for two bucks.

Oh, and refills with your registered card are free… so…

Filled ‘er up again after about a thousand words.

Fo’ free. Because coffee refills on a registered card are free. Not a caramel machiatto, mind you… just an iced coffee… but a FREE one.



Gettin’ rid of those blueberry scones are we? You’re not really throwing that out, are ya? ;-)


THAT, my friends is how to use a registered card, a friendly disposition, the treat receipt, and a pair of brass balls to get what I promised to show you at the beginning of this post: an Iced Venti (20 oz) Caramel Macchiato, a blueberry scone, PLUS a 20 oz iced coffee… for a total for BOTH drinks and the pastry of $2.14, .50 cents of which I’m going to get back.

Because buying the first drink gets me a star on my registered card.

Conclusion of How to Get Free Drinks and Stuff at Starbucks

Yes, I realize that in order to get all these discounts and bonuses I’ve got to be a regular Starbucks rat. Starbucks knows it too. That’s why I’m sure they don’t mind me gaming them a bit to get the very best value for the many, many dollars I spend there.

I think they’re still okay with it.

Plus… I own the place. Well, a piece of it.

Full disclosure: I own shares of Starbucks… SBUX on the Nasdaq exchange.

SO it’s okay. I’m one of the owners ;-) and I don’t mind if you game me out of a teeeeny bit of profit by using these ideas.

Keep Stepping,


P.S. Hey, what did I forget? If you’ve got a “top secret” method for getting free drinks and stuff at Starbucks, spill the beans woudja?!? Put your awesome strategy or experience in the comments. Oh, and make SURE to go see Ana Hoffman’s fab post on how to successfully engage influencers in your niche. Your time will be WELL spent there. Here’s that link once again:

7 Ways to Hack Local Search SEO for a Free Front Page Listing

Front Page Results! My local biz has SEVEN listings on the front page of Google...

How I Got Listed Seven Times on the Front Page of Google

If you’re a small biz owner interested in using guerrilla tactics to beat out your competitors while not spending a DIME, you landed on the right page. Today I show you seven ways to hack local search results on Google with zero cost.

Front Page Results! My local biz has SEVEN listings on the front page of Google...

Front Page Results! My local biz has SEVEN listings on the front page of Google…

If you doubt that a small business owner can spend NOTHING and get on the front page of Google multiple times, try Googling these terms:

  • Karate for Kids in Monument, CO (6 front page listings: Yelp, my blog, Facebook page, 3 Videos)
  • Karate Monument, Colorado  (5 front page listings: Yelp, my blog, Google+ page, Facebook page, Video)
  • Martial Arts Monument, CO (5 front page listings also)

Anyone interested being featured multiple times in the front page of Google results.. with eye-catching listings… and doing it for NO money, read on.

Hack Local Search Results; Become Known QUICKLY

You want your business to get on the front page of results for keywords your customers are looking up. Before I show you my top secret ninja moves, let’s get to basics again. There are three keys to marketing  a local business:

  1. Know where folks in your target market are;
  2. Know where they go;
  3. Know where they look.

For the first key, I look up demographics by neighborhood.  I buy mailing lists for streets nearby with 35-45 year old women. Why? Because MOM decides what activities her 6-11 year old child is going to do.

That’s knowing where they (my target customers) are. It’s expensive but has great, predictable results.

Here’s a completely different method that packs ‘em in the door: I like to put coupons on pizza boxes… actually I pay for the coupons, the restaurant employees put ‘em on bozes. Here’s an offer it’s hard for a family to refuse: get two trial lessons at the Freedom School of Martial Arts and I’l buy you a pizza!

That’s the second key: knowing where your target customers go. And intercepting ‘em there with your own offer. Families go get pizza; I promise to buy ‘em more pizza if they try me out too.

But the easiest way to be seen by your targets starts with  knowing where they look. This is the third, and arguably most important key.

Because with this key you can become known in your area quickly, cheaply, and most of all… PROFITABLY.

Ready for those ninja moves? Let’s get bizzy:

1: Hack Google with Local Directories

Google relies heavily on smaller search directories like Yelp, Yext, Yahoo… Yellow Pages, et cetera. Last time I looked there were over a hundred services that catalog local businesses. In your area, there may be several that stand out, while others aren’t even on the radar.

It’s your job to find out which ones are in use and to avail yourself of the free listings. Here’s how:

  • Go to and type in ” (your area) business directory”
  • Enter each website into an Excel spreadsheet and check ‘em off as you claim the free listing
  • Make sure to add a bunch pictures or videos to each site (a tip on that later)
  • Call all your present customers, friends, in-laws, outlaws, and extended family all the way down to that one guy that shows at all the family gatherings and no one knows who he’s related to. Get them to post reviews (positive ones, hello) on your free listing(s).
  • Lather, rinse, repeat. Get as many of these up as you can in a hurry and you’ll be surprised what a splash you’ll make.

All this is free. If you’re short on time, a lot can be outsourced on for $5 or $10.

Yelp, Yext, Yahoo. And about 100 others. Use smaller local search engines to enhance your local Google standing

Yelp, Yext, Yahoo. And about 100 others. Use smaller local search engines to enhance your local Google standing

The idea is to create a boatload of references out there to you and your business. Now, the 80/20 rule is at work here… first throw a bunch of $h!t up on the wall and see what sticks. Chances are most results will come from one or two listings out of ten. Those are the listings you’ll want to flesh out some more later on.

Don’t get talked into doing paid advertising with any of them unless the free traffic from a particular listing pays for it. Then knock yourself out. But I do okay without spending a dime… true to Shoestring101 form ;-)

2: Hack Local Search Results with Facebook

SO this simple hack is easy… but powerful enough you’ll drop your jaw on the floor. Ready?

  • Find out what keywords your present customers search, + your local area. For example, “Kids Karate” + “Monument, Colorado”.
  • Start a Facebook Page and name it that. Name it your keyword! Example:
  • Invite every friend you gots. I have a video that shows how I do this quickly, even with over 1,000 Facebook friends.
  • Post to this page at least 1X a day for several weeks. DON’T post 20X a day or people will “UNLIKE” it. Try varying the posts; some pics, some videos, some text. Make it entertaining and useful 95% of the time, about 5% of the time post an offer of some sort.

 Once you start getting some likes, you’ll be able use Insights to find out more about your audience. Post stuff REGULARLY to this page that’s useful and shareable… and you’ll find that your audience begins to grow exponentially without a lot of effort.  And as your audience grows and interacts with you, it won’t be long before the page itself ranks in Google local search,

Write me if you want to know about the tool I use to streamline this process and save hours of work. No, I’m not an affiliate seller of the tool. I just want to give the inside scoop to the go-getters. Next up: How to hack your way to the the top of the page with video…

3: Hack Local Search Results with YouTube

Make a short video and title it as the keyword, same as the Facebook page hack.  Remember picking out the keywords and adding the local area? For me it’s “karate” or “martial arts” or “kids karate” + “Monument, CO”. Say you own a lawn mowing service and live in Jacksonville, Florida. The name of your video could be “Lawn Mowing Service in Jacksonville, FL”.  It’s easy to upload a video, even if you don’t have a video camera. Just use still photos and plug them into a tool like Windows Movie Maker or Animoto. Or you could take actual video of an event or showing your product or service at work. This video of one of my Students breaking his first brick is a good example. This video has actually become PR3 by itself for the keywords that I want, and the URL in the description points to the front page of my martial arts blog. Hard to beat. Make sure you:

  • Only make the video last :15 sec – 1:00 minute total
  • Tag the video with your keywords and several variants
  • Put your contact info in the slides as well
  • Include a call to action

This video ^ was put together in about 20 minutes using animoto, a few pics on my PC and a video I took with my Samsung Galaxy II. Couldja use a video tutorial on exactly how to do the above steps? Be happy to do it if’n enough people ask. Just write me in the comments.

4: Hack Local Search Results with Google+

While Local Google Hacks #2 and #3 involve using keywords to title pages and videos… instead of your business name… here you will want to use your businesses’ actual moniker. Remember these key tips:

  • Google likes COMPLETE profiles. So invest the time it will take to fill yours out completely.
  • Pictures, videos, and offers are all part of a complete profile.
  • Make sure that your business name, address, phone and other vitals including hours of operation are congruent with other free listings

To enhance your Google+ business page, now get one of these cool map thingies to show up on search.

  1. Go to
  2. Sign in using the same gmail account that you created your Google + Local Account
  3. Click on My Places
  4. Click on Create Map
  5. Use the 2 step formula to create your Title
  6. Create your Description
  7. Make sure your map is public
  8. Add a Placemark – Drag and drop on your office location
  9. Put your business profile information in the Title and Description

5: Hack Local Search Results with your Blog

This one will definitely put you ahead of your competition, IF you actually use it.

Taking the time to write about what you are doing seems to be drudgery to some… but in fact, this particular discipline will be the one to truly set you free as an entrepreneur.

Documenting your business is the key to working ON your business instead of just working IN it. It will help you to go the extra mile for your customer and ultimately for yourself to contribute regularly to a blog.

From here or from our Facebook fan page, you can engage and learn about your audience. You detect trends. You test your market affordably and effecitvely. You learn how your customers and you jive together and have the best fightin’ chance at making that value-creating partnership the best it can be.

Write me if you want tips about blogging to build your local biz.

#6: Hack Local Search Results with Pictures

Remember up above I said I’d give you a tip on the pictures you post on local pages? Well, you’ll want to use this for any picture you upload, whether it’s to your blog, your Google+ business page, or local directories. NAME your PICTURE with keywords.

Front Page Results! My local biz has SEVEN listings on the front page of Google...

Front Page Results! My local biz has SEVEN listings on the front page of Google…

<===For example, THIS picture is saved in my computer as, “Hacking Front Page of Local SEO.JPG”

Cool, hmm?

Every time you upload a picture from your PC or MAC you’ll be crankin’ the SEO juice up simply because your picture is named what you are trying to rank for. This is especially good when you post to your blog.

It also sets you up for Hack #7 below.

#7: Hack Local Search Results by Repurposing Content

As powerful as each of these individual hacks can be, the rank-grabbing tactic of repurposing and combining is where rubber really hits the road.

Say you post a keyworded-up , eye-catching, relevant-to-your-audience pic to your blog. Then screen capture it with Camtasia, Camstudio, even load it up to Windows MovieMaker to make it into a part of a video. Then you post both the picture and the video to your Facebook page, Google+, and local directory.

NOW you’re cookin’ with gas! Because not only do you save yourself the trouble of coming up with separate pieces of content, you also have  bit o’ congruency and branding going on.

Another thing… if you do happen to run low on ideas for content, just leverage your existing customers. Almost everybody these days has a camera in their phone. Ask customers to take selfies, showing themselves happily using your product.  If you run a coffee shop, offer a free blueberry scone to the snarkiest comment or the cutest picture of their kids drinking a hot chocolate. Have fun with your existing customers and ask for likes, shares, and comments.  You may soon have the opposite problem of too MUCH content to publish! But be sure to reply to comments and engage your present customer base.

All of this activity adds to the relevance of the pages you’re trying to get ranked. Don’t be surprised if your business ends up on the front page of Google multiple times if you follow all the suggestions I’ve outlined here.

The Next “Step” for YOU

Steppers, I didn’t even scratch the surface with what’s available here… didn’t mention Pinterest or Instagram, or how to use Custom Audiences on Facebook to blow these strategies up. If you’d like the most current things I’m doing, or a n0-dollar hack for YOUR particular biz, put ‘er in the comments or drop me a line.

Thanks for taking a minute to look at these hacks for getting on the front page of Google. You can rank on page one for local business search with no investment except for time. For more marketing hacks, or to consult with a guy that’s made THREE six-figure businesses from scratch with little or no investment in paid advertising, hit me up on Twitter @shoestring101 or call me at +1 719 360 9559.

Have YOU got a hack that you’d like to share, or a question about the ones I’ve put above? If so, LOVE to hear from you in the comments. Til then, Keep Stepping! Kurt Frankenberg

Why Should I Advertise When Word of Mouth is Working So Well?

Words: ’bout 1500 AWESOME ones, yo. Take ya six minutes.
What They’re About: Why it’s important to have an ongoing marketing campaign in place, even when it doesn’t seem necessary.
Also, how to keep costs for this campaign really, REALLY low.

SMALL BIZ MARKETING DEATH MATCH: Word-of-Mouth vs. Paid Advertising

I recently had a conversation with a young lady who spends very few dollars, and even less time on her marketing strategy. She’s a licensed massage therapist.

Because the service that she does is top-notch, and because her customers are so “sold” on her as a person… they act as mini-evangelists, spreading the good word and bringing her a priceless, and seemingly cost-less supply of happy clients.

I told her it still would be a good idea to learn and use  the marketing techniques of Shoestring101.

She didn’t see why.

WHY Advertise When Word-of-Mouth is Working?

“Kurt, like you say to do, I’ve been tracking where customers come from. About 60% of my clients come from word of mouth advertising. Only 40% come from my print mailers. It’s VERY EXPENSIVE… and I’m only still doing that because I have a contract up to the end of the year.”

The direct mail advertising she was using the Val-Pak method, where a coupon for her services is included in a thick envelope with other coupons, and mailed to whole zip codes at a time. This is netting here about 1 new client a week, or 4 clients per month.

The other 6 customers were come by way of referral only; she’s pretty good at what she does. Plus, she makes it easy for current customers to refer her so it’s no accident that word-of-mouth is her biggest draw.

“When Val-Pak runs out, I’m going to just rely on referrals instead. Even with four less customers for every ten I’ll be doing the same or better with all the money I’ll save!” Her argument was that the lower amount of new business would be offset because she will be spending $1500 less per month on advertising.

While I agree that there are much, MUCH better ways to market than to just blanket an entire zip code with coupons… unless your particular business would appeal to a wide base like buyers of pizza or folks that need oil changes… My advice to our heroine was NOT to stop all paid methods of advertising.

Now, running a business coaching service with a name like Shoestring101 you would think that I’m all about eliminating… or at least LIMITING what people spend in every category… even the category of marketing. But that wasn’t my counsel.

Marketing ROI: New Blood Keeps it Going

“Samantha (not her real name)”, I said. “You just might just be missing the dollars by tripping over pennies.”

     “How’s that?”

“Think for a minute now about the math. Now, I know you’re looking at it in linear terms… that is, these four customers you pay $1500 for, and those six customers you pay nothing for… so it seems like a no-brainer to quit advertising. You go from $1500/10 customers or $150 per new customer to ZERO per new customer.”

      “Right. So… why not do that?”

“Well, does each customer represent more than the $150 it costs to get them?”

    “Well, yes, but that’s the point. A customer is profitable If I’m spending $0-to-$150 per customer, but not if I’m spending $375 per customer! I’m spending $1500 to get four and ZERO to get the other six. It cuts into my profits to have paid advertising at all.”

“Does it? Tell me, do you know exactly how you got those referrals? Walk me through one if you can.”

      “Let’s see… Amy came in from Lucy’s recommendation. Lucy and Amy work together at a hair salon.”

“Where did Lucy come from?”

      “Lucy banks at Wells Fargo, and her teller was Rosa.”

“And how did you get Rosa?”

      “Umm. The Val-Pak Mailer,” she admitted sheepishly. Apparently, it just dawned on Samantha that without the paid advertising… she would not have Rosa, Lucy, OR Amy. Without Rosa having opened a mailer, this particular chain of referrals would never have happened in the first place.

The Value of Having a Business Marketing Coach

“Samantha, by your own math you get six new clients free for every four clients you pay for. You pay for four and get ten. If you paid for eight, you’d get twenty, right?”

      “Umm.” she thought for a second. “Right!” Samantha brightened, then frowned.

“So why not pay for eight new clients per month? If it sets off a chain reaction where you get twenty?”

      “I see where you’re coming from. But… I can barely afford the $1500 per month for Val-Pak right now. I don’t want to hit another zip code and pay $3,000. I’m locked in for a whole year when I do that and while what you’re saying sounds good… getting twenty new customers a month… if it doesn’t work that increased advertising would put me out of business,” Samantha objected. “It’s just too risky.”

“Naw, I’m not suggesting you take on a great amount of risk. Just that you increase your marketing efforts to get eight new clients a month instead of four. Believe it or not, you already have all the ammunition you will probably need to get those other four at low or zero cost.”

The Shotgun/Laser Method… Find What Barrel to Fish In

Elsewhere on this blog, you’ll see the Shotgun/Laser technique. Here’s how it works:

  1. use one broad method like print ads, area mailers, et cetera to flush out just a few custoemrs and analyze where they’re coming from.
  2. Look for patterns. When you find a particular neighborhood, occupation, or other common factor among your paying customers, target more like them.
  3. Usually you can target specific groups more efficiently AND more effectively. And inexpensively.

“So Rosa came from the bank, eh? Are any of your other clients tellers?”


“Any other salon workers?”

    “Y’know, I’ve got almost everyone at Innovations in Style.”  Samantha beamed proudly.  “Once one of the girls started coming, she bragged about it to everyone. I’ve had almost every one of them in my chair at one time or another.”

“Samantha, here’s a direct-mail idea for you. Instead of blanketing an entire zip code with your message… now that you know that bank tellers and stylists are likely to be frequent customers of yours, how about targeting them?”

I showed Samantha how to go to and get a list of every bank and hair salon within ten miles. Melissa Data tracked them all down in a .xls document we could download immediately. For under fifteen dollars the list would also include phone numbers of those businesses!

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

“Send ‘em all a postcard, then follow up with a phone call. To the salon owners, pitch a ‘free massage day’ where you’ll come in and spoil each stylist during their break. They’re on their feet all day, probably that’s why you get so many of ‘em. Leave every stylist with two coupons… one for them, one for a friend.


“For the banks , they might have issues with security so you may not be able to go to them. Instead, invite the bank managers to have employees meet after-hours at your place for a talk about stress and how it can be beaten with good posture, relaxation, and an occasional massage.

“Have everyone buddy up and rub each others’ shoulders and necks. They can copy how you do it on the manager or one of the key employees. Make sure everyone experiences your touch for at least a few minutes during this session, cause that’s what you are selling. Then give ‘em all two coupons as well.”

     “Cool!” Samantha was catching on to the Shotgun/Laser technique. Her paid advertising went out to everyone in a zip code, but some particular types of customers had identified themselves: bank tellers and cosmeticians.

A campaign narrowed down to target just those two occupations, close to her area… would be cheap and simple to put together.

An Ongoing Campaign Gives You More Credibility

I didn’t tell Samantha she should bag the whole Val-Pak idea; after all it had given her valuable intelligence about her market. I did suggest that once her contract was up that she might go with a less frequent mailing, or one to a smaller, tighter zip code that was nearby.

This was less to take someone that had never heard of her and convert them into new customers… and more to take those that were on the tipping point and push ‘em over the edge because they had “social proof”… a prospect might have heard at the bank  and in the salon chair that this licensed massage therapist was THE BOMB.. but until they saw the coupon she didn’t think of her as a real person.

Last I checked, Samantha’s small business was booming… as it deserved to be… not just because of the great service she provides but also because of the smart marketing.

Which Brings Us to YOU, Dear Reader…

Have you identified a recurring pattern among your customers? If you haven’t yet, this  very important step may well be what puts you over… from unprofitable to profitable…

…or better yet, from profitable to VERY profitable.

If you HAVE identified a recurring pattern, write to me here in the comments! Let me know where a goodly portion of your current clients are coming from. I’d be happy to give you my $.02 on how you might Shotgun/Laser it, without the customary Shoestring101 fee of $101 per session.

Til then,

Keep Stepping!