15 (hard) questions to ask yourself if your business isn’t working out

So you finally took the leap, but things don’t really seem to be working according to plan.

There are so many things tied to freelancing and entrepreneurship that no one tells us, we just have to to find out from your own failures and tweak as we go. It’s nobody’s fault, mainly because every individual is different and every business is different, and we all just have to go through that inevitable learning curve. A necessary rite of passage.

Sometimes the reasons why the clients aren’t playing are not far-fetched. My experience on this topic has opened my eyes to a whole bunch of stuff we do as online business owners that almost always result in failure. So if things are not quite working as you’d hoped when you started, here are fifteen solid ways to reevaluate your business and get yourself on the right track:

Do you know your best-fit clients?

Seems obvious, right? Not quite. I’ve worked with amazing business owners whose single mistake was thinking their prospective clients were like them. Sometimes, they’re so sure about this that it hurts. They go ahead creating programs and services they feel will sell, and even though the said programs are amazing on their own, they still won’t sell because they’re not addressing the actual pain points of their ideal clients.

Here’s the thing, your ideal clients may or may not be like you. In actual fact, they may not look anything like you at all. Speaking of which, the term “ideal clients” gets tossed around so much in the online world that it’s almost becoming meaningless. Filling worksheets is just the starting point, actually discovering the right people to sell to, is a long, ongoing process which could land anyone into trouble if it’s based on any kind of guess work.

Are you marketing to the wrong people?

I used to spend a boatload of my time in Facebook groups. You know, we all like building that know-like-factor when we’re first starting out. I would spend time answering people’s questions, being friendly, sharing my free guides…etc. Except I was just wasting spending time in those groups without getting hired. I really don’t know what went wrong, except that the copywriters in the group that were really “loud” seem to be getting all the clients. The one thing I found out is that, in the online world, sometimes the loudest people get the most goodies attention. Sad but true. Every now and then I still get clients from Facebook, but the majority of my clients come from other social media platforms and guest blogging. That was when I shifted my focus from Fb groups and started guest blogging, and I got my hands full with more work than I could handle. The shift that happened was simply exposing my content and skills to a whole new different audience who seem to appreciate my quiet and analytical nature. Why am I telling you this? Sometimes, you need to find out for yourself what works for your business. Stop following the multitude. Some people swear by Facebook, some people swear by Instagram while some people swear by Pinterest, while some people will tell paid ads work like a charm.

The truth is, if you’ve been sticking to a platform for too long and you’re not getting any real or tangible results, it’s time to bail and try out a new audience. Sometimes we get look-alike audiences that seem like our ideal clients, but they’re not!

Are you offering the right services?

One of the most important aspects of running a profitable business is creating products and services your audience actually wants to buy. It doesn’t matter how good your content is or how pretty your website looks, once you miss this delicate mark there’s serious trouble in paradise. Are you creating products and services based on what you think is selling in your industry? Are you offering a particular service just because it made “six figures” for someone else? Stop. Stalk your right-fit clients, ask questions, and do a thorough research before going into creation mode.

Do you look the part?

Hmm. That one. Don’t be that chick that wants to charge 15k for a high end mastermind but has a website that looks absolutely crappy. Not to sound cocky or anything, but I appreciate good design. I find it very, very difficult to spend my money on a website that looks crappy, no matter how (potentially) good the product may be. Is your ideal client like me? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is, did you know that an average internet user spends 8 seconds on a website before they bounce? That’s an awfully short amount of time!

Fine, you may not have the big bucks to spend on a fancy website when you’re just starting out, but you can totally have an online home that looks amazing and professional without dropping the big bucks. Think solutions like Squarespace, clean, minimal WordPress themes or even a semi-custom website.

If you’re hoping to make money blogging in 2015 and beyond, you need a strong brand identity to represent your online presence.

Is your website optimized for conversion?

Consider this a sequel to the last point mentioned. Now, don’t confuse a beautiful website with a website optimized for conversion. That is one thing I try to focus on when I work with my design clients. Identify the most important pages of your website and optimize them for conversion. Do you have distracting elements that hinder your website’s usability? Does your site audience find it easy to interact with your site? Do you have strong, clear calls to action to direct them? Do you have poorly designed PayPal buttons floating everywhere? This topic is a whole ‘nother blog post on its own. If you’re confused about what works and what doesn’t, get split testing.

Bottom-line: Get rid of elements that interfere with your website’s usability.

Do you have streamlined services?

Surely you’re heard about the rule of three, right? Just in case you haven’t, here you go:

The rule of three or power of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader or audience of this form of text is also thereby more likely to remember the information – Source.

That may not sound so eloquent or even related to this topic, but the truth is, research has shown that people bail when you give them too many options. Do you have clear, streamlined services that make it easy for your prospective clients to choose? As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t have more than three services listed on your website. Asides, from digital products, that is.

Do you have a sales funnel?

So let’s say you have every other thing on point, but you don’t have a sales funnel. That would be the biggest mistake anyone trying to sell online can make. I explained this in details in my upcoming free guide – 15 reasons your ideal client isn’t buying.

A sales funnel is a step-by-step process you take your prospective clients through, from the first time they become aware that you exist to the time they eventually decide to buy from you.

Having a sales funnel provides a pathway for your warm leads to get to know you, sign up for your free content and eventually buy from you. The most interesting thing about sales funnels is that they don’t look the same for everyone! The way yours looks totally depends on how your business is structured. 1

Do you deliver what you promise?

This is kind of hard, but necessary. I mean, who wants to admit that they’re not actually delivering what they promise their clients? If this has happened to you before, don’t feel bad! Stuff happens. You’ll know you’re not actually delivering when the client walks away from you, in a less-than-happy mood. When this happens, most people tend to switch to the “aggressive/defensive mode”, don’t. Evaluate the situation and determine whether the client has a right to be angry. An unsatisfied client could potentially cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in hindsight, not to mention your hard-earned reputation. There are three ways I suggest you handle this kind of situation:

  • Go back to your initial terms of agreement or sales page, is there by any chance, a place where you promised something but never delivered the full package? If yes, apologize for the oversight, and redeem yourself. This may be in terms of discounts, bonuses or even a full refund as the case may be.
  • If you provided a less-than-stellar service for the said client, educate yourself and improve your skills for subsequent clients.
  • If the client is just being unreasonable, show them the terms of agreement and what the scope of the project is supposed to be, and point them in the direction that is both fair and reasonable for both of you.

Do you have a process in place?

Here’s the thing about potential clients landing on your website, especially in the online space, they don’t want to be put to work. People love business owners with sexy workflows. And by sexy workflows, I mean lovable business systems that will make your potential clients love you to pieces and keep coming back. Create business systems that will delight your customers from start to finish, starting from the very first email they send to you, to the project completion. This should reflect in your client-intake process, the way you communicate when the project is in progress and your wrap-kit. By doing this you’re unconsciously turning your clients into brand advocates and referral machines.

Is your brand message clear enough?

Confused minds never buy. It sounds so cliché, I know! But how true is that? If your brand DNA is made up of mixed signals and the message is scattered all over the place, expect no sales. You wanna know what sells better than hardcore marketing in the online world? A clear sense of direction, coupled with clear, concise communication. You may know your stuff more than your competitors or most people out there, if you’re not communicating your values clearly, no one will buy. You need to give a reason for potential clients to trust you in a sea of 100million other people doing the same thing as you.

If you’re the kind of person that finds it really hard to express yourself or communicate your brand message to the world, let’s work together. I make it so good that my clients want to hire themselves.

Also worth mentioning here are the “creative titles” we give ourselves in the online world. Imagine a life coach that calls herself “Happiness activator”. What the heck does that mean? And I’m not trying to be mean or sarcastic here, the bitter truth is some things are just too generic to sell!

Are you consistent?

You’re not alone in that one. I struggle with being consistent too, I mean, who doesn’t? Well, some people don’t, and I deeply respect those kinds of people. The truth is, running a business online will not eliminate your other life realities. You’re probably taking care of kids or working a bridge job to make ends meet, or even caring for a loved one…the list is endless. Believe me when I tell you this: as I’m typing this blog post right now, I’m typing with one hand! The keyboard sounds coming from my laptop woke my daughter up as she stumbled her way to my side and promptly slept off on one hand. How do you stay consistent in the midst of all of this? How do you maintain your weekly newsletter schedule for sending content to your subscribers? How do you keep it together? Building a business in this day and age takes grit. Lots of it.

In actual fact, if you’re in this solely for the money, there are better ways to make money and earn a decent living. But if you’re here for the freedom and the flexibility or for a cause close to your heart, you’ve got to show up every single day. You’ve got to be consistent. It gets better with time, and your hard work will eventually pay off.

How about your customer service?

When you book new clients, do you give it your 100%? I mentioned in the previous points how important it is to have a system that delights your clients. How do people view you and your business from outside? A good way to measure your efforts here is sending a brief survey to past clients, usually attached to an incentive that will make them fill the survey. Ask deep, thoughtful questions addressing their experience with you, how they felt when they worked with you, whether the systems you have in place can be improved upon, and most importantly if they would do business with you again or refer other people. Take constructive criticism with grace and poise and make adjustments where necessary.

Are you going for the hard sell?

As we all know, no one likes being sold to. Never, ever go for the hard sell. Stop getting into people’s faces with your products and services, and don’t be that chic that only sends newsletters to subscribers when there’s something to sell. That annoys the crap out of people. Go out of your way to create little miracles. Be genuinely helpful to people in general. Think of a problem that keeps your potential clients awake at night and blog about it. When you make the shift to make people’s lives a little bit better than you found them, miracles will start to happen.

Are you investing in yourself and your business?

As a business owner, being well invested in your business will reap you huge rewards. And I’m not only talking about the financial aspect, I’m talking about being physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially invested in your business. Do you take your business seriously? Do you treat your business as a business, or as a hobby? Are you representing your brand in a professional way? Is your website click-worthy? When was the last time you invested in learning a new skill? You don’t have to spend a ton of money to educate yourself these days, from YouTube to Skillshare, Sliderule, Udemy and so on, you can learn anything on the cheap or even totally free. Invest in tools that will make your business look professional, which will in turn make money for you.

Do you have social proof?

Last but not the least, get yourself some street cred. Credibility is a social currency you need to survive, especially in the early stages. Someone mentioned you on social media? Take a screenshot and embed on your website. Ask past clients for testimonials and include their headshots. Video testimonials are even better but not necessary if you can’t get them.

There you have it guys, how do you measure what’s working and what’s not working in your business? Would love to know in the comments!

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