Last year I hit a wall in my business and shut everything down for three months.
Mastermind group? Quit.
New course? On hold.
Instead I doubled down on systems and email. The result has been more time, clients, and revenue. Also, a clearer vision.
Those are the exact words I typed into Twitter on a whim one recent afternoon.
The response was incredible (and unexpected).
I’ve already shared a little about this here. But I promised to write a full post about my experience, specifically why I decided to focus on email and systems and what I did. This is me making good on that promise.
When things stop working...
Being an entrepreneur means listening to endless soundbites about hustle. You always feel like you’re not doing enough...or at least that there’s more to do.
If you’re like me you love your work. That makes it easy to get lost in hustling for hustle’s sake.
But the problem with the hustle mentality is it usually means you’re working all the damn time.
- You’re doing admin.
- You’re creating content.
- You’re doing marketing stuff.
- You’re working with clients.
- You’re handling support.
- You're trying to spend time with your loved ones...and exercise...and...ARGGGGHHHHH
Sound about right?
I remember sitting at my desk at 12AM after just wrapping up a project task for a client when I realized I still had to edit my podcast for tomorrow.
(Incidentally, this is why it’s REALLY hard to do both services and courses without a team.)
Sure I could have stayed up another 4 hours to edit and publish my show. But I didn’t want to.
- I’d been up until 2 or 4 AM every day for the past three weeks.
- I had dark circles under my eyes.
- It was a common occurrence for me to go to bed two hours before my partner woke up.
I didn’t want to do it anymore. I couldn’t do it anymore.
So I didn’t.
You might read that last section and think I’m brave, but the truth is I was so fucking scared.
I literally thought my business would implode if I didn’t publish my podcast.
It sounds silly to type that, but you have to realize that my podcast was my main marketing channel back then. So not publishing it was a huge risk in my head.
But then something weird happened.
- The world didn’t stop spinning.
- I didn’t get any nasty emails.
- In fact, when I told my audience I was taking a break the response was basically "Good for you. We can't wait until you come back!"
(That’s when I knew I had bomb ass fans, by the way.)
Then, I got the best sleep I’d had in weeks.
When I woke up I had one thought:
Do the things that move your business forward and give you energy. Then kill everything else.
Do what moves your business forward
The next day I hit the big red (in my imagination, at least) reset button.
I took a step back and looked at everything that was eating up my time and energy.
Then I asked myself, is this moving my business forward?
- If the answer was yes, I kept it.
- If it was no, I ditched it.
The next question I asked was is this giving or draining energy from me?
And that's when things got interesting.
Because sometimes you do things that get results but make you feel drained.
For example, I’d been tracking my sales and metrics, so it was easy to see which marketing tactics worked: email and my podcast.
But (editing) my podcast was draining me, so that was out. (And yes, I tried outsourcing, but the quality was poor.)
Then I noticed that all of my sales happened via email or referrals.
- So email was not only bringing money in the door, it was also something I enjoyed. Note to self: focus on email.
But two seconds later I felt dread creep in.
Because the words "email marketing" felt like another task on my to-do list.
Do you have a systems problem?
Here's how to find out.
- If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with tasks but not making any progress, you either have a strategy or a systems problem.
- If, after working on your strategy, you don’t have any time to execute, you definitely have a systems problem.
In my case, I knew that I couldn’t just write more emails--that was a task oriented mentality that just cluttered my to-do list.
I had to create marketing and productivity systems that would create more time and revenue.
here's The steps I took
STEP 1 - I thought about what I wanted my life to look like and how my business needed to be built to make that happen.
- This simply involved some ol' school pen and paper journaling and reflection.
STEP 2 - I killed everything that wasn’t moving my business forward and draining my energy.
STEP 3 - I emailed my audience to let them know I’d be quiet for a bit.
STEP 4 - I spent one month writing email content for my autoresponders.
STEP 5 - I switched to Drip, then hired someone to set it up. (Sidebar: A lot of people ask why I switched from ConvertKit to Drip. Here’s why:)
- Drip is more flexible than ConvertKit. I can see exactly where someone is in my email sequences. If they miss an email, I can resend it. I can stop the sequence mid-way, restart it, and so on.
- Drip is more reliable than ConvertKit. At the time, ConvertKit had just rolled out automations/ workflows and they were extra buggy. Drip has been doing automation for years. It just worked.
- Drip has more advanced integrations and workflows. In other words, I could initiate actions based on a variety of triggers like opting in via Leadpages, or making a sale via Stripe, etc.
- Drip has more reporting and marketing features. For example, Drip has lead scoring, which allows me to see who’s more engaged and likely to become a client or customer.
STEP 6 - I documented all of my processes and set everything up in Google Drive.
- Since I offer services, that means I wrote down all of the things I do during my sales and Discovery processes, then I created templates that I could just copy & reuse instead of starting from scratch with each client.
- For my products, I documented the steps for my launch process. Then I put everything in Google Drive, which I can access from any device. (There’s still more to do here, but it’s almost finished.)
STEP 7 - I setup all my client qualification, onboarding, and payment workflows in Dubsado.
- Dubsado allows you to apply the same workflow/ automation idea that you use for email to your client projects.
- Instead of manually sending files when a client reaches out, now (almost) everything is on auto-pilot through Dubsado, which saves a ton of time.
STEP 8 - I ignored non-essential admin (or outsourced it to my VA).
- This is crucial. If you want to grow, you’ve got to be willing to focus on what’s essential. This goes back to what I said earlier: nothing will implode if you pause for a moment to work on your business.
- If you can’t stop, then outsource.
If any of this resonates with you, you’re probably looking for some relief.
You’re tired of the neverending hustle.
You want results but aren’t sure how to get off the hamster wheel.
Here’s some next steps for you to take:
- Reflect on where you want to be. Disconnect from all the podcasts and blog advice. What life do you want? Got it? Cool, write it down.
- Outline the changes you need to make to your business for it to support the life you want.
- Look at your metrics. When you make sales, where do your customers come from? How do clients find you? Which marketing tactics have the best results? If you don’t know the answers to any of this, start measuring today.
- Focus on one marketing strategy that will move your business forward. This should be backed by data, not feelings. In other words, look at what’s working based on your metrics and add it to your list.
- Write down how you do the things necessary to run your business. These are your processes.
- Document your processes and setup templates or automation tools to put them on auto-pilot. These are your new systems.
I have no idea if any of this is helpful, but I hope it is.
What I do know is this is a lot of work. And it will take you a few months to feel good about it.
But it's worth it.
If you're not willing to do the work, you'll stay on the hustle train to burnout.
But if you take action, you'll slowly start to see results. You'll be able to actually grow your business...and breathe.