Remember that where you are is not where you will be. When you see a successful business owner they had to get smacked around a bit. We all did.
And if learning to be an entrepreneur hurts you the most, it also makes you pretty much unshakeable once you make it though the gates of Hell, too.
I spent three years pounding the pavement with a start-up corporation. I lived in a friend’s basement to cut living costs & often perused the free samples at Costco for lunch <— true story.
I want to share exactly how you can get started with your new coaching business. Not all these programs are free after the first month (only 18 are), but the basic idea is to keep your costs as low as possible while you figure out what’s next for you.
LeadPages / Optimize Press / Heyo
Sales page building websites allow you to avoid a website during your first list-building initiatives. Basically, simultaneous to opening an email service provider account, you will connect a stellar free offer to your sales page.
Ok – there’s a little catch – these are only free trials. You’ll need to have yourself prepared to hit the ground running if you intend to make things happen for free (otherwise, it’s about $25 / month for these services.)
A website, on the other hand, costs about $800 to $1,500 for a basic WordPress template 5 page site. Most of WordPress is free, as well, but in order to create a website, you’ll need to buy a domain name and hosting services.
I currently use BlueHost (roughly $10 / month). GoDaddy has limitations my programmers did not approve of, and InMotion Hosting crashed my email about once a week.
The good news? If you decide to DIY your website, there are some excellent coaches willing to walk you through the process. Check out UDemy and sites like Lynda.
MailChimp / Constant Contact
These are email service providers or ESPs. They let you communicate en masse with anyone who has signed up for your free offer on the sales page we discussed in point numero uno. LeadPages won’t allow you to send emails, so, yes, you need this.
These two (plus many more) are free until you hit a certain number of subscribers to your list. By the time you hit that number, however, you should be earning at least enough from your list to cover the costs of membership.
MailChimp includes pretty, clunky templates and works perfectly for basic email sending functions. You can purchase credits if you want to automate a process, like making your free offer a daily email.
After 4.5 years in my copywriting business (once I transitioned into coaching), I switched to AWeber. I think their program requires a bit more techy know-how. For one, the templates look a bit archaic – especially the free versions.
Second, if you have multiple lists, even with the same names on them, you are charged for “email storage” based on the total. I deleted every duplicate recently to pay $20 / month instead of the $30 they were charging me in storage fees.
When you’re ready for an upgrade, check out Ontraport and Infusionsoft. I’m hearing a lot more positive things about Ontraport lately. “Confusionsoft,” as it’s jokingly referred to, has a steep learning curve and carries with it an overhead cost of at least $250 / month plus apps for scheduling (Appointment Core), etc.
Why would you pay that much for Infusionsoft? Integration. It’s a powerful piece of software that lets your clients get very focused emails from you. When you develop advanced email sales funnels, you’ll need these features to increase your sales conversions.
Facebook Business Pages
The social media site Facebook lets you create & manage your business page for free as long as it’s connected to a personal profile. I’ll keep this short and sweet. The reason you need this (and any somo profiles) is twofold: to build your personal brand and to legitimize your online business.
Take a day to set up every single free profile you can think of: Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Reddit, etc. Add pics, logos, etc. later if you have to (or get them done right away.)
Love isn’t a strong enough word for this 100% free graphic design site. Choose the size of graphic you need and get to work dragging & dropping pretty things into it. It’s perfect for memes, or basic ads.
If you have done a bit of graphic design, you know that looks must be layered. Start with a background, add a picture, add text, etc. Taking my advice [<— that’s a link to a Canva tutorial video I shot] on this will save you at least a few hours of tinkering. Promise.
Pic Monkey is another free program that lets you edit your photos. I tried it briefly but wasn’t clear on why it was a better resource as a whole.
When I use Canva, some of my creations look like a 5th grader designed them. I accept this self-critique as a sign that I’m just one of those chicks who probably shouldn’t do her own design work.
Fiverr lets you pay $5 / project to have someone create graphics for you. It has it’s ups and downs. Comprised of mostly outsourced workers, the designers often try to upcharge – an extra $10 for three lines of text, etc. so keep your instructions basic.
Created for freelancers, this website gives you a personalized link to your own profile. Are you a designer, copywriter or other creative professional? Until you have a website, you’ll need to house a portfolio somewhere. Upload all your work here as a first step to showing clients what you can do for them.
Google Hangouts on Air
When it’s time to host your first webinar, look no further than Google Hangouts on Air. I have now hosted four webinars, growing my list by 40% in just two months.
You can also practice on Blab, which integrates with Twitter for live Q&A interaction. As far as I can tell, the only difference between HOA and Blab is that Blab allows for personalized, live interactions. Plus you get to be all cool & modern by hosting a Blab.
If you are feeling savvy, you may prefer to embed your HOA into your website to create a live video feed. You can add a chat app to get around the live interaction issues, as well. (The current Q&A feature on HOA is one sided.)
Now, my goal with HOA was to grow my list. I prefer a small, intimate audience. You can expect about 30% of your sign-ups to attend your live webinar. Once your reputation brings in 100s of sign-ups, you will no longer be able to use HOA.
Take a few minutes to research Webinar Jam and other programs that are designed to host the masses. Second, look for cool features like screen recordings, etc. There’s no reason you can’t turn your teaching into sweet giveaways or paid mini-courses.
Since we’re talking free, remember that Mac Book Pros include iMovie; you can record your voice and your screen, then upload the native video to a hosting platform, too. Vimeo or YouTube will work just fine.
International phone calls? Not anymore. My clients use Skype to interact with me. We’ll often turn off the video due to slowness issues, but for the most part, Skype gets the job done.
Many coaches are also turning to Skype to do live coaching calls with their clients. For some fields, this can be a lot more empowering than just talking on the phone with your clients.
I don’t just create my own payment buttons (a small piece of code I slap into my WordPress pages), I also invoice clients, receive payments & pay vendors with PayPal. They will charge about a 5% fee. (You aren’t paying this fee unless you are getting paid.)
Awesomely, the minute you receive a payment, you receive an email telling you who paid what. Bank transfers take about three business days; you simply click a few screens to get your money moved over to your business account.
The one downside for me so far (after 5 years) is the resolution center. A vendor stole $200 from me for webwork he did not perform. I was unable to recover those funds the way I might have with other platforms. Also, PayPal is somewhat hands off, so don’t expect great customer service should you encounter an issue.
Team Work / Asana / Teamwork
These tools are project management systems. Several of my clients use these programs to manage large projects across a team. They work well for agencies or other multiple-person teams. You can assign a task list to individuals.
They also keep all notes updated while providing an interactive client experience. Instead of a client sending 10 messages, they can add one and copy all workers. Files, images, etc. can easily be stored in the client’s online file, too.
Finally, if you don’t want your clients to get too intimate with your team members, these systems keep their personal information private. Of course, they’ll have signed non-competes, as well, but as a copywriter who’s engaged with 100s of businesses, these were my clients’ preferred platforms.
Wonder where your day went? Toggle is a timekeeping clock for your desktop. If you feel like your biggest obstacle is spending too much time on client projects, try this free little thing to keep you in check. It can help you discover if you are over or under billing folks.
Calend.ly / Time Trade
Hands off scheduling tools, you can just send your contacts links to a calendar to schedule a call with them. Dates & times go right to your calendar (mine is on my smart phone.) and you’re emailed the call details. Integrated with Google Calendars, Calend.ly is a free scheduling service for appointments.
The downside is that you only get one free appointment calendar with Calend.ly. To get around this, I set mine up for 20 minutes. Client calls are 30 minutes, so I gave the 20 minute calls a 15 minute buffer. This covers (for now) both discovery sessions and client work.
Time Trade is another free scheduling tool. Again, once your business grows to the point that you have multiple offerings for multiple clients, you’ll need to pay a small fee, but, eh, free is a good place to start.
If you choose to purchase Infusionsoft, Appointment Core is an integrated program my clients swear by. They say that the time this saves their admins from rescheduling alone has more than paid for the system.
What are you really looking for in a calendar tool? Seamless integration. Your calendar tool needs to be easy for you to use, send clients reminder emails and texts (better they cancel than you waste your time trying to call them), and make your scheduling a hands-off no-brainer.
Hootsuite is a social media scheduling tool. You can add up to three accounts for free in order to automatically schedule posts to your social media feeds. And that’s fine & dandy for your ongoing promotions or generic mass messaging.
The key to successful social media, however, is engagement. You need to be a real human, creating real messages to a real audience. You need to be on your networks at least a few times weekly if not almost daily.
You may also look into Buffer and Sprout as other options. Personally, I was unable to assess the difference between the three as anything remarkable. Rumor also has it that Facebook Scheduling gets you more engagement according to the Facebook algorithm.
I did not find that to be the case in the three months I spent testing the theory. However, if you are only using Facebook, skip Hootsuite and schedule right from your Facebook business page instead.
Free Isn’t Always the Bees Knees
Keep in mind that the more you hope to grow, the more you’ll need to spend. Those earning $100,000 or more per year put out 30% to 40% to run their business (on a support team, software programs, etc.)
The second piece of this equation is quite simple: the more features you need to use, the more money you’ll need to spend. Free is only as efficient as the goal you need to accomplish.
Elspeth Misiaszek is the innovator behind eMarketing Copywriter. She believes you deserve to profit from your passions & has dedicated her business to mentoring others to do what they love & love what they do. Grab your 10 Free Email Marketing Templates to really rock your writing.