How to Scale Your Service-Based Business and Reclaim Your Time

If you’re anything like me, you set up your solo venture motivated by one driving force: freedom.

I’m not a corporate girl. Spending hours and hours sitting behind someone else’s desk in someone else’s company, slaving away to drive up someone else’s profits was a soul-sucking experience I’m keen not to repeat (and I had my “dream” job in the exact industry I’d always wanted to work in).

Like all of us in this community, I love working for myself. I love the freedom, the creativity, the opportunities, and most of all the knowledge that even on my worst days in business, all my hard work is going into building something for myself, from the ground up. Every ounce of effort I put into my business is worth it, no matter how hard it gets (and it does) – talk about motivating!

Selling time for money eventually puts limits on both

But, a couple of years into my solo venture and with an amazing client list, I’m still selling my time for money. With this structure, as the profits go up, the freedom that I fought so hard to earn goes right back down. At the end of the day no matter how great your service is, you’re going to hit a revenue ceiling unless you can find a way to scale and reclaim some of those hours.

It’s completely possible to make a good living as a service provider – I’ve done it for two years now – but if you do decide you want to grow, I’ve found you have three main options.

You can raise your prices, which might allow you to take on fewer clients but will eventually have its own limits; you can hire and grow a team; or you can look at other ways to generate revenue alongside your services.

I didn’t want to hit my clients with ever-increasing prices, and managing a team feels like another big time commitment, so I focused on the third approach.

How productising your services can help you reach new people

Lots of highly successful entrepreneurs talk about standardising and packaging services, and avoiding custom work. I’m a copy editor, so my day-to-day work is highly specialised and tailored to each individual client. I thought about packaging and creating products out of my services, but for a long time I couldn’t see how to make this advice fit for me and my business. I thought I just didn’t fit the mould.

Until suddenly something clicked. I realised both me and my clients shared two problems:

  1. Some people can’t afford constant professional editing
  2. There are only so many hours in the day (and they were all filling up with my clients)

The concept for my product, Conquer Copy Editing, was born.

How creating a course has helped me grow

I didn’t want to write an e-book because as a consumer I’m guilty of starting them with the best of intentions and never making it to the end. Creating a course was the right choice for my business, because it’s allowed me to pack in far more value using videos, workbooks, cheat sheets, and quizzes.

I’ve been able to expand my audience (AKA my customer base) because I’ve designed my product for people who don’t want to work directly with an editor or outsource this step – they want to BE the editor and do it themselves to ramp up their own businesses and projects.

I’m productising in a way that doesn’t directly compete with the services I currently offer, but expands on them instead. My course complements my services and fits perfectly alongside the things I already do.

My business can now cater to a whole new target market, while still allowing me to do the fun 1-1 client work that was the reason I set up shop in the first place.

What’s the takeaway for your business?

If you’ve hit a wall in your service-based business and aren’t quite sure how to make product creation fit into your business, give some thought to developing a course or programme to teach what you know.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there people who can’t afford you but still need what you offer?
  • Are there people who want to do what you do?
  • Can you teach what you do? (No excuses, of course you can!)
  • Are your experiences valuable? (Hint: You already know they are because your service clients love you.)

If you answered yes, creating a digital product could be the ideal way for you to grow. Daniel Priestley, entrepreneur and author of Key Person of Influence, says that a product has three benefits:

  • Establishes you as an expert
  • Allows you to scale
  • Frees up your time to focus elsewhere

I knew all of these things to be true (I was even watching other people grow by putting it into practice) but it took me a long time to figure out how to apply it to my own service business.

And don’t just take my word for it; you don’t have to look very far in the online business world to see entrepreneurs making these principles work with amazing and inspiring results.

Leah Kalamakis is a web designer and course creator who’s utilised her expertise to help her clients develop effective behind-the-scenes systems in their businesses through Stress Less & Impress.

Indigo Colton is a virtual assistant who created her signature course, Hire Your VA in 1 Week, when she found it hard to hire her own VA, and knew that her inside knowledge could simplify the process for others.

Like me, both Leah and Indigo still provide their core services and haven’t turned their businesses upside down, but by adding these digital products we’ve all successfully done one thing: scaled our service offerings and created more time to spend doing what we love – whether in our personal lives, our businesses, or both.

What product could you create to scale your service-based business, reach new audiences and provide high value to people who otherwise can’t afford you or want to do it themselves? Let me know in the comments!

We are affiliates of and may receive commission from courses mentioned in this post. As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from!

How to Become a Certified Woman-Owned Business (And Why You Might Want To)

solo business logistics

This year, I set some pretty lofty business goals for my solo social media business. One of them: Diversify my clientele by adding corporate clients.

For me, the challenge of creating community and engagement around big, faceless corporate giants is one of the most fulfilling parts of running a social media management company. But approaching them? Not so easy. When reaching out to potential corporate clients, I know I need to bring my best game.

What becoming a certified woman-owned business is all about

Becoming a certified Woman-Owned Business not only creates credibility, but also creates opportunities for female business owners that they may not otherwise have access to. For me, it was a huge step toward the confidence I need to approach my dream corporate clients.

Certification can be obtained through a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Small Business Administration, and a host of state and local government agencies. I chose to pursue certification through the national Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). While the City of Chicago offers a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification as well, a more national scale was a better fit for me because of the clients I’m targeting. For your business, a local certification may be the tool you need to set yourself apart in your specific region.

Ideal participants in certification should:

  • Be part of a business that is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a woman or women
  • Have a target market that includes corporate America
  • Be U.S. citizens

The WBDC promotes Woman Business Enterprise Certification as a tool to help women-owned businesses “get in the door” of large corporations. While not a guarantee of business, the WBE Certification is recognized by over a thousand major corporations and government agencies in the U.S. This is ideal for my business where, although I appreciate the benefits of working with local clients (like randomly popping into their offices with coffee and donuts for staff), I also have the flexibility of working remotely with clients.

Approaching corporate giants with a certification shows that you’re invested and serious — a perception that solopreneurs may struggle against.

Who certification isn’t for

Not all One Woman Shops will benefit from certification. Namely, business owners who prefer to work strictly with solopreneurs or small business clientele most likely won’t be able to realize the full benefits of obtaining certification.

The process + timeline of getting certified

I gave myself three weeks to make this happen. There’s not a ton of information readily available about certifications and so I had to conduct a fair amount of research on my own. Over the span of those three weeks, it took about five hours of research to grasp the different types of certifications, which organizations offered them, and what the benefits of each were. The WBDC doesn’t offer application assistance services, but they do have a help line for application questions. I also reached out to various entrepreneurs for feedback and advice.

The WBE application is two-fold. In addition to gathering required documents, you must also register for and complete an online application. The online application is only good for 90 days, so make sure you have your documents before registering online!

Getting organized was my most time consuming feat. I didn’t feel comfortable just throwing documents into an envelope and sending them off. I wanted to present my application in a way that reflected my business as professional and thorough. It took about a week and a half for me to gather the required documents. I had to request copies of prior year tax forms through the IRS, hire an accountant to write an opening balance sheet and get my Sworn Affidavit notarized.

The WBE Certification contains six categories of required documentation:

  • General Information
  • Owner Eligibility
  • Financial Structure
  • Personnel
  • Management Information
  • Governance Information

I made title pages for each category, and behind each title page were the corresponding documents. I then nestled my entire application into a sliding bar report cover. The way I organized my application information is not a requirement, but I thought it would be convenient for the personnel reviewing my application.

Once submitted, it can take up to 90 days for your application to process. Keep this in mind if you’re seeking certification within a certain timeframe. Be sure to go through the documentation requirements with a fine-tooth comb. If you’re missing something, you run the risk of pushing your application to the end of the line, prolonging the certification process.

Tips to make the process smoother

When I first began researching WBE Certifications, I scared myself to death. I was overwhelmed with the six-page list of documentation I needed and ended up putting the project off for another week. When I finally worked up the nerve to tackle it again, I started small. I had no idea what an opening balance sheet was, but I knew I could print off my resume, make a copy of my state-issued driver’s license, birth certificate, and DBA license, and in about 15 minutes I checked off four required items needed to complete my application. Start with what you know.

Here are a few other tips for making the process run smoother:

  1. Most organizations that offer certification will likely provide you with a list of required documents and/or another form of checklist. Print them off. I went through the doc requirements with a colored Sharpie to make note of what I had and what I needed. I then created a separate checklist of what I needed and a labeled file folder to keep all of my required documents in.
  2. You may need to solicit the service of an accountant or lawyer to help you with some documentation. Make a note of that as soon as you go through the requirements, and reach out to them in advance. It may take them time to fulfill the service you need for your application.
  3. Other documents you may be asked to provide are your business history and resume. In some cases, your biography does not suffice as business history, so you may have to write one from scratch. Keep in mind that a resume should cover related professional experience — so leave out the dog walking hustle you had during summer breaks, unless of course it relates to your business.
  4. Find an accountability partner. The depth of documentation required is highly dependent on how complex your business is — based on factors like employees, partnerships, incorporation, and more. It can be overwhelming, to say the least. I knew committing to document my experience to share with other women in business via One Woman Shop (what you’re reading now) would keep me accountable and committed to my deadline.
  5. Most organizations that offer WBE Certifications do not offer application assistance. For business owners in the Chicagoland area, The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce offers application help through their Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Reach out to business assistance centers in your area for help (think Small Business Association). If they don’t offer the service, they’re likely to direct you to one that does.

Is it worth it?

A tedious application process and walking away $350 poorer must come with real benefits, right? Indeed, it does. Aside from the confidence it gives and the proof to your potential clients that you are a legitimate organization, certified Woman-Owned Businesses have exclusive access to a database of corporate partners, and those partners have access to your business information.

When I turned to a business group for advice on becoming a Women Business Enterprise, Jameeda McCoy, CEO of Belle Up Maternity weighed in on the benefits of certification: “The purpose of certification is that certain contracts (especially government ones) require a specified level of WBE participation, so large companies looking to bid on projects will often partner with smaller companies that are WBE-certified to do a particular job on the project.”

Christy Echols, President and CEO of Paragon Development Group, also added: “Reach out to organizations with a supplier diversity program (business programs that encourage the use of historically underutilized businesses as supply vendors) and target those companies with your WBE. For service-based businesses, WBE’s love doing business with other WBE’s!”

At the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Director Alex Alcantar reviewed my application with me. Although Alex assured me that my application was solid, he did explain to me that certification is only a first step in securing contracts. “You’ll have to work hard, market yourself and chase opportunities even after certification. Opportunities won’t just fall in your lap because of it.”

How to get started today

If you think a Woman-Owned Business certification is right for your business, start with a Google Search for Woman-Owned Business Certification + your city and state. A quick search will bring up city and state certification programs, and their associated costs.

One Woman Shops: Have you thought about applying for Woman-Owned Business certification? What’s holding you back? Tell me in the comments below.

Why You Need a “Goodbye” Package For Your Clients

Why You Need a Goodbye Package for Your Clients from Leah Kalamakis

If you’re a service-based one woman shop, you likely run into the problem of a project never feeling complete. You’ve been working long and hard, communicating back and forth with your client over days or weeks and then all of a sudden, it’s done.

Just sending your client the final invoice with note that says “Thanks!” feels really abrupt.

You’ve created a relationship (hopefully) with your client, and ending it with an invoice feels icky.
You want them to feel supported, appreciated, and like more than just a paycheck for you. You want them to know that just because the project is complete, you aren’t just taking their money and moving on to the next client on your roster.

To create a smooth project transition between working together and well, no longer working together, (or better, working together again on a NEW project) I recommend providing clients with what I like to call a “Goodbye” Package.

This is so important to a full client process it has it’s own full lesson in my course, Stress Less & Impress.

Now, you don’t need to call it a “Goodbye” Package to your client. Depending on what you include and what service you provide, you can change up the wording as you wish. For my web design clients I like to call it a “Launch Package.” If you’re a copywriter, you could call it “Final Documents” (or something more creative because you’re clearly better than me with words).

This can be a PDF, a Google folder with multiple files, or a video. The options depend only on your imagination.

Here are a few reasons providing a Goodbye Package will help you and your clients:

1. Make it clear the project is over

No matter how much work and revisions you’ve put into a project, and how clear your contract is, there always seems to be one last thing a client needs from you.

A “Goodbye” Package helps make it clear to your client that this project is complete, and that anything further will be considered a separate project.

Not only does the concept of a “Goodbye” Package, in general, make it clear, but you can also mention what that means exactly in the package itself. For example, in my “Goodbye” Package, I tell the client what is included in my 30 days of post-website-launch support and I also clearly state that any additional training, tweaks or work will be billed at my hourly rate, or on a per-project basis depending on the type of work needed.

No more feeling guilty not making one more tweak, or feeling resentful because you accept the additional work and don’t charge for it in order to please your client.

2. Entice them to work with you again

Why put so much effort into bringing in new clients when you can get more business from the ones you’ve already got?

Your current clients have already fallen in love with you. You’ve done great work and they trust that you can give them the results they need. This means you’ve already got them past the hardest part of getting someone to hire you: trusting you can deliver on their needs.

When you’ve wrapped up one project, you can use your “Goodbye” Package to introduce them to other things you can help them with.

For example, when I complete a new website for a client, they are excited about their new brand and online presence. This gives them the inspiration and motivation to go pro in every aspect of their business.

If they create videos for their blog, I’ll tell them about how we can bring their new brand into their videos with a custom video intro. If they have an outdated opt-in lead magnet, I’ll tell share with them my PDF design service so we can make their lead magnets match their new brand. This all goes in my “Goodbye” package PDF, which is a non-salesy way to show them that our work together doesn’t have to end with this one website project.

3. Give them resources that will help them go forward without you

Referral business is the best business. Having great testimonials on your website makes potential new clients much more willing to hire you.

The best way to get referral business and great testimonials is to delight your clients beyond the actual project deliverables.

The “Goodbye” Package is a great place to give your clients extra help and support, even after your work is complete.

A few ideas for resources you can add:

  • Links to past blog posts you’ve published to help your client implement what you’ve created for them
  • Links to other people’s content that will help them improve on your work in a related way
  • A tutorial video on how to use what you’ve created (ex: as a web designer, I provide a custom video tutorial on how to use their website)
  • A list of people you recommend for related services they might need that you don’t provide
  • A bonus worksheet or guide (ex: a sales page copywriter could give a PDF on creating personality-filled social media posts)

Take action

Do you have a “Goodbye” Package? If not, it’s time to get to work! Remember, this can be an ever-changing and evolving document. I have a template I use for my main PDF, that I customize because all my clients are different. If you can use the same one, without customizing for every client, even better. But it can be something you create as a base, and update and change as your business and services evolve.

If you do have a “Goodbye” Package, does it address all the areas I mentioned above? If not, maybe it’s time to revisit and add to it!

And if you’re looking for even more guidance, I cover this — and other ways to streamline your business to make more money in less time — in my course, Stress Less & Impress.

We are affiliates of and may receive commission from sales of Stress Less & Impress. As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from!

3 Effortless Steps to Infuse Personality Into Your Brand

Absorbed. Connected. Engaged.

These are three things we all want our audience to feel when they read our website.

And the way to allow them to feel all of this? It comes down to your brand personality: the words you use, the images you share and the colours that tie it all together.

But what if, when it comes to personality, your website just… falls short?

Read on. Here, I’ll go into the detail of pinpointing exactly what your brand personality is, and how to use it effectively to attract, engage and connect.

1. Know your audience

Your brand will stand for nothing if it doesn’t connect with your audience.

Which is why it’s important to understand who they are, so you can tailor your messaging to them specifically.

Here’s an exercise that’ll help you understand them:

  1. Look at all the interactions you have with your audience: blog post comments, emails, social media interactions, call notes, etc.
  2. Go to sites your audience engages with that you might not (think forums like reddit.com, news sites, other sites in your niche) and make a list of the questions they ask, advice they want, struggles they detail.
  3. Write down what personality traits you notice, their profession, demographics, etc.

To organize your findings, create a spreadsheet with the following headings and copy and paste the relevant text you found in the steps above into each section:

  1. Problem/Struggles – What specific issues are they writing about? (for example, I don’t know how to start a Facebook group; Creating a header for my website’s a nightmare! or I have too many business ideas and don’t know which one to choose!)
  2. Desired solutions – Note those sentences that start with phrases like:  I want help with …, I really want someone to…, I wish I could…
  3. Service or post ideas – Using the text in the above two sections, write all the ideas you now have for services you could offer, or posts you could write, that help solve the problems your audience is struggling with.
  4. Demographic – In this section, write any details you find about their personalities/lives – age, location, cultural interests – anything that helps you define which demographic categories the majority of your audience falls into.

For your copy, the table you populated above is a goldmine of ideas. What patterns do you notice in the kinds of struggles they discuss? What pain points have you identified that you can you address as part of headlines, opening lines or sales copy? Also, what ideas do you have for blog posts, services and products as a result?

2. Simplify the complex

Your personality is yours and yours alone, but it’s never simple. With a personality (and history) that’s complex, how do you simplify this down to core messages that represent your brand and resonate with your target audience you’ve worked so hard to get to know?

The key to brand consistency is to repeat certain, relevant messages, so they stick in the minds of your audience and become associated with you and your brand.

You don’t have to share every detail. To figure out which parts of your personality are significant to share (and worthy of repetition), answer these questions:

  • What life experiences connect you with others? What difficulties have you experienced, and what risks have you taken (or not taken)?
  • What are your beliefs? What do you stand for?
  • What are your cultural influences?

Decide which stories/anecdotes are part of your bigger message, and most significant to the audience you most want to connect with. Start including these in your marketing messages.

From there, pinpoint your brand vocabulary down even further by paying attention to the words you use in your everyday communication. Try this exercise:

Keep a notebook (or app like Evernote) with you for a week and notice the words you use. Which ones do you use repeatedly? Which ones feel satisfying to say?

Jot these down.

Next, take a page on your website, or a blog post you’ve written, and edit it with the words and stories you noted. Slowly edit your work over time, and infuse your brand vocabulary into new work you create. Over time, with enough repetition of these words, your brand personality will start to shine.

Here are some examples where personality branding with consistent messaging and vocabulary works swimmingly:

Ashley Ambirge: Talks about life in Costa Rica and her experiences as an entrepreneur with a sarcastic and ever-entertaining tone. This connects her to her audience who are entrepreneurs (or aspiring to be) that enjoy the freedom that travel brings and the snarkiness of someone who tells it like it is. Her consistent message: smart businesses don’t do boring.

Danielle LaPorte: Her social media and blog updates consistently mention her spiritual side, her dog and her son. Is it a coincidence that her audience have these things in common with her? I think not. Her consistent message: it all gets back to desire.

Ramit Sethi: His audience largely consists of 20-30 year old men, so Ramit references his college scholarship applications, the bi-coastal life he lives and the fun he’s having in New York. His audience both relates to his past and wants his present to be their future. His consistent message: I will teach you to be rich.

How will you use the significant pieces of who you are to build consistency in your messaging and connect with your tribe? (Editor’s note: All three of these examples ended up on our 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs list for a reason!)

3. Try something different

If writing isn’t your thing, find what medium is.

Whether it’s videos, podcasting, infographics, photos – find something that both you and your audience are comfortable with, that genuinely reflects your personality.

To discover which medium works best for your business, try these ideas:

  • Are you confident on camera? Rather than writing your blog posts, or having a PDF download for a teaching document, record videos instead. Don’t worry about “wowing” with technology in the beginning – get some videos out there and see how your audience reacts.
  • Do you interview experts as part of your business? Record the interviews and offer replays using voice alone – but don’t hesitate to offer the transcript for those who prefer to read.
  • Change text documents to infographics to appeal to visual learners.

What other interests do you have that you can bring into your business? For example, if you’re into photography but your business is unrelated, use your own photographs with text overlays as images on your site. It beats paying for them, amIright?

Being creative takes the limits away from how you present your material.

Branding takes less investment than you may think…

We often look at personality-driven brands and assume some huge branding exercise went into creating the brand we see today. While that is, indeed, sometimes the case, to create a brand around your personality doesn’t always require that level of investment. In fact, what the owners of brands like Ash Ambirge, Danielle LaPorte, and Ramit Sethi have done is decided to use their unique selling point – themselves – to differentiate their brands in the market.

In turn? This has meant their audience is always absorbed, connected and engaged.

Now, I’m curious: What aspects of your personality do you infuse in your writing to attract the kind of audience you most want to engage? Tell me below.

Your First Workshop: Why You Should Start Small

Have you ever gotten back from a conference or retreat, only to feel so inspired by the other women in the room? The speakers, the networking, the hosts; all perfect. You want to take that experience and replicate it with your own dream clients. An amazing day or two with all your favorite ladies, sharing stories, teaching each other, feeling inspired by YOU and YOUR business — not to mention, the kickstart to your speaking career!

But often, the idea of planning and selling an event like that is so overwhelming that most people don’t even get started. You can’t find a venue that you like; you’re too nervous to speak; you’re fearful of the potential costs. What if you don’t sell it out?

And just like that, the dream is crushed, stuck under the pile of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” ideas that are just too hard to execute.

Slow down there, boss lady. I totally believe that you CAN host a workshop, retreat, or conference and that you can sell it out (eventually).

But your first step is to start now and to start small, so that your dream can be neatly positioned on the top of the pile instead of crushed under the weight of planning overwhelm, lack of speaking experience, and budget concerns.

The Planning Process

Planning and executing even just a one-day event is hard (and I do it for a living). You’re calling venues, finding a space at the right price point, communicating with your potential clients, writing sales pages, marketing, ordering gift bags, maybe finding sponsors.

Starting small, with a small group of clients, means fewer balls to juggle. You can use a more intimate space, like your home, a local library, or a yoga studio during off-hours. You don’t have to bring in a professional caterer if you don’t want to, and you’re not bothered by sponsors who want you to market the crap out of your event. You can offer a lower price point, as your costs will be lower, and you can practice the more important stuff (like actually teaching and engaging with your attendees).

Your “Teachable” Moments

Teaching and speaking in front of people is a skill that takes practice. If you don’t have experience speaking or teaching, you’re going to feel nervous at the beginning of your lesson. From my experience planning, speaking, and coaching my clients, it’s much easier to stand up in front of a group of 5 or 10 peers that it is 50 or 100.

Plus, a more intimate group setting automatically encourages your attendees to feel comfortable sharing as well, taking much of the burden off of you to be the expert, and really allowing you to take notice of WHAT your clients are struggling with.

Until you start getting comfortable presenting yourself, and presenting your knowledge, do yourself a favor and start with a handful of women in an intimate room, where it feels like you’re sharing stories instead of standing up in front of the room, being an expert.

Your Budget

I mentioned this a bit above but I’ll say it in plain terms: your biggest upfront cost is going to be your venue.

And generally, those smaller spaces have smaller price tags. When you can only fit 15 bums in 15 chairs, your expenses are going to be lower, and the skin in the game is going to be less overwhelming and frightening. (Would you rather invest $100 for a venue deposit or $1,000?)

If you can host your event in a free or cheap space (think community centers, yoga studios, a friend’s backyard, daycare spaces even!), you’ll feel much more comfortable launching + selling your workshop because, even if only 3 people show up, you’ve still covered your costs.

Starting Small, Getting Big

Make no mistake: the amount of work you put into your first live event is going to be significant because your learning curve will be high. But if you start small, with a handful of your dream clients, and not as much of an upfront investment, the blueprint that you’ll automatically create around planning, communicating, launching, marketing, and selling out will be the icing on the cake for that BIG conference you’re aiming to host down the road.

Five Ways to Create an Inspiring Office (Without Breaking the Bank)

Create an Inspiring OfficeA couple weeks ago, I contributed a post to One Woman Shop called Five Lessons Learned in my First Six Months as a Freelancer. Several people told me that they found the insights to be helpful (yay!) but the part I got the most questions about was the “Create an Inspiring Workspace” section. Specifically, how I managed to do it on the cheap.

First, full disclosure:

  • I already had a room in my home dedicated to a home office. It used to just be a room that stored my huge collection of jewelry and happened to have a desk. But at least I had a few basics to start!
  • The cost did not include my brand-spanking new laptop.
  • That’s not a rented dog in the picture. She is a real-live corgi named Ginger and she’s the official office greeter.

But everything else was definitely scored for free or at a ridiculously low price. Other than saving money, my main goal was to make my office a representation of my personality and things I love. And here’s how I did it:

1. Get Comfortable.

Create an Inspiring OfficeOne of the myriad perks of having a home office is getting to create a space that perfectly suits your tastes and comfort. That means choosing your own office chair instead of putting up with the backache-inducing one the company gives you. I chose one with a hard back from Ikea – it’s cute, inexpensive, and forces me to have good posture.

Create some ambiance. If you’re anything like me, you have close to a million candles stashed in a cupboard somewhere, and they’ll instantly turn your office into an ultra-soothing space. Bring in fresh flowers from your garden or spring for the $5 bouquet at the farmers’ market. These are things that cost nothing or very little, and help to create a desirable atmosphere. And less stress means better work, right?

2. Get Creative.

Create an Inspiring OfficeSpotlighting your unique personality in your office requires some creativity and even a bit of soul-searching. What are the things that inspire me? Which colors make me smile and feel more awake? How can I show off my quirks? Not all people love knick-knacks, but I personally enjoy tchotchkes and display them freely. To give my office a boost of individuality, I cruised garage sales, flea markets, resale shops, toy sections at craft stores and discovered forgotten treasures in my basement. For example, I found the plastic dinosaurs in a $1 bin at Michael’s, painted them silver, and voila! An ideal cross between chic and kitsch.

3. Get Shopping.

Create an Inspiring OfficeWhen I first set up my office, I made a list of my necessities. A file cabinet. A bookshelf. Places to sit and brainstorm. I do have my fair share of items purveyed from Target and Ikea, but scoring truly great deals usually requires scratching beneath the surface. Do some research and check out places in your area that are off the beaten path. That’s where I scored this circa 1970s school desk. I ventured into a local warehouse that sells cast-offs from the university, and this desk was only $5. But it adds a whole lot of personality.

4. Get Lighting.

Create an Inspiring OfficeAs One Woman Shops, we have been known to work into the wee hours. That’s how it goes sometimes when you’re a solopreneur! For us, good lighting is a must. Light can help you feel more alert, prevent eyestrain, and create a cheerful feel on cloudy days and dark nights. Ikea is famous for their statement lighting, like this pendant lamp in my office.

5. Get Inspired.

Create an Inspiring OfficeIn my opinion, an inspiration board in a solopreneur’s office is a must — something you can look at to remind yourself that you’re on the right path and will get creative juices flowing. Go through some memory boxes, photo albums, old magazines, or go to Etsy for awesome visuals. My favorite thing on my wall is a painted picture of a flower my mom made when she was eight. Free, fun, and it inspires me to keep going.

Those are my tips! Now go out there and find those free or nearly-free things that stir your soul.

How to Effectively Use Testimonials on Your Website

Testimonials are a valuable form of social proof that help establish your credibility, build trust, and overcome skepticism and doubt. They give you the opportunity to prove claims about your products and services.

Consumers constantly seek word-of-mouth references from family, friends, and even complete strangers on social media and review sites. That’s because we tend to trust word-of-mouth information from fellow consumers more than the same info from a business.

That’s why testimonials act as powerful, word-of-mouth marketing on your website. Once you know how to collect testimonials, the next step is figuring out how to use them effectively.

3 key elements to effectively using testimonials on your website

There are three things to keep in mind that will help you make the most of testimonials on your website.

1. Specificity
Vague testimonials can actually do more harm than good. Here’s an example of a vague testimonial:

“Jane is the best! I loved working with her!”

This testimonial might stroke your ego, but it doesn’t provide any details to substantiate your claims. Worse yet, website visitors often see those types of testimonials as generic, fake and insincere.

In contrast, specific testimonials can be highly effective. Here’s an example of a specific testimonial:

“Before working with Jane, I felt stuck and confused. I was a little nervous about working with someone in another country, but our online sessions were super helpful and my career has really taken off. Using the methods Jane taught me, I finally got my business of the ground and doubled my income.”

Wow, big difference! Let’s go over why the specific testimonial is more effective.

  • It’s more relatable. Potential clients can identify with that story. They’re most likely in that “before” stage feeling stuck and confused just like the person who wrote the testimonial.
  • It overcomes objections. No matter how amazing your product or service is, potential clients will always have doubts. This client was worried about hiring someone in a different country, an objection that other potential clients likely have. The testimonial addresses that objection and works to counteract it.
  • It quantifies results. The testimonial reinforces the benefits of working with Jane by giving specific results—she doubled her income. Specific results (my sales increased by 27%) are more convincing and believable than general language (my sales increased).

2. Credibility
Ideally, each testimonial should be accompanied by the person’s full name, business name or location, and their photo. These three elements give the testimonial credibility by showing that the endorsement comes from a real person. The more real the person seems, the more your website visitors will trust the testimonial. Simple as that.

3. Placement
Don’t limit testimonials to a dedicated testimonials page. Thoughtfully selecting and placing testimonials throughout your website is essential to maximizing their effectiveness. Here are some examples:

Testimonials on your sales page

Place targeted testimonials throughout sales pages to increase your credibility, drive home your message, and overcome objections.

For example, if you have a paragraph on your sales page that talks about a specific benefit, add a testimonial that mentions that benefit directly below the paragraph. The testimonial acts as proof that the benefit you’re claiming is true.

Let’s say you’re selling a high-priced course. The hefty price tag is likely to be an objection. Place a testimonial that addresses and overcomes that objection where the client mentions the price. Website visitors might still have a “holy crap, that’s expensive” moment. But they’ll also see the testimonial, which helps alleviate their objection.

Testimonials on your checkout page

Testimonials on your checkout page help instill confidence and eliminate last minute doubts.

Let’s say the testimonial about your high-priced course did the trick. I click the buy button and am ready to pay…until some last minute doubts swoop in. Is this course really all that it’s cracked up to be? Am I going to regret shelling out all this cash? Adding a testimonial to the checkout page can help assuage those last minute doubts and fears.

Testimonials on your home page

Include your best testimonials front and center on your homepage.

When a new visitor lands on your homepage, they quickly scan it to determine if they want to stick around or not. Testimonials will help reinforce your credibility and encourage visitors to stay on your website.

Applying these methods to testimonials on your website might take some extra work, but the rewards are well worth it.

Ask clients to rewrite testimonials, giving them clear guidelines that gently lead them to write the type of specific testimonials you need. Don’t be scared of bothering them. Most will be more than happy to help. Then sit back and relax as your effective testimonials start converting more website visitors into paying clients.

Client Experience: So Much More Than a Thank You Card

Client experience can sound a whole lot more fluffy than it is.

Putting time into making your service a start-to-finish, delight-inducing magic carpet ride of goodness isn’t just good for the soul. It’s good for your business.

Sock-removing client experiences are the stuff word-of-mouth marketing is made of. It inspires more repeat and referral business so you can spend more time doing your amazing work and less time trying to drum up business from cold leads.

But here’s the truth: results alone won’t get you a referral-based biz and neither will a bunch of random extras.

You can’t just add a handwritten thank you card, or even a fancy gift, to the tail end of your service and think you’ve checked “Create Mind-blowing Client Experience” off your to-do list.

Sure, delighting your clients with fabulous extras is lovely. It also doesn’t mean a damn thing if you haven’t first laid down the foundation by ensuring your clients can access your services with ease.

Word-of-mouth marketing happens when your clients walk away feeling a sense of pride for having been so smart to have invested in you.

So how do you create a service that sells itself?

Let me break it down for you:

When it comes to looking at one of your services, your client experience is everything from the moment your client reads your sales copy to the moment the work is all said and done.

A whole lot of stuff happens between these two points:

  • Money changes hands.
  • Instructions are given.
  • Scheduling happens.
  • Expectations are set.
  • Automated emails land in inboxes.
  • Discussions are had.
  • Documents are received.

…and that’s just the short list!

Any time a person interacts with your biz or anything they associate with your biz (think apps, invoices, docs, etc.), it’s called a touchpoint. Each of those little moments inform your client’s satisfaction with their investment. The client experience is all of those little touchpoints viewed as a whole.

A mind-blowing client experience is created by breaking down your service into those touchpoints and ensuring each and every one reinforces the big promises of brilliance you made through your carefully crafted copy.

The easiest way to do this? Look at each touchpoint through the eyes of your client and ask yourself a few questions:

  • What questions do they have?
  • What feelings are they experiencing in that moment?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What would make this easier?

Now you’ve got the insight to set your processes up in a way that makes it easy to do business with you! You can go through and make the little tweaks that will make your service truly client-centric. That’s what makes it feel like magic.

With the foundation in place…

Once you’ve built that foundation, you can start to turn up the delight factor by adding in your mad flava (personality) and little extras that will really make your clients swoon.

It’s going to require some work but with the process ironed out you can create systems to keep everything going smoothly for both you and your client.

Up for the challenge? Let us know in the comments how you’re going to up the dynamite factor on your current service offering!

P.S. Here’s why you need a goodbye package for your clients + how to create one.

Sell Your Products Online: Bootstrap an Online Store

Ready to sell products online but too caught up in the day-to-day tasks of marketing and management to build your online store?

We get it. As one-woman businesses, we’ve all been there. Our time is extremely valuable. We don’t have the space in our schedule — or the skills — to create an online store, especially when eCommerce is just plain intimidating.

There are a lot of moving parts to e-commerce: confirming secure transactions, solidifying payment methods, sorting out product delivery, and handling customer service, among others.

Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. While there are plenty of e-commerce platforms you can choose from to build your own online store, I have great news for you: there are fast, affordable, and easy ways to sell your products online without the backend hassle. In fact, you could be selling your products in less than an hour!

Sell Your Digital Products Online

Digital products are one of the easiest and most cost-effective products to create. One of the biggest perks: you don’t have to concern yourself with inventory management. Another perk? There are a variety of digital products you can create. You could:

  • write a how-to eBook
  • create a video tutorial
  • record audio coaching sessions

Those are just a few examples. Selling digital products is a great way to grow your brand’s image and highlight your expertise, while making some extra money.

My suggestion for getting started: in less than an hour of your time (once your product is created), you can create a customized Selz store and start selling your digital masterpieces. Selz’ newest app, StorePro, allows users to create an online store using one of their professional themes. Plus, customers can shop from any tablet or smartphone. Setting up a Selz store is free, and they only charge a small percentage of each sale. One of the best parts about Selz is you don’t need any technical skills. They handle the entire sales process.

See it in action: Sofia Cope sells her Pretty Procrastinator Planner using Selz, which is an undated printable planner designed for busy women.

Pretty Procrastinator Planner Selz

Sell Your Own Line of Merchandise Online

One drawback when creating a line of brand merchandise is the enormous cost of selling it. This includes buying inventory, paying set-up and printing fees, and more. It can cost thousands of dollars, with no guarantee that it will sell, typically making it cost-prohibitive for most solo businesses. However, there’s a solution — if you’ve got a great design or brand logo, you can create an entire line of merchandise without any upfront costs.

My suggestion for getting started: Zazzle allows users to create an entire line of merchandise, and sell if from your own Zazzle shop. You can customize a variety of products, including t-shirts, paper items, baby products, business items, and pet products. Simply apply your unique design to any product you choose, and Zazzle handles printing, shipping, and the entire sales transaction. Zazzle charges a royalty for each sale, but you don’t have to worry about having leftover inventory or shipping costs. You don’t need any special skills to create a product or set up a Zazzle store. It’s a great choice for any solo business!

See it in action: Artist Melanie Taylor sells hundreds of unique products — from tote and messenger bags to mugs and iPad cases in her Zazzle store, The Creative Taylor.

Creative Taylor on Zazzle

Take Your Local Shop Online

If you run an offline business, you may not realize you can easily sell your products online. You’ll give your local customers a new way to buy your products, plus you can attract new customers outside your area.

My suggestion for getting started: Square allows users to create a professional online shop for their products. They cater to a variety of businesses, including food & beverage, retail, beauty, and health & fitness. It doesn’t cost anything to create a Square shop, and Square charges a small transaction fee per sale. You don’t need any special skills, and they handle the entire sales transaction. Square also has helpful features for offline businesses, including an appointment feature where customers can book an appointment with you online. Plus, your store will get listed in the Square Market, which may attract new customers.

See it in action: Alison Comfort is the owner of House of Moss, and sells creates miniature woodland-themed felted wool items from her Square store.

House of Moss Square shop

Anyone Can Bootstrap an Online Store!

In all of the above examples, One Woman Shops are selling digital products, merchandise, and physical goods online with no tech skills necessary and very little investment.

You don’t need to invest in inventory, an ecommerce website, or learn coding. You can easily bootstrap an online store by using an eCommerce framework like Zazzle, Selz or Square. For any solo business woman, using one of these platforms takes the risk out of eCommerce – and leaves the overwhelming aspects of selling products online to the experts.

Spend your time focusing on growing your business, and creating products you love. Remember, running a solo business is challenging – but creating an online store doesn’t need to be.

Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing

Curious about how to incorporate affiliate marketing into your solopreneur business strategy? It may be worth your time to explore how affiliate marketing can bring in a bit of passive income to supplement the revenue that your current products and services generate.

Brush up on the basics of affiliate marketing

Essentially, affiliate marketing entails promoting another business’ products or services through your existing public platforms, such as your website, your email list, and your social media accounts. In exchange, you receive an agreed-upon percentage of the revenue generated by the sales you inspire. Though having a large audience is generally considered important for success as an affiliate marketer, a small but engaged community can also bring in a steady income stream.

Here’s how it works: you post a unique link on your website or other online platforms, people click through to the website of the product or service you’re promoting, and, if they make a purchase, you receive a pre-determined percentage of the total sale.

Want more in-depth information on how it works? Here are 17 articles on affiliate marketing that you should read.

Determine your stance on affiliate marketing 

Will you promote only products or services that you have used yourself? Will you consider promoting a service or product that you haven’t specifically used but whose creator you trust? Will you promote any product that seems valuable to your audience? There’s no right or wrong answer, as long as you openly disclose your experience with the product or service.

We here at One Woman Shop generally promote products and services that we use and love (like BluChic’s WordPress themes, Evernote, and HootSuite), but we also occasionally mention products and services that we haven’t used but trust because our familiarity with other work from the creator (like Alexis Grant’s ebooks and the Small Business Bodyguard).

Brainstorm categories of products and services to promote

What products and services could your client base and those who land on your website benefit from that complement your current offerings? If you offer digital marketing consulting, your community might be interested in social media management tools, website hosting, and WordPress themes.

If you coach busy women, your clients might want resources for eating healthy on the go, reducing stress, and staying fit while traveling (think: cookbooks, a meditation app, and portable exercise equipment).

If you teach photography to beginners, your students might be looking to purchase a DSLR camera, a stylish but sturdy case, and an edition of Photoshop.

Think about the minute-by-minute daily needs of your community, as well as the products and services that you use on a regular basis if you are within your target market- whether it’s a food processor, a convertible dress, a coding class, or a productivity e-course.

Find products and services to promote

Now that you have a sense of the kinds of products and services you’re interested in showcasing to your community, it’s time to find specific affiliate programs to join.

Search the sites of products and services you’d like to promote

Already have an idea of a product or service you’d like to share with your community? Search the website by using this Google search string: websiteurl.com affiliate OR “partner program”

For example: Googling “restored316designs.com affiliate” leads you to a page dedicated to information on their affiliate program

Email business owners that you respect

Can’t find mention of an affiliate program on the website of someone you’ve previously partnered with or benefitted from? Email them to ask if they have an existing affiliate program or might consider an affiliate relationship with you.

Browse affiliate marketing networks

Many companies run their affiliate programs through networks like CJ Affiliate by ConversantShareASale, and E-junkie. These sites have directories of their partners so that you can easily scroll through to find fitting products.

Google it 

Think back to the categories you brainstormed earlier then turn to Google for a bit of help. Google (“affiliate” OR “partner program”) AND (keyword related to your industry).

For example: Googling cookware affiliate program brings up several legitimate companies, such as the RachelRayStore.com, Le Creuset, and EmerilStore.com

Ensure that your chosen products and services pass your litmus test

A few questions to ask yourself: will my audience find this genuinely useful? Will my community feel alienated if I promote this product or service? Does this fit into the budget of my audience?

If you’re not sure that you can comfortably vouch for the product or service, consider asking for a sample to review or ask the company or business owner if you can send them a list of questions you think your audience might want the answers to.

Stay tuned for more on properly disclosing your affiliate relationships and creative ways to promote products and services that you’re an affiliate for!

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