How To Grow Your Online Business… Especially When You’re Short On Time
This is the “secret” to making all the progress you want… and it is especially important if you’re short on time.
There are those entrepreneurs who glorify the hustle. The grind. They sometimes brag with pride about how many hours they work during the day.
Is that really what it takes to succeed?
Well, yes and no. There’s no doubt that growing your business and income isn’t just going to fall on your lap. You’re going to have to work for it. And probably much harder in the beginning than as time goes on.
At the same time, though, there are ways to make more progress with less work. Work smarter, not harder.
This is especially important if you’re trying to grow an online business while simultaneously working a day job and/or taking care of your family. By nature, the amount of time you have available to work on your business is limited. So, the time you DO have has to be effective.
This post will be about how to work smarter, not harder. We want to get more done and get bigger results, but do it with less time and effort. Take this blog post to heart. Read every word. This idea can make or break whether you ultimately grow the business you want, or whether you put it into the list of failed attempts.
Let’s get started…
80/20 Rule Revisited
You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule. But, perhaps you’re not really applying it.
I’ve watched many people (and even done it myself) who hear about the 80/20 rule and immediately think “Yeah, I already know about that.”. Great, but are you APPLYING IT? If your reaction is that you already know about it, but then you proceed to keep spending your time on those low-hanging tasks that don’t give you the big results, then you’re simply not applying the 80/20 rule.
80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. This means that 20% of the things you could be doing would be responsible for 80% of your results. That’s pretty efficient, really. But, if you’re not even doing those 20% of efforts because you’re so busy spinning your wheels with the 80%, then you could easily spin your wheels putting out a bunch of effort and get pretty much NO results from it.
And that would suck.
Now, these 80/20 numbers. Where do they really come from? When we say “80% of your results”…. WHAT RESULTS? How do we actually measure this and make it real?
Key Performance Indicators – Revisited
You judge results by your numbers – pure and simple. In business, they’re often called key performance indicators, or KPIs.
It is really very simple…
Determine what it is exactly that you want and you come up with a statistic to measure it. Then, you can determine any preliminary things that lead to the result you want… and measure those. Just the important ones.
So, as an example… you want to make money from your blog. Great. KPI #1: Revenue. So, you keep track of dollars in the door.
Now, what leads to dollars in the door? How is the revenue generated? Well…
- You need something to sell. (KPI: Training units created, for example.)
- You need a sales page that is visited by prospects (KPI: Unique visitors to sales page).
- You need people to sign up as a lead (KPI: Opt-ins)
- If you’re using paid traffic, you need people to click on it. (KPI: Clicks)
These KPIs need to be concrete numbers, not something which is touchy feely or based on a gut feeling. It needs to be measurable. And it needs to be measuring something which has a DIRECT impact on your #1 goal.
If monetization and revenue is a goal, then you should be measuring income and the components that lead to it (see above). If your goal is just to be famous, then you might have KPIs on growth of your fanbase. And if you have no real idea what you’re shooting for, then you best stop and get a handle on that so you don’t waste your time.
I’d recommend that you identify your core statistics and then compile them into a statistics dashboard, as I wrote about here. This way you can manage your business by the numbers. And, yes, GROW your business by the numbers.
You cannot get more results by working less if you don’t know what the exact results are that you want and measure them regularly.
Low Leverage Tasks You Should Re-Think
As you grow your business, you should be on the hunt for those actions which are effective and those which are not effective. You should question your assumptions. Just because you’ve been doing something for awhile doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.
So, we want to look at those actions that can easily take a lot of effort but aren’t generally responsible for a lot of real, measurable results.
First, I am going to assume here that the goal is to generate revenue from your blog. After all, monetization is kind of our focus around here. 🙂 With that in mind, let’s begin identifying low leverage tasks that, unfortunately, way too many blog owners get too wrapped up in.
#1 – Writing Blog Posts
A bit counter-intuitive, I know. As a blogger, it seems almost like heresy to say that writing blog posts is a low leverage task. But, look at our core KPIs…
- Does your blog post generate revenue? Generally, no. Now, they most certainly can, but it is generally just one part of a larger marketing strategy. And truth be told, most blog owners aren’t writing content for this purpose. They’re just writing to appease Google. 🙂
- Does your blog post provide a product or service to sell? No. You can’t sell a blog post. So, no revenue there.
- Does your blog post earn opt-ins? They can if you do content upgrades. Upgrades are more work and most people don’t do them, and it would change the leverage factor of a blog post. But, most blog owners aren’t doing it.
- Does your blog post generate traffic? Sure, it can. But, if you’re honest with yourself, you’d see that the really hot traffic usually comes from what you do AFTER you publish the blog post, not actually creating the post and publishing it. You could probably get that same traffic by promoting posts you’ve already written rather than making new ones. Ever thought about that? 😉
To be clear, I am certainly not saying that you should stop blogging. 🙂 And if you apply some of the stuff I talk about in the Blog Monetization Lab when it comes to writing effective content, then your leverage factor increases from blog posts.
For most blog owners, though, writing blog content falls into that set of tasks which are responsible for 20% of your results but can easily take up 80% of your efforts. It takes awhile to create great content.
The solution here is to slow down on your blog posting. When you do post, put the extra effort into making it truly leveragable and something that WILL build your business and add to your KPIs. If you’re just doing it because the calendar told you to… perhaps you just stop and reconsider.
Yes, you can actually make more money with your blog by blogging less.
#2 – Engaging on Social Media
Social media is easily the biggest potential “time suck” we have online. And any delusions you have about how “engaging” on social media for a few hours per day is growing your business… you best get over it. 🙂 Because it isn’t true.
So, there’s a variety of things herein that could easily be seen as low-leverage efforts:
- Tweaking your Facebook page. Honestly, I don’t even look at a Facebook page as a very valuable asset. When you realize that you can reach anybody you want using very affordable Facebook ads, and that you have to pay Facebook just to reach your own fans anyway… you have to ask yourself just how well spent that time is that you spent working on your Facebook page.
- Tweeting and Retweeting. Not useless, but certainly low leverage unless you’re connecting with just the right people.
- Running a Facebook group. Groups are great as a brand extension and community builder, but they can also waste a lot of time. The only community I’m currently running is for Blog Monetization Lab members – and that’s a medium of DELIVERY, not just chit-chat. I used to have an open, public group and I shut it down because it was a waste of time.
Now, again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t engage on social media. It is important to interact with your community and it can build traffic (a KPI). But, there are far more effective ways to do it. Plus, you’ll get far better results using paid traffic from social media sites than you will get organically engaging with people.
Many marketers end up automating this stuff. I used to use MeetEdgar for this purpose. But, that kind of engagement wasn’t adding to my business so I stopped doing it.
I would recommend placing definite time limits on social media engagement. Maybe 15-20 minutes per day, tops.
#3 – Tweaking Your Site
Bloggers love to tweak their sites. Make ’em purty. 😉 And it is all too easy to sink a lot of time into it. Trust me, I know. 😉
But, let’s also be honest about it. It is truly low leverage. While the design of your site certainly does impact KPIs, it isn’t going to be a large impact in most cases.
When you spend time tweaking your site, you have to be very clear what your purpose is. If the changes you’re making impact KPIs, that’s fine. If you’re just doing it in order to give yourself a nice warm fuzzy, then maybe you should resist the urge and get busy on something more meaningful.
Higher Leverage Actions That Give Big Results And Don’t Take Long
Unfortunately, I find that a large majority of bloggers spend their time on the 3 low-leverage items I mentioned above. All their time is spent:
- Writing blog posts
- Engaging on social
- Tweaking their blog
If this is where most of your time goes, don’t be surprised if your email list isn’t growing and you’re not making any money.
So, if we’re going to reposition those things so they take a minority of our time, where should we spend this newly available time? In other words, what actions can we do that would be responsible for BIG results without a ton of effort?
#1 – Create a new Lead Magnet with Squeeze Page
In any online business, one of your KPIs will be opt-ins. It has a direct impact on revenue. So, any time you create a new lead magnet, it is an opportunity to build your list. But, also consider this…
While a blog post has a typical life span, your lead magnet is fairly timeless. You spend the time to create it and it can be building your list for months (even years) to come. Also, if you follow the process in my Creating an Effective Lead Magnet Action Plan, it won’t even take long at all to create a great lead magnet. Likely far less time than it’d take to write a blog post.
So, what’s more effective? Writing yet another blog post… or diverting that time into creating a new lead magnet asset and a squeeze page to accompany it?
#2 – Creating Your Product(s)
In order to make money, you need something to sell. If it is a service, then you have to have time to deliver it. If it is a product, you have to have created the product. If you’re so busy appeasing the Google gods by writing yet another blog post, then you have less time to create something to SELL.
Spending time creating something to sell is much higher leverage for the growth of your business. If you’re so busy tweeting and blogging that you can’t do it, then tweet and blog less. The world will survive.
#3 – Writing Autoresponder Emails
Autoresponder emails are written once and then sent automatically from there on out. And it is a beautiful thing. You get months or years of marketing out of sitting down and writing one email.
Your email followup sequences are a fundamental component of the business machine which sits behind your blog and generates revenue and return traffic back to your site. Spending your time creating effective emails is much higher leverage for your business than writing yet another blog post.
#4 – Doing Webinars.
In terms of list building, building engagement with your subscribers and making sales, it is really hard to beat the effectiveness of a webinar. In terms of making sales, they can also be a massive shortcut.
Instead of creating some big long sales page, some big launch sequence… you just get prospects to enroll into a webinar. You do the whole thing in an hour or less and your conversion rates will almost always smoke what you’d get on a sales letter. In terms of funnels, you don’t even need to bother with front-end offers. Just go direct to webinar and go right for your core offer.
Webinars are very high leverage and that’s why you see a lot of people doing them. So, again… that time you spent writing another blog post or tweeting, you could be working on a new presentation to deliver via webinar. The impact on your business will be quite noticeable.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
I could go on and on on this topic because it is so important, but alas this blog post is getting way too long and I need to practice what I preach here. 🙂
Growing an online business isn’t rocket science. Generally speaking, it isn’t even a matter of lack of knowledge. What it often comes down to is management. Self management.
If you spend your time working on low leverage things, then you’ll spin your wheels and go nowhere. If you spend your time focused on things which have a DIRECT impact on the growth of the business in measurable ways, your business will grow.
It is that simple.
So, if this is something you look at honestly and know you need to work on, then I’m going to give you one more high-leverage activity you can do right now.
Stop what you’re doing. Just stop working. And do this:
- Get very clear on what you want to accomplish with your blog/business. Is it revenue? What’s it look like to you?
- Create a small set of KPIs that are direct, measurable indicators of how well you’re achieving that goal.
- Now, look at where you’re spending your time. Do those actions have a direct, positive impact on the KPIs? Or is it just a gut feeling?
- What DIRECT actions can you focus on that would have a direct positive impact on those KPIs?
And that’s it.
Cut out the useless actions and bring in the effective ones.
And keep in mind, I’m not saying blogging and tweeting is useless. There are a lot of little things in this business that we need to be doing yet are still low leverage. That’s fine. Just re-work your schedule where those things don’t take up a majority of your time. That’s all.
This simple exercise of self management will have the biggest impact on your success growing your online income than any strategy or tactic I could possibly teach you.
Good luck, and let me know your results via comment below or via email! 🙂
Your Monetization Coach,
Very well written. Definitely puts into perspective where we need to put our focus on. Start with the end in mind and work efficiently and productively from there. Hiring a VA also is a great investment.
I love the idea of leveraging your content creation. You made it very clear in your podcast and this is something I need to work on. While I still work/study full-time, I will definitely try recording and hiring a VAto do the rest. I think focusing on products from the start really is what will make a big difference in the future.
You’re right David, at the end everything comes down to self management… I know a few business owners, well, recent business owners that have spend most of their working life working for someone else and now they are so scared of failing they literally do all kind of unnecessary stuff and spend in vain their energy instead of just making a clear goal and as you said work smart, not harder!
We all have the same amount of time. It is how we managed it and how efficiently we can write out blog. I have to be honest.I am not a good writer and spend large amount of time trying to write the next blog post. My post may be short and simple and probably not offering extra value to readers. But they are very real, very personal which I felt many readers out that may be able to connect with.
Having say that, I totally agree with your 4 actions that give bigger results.
Thanks for the article 🙂
Show me a business owner who isn’t short on time. Seriously, show me, I’d like to shake his hand. And maybe take him out for a beer to ask some questions.
I’ve been guilty of all of these things. I’m a writer, so I excuse myself for writing blogs, and I don’t do too much social, but I spend half my life tweaking my sites. I’ve been looking for ways to be more efficient lately, mostly because paid work is seriously starting to infringe on my “But what if I try this almost identical plugin instead?” time.
I’ve been looking very seriously at webinars, and you seem like someone who knows whether they work, so this is an extra push in that direction.
What software would you recommend for building up a webinar? And how would you go about bringing in users/customers? Is there a subscription threshold you’d recommend reaching before heading down that road?