Picking a business idea

Update September 17, 2016

So I think I’ve come up with an idea. It’s fresh, so I’ll give it a few days to think it over. I was going over the communities I’m a part of and realized there are a lot of people looking to get marketing jobs. Marketing is a big field: social media, SEO/SEM, copywriting, managers, “growth hacking”. It can be pretty hard to break into the field with just a college degree. A marketing degree pretty much means nothing when it comes to a marketing job.

I want to create a site that helps answer questions that new grads or even people looking to switch careers. It will be content based, as I haven’t seen any sites (yet) that cover marketing jobs. I’ll also bring up remote marketing as well, because that’s the job I currently have so I think I have a good grasp on the subject.

My validation? I looked on Reddit, the Jobs and Marketing subreddits, to see if people are asking questions about this topic. There are a ton of threads. People are asking how to find a job with no experience, how to get into marketing with another unrelated degree, how to switch careers to marketing. I’ve been through this. I’ll write to some of the OPs on Reddit to see if they have found jobs, how they did so, what they wish they had learned, how the job is going.

Anytime I bring up my job, I get strangers or my girlfriend’s coworkers asking how they can get into marketing. It’s a huge field, and it’s perfect for both creatives and technical people. The amount of skills you need to learn are massive and constantly changing.

I’m working on a few names, and how I plan to start the site. At first I will focus only on the job board and blog and promotion. I will have a way to collect email sign ups, the lead magnet can be something like “Top 50 skills all marketers need to know” or “100 resources for new marketers”. I want to grow the email list, that’s a big priority. I’m figuring out what email client to use, as I don’t want to get sucked into a free one and end up paying a ton once I hit their free limit threshold. Any ideas are welcomed!

The site will focus on teaching skills before, during, and after you get a marketing job. How do you find the right companies to apply to (avoiding scams or sales positions), how to stand out in your application, interview questions, should you freelance, what skills do you need to know, should you be a generalist or niche down to something like SEO. I have tons of content ideas already on Asana so I know I won’t have trouble coming up with things to write about.

Monetization is not my biggest worry at the moment, I want to focus on validation and growing the audience. After that, we can try sponsored job postings, sponsored newsletters, emailing out marketing tool deals (like Appsumo), creating an ebook (if there’s demand), creating a paid FB group or membership site. There are tons of ways to monetize but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse when I don’t even have a domain name yet.

The main goals these next few weeks

  1. Reach out to people on Reddit to ask them questions
  2. Pick a name and buy the domain
  3. Set up the site (only spend 2-3 hours)
  4. Create the job board
  5. Figure out how to automate job board postings
  6. Create the lead magnet
  7. Set up the email opt in form
  8. Pick an email service provider
  9. Set up Twitter

Picking a business idea

I’m having such a hard time with this right now. I feel that writing out this post may help sort my thoughts or help a new idea come to light.

I have a lot of ideas: a productized service to offer content upgrades, marketing consulting, creating a content marketing marketplace. I’ve been listening to a lot of Megamaker podcast episodes and like what Justin Jackson says about finding an audience you want to help. Rather than start with my idea, now I want to try to focus on an audience I actually resonate with and want to work with. Sure, a restaurant content marketing service could be a good idea, but I have worked with restaurants before and don’t want to deal with that audience.

Here are some communities I fit into:

  • Introvert
  • INTJ (Myers-Briggs personality type)
  • Wantrepreneur
  • Marketer
  • Dog owner
  • Traveler
  • Frugal
  • Simplicity/minimalism
  • Mandarin learner
  • Podcast listener
  • Bass fishing
  • Millenial
  • Coffee drinker
  • Designer

I’m leaning more towards marketing, as I feel that is my strongest skill set. Especially because I feel that it can be combined with another community I’m a part of such as marketing for bass fishing companies or marketing for podcasts, even helping millenials land a marketing job.

I have other ideas too, but there’s that fear that I’m not qualified enough to offer advice. This includes ideas like teaching introverts how to start freelancing (I’ve dabbled in this a bit), or helping travel blogs market and monetize themselves (I’ve marketed but never monetized).

Justin from Megamaker talks about starting small. Everyone wants to go out with a huge ebook or course or software, but all it really takes is starting small. Plus, the last thing I want to do is write an ebook and find out that nobody needs it.

So that’s where I’m at, trying to figure out what to focus my energy on.

Some ideas I’m thinking of right now

  • Marketing for travel blogs
  • Marketing for dog brands/businesses
  • How to start freelance marketing
  • Dribbble for marketers
  • A marketing automation crash course
  • A marketing crash course (overview of top skills for entry level marketing, ways to stand out, how to start your own projects)
  • Designing for marketers (how to design simple blog & social media graphics, infographics, and more)


Let me know what you think. Is my thinking off? Should I be approaching this process another way?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Why I write down every dollar I spend

Why I write down every dollar I spend

Since December 2015, I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet that contains every dollar I’ve spent up until now. It may seem tedious and a waste of time, I could just look at my credit card statements to see what I’m spending. But it’s much much different.

The spreadsheet breaks down my earnings for the whole year, my expenses, and I can see if I’m on track budget-wise each month.

I started doing this spreadsheet after a particularly bad month of spending money to eat out. When you have no overview of what you’ve spent and no budget in place, it’s easy to go overboard.

I now limit myself to $50 a month to eat out. Sometimes I’m under, sometimes I’m a few dollars over. The point is that each time I open my spreadsheet I can see where I’m at and it helps me stay on track. If I’m at 50% of my eating out budget and it’s only the 5th of the month, then I need to slow down and resist the next time I’m craving a burger. It will cause me to choose making ramen at home to going to Wendy’s.

I used to think budgets were pointless.

I’m quite thrifty and frugal, I don’t need a budget.

But having one has helped me know just how much I can save each month, how comfortable I am with spending on a trip, and if I’ll be ok if I was let go.

What I’ve learned from tracking my spending so far

My annual expenses are very low (and can go lower)

If income stopped coming in, I know what my annual/monthly expenses are. I can estimate exactly what I’ll need to make it through 3-6-12 months. Having my spreadsheet has helped me feel comfortable in the amount of savings I have. I know I can survive at least a few years with no income coming in (not that I ever plan to do that).

I live very frugally, but I can drop that spending even lower by renting a cheaper place, using the car less, cutting my food spending, getting a cheaper health insurance plan, etc.

I can resist going out

My girlfriend and I are homebodies. We don’t like going out, the last time we went to a movie we had gotten free tickets. The last dinner out we had was because we both had gift cards. We’re frugal and we like it that way. But that’s not to say we don’t enjoy ourselves. We go out to eat, get bubble tea, have coffee. We’re going on a trip in October to Europe because she found discounted flights.

My spreadsheet helps us resist going out too much. Back before the spreadsheet we’d end up spending well over $150 each on eating out. Now we are able to drop to around $50 each. If she brings up going out to eat, I can bring up the spreadsheet and recommend we go later on in the month. The budget helps give us some structure.

Makes me accountable for every dollar

I know just where every dollar I earn goes. People lament that credit cards are pulling us away from the feeling of spending that we used to have when we used cash. If you had $50 in your wallet and spent it all at the mall, you no longer can go to another store and buy more. With a credit card you’re not able to see your spending right away or really “feel” it. A credit card removes us from the buying process.

My spreadsheet brings me that feeling of accountability for my spending. Although I use a credit card (and pay it off each month) I’m able to see just where my money goes. I don’t buy things like gum or candy or a random coffee on the way home. Because I know that feeling of pulling out receipts and putting them in the spreadsheet. Little charges like gum, snacks, or extra things I don’t need add up and I can see it.

Buying with a purpose

Every time I spend, I’m forced to see my expenses go up and my savings go down. I have to hold myself responsible for every charge. Not facing the money you’re spending is how people end up wondering where all their money goes each month. You look at your credit card statement and wonder “What did I spend $679 on?”. I know when I shop that buying a certain item will bring my savings lower and lower. I constantly ask myself “Do I really need this?” and 99% of the time the answer is no. Sure, I like a new shirt every now and then, but I only go when necessary. We don’t go shopping just to go out, we go with a purpose.

Why you need to focus on email (plus examples)

Social media is fun and all. Writing blogs can be cathartic. But are they getting you the results your business needs to survive?

Social media and writing blogs are an essential part of marketing, but they’re not likely to drive sales (at least not immediately). These are parts of your marketing strategy that are meant to help you connect with your audience.

If you’re not doing email, you need to start now.

Why focus on email?

Because it’s your best chance to continue reaching your audience and to stay “top of mind”. When I say “top of mind” I mean that you want your business to be the first thing someone thinks of when they think of your industry. One of the best ways to do that is through consistent, value-driven email marketing.

This isn’t email marketing for email marketing’s sake. That stuff is junk and ends up getting thrown in spam or unsubscribed.

I’ve had experience with this kind of email marketing and it sucks for both the business and the audience. You know the emails I’m talking about. The every-holiday-on-Earth emails, the ones that go out each holiday and just push products or lame sales. (I’m looking at you clothing retailers).

Holiday emails are easy pickings and everyone does them, so you shouldn’t do them.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

You should be focusing on email and growing your list because you own your list. Lots of online entreprenuers talk about the value of owning their email list. Sure, you have your Facebook audience, but Facebook keeps tweaking their algorithm so less and less of them see your posts.

Your email list is yours, and you can bring it anywhere you want. If you switch email service providers, you bring it with you. But if Twitter shuts down, you can’t take those followers somewhere else.

Once you have someone’s email, you have access to their inbox. And if you’re clever, thoughtful, trustworthy, personable, you can get them to keep opening your emails. Sure, they may not purchase one the first, second, or even fifth email. But once the time comes that they need your product or service, they’ll remember you.

What do I need to grow my email list?

First, you need forms.

Not just a newsletter sign up form, but also lead magnets.

ConversionXL lead magnet
ConversionXL Lead Magnet

If you’re not familiar, a lead magnet is, usually, a valuable piece of content that your audience is willing to give their email address to receive. This could be anything from a video course to an ebook to a spreadsheet. The important thing is that this needs to be VALUABLE! This can’t just be “Top 5 Twitter tips”, this needs to be “50 ways to reach out to Twitter influencers, including email copy templates”.

Here’s a list of 19 lead magnet ideas.

This has to be something they can only find on your site, and something that’s relevant to their needs and what your business offers.

WPCurve content upgrade
WPCurve content upgrade

Another form of a lead magnet is a content upgrade. These are like lead magnets for individual blog posts.

The beauty of these is that if you get someone to read your article about “Pool cleaning robots: Should you buy one?” they will probably be interested in downloading a comparison chart of the top 25 pool cleaners.

Content upgrades are a great idea in theory, but they can become time consuming to create for every article. Some people create content upgrades for certain categories of posts, others do them just for popular posts.

What should my emails be about?

This is tricky, because there is no one size fits all answer.

If you’re an individual, like a business coach, then you need to be providing information about you, to help build a relationship with your audience. You need to be sending emails filled with your valuable knowledge that helps cement your authority in the space.

The main thing you need to do in your emails is GIVE GIVE GIVE and then GIVE some more.

If you take away one thing from this article, it should be that your emails are about giving to your audience.

Your audience signed up to get your emails because they found the lead magnet or content upgrade valuable, now you need to continue on that path and keep providing great content.

Your emails can really be anything:

  • Links to your blogs
  • Link roundups
  • Webinar invites
  • Promoting your guest post on a site
  • Asking your audience questions

For the example of a business coach, you really want to be creating a relationship.

In this case, I would recommend focusing on plain-text emails. Plain-text look just like any email you’d write in Gmail. There’s no fancy headers, no graphics except maybe your logo at the bottom. It’s all about writing and your thoughts.

These emails work well because they give off the feel that they’re personal and coming from you.

You should focus on writing as yourself, not using marketing language.

These first few emails in your sequence will be about giving away your knowledge. Later on you can start promoting your product or service, because by now your list has gotten tons of value from you.

What do I do now?

Now that you know the basics of email marketing: the forms you need, getting a lead magnet, the basics of your emails, you can start growing your list!

You’ll need an email service provider. It’s really up to you what you use, but make sure if your list grows, you’re willing to pay the monthly cost to stick with that provider. Make sure it’s one that does autoresponders and drip emails.

Here’s a list from Zapier to help you pick a provider.

Once you get set up, you need to build some forms. If you’re in WordPress, try Ninja Forms or a similar plugin that links to your ESP.

After you create the form, you need to create the autoresponder email that will go out when someone signs up for that lead magnet. One way to do this is to set up a page on your website with the lead magnet. Then in your autoresponder email just include that link.

Next, you need a few follow up emails to keep your new sign up interested in you. You can pick the timing to send them out and the content, but just make sure the email is either building a relationship or providing value.

Set up these campaigns for your lead magnet, as well as any other forms you set up like content upgrades and your newsletter. For some sign ups, you may want to provide different information.

If someone downloads your lead magnet on 50 robot pool cleaner tips, they will want different content from someone who signs up for your “Master plan for hot tub cleaning” guide.

Make sure the content of your emails matches what the user signed up for (their interest).

Can you show some email examples?

Yeah! These are all actual emails from my inbox. You know they’re good because I actually haven’t deleted them.

Bryan Harris Email - Videofruit.com
Bryan Harris Email – Videofruit.com

The email above is from Video Fruit’s Bryan Harris. It’s short, all text, and is just about cool things you should check out. No selling, just giving you information.

Drip email course
Drip email course

This is an email you get when you sign up for Drip.com’s video course. It’s packed with value, showing just how you can use Drip for your email marketing. The email is plain and just lets you know what you’ll learn.

LeadG2 email
LeadG2 email

This email is just a follow up from LeadG2 after I downloaded something from them. They provide other resources, but also do a quick ask if I’d like to talk on the phone. It’s not pushy and it’s not all about the phone call.