Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective.
This post (and podcast episode) are inspired by my presentation at FinCon last month. I broke my own rule of not seeking out any speaking gigs, and submitted for a breakout session.
The idea was a bit of an homage to the conference: 10 FinCon Breakthroughs that Tripled My Business.
The powers that be stripped the “FinCon” part from the title, but I was still able to highlight some of my favorite — and most impactful — takeaways from the annual conference.
I’ve been every year since 2015, and have seen some great steady business growth since then. This chart tracks my yearly profit:
While there are certainly other factors that went into that growth, there is absolutely a concrete, positive ROI from attending. And on top of that, it’s super energizing to hang around a group of motivated, talented, and generous individuals.
So here we go with the 11 simple ideas!
1. The Rule of 2
Erin Chase gave me The Rule of 2: If you find yourself doing the same task twice, and can see yourself having to do it again, it’s time to:
- eliminate it
- automate it
- accelerate it
- or delegate it
Even if it’s just a couple minutes. Historically, I’ve struggled with this. I’d argue, nah, it’s just faster if I do it myself. Even knowing full well it’s not the best use of my time long-term.
“Create the process,” Erin argued. “Get it off your plate.”
The first stage is to simply STOP doing those tasks that aren’t moving your business forward.
- Consider using a time tracking tool like Toggl
- Stop mindlessly scrolling on Facebook with News Feed Eradicator (also available for Firefox)
Next, automate as much as you can. I rely on Gmail as command central for my business, and have probably half a dozen email accounts all forwarding to one master inbox.
On top of that, I have a bunch of filters set up so I can batch-process certain types of messages, like replies to my welcome sequences and accounting-related emails.
- Sanebox – Get $20 off
- IFTTT – Free, but no longer very reliable
- Zapier – Free for up to 5 zaps, amazingly reliable. I use this to automatically send emails to team members when tasks are ready for them.
- LastPass – It doesn’t work for every site, but the Autologin checkbox is your friend.
Using Erin’s Rule of 2 framework, I’ve found opportunities to accelerate a lot of the work I was doing by learning the keyboard shortcuts for my most common software programs.
Over the years, I’ve also been creating my own custom library of keyboard shortcuts using TextExpander and Auto Text Expander.
- TextExpander (30-day free trial; 20% off paid plans)
- Auto Text Expander (free Chrome extension alternative)
- aText ($5 lifetime alternative; Mac only)
- Video Speed Controller
And finally, we get to the delegation phase. Could someone else perform this work as well or better than you, for a more affordable hourly rate?
Exercise: Calculate your own Effective Hourly Rate by taking how much you made last month and dividing it by the number of hours you worked.
The service that’s been on the receiving end of most of my Rule of 2 discoveries has been OkayRelax. I rely on my assistant Angel for all sorts of recurring processes like formatting blog posts, installing lead magnets, running reports, and more.
- OkayRelax (25% off your first month)
- Zen WP (Use coupon code VAATENOFF for 10% off any support plan for life!)
- Podcast Fast Track (tell ’em Nick sent you!)
2. Let Go
“Let go,” was the advice from Pat Flynn, which in his case carries a double meaning. Yes, let go, as in loosen your grip, but it also describes how he was “let go” from his day job more than a decade ago and forced into the world of entrepreneurship.
The way I interpret “let go” is this: to grow, do the thing that’s uncomfortable.
And in some meaningful way, letting go is the only way to really take control.
For me, that’s been taking actions like:
- Hiring writers — recognizing that not every word on this site needs to come from my fingertips.
- Creating a course — recognizing there’s value in structured content and guiding students through a transformation.
- Bringing on podcast sponsors — recognizing that what I initially saw as “selling out” can actually be a win-win-win for listeners, advertisers, and me as a host.
3. Get Better Every Week
“I’m embarrassed by the work I did a year ago,” Joe Saul-Sehy told me. “And a year from now, I hope to be embarrassed by the work I’m doing today.”
This is the Slight Edge habit, where day-to-day, the gains are probably unnoticeable, but over time, they really start to compound.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
For years, I’ve understood The Side Hustle Show is my most important discovery channel and relationship-building medium. But I never had any formal training in radio or podcast production.
So, with Joe’s advice ringing in my ears, I hired a podcast coach for the first time. And it’s been super helpful to have a pro listening in, questioning, and giving feedback.
Dealing with Pitches
Another huge time-suck for me was dealing with inbound pitches from prospective guests.
Some of these were awful, and those were easy to deal with.
Some of these were great, and those were easy to deal with.
But most were somewhere in between, and it was super time-consuming to try and determine if there was something there that could turn into good radio.
So I created a standard podcast guest pitch form (and of course a Text Expander snippet to explain it). That’s helped me maintain a high standard of guests and save a bunch of back-and-forth.
And finally, I built the The Progress Journal to help me track and measure my results. It’s one thing to think and talk about getting better every week, but another to be able to measure and quantify that improvement.
4. Community is Everything
At FinCon, I gave this presentation to a packed room of probably 200 people. I asked how many were members of the ChooseFI Facebook Group, and more than half the hands shot up.
In less than 3 years, Jonathan Mendonsa and his team have done an incredible job of becoming the virtual water cooler for the FIRE movement.
How can you create a community around your own topic? How can you spotlight members?
For me, the Side Hustle Nation Facebook group is at the center of this effort. It’s helped take the conversation from one-to-many to many-to-many, and it’s been a fantastic source of content too:
- Round-up style blog posts like this one about the best business ideas for kids
- Q&A episodes like this one
- Round-up style podcast episodes like this one
- Coaching style episodes like this one
- Success story-style episodes like this one
But by far the most rewarding part of my job is hosting in-person meetups everywhere I go. Taking the online relationships offline is really exciting and meeting listeners in real life gives me a ton of energy.
I use Eventbrite to plan these and usually charge a $5 ticket to prevent no-shows. In fact, we had 15 people turn up for dinner in DC last month and it was awesome!
5. Domain Authority + Word Count = Pageviews
This formula, as explained to me by Deacon Hayes, probably oversimplifies SEO, but it works.
The basic idea is to write really authoritative content on a particular topic, and Google will take notice. Over the last couple years, my average blog post has been 3700 words!
But the important thing is I’m actually writing less now than when I started — just my writing is more effective. I’m going into most new posts with the intention to rank in search, rather than just writing because I needed to get a post out.
- ahrefs (the gold standard in SEO tools right now)
- kw finder (a cheaper alternative)
- Keywords Everywhere (free browser extension) – UPDATE – as of October 1st 2019, Keywords Everywhere became a paid tool.
- Domain authority checker
6. You’re Not on Pinterest?!
Rosemarie Groner looked at me like I was the biggest idiot on the planet. And then she went on to explain why Pinterest is more of a search engine than it is social media.
With 300 million active users, I’m certain a few of them are there looking for your stuff.
Important note: The group board strategy Rosemarie first shared in 2015 isn’t really effective any more. Instead you want to focus more on the search discoverability of your content, by keyword-optimizing your board titles and descriptions, and pin titles and descriptions.
While my Pinterest traffic is definitely down from the glory days of 2016, it’s still been a source of tens of thousands of incremental visitors over the years. And you never know where your next big fan is going to find you!
7. Email Your Most Engaged Subscribers First
Theory: If you email your most engaged subscribers first, the rest of your list is more likely to see your message. This idea was introduced to me by Kyle Taylor from ThePennyHoarder. He argued that if you could score a really high open rate, click through rate, and even reply rate to your initial email, other subscribers would be more likely to have it land in their inbox (and not promotions or spam).
This practice has been worth a 5-10% lift in open rate percentage, which is worth an extra 3000-6000 people seeing my email every week.
(In ActiveCampaign, I tag everyone who’s opened a message in the last 2 weeks as engaged. I send to that segment an hour before I send to everyone else.)
8. Cut the Crap
Is your site swimming in outdated, irrelevant, low-quality content? Mine was.
This was years of my life in writing! I actually couldn’t bear to really delete them, so I dumped it all into Microsoft Word. That “blog archives” document has swollen to 1500 pages and over 240,0000 words … enough to get you almost all the way through the first 3 Harry Potter books!
And worse, the results weren’t immediate. It was like I deleted a piece of my soul for nothing. But within 6 months, I saw a 65% increase in search traffic.
Do you content that belongs on your site but isn’t as strong as it could be?
Update it and re-publish. Google (and readers) love recency.
I’ve made a habit of this and is usually easier than creating a new post completely from scratch.
Building a Blog Library
I recently went through and created a blog library of archive posts in Google Docs. (I actually had help from a free marketing apprentice from GenM.)
The columns included:
- word count
- last updated date
- target keyword
- monthly search volume for that keyword (from ahrefs)
- current google rank
- current 30 day traffic (from Google Analytics)
- does this content have social optimized images?
This gave me a quick snapshot to see which content was due for an update and which content–given a little love–could be doing better.
9. If It Doesn’t Make You Money, Why Are You Doing It?
That nugget from Joseph Hogue sounds a little extreme, so maybe put it this way instead:
Every piece of content you create should serve you in some way.
This opens the door to work less, but be more effective.
Today, I try and think of each article I create is a little minion going out into the world to do my bidding.
- Create content with intention. That means actually doing keyword research prior to hitting compose.
- On-Page Domination. The simplest way to visualize this is turning all the Yoast traffic lights green. But don’t be a slave to their recommendations!
- Hemingway App – Cool free tool to make your writing easier to read.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer – Cool free tool to make more compelling headlines.
10. Look for Affiliate Opportunities in your Top-Performing Content
I’m a little embarrassed by this, because I’d already been in affiliate marketing for 10+ years when Michelle Schroeder-Gardner told me this. Still, it’s a seemingly-obvious piece of advice that’s probably added thousands of dollars a month to my bottom line.
This is the online marketing equivalent of selling more to your existing customers.
Rather than creating something from scratch, look at what already has traction and traffic. What affiliate offers (or other calls-to-action) could you plug in there?
- Google Analytics> Behavior > Site Content – There’s an 80/20 here; my top 10 posts accounted for 50% of my traffic.
- Redirect Detective can sometimes help discover affiliate programs. Or just ask around.
- Consider display ads, or other relevant calls to action.
11. Make it Obvious
When someone lands on your website or blog post, what do you want them to do?
Make. It. Obvious.
That might mean little tweaks like:
- If you present multiple affiliate options on one page, sort by EPC (earnings per click), or put the best-paying options at the top.
- Make your links bold.
- Write out calls to action or add buttons. (check out Robert Farrington’s TheCollegeInvestor.com for examples)
Other Quick Win:
- Install the Easy Table of Contents plugin.
- Seek out and befriend the people who are a year or two ahead of you.
- See what’s working for other people and put your own unique spin on it. “If you can’t be first, be different.”
- Take action on what you learn.
- Freshbooks.com – Start your 30-day free trial today!
- OkayRelax – Get 25% off your first month of this affordable virtual assistant service!
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Is there a simple idea (or two or three) that have really made an outsized impact on your business?
Be sure to let me know in the comments below!
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