For two and a half years, every two weeks I sifted through over 140 blog posts and podcasts that talk about how to build successful online businesses. I found the best content, summarized it, added a bit of my commentary, and delivered it to the inboxes of entrepreneurs around the world…for free. I’m no longer writing Signals in the Noise issues (because my business partners and I are focusing on other parts of Clarity Lab), but please enjoy these archived issues. There’s a ton of useful information in them!
1. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice.
“There is a difference between failure and your struggle with failure. You do not have to struggle with failure. That is a choice on your part. If you accept the fact that the person who fails the most wins — and I’ll dissect that sentence in a minute — you can then accept that the act of putting good effort into something that fails is actually a key part of your job.” Every time I listen to Seth Godin talk, or when I read his books or blog, I walk away somehow changed for the better. He is, in my opinion, the most brilliant marketer on the planet (and a wonderful human, too.) That was him speaking about walking the path of the entrepreneur in one of the best podcast interviews I’ve heard in some time.
If you have a half hour this week, treat yourself and go listen to that interview (or at least read the transcript.) There are more helpful nuggets in this one interview than in 25 other blog posts I read this week that didn’t make the cut for this week’s issue of Signals in the Noise. Seth’s signal is one worth tuning into on a regular basis.
2. Can you hear me now?
There I was last week in the middle of the desert in Canyonlands, Utah. Hiking all over that beautiful, magical desert with a group of friends and pulling out my iPhone every 300 yards to see if I could find a bar, just one bar of reception. It was the first time that I unplugged from the internet and cell phone reception in over a decade. I was having trouble with not being able to send my wife a text message to let her know I was okay. My inner caveman protector (whose name is Grunt) also wanted to know if my wife and son were safe and healthy.
Well, it turns out that the ATT coverage map was wrong. Very wrong. Grunt was pissed. There was supposed to be spotty coverage all over the desert where I was, but in reality, there wasn’t any.
Alas, not all was lost. I did discover a great little solar panel charger that I brought with me to keep my phone charged in the event that I did find reception. The charger I bought is a Goal Zero Switch 8 solar panel charger. I love it something fierce. Let it sit in the sun for 8 hours and you can charge your phone up, twice, with the lithium-ion battery pack in the unit. Things powered by the Sun are AWESOME. AT&T cell phone coverage is not.
Why am I telling you about this? Because if you run your own online business, you probably like to travel, and eventually, you’ll likely go somewhere where you can’t plug your phone into an outlet or a car. But you will still need to check in on things related to your business, which you can do from your phone…if you have a power source like a Goal Zero solar panel.
+ Dropevent is a great web app for group uploading/downloading of photos from a live event, like a weekend workshop or seminar that you run. (Or, in my case, a group camping trip.)
3. What you say is more important than what you sell.
“Everyone talks about making an emotional connection and why it’s THE #1 KEY to selling your services, products, ideas, & creative work. There’s just one problem: How?” That’s Ash Ambirge, my all-time favorite copywriting teacher, on the big problem of building a crazy successful online business: writing copy that compels people to do things that will lead to you having a profitable business.
Tomorrow, on May 29th, Ash is opening up her Six Appeal Process copywriting course. Out of all the marketing and copywriting courses, books, and training materials I’ve seen over the last eight years, this course is THE BEST course out there on writing emotionally driven copy that converts. If you want to make your business dreams a reality, I can hardly think of anything more important than learning how to write like this (if you can’t hire a copywriter to do it for you.) The Six Appeal course blew my mind when I took it last year. I started writing new copy using what I learned and watched positive results happen immediately.
4. The end of the world that wasn’t.
“As you can see, the average position for both Desktop and Mobile dropped 0.4 positions, so there’s been no significant change. In fact, I just returned from a mobile conference, and nobody at the gathering that I know of has detected any change (including several non-mobile friendly sites).” Marketing Land’s Mark Monroe, on the actual data of a post-mobilegeddon Google algorithm update. Turns out that the world didn’t end after this update, and sites that are still not mobile friendly are ranking just fine on mobile devices.
Personally, I still think it’s smart to have your site change its layout for tiny screens, making them much easier to navigate on phones (in other words, making your site mobile-friendly.) It’s a much better experience for people who come to your site. I think that most people do what I do when I come to a site on my phone that’s not mobile-friendly: I look at it and go “Seriously? I’m not going to pinch and zoom and pan your site all over the place so that I can read that tiny text. Buh-bye.” Better to be mobile-friendly than sorry.
5. What the Font?
With apps like Typekit and Google Fonts, there is now a plethora of available fonts we can all use on our websites. Gone are the days when we only had 6 web-safe fonts to choose from, which ranged from boring to dreadfully boring.
Being able to use beautiful fonts on your site opens up a whole new world. You can create a reading experience for your site visitors that conveys an emotional quality that you’d like them to feel. Once you become aware of the possibilities, you’ll start noticing beautiful fonts on people’s sites. And then you’ll want to know the precise font they’re using, what size it is, what the line-height is, and what font-weight they’ve got it set to. Why? Because different fonts create different emotions, and when you find one you like, you’ll WANT it.
Here’s my favorite tool for instantly seeing what fonts someone is using, without having to plow through the HTML and CSS source code of a given site: Fontface Ninja.
With the quick information that Fontface Ninja will show you, plus a tiny bit of CSS knowledge, you can re-create the font experiences you find on other sites on your site.
And if you’re looking for some clear how-to advice on using Google Fonts with your WordPress site, including recommendations for pairing different heading and body fonts that work well together, have a read of this post: the best 100 Google fonts.
6. Reality check.
“So I decided to do my own research. I put together a survey and distributed it among my colleagues. I wanted to see how many coaches were making a living in a niche that had plenty of disposable income. The results were dismal. Under 8% of coaches made a living wage, and that included their income derived from individual coaching, group coaching, and coaching products. Although my sample wasn’t statistically significant the results were enough to sound an alarm, especially when paired with my impression that only coaches coaching coaches were earning a commensurate salary.” And with that, Rebecca Strong explains why she quit a life coaching business she had been building for ten years.
Reality checks like this are hard to swallow, especially if you’re a life coach trying to build a business right now. From where I sit, not being aware of the actual behind-the-scenes reality of making a sustainable living from life coaching causes more pain and suffering than knowing about it upfront and then consciously choosing to head down the path despite the challenges.
Yes, it is totally possible to build a thriving business as a life coach, but no, it isn’t easy. Not by a long shot. It takes a lot of hard work and hustle and great copywriting (see item #3 above) and a product that people actually want to buy and 47 other things. I’ve watched a lot of people struggle to make a go of it over the years, and have seen a few people make it into the “holy shit this is working!” level.
I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade here. Not at all. In my experience, building a business that gives you a great lifestyle is a lot like going on an epic all-day bike ride in the mountains. If I’m not aware of how many miles are ahead, and how big the mountains are, I can’t mentally prepare for the challenge. And if my mind isn’t strong enough, I’ll never make it home. Reality checks save lives…and businesses.
7. Enough already.
“My business is big enough. It’s big enough to support my desired lifestyle for myself and my family. We live in a modest and cozy home we adore. Our kids have incredible amounts of fun in preschool, soccer, and ballet. And we get to take 3-4 family vacations a year to enjoy a week or so playing on the beach or exploring a new city.” That’s Racheal Cook on why a “big enough” business is the key to designing the life you love.
A culture of “Always grow, always hustle, never stop, do more faster!” surrounds us in the business world. Given that, it’s so easy to get bit by the growth bug. I’ve been bitten by it too. I’m trying to get my chin up over the million dollars a year bar. I’ve never done that before, and it seems like a fun (and important) goal. Plus, my wife and I are trying to get to a financial reality where we can buy (or build) our first home here in Boulder County. So, there’s that justification for the goal as well.
But you know what? I’ve got friends with online businesses that are doing over $2.5 million a year, and I can see how much work they have to put in to make that happen. When I read Rachel’s post above, it was like taking off a heavy backpack for a water break on a long hike. “Whew…really? Do I really want to do what it takes to reach that level of revenue? Life is beautiful right now in so many ways. Maybe slow and steady growth is where it’s at.”
It might take longer to get our first home, but we’ll be deeply enjoying the journey there, instead of sprinting and pulling 70 hour work weeks for 5 years, sacrificing time with family and friends, and wrecking any chance of staying physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy.
No. I’ve done that path before. It’s incredibly hard. I think slow growth and “big enough” is a good path. Speaking of that, I think it’s time for a Sunday afternoon nap.
8. Lickety split.
Inevitably, it’s going to happen one day. You’re going to need a different version of your logo. Or a photo to be touched up. Or another version of your newsletter banner made.
Getting those things done by a traditional graphic designer can be costly and take a fair amount of time. Here’s another option to consider: 99 Design’s Tasks.
You post a job request for small graphic design tasks and someone on their team gets it done in under an hour, for $19. Boom. Lickety split, just like that. (And they often get them done within 30 minutes of you submitting the task.) That’s kind of insane. And insanely cool.
9. User Experience Sherpa
Sometimes you just need to poke a little fun at the Silicon Valley startup culture. Or maybe you just have a yearning for a new, unique job title for your email signature. Whatever the reason, here’s your tool: The Silicon Valley Job Title Generator. I’m thinking that “Senior Information Mystic” would look great on my business card.
10. Fine art.
I love it when great web apps make it incredibly easy for people to sell things online, and particularly for artists who create remarkable works that make our world a better place. Gumroad does just this for filmmakers, musicians, and authors.
In a matter of minutes you can start selling films, music, and books to your audience without the normal hassle of setting up a merchant account, a payment gateway, a shopping cart, and then tying all of those things to your website (read: pain in the ass.)
Alright. It’s late Sunday night as I write this in Boulder, CO. I’m closing in on midnight here. In America, it’s a Holiday weekend, so if you live in the States, I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend, and celebrating Memorial Day in your own perfect way.
No matter where you are, I wish for you the same thing that I wish for everyone: that you find yourself surrounded by the conditions that would lead you to feeling great happiness in life. If you’re reading this newsletter, it likely means that you’re an entrepreneur, and so I’ll add an extra little wish: that your business grows to the size you want, and that it makes the kind of impact in the world that you dream of.
If you know of some entrepreneurial friends who might benefit from my weekly writings, I would be grateful if you could help me make a connection with them. You can go old-school and forward this email to some friends, or, you can click on a link below and invite them to check out this week’s issue. Either way, thank you in advance if you feel inspired to tell some people about this newsletter.
So, here’s the deal…I’m going to send you off this week with a big HUG. Yes, I’m mentally giving you a hug right now, even though we’ve probably never met. Maybe that’s weird, but you know what? If you and I met each other at a conference, or out camping in the desert, and we spent a few hours talking and connecting and laughing and getting to know each other, I can guarantee you that I would say goodbye with a hug. Blame it on Boulder if you like, but that’s how I roll.
Until next week,
Customer Hug Architect
p.s. You can find the archive of past issues of this newsletter right here.