Chapter 2 of Make ‘Em Beg To Be Your Client!
When I created The Author Incubator, I wanted to make it really easy for authors to work with me. I launched with three complementary programs to address all the needs and questions I commonly heard from first time authors. The first program was called Free Your Inner Author, and it was designed to help you write your book. The second was called Difference Press, and it was an editing and self-publishing service to help you get your book published on Amazon. The third was called Coaches’ Book Circle, and it was for authors who wanted help promoting their books. That was it! Write! Publish! Promote! And a program to guide you in each. Essentially, my first business was a way of helping first time or frustrated authors do all the things the old publishing model called for, using some new tools and my guidance.
I imagined people who didn’t have a book yet would join Free Your Inner Author, and then ascend to Difference Press to publish it, and then elect to join the Coaches’ Book Circle to build a business around the book. And if they did have a finished book already, they could join later along the ascension trail. I figured no one could be confused, right? I’d just ask where they were in the book process, and slot them into the right program for them.
I launched on February 7, 2013.
By the summer, I was interviewing for corporate jobs.
I had made a handful of sales, but it was feeling random. I’d close one here, close another there. Mostly, I was spending a lot of time talking to people on the phone who said they wanted to buy from me, but never seemed to actually buy. Very often, what they did buy from me would be a custom offering. So, I added one on one coaching sessions for $150 an hour to my site, and called that my fourth offering.
The problem, which I didn’t realize at the time – and it turns out most coaches never realize – is that running a business with four separate offers is like running four separate businesses. The financials are different, the staffing is different, the procedures are different, the marketing process is different, the sales call is different. And what’s worse, there was no clear indication for what I was the best in the world at, nor who my ideal client could be. Was I just great at everything book-related? I didn’t have a clear way to decide who was a fit for my program, because I thought I wanted to work with everyone at every stage. I made it hard for my clients to tell if I was a good fit for them, because I was trying to keep too many options open. I remember, on so many phone calls, I would ask my client to tell me what they were looking for – and then I would give them examples of how I’d done stuff like that before, and why I would be a good person for them to hire to do it. I think I thought every sales call was a job interview!
This all changed in August 2013. I had gone for an actual job interview at a major communications firm in the DC area. It was the dream job. It was close to my house, easy commute, gorgeous building, fat $250K a year salary. I’d been trying to get this particular head hunter to place me for an interview for a long time, and he wouldn’t give me the time of day. Now, finally, he got me an interview – and it was a “perfect fit.” The interview did go really well…
Except for my breathing problem.
Throughout the interview, it felt like an elephant was pausing briefly on my chest. I just couldn’t take a full breath of air in. In spite of it, I still managed to sell the leaders on my many accomplishments and showcase how I would be an asset to the organization. The interview lasted four hours, and as I walked out of the building toward my car, I finally took that full breath. I was free! I couldn’t wait to get back to my real life!
The phone rang before I even made it to my car, and it was the headhunter. I fumbled for my phone, and then found myself puking all over my hand.
“Maybe I’m getting sick,” I thought, as I searched for wipes in the glove compartment.
But I knew I wasn’t getting sick. The thought of leaving my dream business to take a corporate job had made me sick. And now, I was about to burn a bridge I’d been building for three years.
I sat in the parking lot and redialed the headhunter.
“Steve? Hey, it’s Angela.” He asked how it went.
“Great interview,” I said. “These guys are awesome. My sense is they will want to make an offer – and I should give you a heads up now, it’s not a fit for me.”
Steve was not happy. And I get it. He had vetted me, he sold me in to the client. I said I was interested, and now he has to go back to the client and try to sell someone new. I felt responsible for wasting all their time. He hung up politely and professionally, but I figured I’d just blown the last shot I had at getting back in to a corporate job.
I opened the car door and threw up one more time.
My credit cards were maxed, my cash flow was not flowing, and I just turned down a $250K a year job. I hit the wall.
Right there… in that wall… was the thing I’d been missing this whole time.
A wee portal.
A wee portal is a small, yet clearly defined, entry point for a prospect.
Until that day, I’d had sort of a business “jungle.” When a prospect would get on a call with me, I’d tell them all about the jungle, and they would agree it sounded splendiferous! For sure, it was a place they would someday like to visit. But they were not sure how exactly to get there, or what exactly they would do when they got there, or, frankly, if it would be any good. It was too abstract and too unknown for them.
When I found my wee portal, my prospects could know the location and the mode to enter into my world. There was a doorbell they could ring, and when I flipped the latch, I could let them in, or not! I became the Queen of the Castle (long before I knew I’d end up living in a castle). When I did decide to open the door and invite them in, there was a pretty little mat and a coat rack where they could wipe their feet when they entered. Everything would make sense, and the experience would be familiar.
I discovered all of this quite by accident or more accurately, out of desperation. I could not afford my mortgage.
I’d never missed a mortgage payment before, and I didn’t really want to find out what happens when you do. So on August 15th, just two weeks before my next mortgage payment was due (for which I did not expect to have the money), I wrote this email:
There’s an exciting trend in publishing and I want to make sure you are in on it — Kindle Singles. Have you been following this?
Kindle Singles have been out for a couple years as a format, but they seem to have hit the tipping point about two weeks ago when an interview with Barack Obama took the marketplace by storm. The President visited Amazon and, while there, was interviewed by the Kindle Singles editor, David Blum. Singles have now sold over 6,000,000 copies and authors of Kindle Singles are making real money — on average Kindle Singles authors make roughly $22,000, per book! And these books are short — just 5,000 to 30,000 words (about 20-120 pages).
How cool would it be to make $22,000 for writing 20 or 30 pages?
But there’s a catch. Kindle Singles is very selective about who they publish. They get about 1,000 submissions a month and only a few are selected for publication. So, these need to be very high- quality books. I’ve figured out some of the criteria they use to make their decision, but now I’m trying to figure out the exact formula for what gets selected and I really need your help.
I’m looking for 5 people who want to write a short book within the next 90 days.
I will help you write your book and I’ll work with you to get it published — ideally by Kindle Singles. As a publisher, I have a considerable number of resources and information about Kindle Singles which I’d like to leverage in this short window of time and see if I can crack the code so I can help more people write Kindle Singles. If you are interested in getting a small book done and published this year, please reply with a description of your idea or an explanation of why you’d like to work with me. This is a very unique opportunity to get in on a new trend early, without having to do all the heavy lifting yourself — and even if you don’t get picked up by Kindle Singles, we will still publish your ebook on Kindle and iBooks, so you can sell your work and help people with your message.
I hope you are as excited about Kindle Singles as I am. We have reached the tipping point and there is a chance to make real money and a real impact with a very short book! I can’t wait to work with you on yours!
Let’s do this!!
Within an hour, 100 people had lined up behind my wee portal. I had not had 100 people express interest in anything I had done up to that point. I wrote back with more details and the cost, which would be $1,000, to be paid in full up front. I wanted to start this work with just five people, but ten clients actually made the payment within minutes of getting my reply. I didn’t really think through the implications of including my PayPal link in the email.
I closed the latch, leaving a line outside, and cozied up with my first ten clients to create the program that has evolved to be The Author’s Way. Sure enough, in 90 days, all ten books were published.
So, what was the wee portal?
It was a very clear and specific result, with a very clear and specific deadline, and with a very clear and specific leader (Notice, that leader was me! Not the client!).
People did want to come to the jungle, but until I sent that message, no one knew how to get in. It was like a beautiful private property that people admired from afar but had no road access. Before you can have clients begging to work with you, you have to identify your wee portal. And, I know you are going to want to argue with me on this one, but if you try to have more than one wee portal you will make being successful so much harder – for all the reasons my four separate offers didn’t work.
The great thing about your wee portal is that you don’t have to spend a whole bunch of time and money at the outset building it, and you certainly don’t have to have it all figured out before you sell it. You just need to write the marketing for it (for me, it was this one email you see above) and go find clients to fill it. The magic is to give yourself permission to create the program with your first clients. In exchange for being part of the development, they will get an incredible deal and a lot of your personal time and attention – so it’s a win-win.
I got home from that job interview at 4pm on a Wednesday, and this program was created, the email was written and coded, and it was mailed out to my list at 2:44pm on Thursday. By Friday, I had $10,000 in my PayPal account. Do not make this more complicated than it is. Spending lots of time trying to get this stuff “right” actually makes it less right, as ironic as that is.
The wee portal is the specific result you can get with someone in the next 90 days. If you are having trouble identifying your wee portal, here’s an exercise for you: Look at social media and magazines, or do some internet searches, and see if you can find examples of other people’s wee portals in your space. Try to find 10 wee portals. I promise they are out there. Do a little analysis or inventory about what you like and don’t like about the results they promise. Could you get that result for your clients? Have you gotten it for yourself?
When I created the offer you see here, I didn’t entirely know how I was going to deliver the result. There was no workbook, no videos, no event, no canned tactics. My only plan was to use email and the phone. That’s the way I had done everything at my job. When I had any project for work, I would simply email people or call them. I didn’t have an outline or a plan, didn’t know exactly what I’d do this week or next. I just knew I would work with my new clients, over the phone and email, to create and publish their books – and take a lot of notes about the things I did along the way that made their results easier to achieve.
You should not be filming anything or having anything designed. You don’t need a program name. You don’t need a logo. You need a result.
Everything you sell, or think about selling, outside of your wee portal will have a high hidden cost to it. That would be the massive opportunity cost inherent in your choice against developing that one product, that repeatable result, and building a tremendously sane and stable, cash-flowing business out of it. Every minute you spend away from your wee portal, you’re distracted, and that means you are not learning the things you need to learn in order to “fail” in a meaningful way.
If you ever listen to a high performer like Richard Branson or Elon Musk speak, when they’re talking about the notion that their biggest success came from failing, they don’t mean “failing” as in trying to figure shit out, or failure to launch. What they mean is that they launched a rocket, and that rocket blew up, and somebody died. That’s what they mean by failing. First they had to build an actual rocket. And in order to get there they had to hire people, design a rocket, secure loans to build the rocket, get permission for the rocket to go up in the air, and then the rocket had to explode – and someone had to die. That’s what they mean by “failing.”
They do not mean “sitting on the couch (or in a board meeting), trying to figure out how to launch a rocket.” If you think you are qualifying for the “failing fast” awards while you spend all your time trying to figure it out, let me assure you, you are not. If you are my client, I would much rather have you fail at getting nine clients by the end of this quarter, because say we’re going to do a sprint, these nine weeks of program are going to inform your sprint, and I would much rather see you “fail” in not getting to that goal of nine clients – after you’ve made 100 sales calls over the next 9 or 12 weeks – than “fail” by spinning your wheels trying to figure it out for 12 weeks. That’s the difference between passive action and massive action.
Now here’s the thing, having a wee portal doesn’t feel as sexy as glitzy tactics or prestigious visibility – like being invited to speak at a conference, or something like that. What a lot of my eager clients often want to do, as it’s expressed to me, sounds like I want to do this fun stuff and so I’m going to do all this fun stuff and it’s going to magically turn into clients – and the truth is, it doesn’t magically turn into clients at all.
It’s so key to know that you have to start with revenue. When you start with revenue, everything else becomes much easier. Your goals don’t have to be crazy, but you do have to achieve some consistent revenue to do anything you want to do (other than get a job instead of build your business), and to get to consistent revenue, you need to pick one wee portal and work it.
Seth Godin books are really good for inspiration. He talks a lot about “shipping.” What he means by shipping is putting stuff out there – notice, he’s not figuring it out but putting it out, actually taking massive action – and then making adjustments. One of the reasons you might not be selling your program today is doubt, for instance maybe you won’t be able to sell it. That self-talk sounds like, “so let me just reject myself in advance and then I won’t do pick the wee portal so that I won’t find out that I can’t sell it.” Maybe you’re afraid you’re not going to do a good job, or your client is not going to get the results. You’re thinking that there’s some way, alone in your room, to solve for all the variables, anticipate solutions to those problems, and then you will sell.
It’s like the dilemma I had with weight loss. What I thought was going to happen was I was going to lose weight, then I was going to be happy and think like a thin person. What actually had to happen was I had to be happy, think like a thin person, and then losing weight would even become possible. I’m not going to say it was super easy. When I was trying to eat less and exercise more, and I thought there was a day coming I would be happy. Every time I would get unhappy, what would I do? I would eat. You guys are doing the same thing. I hear this all the time. For instance, I’m overwhelmed or I’m confused. You believe you’re overwhelmed. You have also learned that I’m overwhelmed is a sympathetic reason to stop.
I believed I was hungry, or at the very least, I believed that I couldn’t resist the brownies. It turns out I can resist the brownies, and I also discovered I wasn’t really that hungry. Actually, I just didn’t want to fucking feel uncomfortable. Saying I’m confused, or saying I’m overwhelmed, announce choices that you are making to stay where you are. Change is uncomfortable. I really, really, really need you to know this part: I fully realize it doesn’t feel that way from where you are on the journey right now. What I always say is, if there was any lie detector test in the land to ask me, “Do you want to be thin, or a normal healthy weight, not 100 pounds overweight?” I would have passed the lie detector test saying I wanted to lose weight. I didn’t realize I was choosing to stay overweight.
I promised if you’re overwhelmed or confused, it’s not because this stuff is overwhelming or confusing, it’s that the alternative (which is feeling uncomfortable) is actually less pleasant to you than the safer alternative of choosing to feel overwhelmed or confused. You may be choosing it even if it doesn’t feel that way, just like I was choosing to be overweight. I’m not accusing you of something here or suggesting you’re weak and I’m strong. Let’s be super clear. I lost 100 pounds or more, five fucking times. I did not learn all of what I teach by having things come easily, so there is no smug, blissful ignorance for what it takes to change, there is no denial of your experience and your feelings. The only reason I could teach this is I’ve been so fucking mad in it. It was torture. You’re going to think this is “too hard.” That is just your brain trying to keep you where you are, because being confused is safer than growing. It does not get better in the pages of your journal with you endlessly trying to figure it out – you have to do the hard things. Just like your book can’t make a difference to anyone while it stays in your head, your program can’t make a difference from your head, either. We just have to get it out there and lead people to a place they can access it.
Continue reading the rest of Make ‘Em Beg To Be Your Client! here.