7 business books to read BEFORE you buy another online course

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I get struck down by shiny object syndrome more times than I’d like to admit. I see a new course and I instantly want in. I’ll often try to justify it in terms of what it means financially for my business. If you were in my brain, you could hear the back and forth of, “well, if I did an extra launch and sold 13 courses from two emails that I have room for in two weeks, then I could pay for this course…” and on it goes.

Online courses are just so tempting though, aren’t they? Sometimes it can feel like the only way to truly jump-start your business and put some skin in the game, as they say.

When you drop a lot of money on your business all at once by purchasing an online course, the thinking goes, you’ll be more motivated than ever to follow through and make some huge changes that permanently take your biz to the next level.

If my bank balance could talk, this is what it would say: “But Christina, are online courses really the only way to make huge leaps in your business?” My wise bank balance — always keeping me in check (gettit? #SoPunny).

Before you hit that ‘BUY NOW’ button, seriously think about putting in the time and fully digesting some must-read business books that could accomplish the very same thing for you as that pricey online course.

The secret is to get outside your own industry when choosing which books to delve into! It sheds light on your own business in a powerful way, and you’ll get to hear different voices that grab your attention instead of fading into the background of the authors/writers/speakers you’ve probably been following for years now.

7 books to add to your business wishlist

1. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Contagious is always the first business book that comes to mind when someone asks me for a business book recommendation. (Psst: I didn’t actually “read” it at all, and if you’re on-the-go like I am, I highly recommend an Audible subscription so you can do the same thing! I listened to Contagious over the course of a couple of long car drives.)

The reason why this book is so revolutionary is because it forces you to think about what’s really going on in your business. And then it guides through the process of taking your brand from an everyday, ho-hum operation competing in a saturated market to a contagious brand with insane amounts of publicity. The examples in the book are so spot on, too. For instance, what’s the difference between the Ubers of the world and plain yellow taxi cabs? And what makes you want to share or refer a business to begin with? This book has the insight needed to answer AND IMPLEMENT all this and more.

It can be a dense book because it covers some huge topics, but it’s light-hearted and quick to digest if you listen to it chapter-by-chapter.

2. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

I just adore Chris Guillebeau — everything that he does is so very generous, informative and super helpful. You may have already heard of The $100 Startup (and if you have and haven’t read it, it’s time to get on that). It’s all about starting a business when you have very, very little capital. This book gets to the bottom of all of it: What does a lean startup look like? How do you do it? What kind of business can you actually create with $100?

When I first started out, the only businesses I could think to start had huge startup costs and very low returns. Case in point: my miserably failed horse breeding business in law school. Yeah.

I wish I had come across The $100 Startup sooner because it showed me I didn’t need a ton of capital to start a business, I just thought I did! This book taught me exactly how to bootstrap and find the resources to launch a business for next-to-nothing.

If we’ve been hanging out for a while, you’ve definitely heard me say, “Do what you can with what you have.” Sure, we all want to have the perfect-looking product, service, or sales page, but you know what? Having something that sucks that makes money and can be improved is way better than something that doesn’t exist.

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3. Your Best Year by Lisa Jacobs

Your Best Year is a genius and inspiring productivity workbook and online business planner. Lisa wrote this gem specifically for creative entrepreneurs and it walks you past the fear of starting up, through the daunting task of setting goals, and keeps you on pace with monthly and quarterly accountability sheets. Since she’s a creative entrepreneur herself, she’s truly a master as she guides you through making the most of your business this year (and beyond, of course!).

You’re going to love the worksheets and strategies inside this fresh new planning system that creates space and opportunity for the massive growth you’ve always wanted to make happen in your business. (I love it so much that I gifted it to my team members!)

4. Make it Happen by Lara Casey

I’m a big believer in looking behind the scenes and seeing how someone else pulls it off. Lara does a really great job of peeling back the curtain of being a “successful business owner.” She gets very vulnerable and open as she lets us peek into her personal life and the journey she’s been on. This is more of a light read than some of my other recommendations, and it’s especially good paired with a Saturday morning cup of tea. Lara’s the founder of the Making Things Happen Conference, the magazine Southern Weddings, and the creator of the infamous PowerSheets. She knows her stuff! We can all learn so much from her.

5. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

It’s a short read, which means you need to make it happen. If you’re a busy entrepreneur or you’re a mom, you can get through it in less than two hours.

Steal Like An Artist is very visual and poignant and really helps you realize that you aren’t alone on this journey. It’s a great reminder that just because other people out there are doing the same kinds of things as you, it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful.

There’s plenty of room for all of us, and we can never hear that piece of wisdom too many times!

6. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

Y’all, this is a LONG read, but I’m really sad that I’m already a third of the way through it! You all know Tim Ferriss. I love the guy, and I love podcasts, but for some reason, I just don’t like to listen to his podcast. He’s taken the effort out and created an ENTIRE VOLUME of “too long, didn’t listen” material. It’s amazing, I can’t rave about it enough. I’ve already learned how to track my own emails when I sign up for others’ blog opt-ins, how to actually break a bad habit and what kind of security I should be implementing for super-safe internet surfing.

7. Launch by Jeff Walker

Jeff has a course that everyone who has been on the internet for more than five minutes is familiar with: Product Launch Formula. He takes you behind the scenes of his formula, admittedly with some gratuitous client success stories. Nevertheless, it’s a quick, addicting read if you are looking for a breakthrough with an upcoming launch of your next product or service.

BONUS! Because I couldn’t limit myself to 7 books (and because odd numbers are better blog titles)... 6 Months to 6 Figures by Peter Voogd

My hero and personal coach, Adrienne Dorison, recommended this book on her podcast a while ago (is it a coincidence she shows up in the back of it??). It is truly a great reminder for some of us, and a great system for others who are newer, as to what it takes to achieve higher revenues in our businesses.

Share your must-read biz books in the comments, I’m always look for new reads (er, listens).

Books to read when starting or growing your business. #business #smallbusiness #creative #entrepreneur

The pain-free way to convert leads into clients

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You’ve worked hard for your skills, streamlined your packages and services, hustled your hiney off to get your name out there. Now you’re preparing for a discovery call with a new lead. YAY! Here it comes, the critical moment: How do you convince a potential client that your service is worthwhile?

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of us choke, lose focus, and have trouble sealing the deal. (Ask me how I know this… ) But talking to potential customers doesn’t have to be so hard.

Here's my super simple strategy for converting leads into paying clients:

1. Be relatable

It’s way too easy to get caught up in the allure of a well-known entrepreneur’s personality. They’re bigger than life and it seems like everyone wants to do business with them. “Can I ever be that popular?” you wonder. Remember: You can only do you.

Last year, I launched a course. NBD, but here’s the important part for you to know: I didn’t just launch according to Amy Porterfield, I launched like I WAS Amy Porterfield! Big mistake—as much as I would like to imagine myself sipping lattes in Carlsbad, CA with my BFFs Jeff Walker and Marie Forleo, that’s never going to be me.

There, I said it, I’m never going to be Amy Porterfield. (#allthetears) I spent tons on Facebook ads and did a big launch promo for the six (yes, SIX) webinars I hosted.

All in all, it wasn’t a total flop financially but emotionally it really, really sucked. And, I had no where near the results of one of Amy’s launches.

Most importantly, launching like Amy Porterfield, instead of launching like Christina Scalera, busted my sales because I wasn’t relatable to my audience. I wasn’t being me. Amy Porterfield doesn’t post a photo of the Stranger Things intro and write “I love this documentary,” on it, nor does she take a heaping bite of cookie dough while crying that she will never look like Jennifer Love Hewitt. She doesn’t dance around eating chips to the guacamole song or produce videos making fun of ridiculous claims of online success (“I was homeless yesterday but now I’m running a six-figure Ponzi scheme!).

During your discovery call, be yourself, let your personality shine through—whether you’re silly, adventurous, serious or organized, and take a little time to show how you’ve had similar experiences to what your client is dealing with. Ideally, you’ll be working with this person for a while, and it’s better to make sure your personalities mesh well from the start. And regardless of personality type, it’s much better to be friendly and engaging than it is to hide behind a stiff professional persona. Who wants to do business with a machine? Definitely not your clients!

2. Listen, then talk

Rather than jumping right in and talking about all the great services you have to offer, ask your client about what they need and where they’re struggling in their business. Using this strategy offers multiple benefits. First, you establish that you’re interested in actually solving your lead’s problems instead of offering a one-size-fits-all solution.

The power of just listening is SO underrated—no one listens to each other anymore! Refrain from doing all the talking and just let your lead rant at the beginning of the call. They’ll feel better and you’ll have a heaping pile of sales copy straight from the client’s mouth! When I sell high-end consulting services, my clients think I’m reading their mind. I’m just paying close attention to previous conversations and listening! Still working on my Jedi mind reading technique but the force is pretty lame in me.

When it’s your turn to talk, you’ll now be able to more easily highlight which of your services will be appropriate for them. Last, but not least, you’ll be able to assess whether you’ll have the skills, time, and passion needed for their problem. If you don’t, you’ll be able to maintain control of the conversation and address the issue upfront, instead of blathering on about how skilled you are, and then realizing after the fact that their problem will be too time consuming or is outside of your skill set.

Click here to learn how to protect yourself without scaring away potential clients.

3. Show, don’t tell

Once you’ve established what your client’s needs are, don’t just list off your services and rates and cross your fingers. Take the time to show your lead how your service or product is a solution for their problem. Talk about how your other clients have achieved results. Take the time to brainstorm a little with them. Explain how you would handle a particular situation they’re dealing with, or how your product could benefit them in multiple ways. Show your excitement about their project, their mission, and the work you’d be doing. Paint a picture of what life will look like after they start working with you.

Don’t be afraid to “give away” free knowledge. They’ll appreciate that you’re genuinely interested in helping them, and they likely need someone else (you!) to implement it. Plus, most importantly, how much can you really give away in a 15-20 minute consult call? Especially when you’re listening (see #2, above) for at least half of it?

4. Make it easy to work with you

Streamline your on-boarding process so that it feels easy and natural to take the next step with you. There are lots of client relationship management systems out there (my favorite system is HoneyBook, but there are plenty of others!), but they all boil down to this: Make it simple for your client to read your proposal, pay their deposit, sign a contract, and to get in touch with you. If taking the next step is simple and straightforward, they’re much less likely to procrastinate. And that means you’re one step closer to showing them just how awesome working with you can be.

Do you know how many service providers I’ve never gotten back to because they sent me a contract to print and sign? A LOT. I don’t even have a working printer y’all (totally about to got all Office Space on it, don’t even get me started). Score: Printer 1; Service I would have booked: 0.

5. Schedule a reminder to follow up

You made it through the call, listened hard, showed your client just how awesome things could be if they hired you, and now you sit back and wait, right? Right?

Wrong. Now is when you give them a few days or a week to mull it over—then follow up to answer any questions they might still have and to ease their fears about investing in you. Set a deadline on any proposal you send them: Let them know you can’t hold their spot forever, you have other clients waiting with baited breath! Schedule a reminder for yourself to email or call them before the proposal expires, reminding them you (politely) need an answer soon.

At the end of the day we’re all human, we all want to be understood, and we all want a helpful solution for our problems. Keep that at the forefront of your mind when you talk to your lead, and you’ll do great!

Do you find yourself booking lots of dead-end discovery calls? Join the free Client Mindset Workshop and learn how to convert those clients.

how to book clients #business #entrepreneur #clients

Okay or Not? The Legal Ramifications of Blog ‘Round Up’ Posts

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With the holidays around the corner, you may be planning on blogging at least one "round up," or "best of," or "my favorite finds," or "this season’s inspirations," or… you get the point.

What I’m talking about here are the posts that you curate as a creative business owner/blogger full of product, wedding or inspiration photos. Maybe you’ve even gone so far as to label the photos and give credit where credit is due—to the company, the photographer, the stylists, the subjects, and so on. But is it legal?

Is it OK to share product images on your blog?

Practically speaking, copyright law has not (and cannot) adapt fast enough to meet the Pinterest-loving, Uber-riding, homesharing generation that makes up the majority of the world we live in now.

In fact, the last time any major changes were made in the realm of copyright law, pagers were a thing, Titanic was out, your AOL internet relied on a dial-up modem and Britney Spears still wasn’t legally allowed to buy cigarettes. Yeah. That long. The digital millennial copyright act (DMCA) came out in 1998 and since then it’s been pretty quiet.

Courts and creatives rely on this decades-old case law to set the precedent for modern day developments, like Pinterest.. which makes legal minds of the age of 40 explode.

For a generation that fought so hard to make intellectual property rights worth something, those in their late 30s-40s can’t understand why we millennials would be so quick to give away our photos, artwork and products for free.

But we millennials get it. We get that by sharing, we in turn create more worth in this world, in our lives, and in our clients’ lives. We know that ‘free’ is kind of a misnomer—yes, we give out free webinars, do free photo shoots and even take on free internship positions in the hopes of one day being the one who is so successful that we can then dole out those opportunities to the next up-and-comers.

We engage in all kinds of free promotion on behalf of other entrepreneurs, business owners and creatives, in the hopes that being nice and featuring them will come back to help us later.

Legally speaking, however, you could be putting yourself in danger of violating someone else’s copyright if you’re not careful.

If you do infringe someone’s copyright by posting a round-up post featuring others’ photos, text or other copyrighted work, it’s likely you’d receive a cease and desist letter asking you to take down their images or give them credit, depending on who sends it.

They could also ask you for money and they would be 100% in the right, legally, for doing so since copyright law in the US is so robust. It would be a rare bird who just outright sues to enforce their copyright, since most people just want to be able to control their work and get paid for it—the cease & desist letter is often more than sufficient for accomplishing this.

So, the moral of the story is that if you create a blog round up post, you’d do yourself a favor to either read the company’s terms and conditions (they will usually mention what you are and aren’t allowed to do with their ‘intellectual property,’ aka their product photos.) or reach out to the artist/writer/photographer directly and get a simple ‘yes’ via email.

Too long, didn’t read?

To protect yourself from accidentally infringing someone’s copyright in your blog round-up post: 

1. Look for their Terms & Conditions policy. Read the site’s terms and conditions (hint: scroll to the bottom of the page) and look for what you can do with their intellectual property (aka “IP”).

2. Ask permission. If you’re unclear, reach out to them and ask. Even big companies have someone there to grant or deny permission quickly.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to pin this for others to find.

Creating a "Top 10" blog post? Here are the legal things you need to know. #legal #creative #business