Guest Post from Eleanore Strong
Many people dream of having a thriving Internet business, but struggle to find the time and energy to get things going.
For a long time, I was one of those people. I’ve always loved to write and to explore what makes relationships work. Lately I’ve learned some powerful lessons about how to reduce the drama in my life. And I felt a strong call to share those lessons with the world.
But I’m still at a day job, and while I had a ton of different ideas for ways to start off, I never seemed to have enough space in my life to reflect on the ideas and just choose one to implement.
Until the last weekend of October, that is – when I attended PLF (Product Launch Formula) Live, a conference hosted by world-renowned Internet marketer Jeff Walker. On the last day of the conference, productivity guru Chalene Johnson spoke to us about how she’d initially established herself and built a huge following through a free 30-day video series.
That evening, after dinner, I started thinking that maybe I could do the same thing. I had a ton of actionable tips in mind – wouldn’t that be a perfect way to start off? I could offer 30 of my best tips on interpersonal skills, with stories to illustrate. People would be exposed to my ideas for a full month, and seeing and hearing me on video would help them to start to trust me. I could ask for people’s email addresses, find some way to shield the videos from non-subscribers, and encourage sharing and commenting.
All of this ran through my head so quickly that I instantly knew this was what I wanted to do as an opt-in offer. As I got ready for bed, ideas started coming to me for topics to cover in the series. I kept stopping what I was doing to scribble them down.
The next morning, as I waited for the airport shuttle to pick me up, I continued to scribble down ideas. I filled almost ten sheets of paper. I got into such a zone that I actually didn’t notice when someone from the conference came up to talk to me. Something about the physical act of writing just gets my brain moving and my thoughts formed in a way that typing can’t. It’s incredible.
On the three-hour flight home, I took advantage of the fact that I had no access to the Internet, and went into uber-concentration mode. I went over and over my sheaf of papers, studying the ideas carefully, looking for common themes. I started to break down the ideas into groups. I labeled each idea with an abbreviation for the group it belonged to. I rewrote some of my favorite groups of ideas on another sheet of paper and studied them some more. I added new ideas to some of the groups. I crossed off others. By the time my flight landed, I had 23 solid ideas, and they were organized into categories.
For the next four days, I had to go to work. I’m still at a day job, but I was on fire for this project, and determined to finish it as quickly as possible. So each day at lunch and in the evening, I typed my ideas into a spreadsheet and organized them. I included columns for subtopic, ordering of the videos within each subtopic, the main point I was going to make, and the example I’d use to illustrate it. As I did this, the ease of reorganizing and resorting the ideas helped me to try out different groupings and see what worked best. I continued refining each idea and I added a few more. By the end of the week I had over 30.
On Saturday morning of that week, I sat down at my computer, opened the spreadsheet, and studied it intensely. I realized that most of the ideas fit the theme of “difficult conversations.” One or two of the categories didn’t fit that, so I dropped them. I was left with 28 tips. I realized that I had additional tips for a couple of the topics, so I added a second video idea for each to make 30. I made a few refinements, thinking of better examples to illustrate some of the tips. Then I finalized the order of the videos, putting the topics with the most general and widely-applicable tips first, and more specific and tactical tips later in the series. After a couple of hours at the computer, my plan was finished.
The next morning, Sunday, as usual, I went to Mass. Normally I use the few moments just after I receive the Eucharist to make some really bold request of God. I knew that the rest of the week was going to be really busy, and I was bursting with enthusiasm for this project, so my prayer that day was: “God, help me to start and finish making ALL of these videos this afternoon!”
After going home and eating lunch, I decided to figure out how I was going to record myself. I remembered reading a Lifehacker article about using a rubber band to strap your smartphone to a jar or bottle with flat sides in order to shoot stable video. I found a near-empty olive oil bottle and it worked like a charm.
Then I spent a frustrated hour trying to figure out where I could best shoot video of myself in my tiny downtown apartment. I unplugged a lamp from my living room and put it in my bathroom. Then I put a stack of books on my sink and the olive-oil bottle contraption on top of it. I tried a few test videos. No go. My face looked too washed-out, plus the books weren’t too stable on top of the sink.
I finally settled on closing my bedroom door and sitting on a chair in front of it with the lamp pointed at me, and the bottle with the phone on top of my dresser. I did a few more test videos. I found it difficult to keep my eyes focused in one spot, and I wasn’t satisfied with how my gaze appeared on the recording, so I ended up making one modification to the Lifehacker setup: I turned the phone around so the front-facing camera pointed outward. I found it much easier to speak naturally while looking at the real-time picture of myself. I also set my “screen timeout” setting to “never turn off” so that I wouldn’t have to bother with removing the phone to wake up the screen in between videos.
Once the recording setup was ready, I sat down at the computer and took a look at the first entry in my spreadsheet. I took a half-sheet of paper and jotted down “Day 1,” the topic, the tip I was going to give, and one phrase to remind me of the illustrative story I planned to use. I thought for a couple of minutes about how I would tell the story.
Then I sat down, hit “record,” and started talking. I said, “Welcome to Day 1. I’m so happy to have you here. Here’s what we’re going to do over the next 30 days…Okay, today’s topic is…” Then I started telling the story. When I got to the part where I was going to give my tip, I glanced down at the paper to remind myself of the exact wording, because I knew I was going to flash the tip on the screen, and I wanted the words to match! I ended with, “I hope you found this helpful. If you’re liking the series, please share it with your friends and colleagues. I’m honored to have you here, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!”
Then I repeated this entire process – for all 30 videos. I never once thought about taking a break or leaving some of them until the next day. It was just going so well, and I felt more and more comfortable with each recording I did. For the first few videos I did several takes, as I got comfortable with my message and made a few tweaks to the camera setup. But from video 4 to the end, I did each one in only one take – with the exception of #14, when I broke into a coughing fit because my throat was so dry from so much talking.
That evening, after taking a quick break to heat up leftovers for dinner, I edited the first five videos in Windows Movie Maker. I put in fade-in and fade-out effects at the beginning and end of each, and added slides with the topics and tips as well as my website address.
Then I uploaded the videos to YouTube and made them unlisted.
Then I created 30 separate pages on my website, one for each video, and created a link for each that was made up of a randomized string of letters and numbers, making it difficult for people to sneak a peek at future days’ videos or share with non-subscribers. I copied and pasted the YouTube embed codes for each of the first five videos onto their respective website pages.
By that point it was 11pm and I needed to go to bed! I felt so accomplished, and thanked God for an amazingly productive day.
The next day, Monday, I went to work as usual. At lunchtime, I went into my AWeber account and created a new autoresponder series for the videos, and I wrote the copy for the first five emails. In each one, I included a link to the appropriate page on my website with the corresponding video.
That evening when I got home, I created an opt-in form for the series, and made a squeeze page on my website to host the form.
I then put the finishing touches on the first five webpages, adding sharing buttons for email, Facebook, and Twitter so people could share the series with their friends if they liked it. I wanted to format the sharing buttons so they linked to the squeeze page with the opt-in form. I knew how to use ClickToTweet to generate one-click sharing for Twitter, but I didn’t know how to do the same for email or Facebook. Some strategic Googling of the phrases “make a Facebook share button” and “make a MailTo link” got me the answers I needed.
Finally, thoroughly exhausted, I scheduled a broadcast to go out to my (very small) email list the next morning, announcing the series.
The next morning, Tuesday, my broadcast went out, and I also announced the series in several Facebook groups that I belonged to. At the end of the workday, I checked my AWeber account, and over 50 people had opted in. (Keep in mind, my existing list had 25 members, and two of them were my own email addresses.) I can’t tell you how amazing that felt. Especially because this was a mere 8 days after I’d first gotten the idea for the series.
For the rest of that week, I worked each evening to edit and upload the rest of the videos and write the corresponding autoresponder emails. It worked perfectly to do a few at a time like this, because I was staying far enough ahead of the series that nobody missed any videos.
My series has now been up for 10 days, and so far, no day has gone by without at least one new subscriber (and usually several!). And I’ve barely done any promotions for my site yet. Is this amazing, or what?
I hope my story shows you that it’s possible to create a substantive offer very quickly if you know your core message, have a lot of material, use your time efficiently, and FOCUS solely on that task during those times, without distractions.
You don’t have to show up slowly or start small in your business. Create an absolutely crushing offer, put it out there, and start getting feedback and refining. It will kickstart your success in a huge way.
Thanks for reading. You can check out my series, Practical Tips for Difficult Conversations, right here. 🙂
Eleanore Strong is a writer, speaker, and coach who uses a unique mix of psychology and business principles to help talented professionals to maximize their impact at work. Learn more about her at www.eleanorestrong.com.