If you’re wondering how to launch a business, this post is for you! I’m sharing how I would launch a business from scratch if I had to start over in 2021—if I woke up and I’d lost it all. No following, no business savings, no team, no Ashlyn Writes Copywriting Agency, or shop of copywriting templates and products—nada. Starting your own business can be a bear but with these small business tips broken down into a 4 week plan, you’ll be set to launch a successful small business!
(Andddd I told my husband I was making this series today and we both laughed because absolutely something I would change is paying myself a regular scheduled paycheck every week—kinda missed that at the beginning of my business and learned from it.;)
Here’s in detail what I would do in a simple step-by-step daily process. I’m actually breaking this down into four weeks and telling you what I would do every single week for a month. This is also without any big capital to invest in a business, a little bit of skin in the game, but not a whole lot. But what I’d do if I knew then what I know now about entrepreneurship, marketing, and business.
This series will include everything from building out a beautiful long-form, work-with-me page for your website, to finding your brand voice, to finding what I call your “onlyness factor”. But, to get those videos and make sure you see them, you’re gonna have to subscribe on my YouTube channel—you can do that here.
And let’s jump into this 4 week plan to launch your business!
Week 1 | Niche Down
It’s week one and the very first thing I would do is follow the sage wisdom of niche down to blow up. To start doing that, I would start exactly the way that I did when I was thinking of leaving my corporate marketing job and launching my business. I’d open up Gmail, start to type an email to my very best friends and family members, and start to ask them where they saw my interests, my natural inclinations, the things I was good at, my professional skills, etc..
I wanted to know what other people saw my natural inclinations and tendencies were. This also helped me begin to get a feel of what were the things people naturally asked me to help them with. Friends were always asking me, “Hey, can you proof this before I send it to my boss?” Or, “Can you look at my resume before I send it off? If you had to craft a social media campaign for my job, what would you do Ashlyn? I don’t do marketing at all, so what would you do?” As I’m thinking through whatever responses I’m getting back, I would also totally decide and be firm in the fact that I’m gonna start another service-based business.
I would not build out a digital product or a physical product first—more on that in a sec—no matter what, I would want to build my business again based on what I know and love.
If you’re new around here, I actually launched my business with a foot in calligraphy AND in copywriting. I did half and half for a good three years. While I had a corporate marketing job, I had a moonlit gig as a wedding calligrapher so that’s an industry I already knew. I knew what it was like to try to book and work with brides, I knew what it was like to try to fulfill a creative service for someone. In my marketing job, I knew my favorite aspect of it was the actual copywriting portion of it, it was not pitching and trying to land media or public relations—I’m starting to see where things are overlapping here.
Basically, I’d be trying to find the Ashlyn-sized gap in the market. And so, that’s what I’m gonna ask you to do if you’re just starting out—>Where’s the you-sized gap in the market that you can go out there and fill?
Fast forward to now, now I am a mom of two. So, probably as I started to brainstorm here in this week, one thing I would look into is the mom industry and the mom niche. What are some parenting niches that I can look into? I grew up intently studying classical ballet so I’d probably also look into that niche, the performing arts, or the fine arts industries, at this age I’ve also developed an interest in apologetics so I’d probably try to brainstorm and look at things in the theology niche.
I’m throwing all this out there because I want you to understand I would be running the entire gamut of things that I might be interested in or I might have some level of expertise in. Again—where those interests in my background overlaps with that market gap, the market need, that’s an area that I am gonna focus on first when I’m trying to figure out what service I could provide.
(In next week’s video, I’m gonna talk more about how to find the message, or the unique selling proposition, of what it is you do, so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss that. )
But back to week one, I am focusing hard on listening in these first five days. A few other things I would do is look at calendars and see what meetups I can go to, surrounding these niches that I’ve brainstormed. One thing I did back in 2015 when I was launching my business, that I would do again, is create a basic type form, like on their non-paid, just basic account and I would ask a series of questions in there, very easy and put that on my social media accounts, send it out to friends and family, because again, I’m trying to just listen, just to put my ear to the ground.
Now around the middle of the week I’d explore the numbers and assess the reality of what I actually needed to make. I mentioned I’d start a service-based business, I would do that because that is going to be the fastest way I can actually make money. It’s gonna take fewer services spots filled to make money than selling digital or physical products usually. I started my own business after I got out of partial hospitalization and I was pretty newly married and I had to actually make my corporate income. And so, this is a place we’re starting here with providing services and being able to charge what it was worth. That was so helpful to begin to replace that salary. So, I’d do it again.
>> Related: How to Pay Yourself as a Creative Entrepreneur <<
Like I teased earlier, I would go ahead and try to figure out what that home budget is, what I actually need to bring home to cover bills, and I would set a monthly revenue goal for my business based off that. Then I would come in and determine pricing and actually how many slots I needed to take on. I’d work backwards to figure that out. You’ve heard me say this before that figuring out what your “enough” is and then arranging a business to meet that is paramount.
Okay, and then towards the end of this very first week, the thing that I would work on is finding and establishing routines. You learn so quickly that time is money when you’re an entrepreneur and depending on whatever stage of life I would be in, I need to be at my best. Right now is very different from when I started my business, I’m now a mom of two. So, I would rework and try to figure out what morning routine can I do to set myself up for success.
Then when I sit down, get my booty in my chair, what do I need to do for what I call my rest-to-work wind-up routine? What five things do I need to check off before I start my big, concentrated buckets of work time? I needed to figure out what I need to do to wind down and then go back to family time.
I would also try to establish some sort of dream week schedule—What big focuses do I need to have each day of the week to make sure I’m taking off the big pieces of running a business? (I’ll talk about this more on this— it’s one of those things that I figured out as I was in business and it did not come naturally right off the bat.)
By the end of week one, I would also start time-tracking like crazy. No, I don’t have to do this forever, but I would need to begin to see again, like I said…time is money.
The last thing I’d do is begin to get myself in a habit of a grassroots marketing strategy. I’m gonna start this service-based business—I need clients. Here are a few things that now here in 2021 when I’m recording this, that I would challenge myself to do every single day as part of those routines that I mentioned.
- A daily live stream
- A daily IG post + stories
- A daily reel
- Writing for 30 minutes a day about something I know about
- At least 30 minutes a day in Facebook groups and on IG commenting, adding value, helping people
- Adding 10 names to my Dream 100 list for the first 10 days
The goal of week one is habit building and putting my ear to the ground and listening. This brings me to week two.
Week 2 | Formulate a Hypothesis
At this point, I’ve had my ears wide open, I have some sort of semblance of an idea of what kind of service I could create. This is my hypothesis for a signature flagship offer that I think I can provide. I’m going to kick off my Monday here by popping open that type form that I mentioned earlier and I’m gonna scroll through it to see what kinds of things people said that they want to learn from me or they would look to me to help them with.
This survey, plus all of the research that I’ve done, hopefully by scrolling different forums and Facebook groups, plus all the feedback from my friends and family that I sent in that email on day one—all that is gonna lend itself to helping me craft and create this hypothesis that I think I can provide.
By the end of week two, day one, hopefully I can answer the “why me?” question. If I’ve done this right so far, I’ve started with trying to find that gap in the market and seeing how I can serve people in a very specific way with my skill-set, my past, my story, and what I bring to the table.
On Tuesday of week two I would begin to outline a very basic service provider offer ladder and here’s exactly what that would be. I’m gonna provide three different ways that you can work with me—starting with an hourly consulting call, this is also gonna provide a way for me to continue to research and listen to people, what they need. It’s gonna give me a gazillion different copy swipes that I can use as I begin to draft my website, sales pages, etc. I’m gonna have an offer where you can buy a VIP day and book me for an entire day. And I’m gonna provide a basic bare-bones skeleton of that signature flagship offer. This is the package I want to test. Now, I did a video recently where I walked through the pros and cons of providing VIP days or day rates in your business. I think it’s pretty great—you can watch that here. Day rates are gonna be something that’s absolutely on the menu because I can provide more of a high volume of them, they’re just a day and it’s gonna fast track, help me understand what my processes are, what my workflows are, and how to tighten them to do them faster.
Some things to think through for that signature, flagship offer would be:
- A set of deliverables or a menu of deliverables
- Number of calls
- Blueprints I’d give them
- Outcomes for the client to expect
To wrap up this Tuesday on week two, I would also begin to set some financial targets I think I can hit. I would figure out what do I need to do to bring home the bacon here in the next quarter, the next three months from this start date and how many package slots can I actually fill? How many day rates do I wanna provide? How many hours do I wanna give away in consulting calls?
I would also start to determine some basic pricing on this day. I would start to do some research and development and look at what other people provide this as a service, what do they charge? But again, remember I’m coming into it, based off of what I know I need to bring home. I’m setting my rates based off that, meshed with the industry standard. So, hopefully I’m not out pricing my industry by undercutting them, but I’m also taking into account that I need to actually make money to make this thing work.
Wednesday-Friday of week two, I’d create a very basic website. My goal here is to build an application funnel. I would again, decide to name my business after myself because this gives me room to pivot, based off what I’m gonna provide. Here I would buy the domain, specifically that is gonna enable me to use a more professional email address than just @gmail.com.
My final objective here in week two is to get a basic website set up with the four main pages that you’d need. I’ve done a video on this you can watch here, but that’s gonna be your home, your about page, work with me, and a contact page. 100% instead of freaking out and trying to put together a brand visual guide, I would just buy a pre-made one. My friend, Angela at Saffron Avenue has gorgeous ones. I would also look at Tonic Site Shop. I would not go custom right off the bat because I don’t even know if this whole thing’s gonna work.
Remember, I’m in week two of starting my business, everything is still a hypothesis.
I’d use a past headshot from a previous job, did that too, but I’d begin to be on the lookout of a photographer that I could potentially trade services with, I think trading is absolutely okay if that person is also at your business level and you’re both trying to get going together, that can be a great way to meet your needs. Notice that I did not start this whole process by building the brand, I began it by building the business and the brand’s gonna come on the back end of that. I think *wayyy* too many people get caught up in the sexiness of picking your mood board, and your color palette, and your fonts, and your logo. That’s great, it’s going to help you, but the beginning of it is elsewhere. So yes, I’m setting up the most basic funnel as a services page onto an application form—I’m talking more about this in the coming week so hit subscribe so you don’t miss that video. 😉
>> Related: 5 Secrets to Choosing the Best Website Template <<
The last thing I’d do here in week two are test like crazy the funnel that I built on mobile and desktop. I’d clean up my LinkedIn profile and begin to use that website, hyperlink it. I’d also snag the handles or begin to clean up things like Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest, YouTube, etc.
These first 10 days are HUSTLING, but at this point I have a niche defined, I have a service hypothesis that I’m pretty sure I can do a dang good job delivering, and I have some offer slots where I can begin to continue to keep my ear to the ground and understand what people need and how I can better provide whatever it is that they need and solve a problem. Plus, I’ve got that basic online presence—so I look a little more legit.
Week 3 | Sell 1 Day Rate & 2 Consulting Calls
Week three, my goal here is to sell at least one day rate and two consulting calls so I make cash back which I need at this point. I’m gonna get there by promoting my little booty off. One mindset shift that’s helped me here I would absolutely try to do again is decide that my competitive advantage is serving like crazy and giving over and beyond anything I see out there, just trying to really get people exactly what they need. I get gritty, I’d get really dang good at keeping my word. I feel like you’d be surprised at how many people out there just don’t keep their word and get people the deliverables that they need to on time.
I’d say thank you a lot, I would write a shiz ton of thank you notes, I would pitch guest writing opportunities, I’d also probably set up some sort of spreadsheet to track the relationships that I was building and fostering. And if these people needed me, how to get in touch with them, just so much relationship building in week three.
Then when I did land a client, I would go above and beyond when it comes to serving them and I’d also surprise and delight along the way by providing extra deliverables. Then I would follow things up with this magic phrase, I’ll put it down here:
“You’ve been an amazing client. I would love more clients exactly like you. Do you happen to know somebody who may be in need of the services that we’ve worked together on? And would you mind connecting me with them”?
So here at the end of week three, I’d begin to have some sort of an idea of what a weekly rhythm could feel like. Maybe I wanna do marketing stuff at the beginning of the week and service provider stuff at the end of the week. Again here, hopefully, I have landed those three client spots and sold them. So, selling is getting a little bit easier here.
Could I now pick out one day a week or one day a month where I can just focus on content creation and that is going to live on my blog on my website. Then I’m gonna pick two, just two, dissemination tools where I can get that out and take that pillar piece of content I’ve created and shoot it out on other different platforms. Again, I’m just gonna pick two if I had to start all over.
At this point again, 2021, I would likely pick number one, email marketing, and number two, some sort of video social media tool, probably Instagram reels, maybe TikTok.
The last thing I’d do is boost any lives or videos that I have done and put on social media with about 20 bucks behind it so I can try to get those in front of lookalike audiences—I’m not gonna put a ton of stock in ads right off the bat, but that’s likely something I’d do here.
Week 4| Sustainable Rhythm
Okay week four, the last week in the month of starting all over if I had nothing, Here my goal is to find a sustainable rhythm for the business because I’ve been hustling my tail off. Now we need things to get more sustainable. Now again, hopefully I have sold those three spots. If I hadn’t yet, then I would continue that traffic plan until I did. But now, I’d begin to wrap my head around how can I keep this business going and market the service, but actually provide the service as well and go above and beyond when I do so.
I actually really like the batch day system I set up early on in my business. I think it was my second year in business that I set this up. I still do it.
- Marketing Monday
- Client Work Tuesdays
- Product Development Wednesdays
- Calls & Meetings Thursdays
- Finances & Internal Fridays.
The last two things I’m gonna do in week four, the first is start to screen grab and capture and figure out any sort of feedback, or case studies, or testimonials that I’ve gotten from the clients that I’ve worked with, these two to three clients. I’ve got to use that social proof to keep getting me more clients.
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The other thing I wanna do is revisit that signature service, that flagship service, that I wanna provide. I’d start to figure out how can I clean that? How can I clean the messaging? How can I clean the deliverables of it? Again, maybe one day I will want to do a digital or a physical product, but in doing so much of the service provider work, that’s gonna give me the leg and the groundwork to stand on and truly understand how I have tested a hypothesis and it’s proven itself and I can show that out in other different ways.
Ohhh my gosh… at the end of these four weeks I would absolutely rest. I would try to study sales calls, see how I can get better at selling on the phone, and closing the leads that I’m bringing in. And I’d probably desktop that application funnel to strengthen it a little bit.
Now you know exactly what I would do if I had to start over in my business—be sure to subscribe so you can get those next two videos I have where I’m gonna break this down a little bit more and just pretend like we’re going from nothing!
Now, after I got my groove and was ready to make a bigger splash, one thing I would do is plan some sort of a pre launch into a launch phase. This is gonna get out that signature offer that I’ve worked so hard to develop, maybe a cleaned up refreshed website, maybe a digital product version of the service that I’m providing. If you want to hear everything you need to do to move into pre-launch, be sure to watch this video next where you’re gonna see that.