The Effective Sales Funnel

Sales Funnel
The Basic Sales Funnel

In order to be successful in any online business, including affiliate marketing, you have to be able to get people through your sales funnel effectively. We all get introduced to sales funnels daily through our interaction with print and video media. If you watch a commercial or read an ad you are at the top of that company’s sales funnel.

When building your business your success is determined, not only by getting clients into the top of your funnel, but by having a reasonable number travel all the way through to the end.

Part of the reason for the shape and the name of the funnel is due to the fact that many more people enter the large upper portion than finally make it to the bottom where the sales occur.

Your funnel might have more steps or levels in it, but I would like to cover the steps listed in the illustration. I feel that some of the finer breakdown of more complex funnels are properly covered in the four steps outlined in our illustration.

Awareness of your company.

Kayaker at Sunset
Beautiful awareness.

This is done through effective marketing. You have to let people know what you offer and how it will help them solve the problem they are trying to overcome. You can use a hard sell approach with a variety of hard hitting ads, or what has worked better for me, a softer educational approach.

This is often done through blogs, videos, newsletters, direct advertising, podcasts, or educational articles. These are all no risk offers to your potential clients. All they have to do is take the time to review the information you provide. If it is something that resonates with them they will continue their relationship with you.

Another step is to offer them some free content that applies to your product or service. In this instance, however, you offer them an ebook, pertinent reports, or any of the items listed above in exchange for their contact information.

This is considered a low risk connection for your client. They will be giving up their email address in order to review your content. In exchange you can send them information related to their interests.

Stone Arrow
Help people find their direction.

Don’t over do that part. Be gentle and only offer information that makes sense to their original interests. And always give them a way to opt out so they don’t feel trapped, spammed or harassed by your emails.

If your audience is looking for information to fix something in their life, giving them helpful information to do that will earn your trust and give them time to consider the product or service you have to offer.

Interest in your product or service.

This is driven by building the ongoing opportunities you provide through your awareness campaign. Though some will see your first ad or article and buy your product, most will take their time considering their options. If you keep your awareness options in front of them your name will be on their minds when they get to the next step.

Having a series of informational and educational pieces will help this step immensely.

Again, you don’t have to push hard, just keep your name in the front of their mind. You are developing a relationship with your audience. Make sure they find value in what you are sending to them.

Decision to pursue.

They now will decide what to do. Did you give them enough good information to choose your product or service? If so you will see them in the next step.

Though sales are your goal don’t be discouraged if your client decides to opt out. If you did the previous step well, you may hear from them in the future. They may also be telling others about you even if they decide to wait before they move ahead. Be sure you are giving them something to be happy to pass on or return to when they are ready.

Action.

Pondering your next move.
Help them decide their next move.

They will now choose what they will do. They may live without the solution, buy from you or buy somewhere else based on your educational material.

Again, don’t be discouraged if they don’t choose you. They have followed your blog or newsletter and they are still connected. The next step, not shown on this funnel, is where you will have another chance at a sale.

Follow up.

Keep on sending them pertinent information. In fact, do this even after they purchase from you. If you provide free, quality content, they will turn to you for information, education and a chance to see your additional products. Be sure you develop multiple, effective, related products so you can earn a customer who returns to you again and again.

For instance, if they like your free information, have a low-cost option that helps them further along their path. Use that option to let them know of the bigger, high ticket item that will help transform their situation and bring them the high level of success you both want for them.

When developing your sales funnel think of how you like to be approached when you are looking for solutions. You will have the best success in your business if you market to your clients in that way.

The Art of Improvisation

Sand Dune Stroll
Use improvisation to change your path.

It’s always important to keep your business nimble. Figuring out what that means in a realistic context, though, can be a bit tough. What you want is not just a business that’s able to change when necessary, but one that is structured to embrace the art of improvisation.


Improvising in the Business World


In many ways, improvisation goes against much of what you might have been taught when you were first starting in business. You know the importance of a business plan and how to move through the steps of that well thought out plan, but what if that plan starts to fall apart?

Instead of focusing on how you may have miscalculated a step, your time might be better invested in focusing on being more flexible so that you can turn effectively whenever something alters your plans. 

For most business people, being flexible can be as simple as not getting bogged down by hard and fast rules. While you should definitely have principles by which you run your business and a good plan for how it should succeed, your plans shouldn’t be so set in stone that they impact your ability to be successful. If something’s not working, don’t throw away the whole plan, just look at changing your tack. If you want to ensure your business a chance to succeed, you have to embrace the fact that your plans may not always match up to the current changes in business reality. 

It’s important to remember that entrenched ideas are usually the enemy of a successful business. There’s a lot to be said for sticking to what works, of course, but you always need to evaluate your processes and figure out if they’re still working. Once you can do that, you can open your mind to making changes and alter course when necessary. Improvising is simply a matter of looking at the situation in front of you, realizing that it’s different than what you thought it would be, and then making a decision that makes sense.

Recently I was analyzing how to get more participants in a climbing wall activity. We changed the title from a generic “Climbing Wall” to “Climbing for Fitness” and increased the participation by 50%. No other changes were instituted.

Quick, easy and effective.

Dealing with the Unexpected

Flexibility Dance
Flexibility is key!


Focusing on flexibility and improvisation is also important because it gives you more of a chance to be effective in those situations that are entirely out of your control. The marketplace is always changing, with businesses dedicating a significant amount of time and money to trying to disrupt the old ways of doing things. If your business doesn’t have the flexibility to adapt to those changes, you’ll be left behind. Simply put, you’ve got to be willing to change if you want to continue to stay in the game.

Flexibility is a must, as well, when dealing with clients. Though you might have a good idea of what’s going on in your industry, there will almost always be changes going on in the industries of your clients that you either cannot predict or for which you simply cannot prepare. When these changes occur, the needs of your clients will change. It’s up to you to either adapt to those changes or to lose a client, something that’s rarely in the interest of your business’ long-term health. Flexibility, then, gives you a better chance to keep up with the demands of those who provide your revenue.

The key is to be open to what comes your way and reflexively respond. If your protocol is hard and fast you won’t be able to bend with the surprise requests of your client or business partner.

To return to the climbing wall analogy, I once had a student who had a serious fear of heights.  She wanted to try to climb the wall but doubted her ability to overcome that fear. We talked through the options and agreed to these terms: She would climb as far as she felt comfortable then try one more move.

She started and was 3 feet off the ground and in a panicked voice said, “That’s as far as I can go!” I reminded her of our agreement and urged her to try that promised one more move. We were both thinking the same thing. She was going to fulfil her promise and the plan we had arranged.

She made that next move and said, “OK, that’s as far as I can go!”

In that moment it occurred to me that she uttered the words that we used in our contract and I blurted out. “Remember your promise. If that’s as far as you can go you owe yourself one more move.”

Because of that improvisational comment on my part she did that 6 more times and made it to the top of the 40-foot climbing wall.

Had I settled for the first agreement I would have missed the opportunity to give her the encouragement to do more than either of us expected. A chance improvisational push led her to an unexpected success.

You have to be willing adapt if you want to be successful. If you already have a mindset that allows you to be flexible, you’ll stand a much better chance to survive changes in your life and your industry. 

The Basis for Improvisation

Going to the top of the wall.
Making it to the top!



While your business can absolutely benefit from a general willingness to thoughtfully break the rules, being open to improvisation actually requires you to have an incredibly firm grasp of what a business can do. To be able to break away from strict planning procedures and definitive rules, you first need to know exactly how things are supposed to be done.

That’s a difficult dichotomy for many.

A friend of mine will regularly say “Randy, you must have a plan. You can always change the plan, but you must start with The Plan.”

This is absolutely vital for anyone who wants to create a business that is both agile enough to change when needed and that’s still got a strong enough foundation to weather those changes to which it cannot adapt. 

The effective use of improvisation requires the ability to be open to change and having a comprehensive understanding of your industry. Just heading in to a situation with a plan to wing it as you go is not a sustainable way to try this concept.

When you improvise, you have to start by understanding as much about your business as possible. Use this knowledge to bend and flow with the situations that present themselves to you and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks based on your experience, understanding and ability.

Done well, this can be the difference between climbing 3 feet or making it to the top of the wall.

Some Troubles in Affiliate Marketing.

Online Marketing
Affiliate Marketing

  I want to start this piece by saying it isn’t an attempt to dissuade you from exploring a way to build a lucrative, productive, online business. I am an affiliate marketer and I think that route has the potential to help you do great things.

  But I continue to see techniques that disturb me just enough to want to give you another perspective. The “I use to live in a hole on the hillside of the local dump but now I have a Gazillion Dollars and you can too!” perspective is overplayed. Let me show some of the tools used to encourage people like you and me to try this business and to let you in on what my experience has been.

  Full disclosure: I would love if you would join my team. I just really want you to make your decisions with eyes wide open.

Let’s look at a list promises made and the real-life scenarios that I can attest to.

You can make money right away!

  I did! My first sale, once I started my affiliate business, happened in the first week. It was one dollar from someone who started a one-dollar trial offer for a company I advertised. I never saw another penny from that client and I didn’t see my next payment as an affiliate marketer for 3 months.

Patience is a key to early success.

  It takes time to build any business and affiliate marketing is just that, a business. You have to be willing to commit time, energy and money into any business. The allure to affiliate marketing for me was the fact that I could use other peoples’ programs to build my business. I don’t feel I have the talent or expertise to start a whole new program, so I chose this option. Once I was up and running my time was returned to me.

Make money working only 37 seconds a day!

Piggy Bank
Making money takes patience.

  Though the main drive for me to start affiliate marketing was to make the same money I did in my management position, I really wanted to do it with less hours on the clock. I was able to do that, but at first I had to invest more of my time to achieve my goal.

 

I also made a business plan and committed some of my savings to get an education from people who were smarter than me about these things. So, to start it cost me both time and money. And knowing that doing this quickly was a myth, I settled in for the slow run. I knew I had to take my time and do things step by step in order to succeed. Eventually I was able to build my business to take advantage of the time and finances I had built into my plan.

Free, Free, Free!

  This one is a two-edged sword. Many of the programs I support do have free educational pieces that helped me immensely.  But at a certain point I realized that I could do better with some upgrades to my affiliate connections.

I still use many free options but even they require that time be invested in order to succeed. I weighed the cost of my time against the cost of adding programs and upgrades and made my choices based on what fit my business plan and budget.

Only available for the next three callers!

Limited time offer
Limited time offer.

  This a sales technique is called “The Take Away”. It is a way to build urgency so you will buy “now before it’s too late”!

  Though sometimes it’s true, mostly it’s not.

  If you weren’t aware of this before, take the time to notice it now. Every day you are on the internet, watching T.V. or listening to the radio you will be presented with this sales practice.

In fact, most of the programs and products I promote will use a version of this. I encourage you to take your time when you are exploring. Don’t make a decision based on the take away. Make a decision based on the merit of the products or services and how they fit in with your business goals.

But don’t become paralyzed into inaction. If you are compelled to build a business make a plan, follow your plan and continue to move ahead.

The need to alter normal words in a sales piece.

  Some search engines, or places like Facebook, have algorithms that see certain terms or phrases as spammy. When these words show up the algorithms shut down the ad.

  To get around this you will see things like, F.R.E.E instead of free, or get Pa-id Now, to help outsmart the system.

I am not a fan.

If your product or service is compromised by the algorithms, then work on a classier way to present your company. (Just a personal pet peeve.)

Less than honest presentations.

  This one can cover a lot of ground, so I’ll be brief. We all want people to see what we have to offer. That’s why we are in business. But recently while exploring some new companies I came across two things that bothered me.

  The first offered a free option to get me to take a look at this wonderful money-making opportunity but once I committed to the program It was explained that free members could not make a cent. So, I was told to upgrade now!

I’m a literal kind of guy. Free has a literal meaning. If I have to upgrade, the opportunity is not free. Needless to say, I blacklisted the company from my email lists so I would not hear from them again.

  Another alluded to a promise to get me on their list saying I could hold my spot for free so I would be higher up on the income producing program. This one didn’t lie to me but worded things to let me believe I might be able to work with them and have no need for further investment. It ends up that it wasn’t true.

  The lesson here is to go slow, explore everything but only work with the people that follow your sense of fairness and work ethic.

Making money online.

Money in a case
Money, Money, Money.

  Lucrative businesses can be built online, and it is true that you can work from anywhere you have an internet connection. But first you have to trust the people you work with AND you have to put in the time and energy to make your version of this gig work for you.

  Combining your work ethic with companies you’d be proud to promote is the foundation of creating your successful affiliate business.

Tracking and Testing

The following is a guest post by Jim Edwards. If Online or Affiliate Marketing is not your thing, feel free to skip down to the next article by R. Kinkade.

Tracking and Testing
Stay on track by Tracking and Testing

Tracking and Testing – the Solution to Attracting More Visitors
by Jim Edwards

Every serious online business owner eats, sleeps and breaths targeted traffic to their website. They spend the most money and time trying to attract first-time visitors to their sites in hopes of generating new sales and subscribers. But, believe it or not, it’s easier to increase your income by simply selling more of the visitors you already get than trying to chase down more traffic.

The solution? Tracking & testing! Probably the most overlooked and underutilized, but certainly the most powerful strategy for increasing sales and opt-in subscriptions. If you spend any time or money on advertising, you must start testing and tracking. Simply put, “tracking” means you measure the effectiveness of each individual advertising source you use to promote your business.

For example, if you advertise in email newsletters, you should know how effective each newsletter ad rates compared to all the others in terms of sales and subscribers generated. This enables you to know whether an ad makes or loses money. Testing means you constantly look for ways to improve your ads in small, incremental amounts that add up over time.

The most common (and effective) tests you can run are A-B split tests, which pit two variables against each other to determine which converts more lookers into buyers. Split testing headlines, price points, and guarantee periods make, from my experience, the best places to start testing.

The reason testing and tracking can double your profits (or more) lies in the power of small, incremental improvements. Lets say, for example, you decide to do a series of split tests on a website that currently converts 1 in every 100 visitors (1% conversion). You test, headline, price, guarantee and a payment plan. If each of the 4 tests yields a .25% increase in conversion, you would not see an increase in sales to 2% (4x.25%), but actually an increase to almost 2.5% since each improvement builds on the last!

Click on the photo above for recommended marketing tools

The most basic tool in testing and tracking revolves around the use of advertising link tracker software. These tools measure the number of clicks on individual advertisements (text links, banners, pay-per-click ads, etc) and then measure sales or subscriptions generated as a result.

You get two choices with link trackers: a hosted service or software you install on your own server. A hosted service offers the advantage of easy setup and use. Most of the time you just sign up for the service, enter the link you want to track, get your tracking code, and you’re off to the races.

The disadvantage of a hosted service is that, if it gets abused, using the URL of the service in your links can get your emails blocked or your pages banned by search engines. The advantage of hosting the software on your own server is that you maintain a higher degree of technical control and can avoid the banning issues. The main disadvantage of hosting it yourself involves the fact that you really don’t have anyone to call for help if something goes wrong.

One of the most popular hosted link trackers online is HyperTracker.com, though I’ve not used the service. My favorite link tracker is actually part of an integrated e-commerce system at http://www.MysiteSales.com. This service enables you to track your sales and subscriptions made through the shopping cart.

Two options for software you install on your own server are Dynatracker.com and ProAnalyzer.com. Both provide decent link tracking, though no system I’ve tested provides 100% accurate results. But, with that said, failure to test means you’re leaving money on the table by wasting visitors you could otherwise convert to buyers with basic effort at improving your sales messages.

Copyright Jim Edwards

Check out this One-Stop Ads, Visitors, Clicks, Actions & Sales Conversion Tracking / Split Testing Solution from A Time For Wealth


Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the co-creator of an amazing course that will teach you step-by-step and click-by-click how to get your own money-making videos posted online… “Finally! A Quick and Easy Way For YOU To Painlessly Create, Post and PROFIT From Your Own Money-Making Online Videos… Without Being a Computer Geek or Paying Outrageous Fees To A Webmaster!” => http://www.WebsiteVideoSecrets.com

Don’t Cut Switchbacks

Avoid Taking Shortcuts

Switch Backs on the Burr trail.

When looking for success in business, too many believe that shortcuts are one of the keys of rising and succeeding more efficiently. Taking the quick and easy route may have a variety of negative consequences, especially when it comes to productivity.

Having spent much of my career either working in an outdoor environment or striving to find financial success so that I could spend more time playing there, I will use a favorite outdoor analogy to work through this issue.

Don’t Cut Switchbacks.

Switchbacks are built into a trail on a steep hillside to make the climb easier and to protect the landscape. Another other option for a hiker is to just go straight up the hill. Though both routes get you to the destination, one does it deliberately on a solid path and the other, though shorter, tears up the hillside, is physically more demanding and causes damage that will have to be dealt with down the line.

Just as cutting switchbacks harms the environment improper shortcuts will harm your business and might not be a path that you really want to pursue.

If you have read my blog on the 80/20 rule you will know I am a fan of strong work ethic and efficiency. I embrace the quote attributed to David Dunham: “Efficiency is intelligent laziness.” There are a few ways to get your job done more efficiently without having its overall quality reduced. One of the more prominent of these is to have a strong work ethic to ensure that you’re committed to quality.

It is worth looking at how taking shortcuts can negatively affect your performance and productivity. 

Sweaty Hiker

How Short Cuts Affect Work Productivity

There are a few areas where taking shortcuts can have a negative impact on your productivity. One of the most notable of these is that the quality of your work may suffer considerably.

This is primarily because you will end up making many more mistakes as a result of less attention being paid to your work. Naturally, this could mean that you’ll end up having to spend more time fixing these mistakes before a product can be sold, or service offered.  This lower quality work will also bring negative attention from managers or customers, which is something we all want to avoid.

When starting my online business my goal was to create a space where I could earn a proper living and, more importantly, carve out additional time to play in the outdoors.

The potential possibilities were promising but I had little expertise. Being one who really works best by watching, then applying, lessons I chose affiliate marketing with companies who offered detailed training programs.

It ends up that I chose my options well but still failed at first. I was frustrated until it was pointed out to me that maybe I had broken a cardinal rule of my hiking experience. I was cutting switchbacks.

The best way to the top isn’t always a straight line. If I start up a trail and see that eventually it goes to the peak shouldn’t I just plot an azimuth and go straight there? That technique is wrong in the wilderness and wrong in business.

On the trail, cutting switchbacks on the way up just makes the climb harder. Following the pre-built trail will add more steps to my hike, but those steps will be easier to manage.

In my business I would start up the educational path, get a bit impatient, assume where I should be headed and then carve out my own path towards the goal. Using this technique, I could never find the top and I blamed the educational material.

After all I skimmed the material and saw where we were headed. But, as it turns out, I missed vital steps and information when taking those shortcuts.

I wanted to see the view from the top so badly that I took shortcuts that never allowed me to get there and I never reached the anticipated goal.

Lost in the wilderness I had to sit down with my map and find out where I got off the trail. Going back slowly over the material showed me where I went wrong and how to fix my mistakes.

Running a business this way will naturally have a negative impact on your productivity. If we take shortcuts we will spend too much time correcting mistakes we could have avoided causing the quality of our other work to suffer. This may lead to a cycle of mistakes that could shut things down.

Taking shortcuts may also hinder customer service, which means that your overall sales and brand reputation can take quite a hit.

Taking shortcuts can also affect creativity, which will play a large role in your overall productivity. This is primarily because making creative choices about business strategies and work processes can be one of the more significant ways that you can develop, and implement, ways to reposition yourself and your company to increase efficiency.

Hiker at the peak.

Alternatives To Taking Shortcuts

There are a variety of keys to success that apply to everyone who works, no matter what their position or responsibilities are.

Here are two:

Strong Work Ethic.

Have an efficient and strong work ethic. I love efficiency but while taking advantage of that, we still need to be working diligently at the task in front of us.

Proper Preparation.

Spending a little time setting up you program goes a long way toward efficient implementation. To follow my outdoor analogy, maps were made for a purpose. Create the map you want to follow, follow your map and avoid cutting switchbacks.

The time spent in planning will help avoid costly mistakes and will help you avoid taking shortcuts. This will ensure quality.

There is a peak near where I live that has two intersecting routes to the top. One is 11 miles and one is 16. Which is best? That depends on the day. When I train on this mountain I decide the night before which route I want to follow then I head out in that direction.

I start with a definitive plan, but I am not afraid to alter that plan as more information is presented. I can mix and match these routes as my day progresses and my physical needs dictate.

I suggest that you do the same as you make your way through your work day. Have a plan, stay on the trail but be willing to make alterations as things change. I will write soon about the benefits of improvisation, but until then, follow your path and avoid cutting the switchbacks.

Create the Financial Means to Live a Life that Makes You Come Alive.

Live a joyful life!

As Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Powerful words.  You deserve to live your passion and spend more time doing something that is meaningful to you. Otherwise, you are wasting, not investing, your time

H.D. Thoreau aptly stated, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Simply existing is not enough. However, creating the life that you want can feel quite difficult. Instead of becoming tied to your job and a mundane routine consider what you could do to live your passion, pursue your interests and spend more time with the people you love.

There are multiple avenues to help create this freedom. The full benefits of being able to work from your computer anywhere, a Laptop Lifestyle, are enticing ways to attend to both quotes offered above. Let’s look at two powerful options.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing is an excellent way to leverage your time and interests to sell other people’s products to earn a commission. One of the reasons this opportunity is so appealing is because you can start this business without inventory or even a website. All you need to do is find a line of products you want to sell, then you set up an affiliate agreement to let others know about those products.

Your Affiliate Marketing partner will give you a link to embed in your advertising, so you will be paid when your referrals buy the product. There are no limits In Affiliate Marketing. You are basically marketing or advertising your partner’s products and services for a fee. Once you decide what niche you want to immerse yourself in the sky is the limit. The challenge is to decide the best way to reach your target audience. Facebook advertising, blog posts, email marketing, and landing pages are a few of the most effective ways to attract buyers. 

Windy Point AZ
Work from here!

Freelancing

The same thing holds true for freelancing. If you have the skill and talent you can explore freelancing in numerous disciplines. Some of the obvious ones are writing, editing or photography. But why limit yourself to the obvious ones?

Do you have a talent that would benefit a target audience?

Freelancing has become a viable way to make a living for many professionals.

If you draw your joy by doing the work you love and are able to do it on your own terms, you are adding to the things that make you come alive. 

So, look around. Many companies have streamlined their organizations with fewer full-time employees, they need to hire freelancers on a regular basis. That is good news for the many people who want the flexibility that freelancing offers. 

While there is almost no limit to the number of professions that offer a way to  earn a living as a freelancer, certain types of skills are in high demand. Artists, writers, editors, software developers, photographers, administrative personnel, recruiters, accountants, IT professionals, researchers, and project managers are all freelancing opportunities that companies need on a regular basis.


Benefits of A Laptop Lifestyle

Work When You Want.

Flexible Schedule

Of course, the exact flexibility of your schedule will depend upon the option you choose to pursue. You may need to meet with clients at specific times to set up your Affiliate Marketing plans or to schedule your freelancing gigs.

However, many of the required tasks can be completed independently. In other words, once you have a deadline for your freelancing or affiliate project, you can complete it at a time that works for you. Also, depending on financial concerns, you may have the ability to turn down certain jobs. Please keep in mind that if you keep declining jobs, you may find that your business won’t grow or thrive. Still though, positions like freelancing and Affiliate Marketing give more flexibility with your schedule than jobs that require you to work from a fixed location at a corporate desk.

Avoid This Commute.

Shorter Commute.

The length of you commute can significantly affect your life. For example, if you are working 8-10 hours a day then spending one to two hours trying to get home each evening, you probably won’t have the time to really live your passion. Maybe you would really like to get to the gym, join a book club or coach your daughter’s softball team, but you simply can’t make it work with the time you have left in your day. When you opt for a job where you get to work primarily from your laptop, your concerns about the commute will vanish. You can take the time you are currently spending travelling to work and use it to live your passion.



Controlling your hours

Another way that you can live your passion is through the hours in the day that you will get back. When you are working online, you can often select the times of the day that you want to work. For example, even if you need to work 8 hours per day, you can choose to do some work in the early mornings or in the evenings after everyone has gone to sleep. When you regain hours during the day and afternoon, you may find that you have more energy to go to the gym and get in a workout. Or go to the stores you like when the lines aren’t as long. More time gives you more options.

All of these benefits can seriously improve your life. Take a look at the previous blog post about the 80/20 rule to see more on how to capitalize your time to make this come to fruition.

But don’t just dream about these ideas. Start now to take steps to achieve them.

The common question is, “But how do I start?” I say look at what others are doing.

Charles Colton said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. When people worry about how to do something and fear they don’t know what to do or where to start, my advice is to find others who are making it work and use their example.

Once started you can begin to introduce your personality and techniques into the mix and then build something rich, personal and worthy of imitation in its own right. (Important note: Imitation should not be plagiarism.)

So now the choice. A Life of quiet desperation or one that makes you come alive.

What you choose to do next will set your course.

What Course Will You Choose?

The Benefits of Play in Life and Business

Playing at the beach
Playing outside

All work and no play makes life a little less worth living, don’t you think? In today’s fast-paced world, though, it seems harder than ever to find time to unplug and immerse yourself in the things that bring you joy.

  Allowing yourself to not only have a good time but also to make it a valid part of your survival strategy is tough, but it can be done. I say, it must be done! You need to start by stepping back from the common paradigm and moving on to make the kind of lifestyle choices that will have a positive impact on both your business and your life.

The Health Benefits of Play


  The benefits of play vary from person to person, but there are a number of things that tend to hold true no matter what your lifestyle. Doing things that bring you joy will benefit both your physical and mental health. Being playful isn’t just something that’s meant to be a brief diversion – it’s meant to be an imperative part of your life.

  People who play more generally have a better mental wellbeing.

  The mental benefits of play include:          

  1. Being less prone to depression and anxiety.
  2. Being better able to control your physical wellness.
  3. Being able to learn how to calm your mind.
  4. Being able to focus on any given moment to become more mindful, calm and serene.
  5. Being more productive when you are doing your work.

  The benefits of play also apply to your physical health.

   These physical benefits of play include:

  1. Having lower blood pressure
  2. A stronger immune system.
  3. Being more able to recover from injury.
  4. Being able to stave off injuries and illnesses that come from being sedentary.

  As you can imagine, the benefits of play are often promoted by physicians and psychologists for those who tend to have work-related illnesses. 

  Never forget that play is supposed to be a part of the human experience. If you’re not spending time having fun, you’re cutting out a valuable part of your health. It will only benefit you to find the time to experience the benefits of play.


Using the 80/20 Rule      


  Given the health benefits of play, it only makes sense to find effective ways to be efficient in your business life, so you have more time freedom. This does not, however, mean that you can give up on the idea of earning a living. After all, you’ve got to have a way to fund your joyful adventures. But there are ways you can continue to be an efficient businessperson while still going out and living the life that you’ve always wanted.

   The key? Using the 80/20 rule to your advantage.

This is also known as The Pareto Principal. In short, this principal states that In nearly everything we do 80% of our positive results comes from 20% of our input and effort.

  The question that arises then is why has our culture pushed us to work so hard and for so long for such meager return on our time investment?

  Andrew Jensen, a business efficiency, marketing & performance expert, rightly states, “If you consistently work more than 40 hours a week it’s probably time for you to make a change. Overwhelming evidence suggests that work weeks of more than 40 hours are harmful not only to employees, but also to the company as a whole.”

  I believe that even 40 hours a week is typically not necessary. Our old school work ethic leads us to believe that if we don’t hit the ground running and keep at it for 10, 12, 16 hours a day we are somehow failing to produce properly.

  But consider the Pareto effect. If I can get 80% productivity from investing 20% of that time why would I not? If Jensen and Pareto are right, I can regularly be doing well above average by working only 8 hours a week in nearly any setting.

  This rule changes if you have a true need to be the very best at a discipline or if you are creating products in an assembly line fashion. I’ll grant those caveats. But when I look to my business model, i.e. wanting to generate a sound living and have more free time to enjoy my world, I have found the 80/20 rule to be the ideal path to follow.

  In my personal corporate experience, I watched my colleagues in a nearly constant state of frenetic activity. Always looking busy and acting as though they would never have enough time to do the work required of them.

  The Pareto Principal at work

Work from anywhere
You can work from anywhere

  I started my day hitting the ground running, got the big stuff done then pulled back. On any given day, as a salaried employee, my day was typically done in 4-6 hours. At first, I thought I must be doing something wrong. Maybe I was missing something that was required of me. But when I saw that I was turning in all the requisite deliverables to my boss and was receiving some of the highest scores on my annual reviews. I had to rethink my ethic. During certain times of the year, such as budget and staff evaluations, I worked long days, but otherwise I only stuck around because it was expected of me to be sitting at my desk.

  I was so very frustrated at the time I was wasting following the common business paradigm.

  Now that I have my own internet business I no longer have to follow these artificial rules. There is still work to be done and I must attend to it. But when I’m done I can move on to spending time on the other things that I value.

  I am driven by the desire to make a good living doing less work. I work very hard for that 20% of the time and the end result of 80% return on investment hits my goals. That, my friends, is enough.

  If what’s going through your head right now is this all seems wrong I suggest you are just reacting to the work ethic paradigm we have all been brought up with. Please don’t cheat yourself out of the possibility of using this to your advantage.

  Your work ethic still must be strong, but you gain no ground by marching in place. Do the work required to achieve your goals then occupy the rest of your time with those things you love to do. You can still be at a dead run for 60 hours a week but let most of those hours be in joyful pursuits.

  What’s the secret to success, then? It’s using the Pareto Principle in a way that frees up more of your time so that you continue earning a good income while exploring this new focus. My business is setup to have automatic systems keep things flowing whether I’m in my office or not. In fact, because what I do with my digital business requires nothing more than my having internet access, I can do my required work from my campsite in the morning before I take a hike or in the evening after my mountain bike ride.

  It can’t be overstated how important it is to apply The Pareto Principle in a digital business. Doing so will free up a significant amount of your time so that you can focus on the things that bring you joy. Once you’ve eliminated or refocused the eighty percent of the time that you’re wasting, you’ll be able to dedicate so much more of your time to leisure. Once you make this choice, all you need to do is to figure out the best way to start using The Pareto Principle to your advantage.

Creating Your Ideal Reality

Create your reality
Pursue more joy!

A huge part of creating a reality as outlined above involves applying The Pareto Principle in a digital business. For many, this means adapting to a new mode of self-employment that allows them work when it’s most profitable and to step out of the office when the surf’s up or the family is getting together.

  It can be incredibly simple to start having fun when you can bring your business with you on the go. The best way to do this, of course, is through remote work and embracing a laptop lifestyle.

  When you think about applying the 80/20, rule you’ll probably notice that you have a lot of unprofitable time. Applying the Pareto Principle will free up more time to enjoy the healthful benefits of play in your life. A laptop lifestyle will let you stay connected with those who can actually make you money without tethering you to a desk and requiring you to waste your time with long commutes and interminable office meetings. 

  If you want to improve your life start by embracing the benefits of play. Then apply The Pareto Principle in your digital business.

  Doing so will give you a unique opportunity to not only take control over your own life, but to give yourself permission to have more fun.

  It benefits everyone when we properly invest our time and money to the advantage of our family, our life and our business.