Over the years I have invested a lot of money in my business. I’ve invested thousands of pounds. I’ve made investments in courses, memberships, workshops, software and I’ve outsourced. I have invested to improve my skills as a website designer. And I’ve invested to improve my marketing.
I’ve invested to grow my business. None of us know everything. There are always things other people will be better at than you – learning from them or getting help from them is the right thing to do.
Some of these investments have been very worthwhile and others a waste of money. Want to know my best and worst investments?
What have I learnt?
There are a couple of points to note before I get into the investments themselves…
- It’s difficult to measure the precise return on any investment. When you get a client or earn revenue it is rare to be able to attribute it to a single investment. Was it that course on Instagram? The branding photography? Or was it outsourcing the writing to a copywriter that brought in that client? Chances are it was some combination…
- Not all investments will give a return on investment, but you should learn something from all investments – even the ones that you think were a total waste of money.
- Your business will not grow if you don’t invest. I very firmly believe this and it is the reason I continue to invest in my business. There are always new things to learn. Things which work now. Things you can learn from your peers or those in completely different industries.
Investments I have made
Large Name Programme
When a “large name” coach is launching a programme they go all in. You see ads for it everywhere, people talking about it, maybe a challenge or sneak peak of some modules, and always testimonials from past clients who have made money. People like you and I who have transformed their business (and their life) by investing in this programme. These stories are very powerful.
The programme may be promoted by an army of affiliates and there are almost always lots of bonuses (“worth” more than the investment in the programme – yes that group coaching call with hundreds of people on it is really worth $797…)
It takes a lot of willpower to resist some of these big name programmes. They know how to market a programme. They lure you in.
Yes, I fell for one of those. In my defence, it was teaching me how to design and sell a service I was interested in offering (“stop trading time for money”), with a coach I had some experience with and with at least one bonus (a workshop led by another coach) I was willing to pay for on its own.
What did I find?
- The content in the programme was pretty comprehensive, taking you through the material in a logical way. Some of the modules were excellent and new to me. Others I had heard before.
- However, these programmes are not very well tailored to you/your business. There were hundreds of people taking this programme, all at different stages of their business, with different kinds of products and services. I struggled with tailoring it to my business. And when I hit blocks (as you do), the support was limited.
- The affiliate I purchased through had a smaller group and gave some support but, even then, I really needed someone closer to me to help me work through it all and decide how to apply this to my business.
- Whilst I launched a course as a result, it wasn’t the “no brainer” for my audience that I had been led to believe it would be and it was harder work to get people interested than I expected. It worked ok as a live launch (although I did not get my investment back from that), but flopped as an evergreen
- But, that doesn’t mean to say it was a failed investment. There were several things I learnt in the large programme that were useful and which I have applied to other parts of my business.
- What else? There were a couple of live events as part of the course. One was the workshop with the affiliate I bought through which was very good. Another was a big event with some good speakers (and one who should never have been on stage – but that’s another story). And the final was a small event to say sorry for a cock up they made. These events were better than the programme itself.
Would I buy (or recommend you buy) a large scale programme again? I would very cautious. The content can be very good, but the large scale nature of it means you can easily get lost. And they’re expensive. There are better investments, I think. A smaller group programme with someone who can give more tailored feedback is definitely better.
I have been in four large-ish scale memberships over the years run by four different coaches. I’ve also been in local networking/ memberships and smaller memberships related to my industry.
My experience of the large-ish memberships has been very varied.
- Two of them were incredibly good. They gave me the kind of training, support and help with implementation I needed at the time. One had quarterly in person days (pre-Covid) which were particularly good for meeting other entrepreneurs. But, in both of these memberships, the coach changed the focus of their business (and therefore the membership) after a while. And they no longer suited what I needed – so I left.
- Another was, at the time, dominated by people in a particular industry and I found the constant industry rants/requests (from other members – not the coach leading the membership) tiresome. Another membership I was in at the time was just better (see above). I was tempted to rejoin but I am a bit unsure about the coach now – they really know their stuff from a business perspective but they tend to twist their story in a way which makes me uncomfortable. And I doubt I will invest in any of their programmes again as a result. Values matter.
However, I did get a client directly from this membership which has led onto several more (due to referrals) so it gave a pretty good rate of return on the investment.
- The final one was, to be honest, completely hyped up and a waste of an investment for me. I’ve invested in other programmes with this coach (which have been good), but found the membership didn’t give me the training or support I needed.
The benefit of memberships is their price. Many don’t require any commitment so you can try them out and then leave if they don’t work out. Some have access to a vault of training materials that can be really useful. Whilst some can be a good source of clients, I have found that I didn’t really benefit from this – they are big groups and there are usually other website designers in there and some of them tend to be “favoured” (the coach leading one of them said publicly she wouldn’t trust a website designer charging less than £3,000).
I doubt I’d join a membership with more than a hundred members again, unless I wanted a nosey at their training resources.
Smaller Group Programmes
I’ve only invested in one smaller group programme.
It was not a great investment for me. Two key reasons:
- It didn’t deliver what I thought it was going to deliver. I thought I was signing up for help with developing and launching a particular new service (a group programme) but it focused on other ways of generating revenue first. Clearly I should have asked more questions before I signed up.
- I knew when I joined that I would miss a couple of weeks and this definitely impacted my progress. It came at the “wrong time” for me (the issue with group programmes being they happen at set times of the year)
I did move my own ideas forward a bit through this programme and it gave me cause to think a lot more about my business model, with many of the group members being my target audience.
When being in a small group it is important that you get on and understand each other. I got some really helpful feedback from many in the group (this was invaluable) and from the coach leading the group. But talking to my own clients directly has been more helpful (and sometimes conflicted with the information I got from the group). And I also found one member of the group annoying!!
However, as a model this is one that I could see working for me. I liked the feedback, challenge and closeness of being in a smaller group. I see the benefits in receiving tailored advice/support from both the person leading the group and the group members. And therefore I would invest in a small group programme again. I just chose the wrong one.
I’m in two local women in business memberships and two for website designers/general designers (these are both US based).
I love both the local women in business memberships I’m in. I like being part of a small, supportive “gang”. Both meet in person (pre-covid this was at least monthly) and offer some training too. Not all the training is worthwhile, and on a cold, wet, winter evening it can be a challenge to motivate myself to go out to them. I have also found clients in both groups. These have been excellent investments.
The two elements I particularly like are the size (both are less than 50 women) and the in person meet ups. You can really get to know the group (or at least some of the group).
The memberships which are focused on website designers/general designers have also been great investments.
- One is probably more akin to a group programme and I have found some really helpful advice on running my business – especially in respect of marketing and onboarding clients.
- The other is a bit more techy, but I’ve also found it useful for my processes. And I’m hoping to find like-minded website designers to collaborate with as my business grows
I don’t really “network” with either of these groups but I find them both very helpful for uplevelling my business and finding out what is working for other people (I try to help others too). I see these people as my peers, not my competition.
I’ve bought a number of online courses that you work through at your own pace.
With the exception of a bundle I bought in aid of Ukraine, these have all been investments in areas I want to improve my skills in. I’ve bought courses on website design, graphic design, website building, website maintenance, SEO, marketing, etc.
Like most people taking “go at your own pace” courses, I don’t think I have actually completed any of them…
However, they have definitely helped me. Sometimes they have boosted my confidence (yes I was doing it right before), sometimes I have really learnt something new.
The challenge with “go at your own pace” courses is that it can be difficult to prioritise these courses when there is so much to do in your business. The benefit is they tend to be a lower cost way of accessing training.
I’ll continue to invest in these where I think I have a gap in my knowledge that I want to fill – although this is not a priority for me at the moment.
Pre-covid, I invested in some in-person, small group, trainings. I’ve also run one myself.
I love being with a small group of people in a “live” training where the person leading can really help you by giving real time feedback. Sometimes these workshops have been about things I already knew/had training from the same coach on before (online in a larger group), but I still got value from the in person element.
Whilst I have found there is usually one person in a workshop who tries to dominate (if I can’t find one I worry that its me!), and you need to choose the coach/topic carefully, this is a model I really like and I definitely plan to seek out more trainings like this.
I’ve also invested in some one to one work with coaches on the back of workshops. These are expensive and, whilst I have found them beneficial, the key is definitely to find the person who understands your target audience to get the most out of them.
I have had very mixed success with outsourcing. I’ve outsourced graphic design, copywriting, tech support, website design/building, Facebook ads, branding photography, social media and podcast notes.
When it has worked it has been amazing – freeing up time and headspace. When it hasn’t it has cost me time (as well as money) and frustrated me.
Why hasn’t it worked sometimes?
- I’ve tried to go for cheap (with the result they have either been unreliable/difficult to get hold of/late, poor attention to detail and/or poor quality)
- They haven’t been as good at what they do as expected (I’ve hired some “experts” who I knew more than…)
- I haven’t communicated as well as I could and/or
- I’ve outsourced something I really don’t mind doing and resent paying the money for it
When has it worked?
- When I’ve hired people who really know what they’re doing. People who can be left to get on with it with minimal input from me
- When I have hired for things I don’t want to do
To some extent you get what you pay for (although I have also hired expensive/qualified people who haven’t worked out).
I definitely plan to outsource more, but will think carefully what I outsource and who I outsource to.
Like many website designers/developers I have a bit of an addiction to buying “software” that I think is going to make a big difference to running my business.
The conclusion of these purchases is that there is no silver bullet! There’s no perfect tool. You have to choose the one that looks the best, invest time in understanding it and making it work as best you can for you.
Out of all the investments I have made in my business, I have concluded that it isn’t necessarily a case of the more you pay the better the result.
I don’t plan to invest in any more big name, large group programmes. I’d prefer to get the tailored advice and attention of a main coach in a smaller group. Although picking the right coach and the right programme (running at the right time) can be more challenging!!
Even better, is to work with a single person (or team) and outsource work. I definitely plan to do more of this in 2022. And I won’t choose based on price but the person I think can help me the best. I’ll choose the person/team who understands me, my business and my target audience (and who is within my budget).
I’ll continue to be an active member of the smaller memberships I’m in but I’m not currently seeking out any larger memberships. And I will try to find more in person events. I’ve definitely missed these more than I had realised!
What are you investing in in 2022?