If you’re struggling to build your business, here’s the first question I would ask you...

Is your strategy right for your current stage of business?

One of the biggest reasons people struggle in business is when they’re trying to implement a strategy that doesn’t fit the stage their business is in.

Most commonly, I find people making the exact same mistake I made myself when I first set up my writing business – I wanted to sell $97 e-courses (in the same way I saw others doing and in the same way lots of people were selling e-courses on how to sell e-courses) and I was also interested in running a membership site. What I completely failed to grasp initially was that neither of these endeavours would be possible without a large (5,000-10,000 subscribers) mailing list – and I was starting with, wait, what was it now? Oh yes, zero… Everything shifted for me in that business when I realised that I could reach out to my network from my years of working in publishing and the books world and get referrals for one-to-one mentoring clients.

So, here are the four stages of business – which one does yours fit into?

  1. Research & Development: you’ve either just started out or you’re well on in the planning stages. You have an idea about what it is you want to do, but you’re still testing it out and running beta versions of your service, either for free or very low cost.
  2. One-to-one: you’re clear what you want to do and you’ve run a successful beta trial. Now you can start reaching out to people to work with them one-to-one in a coaching or mentoring format. You are beginning to build a mailing list but it’s in the early hundreds.
  3. One-to-few: you’ve got a successful track record from your beta trial and/or one-to-one sessions, you’re starting to build a bigger mailing list (you’re around the thousand mark) and you’re ready to run a small group programme (this might be a retreat, group coaching or a mastermind).
  4. One-to-many: you’ve honed your skills working one-to-one and/or in small groups, you understand how to distill the issues that have been coming up time and time again individually into a programme that can work for anyone and you have a mailing list well into the thousands who are all primed and ready to hear about your e-course or membership programme.

It’s possible to leapfrog one of the stages (so if your R&D stage is very successful and you already have a small but engaged potential audience, you may be able to go straight from stage one to stage three for instance, and start by launching a group coaching programme).

And it’s possible to go straight in at stage four IF you have the mailing list to support you (though you’ll miss out on all the incredibly valuable feedback you’d get by working at stage two and three).

It’s also worth thinking about the fact that you can make a very good living for yourself at stage two (you can make £100,000 a year from doing one-to-one work, with a mailing list of around a thousand subscribers). Stage two allows you to have a very simple business structure with very low overheads and relatively little marketing. Personally, it’s my favourite stage, and the one I intend to stay in.