Learn to Replace Any Habit in 7 Simple Steps

We all have a habit that we wish we didn’t, maybe it was biting your nails, eating junk food when we are stressed, or shopping when we feel lonely.

Since habits are so simple and easy to form, is it any wonder that we have problems in life?

So what is a habit and how does one go about forming new ones?

According to dictionary.com, habits are “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”.

So now the question becomes… How does one change a habit. The simple answer is, merely create a conflicting habit which takes over.

Want to stop stress eating? Practice deep breathing.

Want to stop caffine? Try drinking tea or decafe instead. Change your diet to a more health and energy promoting one, and go to bed earlier.

Want to stop biting your nails? Wear gloves.

Every “bad” habit as a remedy and the solution comes in the form of continuous reinforcement.

But Where to Start?

Once we recognize bad behaviors or behaviors which are less favorable, we can begin to change them by putting into practice systems that allow the good behaviors to flourish and the bad ones to die off slowly.

The first part of habit creation is noticing a behavior you wish to change.

The second part, and often the hardest part, is implementing system to support such change.

The third, and final stage of habit restructuring, is revisiting the system, evaluating the outcome (does it work?), and modifying the system for further support of the new habit creation.

An Example of A Behavioral Change Project:

Lets say you want to lose 20 pounds in the next 3 weeks.

Rather than go on a crash diet and then give up after 10 days of doing it, why not make an activity become your behavior change.

Your results won’t be instant, but you will be focusing on the behavioral change rather just the results, weight loss, that you desire.

Lets make a plan to drop some weight and do it through adoption of a healthier diet.

We will break things down into a series of steps which you can follow for any habit which you wish to replace.

Step 1: Recognize bad, or unhealthy behaviors, and document them.

At this stage we don’t need to try and change ourselves, at least not yet, our sole focus is to document what we are doing wrong and try to capture all of it on pen and paper or on a notepad on your phone or computer.

An example of a bad behavior could be eating junk food and fast food during the week or during times of stress. Don’t judge yourself, just write it down.

This could be due to not cooking at home, not being prepared with healthy food options at home, running out of time due to lack of preparation, or simply laziness, but again we aren’t judging or trying to change our behaviors in this stage, we are merely documenting them.

Step 2: Research a solution

Look at blogs, websites, ask friends, find an expert or a perceived expert who can help you.

Start by gathering 2-3 recipes which you wish to make that week from sources online like pinterest, forksoverknives.com, or another health food blog which you follow.

I found one on Pinterest i’d like to make (and in fact I’ve made this the last 3 years of my lifestyle change).

Next step is to print off the recipes and make a meal shop list for the ingredients.

Step 3: Map Out A Plan

I like to call this the “initial roadmap” for success.

In our initial weight loss example, changing that behavior, we could try cooking for ourself for a week and make all of our meals in advanced thus saving both time and money in the process and teaching us a valuable skill.

This is how you will replace the unhealthy bad behavior with healthy good behavior.

The best way to save time at the grocery store is to make a list before you go shop. You can literally save yourself hours at the store and walk away with more money in your pocket too. For more on why list shopping is superior to “free-balling it” check out: How to cut your grocery shopping time in half.

So make a list of all the ingredients you will need for the recipe to make 6 days of meals, give yourself a cheat day, they are good for you.

Cross anything off the list that you already have in the kitchen (spices, cream, almond milk, etc).

Take your refined list and save it to your iPhone.

Step 4: Take the first step, it’s always the hardest.

In our example it’s shopping for the groceries. The first trip to the store you might feel like it’s a major waste of time, you can’t do it, you spend too much time reading labels, or a number of other excuses that come to mind. That’s ok. You are learning.The first time I went to the store I sure as hell wasnt as efficient as I am today. I was reading labels for what felt like hours. Seemingly making little to no progress… but what I didn’t realize was that I was building up a mental library of every food that I bought, in addition to a mind map of the store. If you shop at the same store weekly you will begin to realize that you know where your staples are located. So the trick is to just go when there are no crowds, learn what you need, make a list before you go and eat something, then make the shop. You will save time, money and sanity if you do it like I’ve outlined in How to cut your grocery shop time in half.

Step 5: Batching your work for better, faster results.

Follow the recipes and make large enough batches to prep food for the whole week, portioning them out and labeling with datesIf you are making food for one meal it takes a whole lot less effort to make an additional 5 meals all at once rather than 6 individual meals separatly. So save time, and energy, and make bigger batches of your meals and you will find weight loss will happen naturally as well. Which leads me to my next point…

Step 6: When your result is completed ahead of time you can focus the energy on other things.

Just open up the container and eat the meal when you need it, it’s ready and delicious, and the best part Is that you know exactly what’s in it. When you have a result delivered directly to you and you pay a smaller amount, whether it’s in time, money, or energy, you gain back additional energy you can use on other more important projects.

Step 7: Incorporate one new habit a month until you have 12 new habits a year.

With our meal example, you can simply add one new recipe to the rotation each week and by the end of the month you will know 12 new recipes, one for each meal of the day. You will know exactly what goes into the meals and you will have full control over your budget for your meals too, spending less money on what doesn’t matter and reinvesting the difference in the betterment of your life.

Also, one last thing…

Don’t forget to track everything. Measuring your results, be it weight loss, money saved, time saved or happiness gained, it’s important that you benchmark where you are and where you were.This system will help facilitate a healthy habit and end with the results of losing weight and feeling better. If you take this approach to everything you do, this approach of systematizing everything, you may actually find that you become more creative in the process.

How to Change Any Habit

How I Used Travel Rewards Credit Cards, Debt Free, To Get 3 Free Flights, $150 Cash, and A Round Trip Ticket for My Girlfriend to Florida.

Want to start traveling but don’t have the money for a ticket? Learn how I used rewards programs to get myself 3 free flights and $150 bucks cash!

To date I’ve been able to use the points I’ve gained from my freedom card, and my southwest cards to get my airfare paid for to Costa Rica and Florida twice.

I did this all without carrying a balance. I prefer to save for large purchases and simply funnel the money through a credit card when I’m ready to make the purchase so as to take advantage of the cards rewards program benefits and to also keep the money in savings for as long as possible before required payback. If an opportunity comes along to invest the cash for higher rewards then I prefer to use that, however I always keep enough cash in the bank to pay off any balance I have.

If you’re like me, you want to enjoy traveling as much as possible all while maintaining a certain level of comfort. Some folks are ok with “roughing it” to save money, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to refill plastic water bottles to save money while traveling. You can have your cake and eat it too…

Folks that understand what rewards travel is understand that with rewards you can buy things like free food onboard airlines, free nights stays, and free airline tickets.

Yes you heard me right, free whole airline tickets can be had when using credit cards with rewards programs. This is merely only the tip of the iceberg but I’ve included some of my personal cards that I’ve used to get free flights, free points, money back and more.

The Chase Freedom Card

Chase Freedom Card

I’ve mostly only used this card for it’s cash-back for spending, which has more than paid for itself, and it’s not hard to meet the minimum $500 in the first 3 months to get the bonus. 

This is a great card for anyone just starting out and is perfect for someone trying to rebuild their credit. You can use it as a cash lending program to yourself to afford expenses and then take the added savings you’d have to pay down debt faster. 

To date I’ve gotten nearly 30,000 rapid rewards points on it, but the real advantage Is the cash-back and the 0% interest they charge for the first 15 months. 

Here’s what the card offers: 

  • $150 when you spend $500, free money basically for buying groceries. 
  • Up to 15 months 0% interest; low interest loan.
  • 5% cash back on select purchases quarterly, get money for spending on your normal expenses.

Save it, spend it, invest it, doesn’t matter what you do with the cash but it’s yours to keep. I used it to pay off part of my $33,555 in student loan debt in less than 3 years.

In my humble opinion this card is a great way for a new traveler to earn enough cash back in a year to fully offset the cost of an airline ticket to somewhere domestic or even as far reaching as the Caribbean (if you are US based) without having to go into any debt so long as you pay off the card each billing cycle.

I never recommend going into debt for travel, but strategically spending money you would have spent and just funneling it through a rewards card first is a great way to earn yourself a little bonus each year.

So to summarize:

With a minimum spending of $500 to earn the first $150 this is a great way to earn a little extra change towards travel in your first year, and without any fees or 0% interest for the first 15 months I think it’s a no brainer.

Click Here to Apply for the Card and if you are approved for the card you can earn a $150 bonus for spending normally on things like groceries, household items and other necessary expenses.

NEW: The Freedom Unlimited Card By Chase

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

If you are planning to make a larger purchase for a needed expense, like say buying a new ac unit for a rental property, or doing a full overhaul of your transmission on that clunker that you have because in the long run that car will pay for itself if you resist the urge to upgrade and simply have it paid cash, then you can probably use this card.

What it offers:

  • $150 when you spend $500, free money basically for buying things like groceries, phone bill, internet, and gas.
  • Up to 15 months 0% interest; low interest loan.
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which means you get money for spending on your normal expenses.

So to summarize:

Same perks as the chase Freedom, only a little better, you get 1.5% cash back on all purchases regardless of category. So whether your just using it for groceries, or you put all your expenses on it like phone, internet, groceries, and the occasional big purchase, you can expect to get some whopping points back if you do.

If you’ve already been approved for the chase freedom you might want to check out the freedom unlimited card.

Click Here to Apply for the Card and if you are approved for the card you can earn a $150 bonus for spending normally on things like groceries, household items and other necessary expenses.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Card

screenshot-2016-11-03-08-23-13

When I signed up for the southwest Rapid rewards credit card I got the card when they were offering 40,000 points when you spend $1000 in the first 3 months. Shortly there after they changed the offer to 60,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.

So I decided it was worth a shot to give them a call and see If I could get the same offer and low and behold ask and you shall receive. I got them to add an extra 20,000 points when I spent a measly $1000 on normal purchases, groceries, cell phone expense, auto insurance, and anything else I needed to buy. 

Pro tip: save a big purchase for when you open your account, i.e. if you are thinking about getting a new laptop for work or you need to buy some work clothes or you will be buying new tires for your car and getting other service work done on your car, why not just funnel the money you have saved through your card and get the points for using it? Just be sure to not carry a balance the next month.

Why do I love flying southwest?

  • The crew members love what they do, and they have a lot of fun at work. They are actually one of my favorite reasons to fly southwest…The crew make every flight a fun one.
  • Their rewards program is straight MON-AY!
  • Spend $1000 in first 3 months get $690 approx.
  • No Blackout dates, and points don’t expire as long as your account has activity.
  • 3,000 anniversary points each year
  • VIP status gets you even more goodies like free wifi and priority boarding.

When you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months you get 40,000 points you can use towards no black out date flights (there is about a .017 rewards point redemption rate so this is about $680 in flight redemption – pretty good).

Also you get 2x points on all SW tickets, money spent at partner hotels, and partner car rentals, as well as no foreign fees, chip protection and fraud alert.

Oh and you also get 6,000 anniversary points each year you stay with SouthWest. 

The only con to this card is the $69 yearly fee but I’ve had friends confirm that you can call and have them wave the fee, if you ask nicely, for the first year. Even after the fee, the $600+ in flight savings easily pays for itself.

Click here to apply for the card and if you are approved for the card you can earn a 40,000 point bonus for spending normally on things like groceries, household items and other necessary expenses, that’s over $500 in flight rewards on Southwest!

What is my next Travel Rewards Credit Card?

screenshot-2016-11-03-08-22-08

The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card

This is another one of my favorite cards and the next one I will get.

Though sometimes a little more expensive, United is one of my favorite major airlines because of their extensive network of flights. They literally fly to every continent but Antarctica. See map below:

united-flight-map

Reasons to get it: 

  • 40,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months
  • Priority boarding
  • First bag flies for free (and they have an actual tracking system for the bag so it is located every step of the way).
  • Oh and another thingno pesky foreign transaction fees, damn near ate me alive in costa rica with this one…

I honestly have a love hate with United because of their merger with Continental and the changes that the employees have had to deal with (having personally known a few flight attendants for 20+ years).

If you’ve ever tried to track your bag using something like Lug Lock Luggage Tracker then you know it can be rather difficult. When an airline offers to check your bags they are assuming the risk should your bags get lost, and united uses a point to point tracking system to ensure that your effects are checked at every leg of your flight. 

Though customer service isn’t what they are known for, the 40,000 bonus points on $2,000 in the first 3 months is a good enough reason to get me back in their seats.

Beyond that, they also offer 20% off inflight purchases, 1st bag flies for free, no foreign transaction fees, and 2 united club tickets a year (lounge service!).

Go here to apply for the card: United Mileage Plus Rewards

Some final Thoughts…

I never recommend getting into debt; however, strategic spending on a travel rewards credit card for normal expenses (gas, groceries, car payment, rent) and then paying off your card balance each month is one of the best ways to earn free flights and rewards.

Keep in mind too, there is nothing wrong with having multiple cards open at the same time, if you are smart and don’t use them for petty purchases but instead use them to fund smart purchases that you’ve saved for, then you can reap some major rewards.

I wouldn’t recommend getting a travel credit card if I have a lot of outstanding debt; however, for those who pay off their cards each month and operate on a cash basis it’s nice to get a little reward for your spending every now and then such as free flights, hotels, car rentals and cash back.

Check out my other article on why I gave up using my rewards credit cards for everyday purchases here. Now I only put automated expenses on this card and I simply leave it at home. By automating your expenses and then automating the payments you never miss the money as you already budgeted for it and you don’t see it go.

So don’t think that spending $500 a year on coffee on these cards is going to be worth it, use it when you have a major purchase or expense for your business and then reap the rewards.

What about you, how do you use travel rewards programs (or don’t) to travel around the world? Let us know in the comments below.

If you found this article interesting or valuable please share it with your friends and family.

SaveSave

SaveSave

My Goals for 2018

I know it’s a little late in the game to be sharing 2018 goals, seeing as we are already 1/2 way through the year, but I figured that I was important to get these out there for your and my benefit.

I’ve learned that sharing goals publicly does 2 things:

(1) it helps give us added social accountability and fear of social embarrassment if we don’t commit to doing it.

(2) it helps open us open up to our network and welcome in the success which can help us reach these goals faster.

Partnerships could form. Friendships could build. Value can be exchanged. All around it’s a good thing to happen. So that is why I’m sharing this with you on this site and beyond.

So without further adu. adue? Adoo? Spell check still hasn’t corrected me yet…

(p.s. ‘adieu’ – french word meaning “without more work, ceremony, or fuss.”(1))

…anyway here are a list of goals that I have for myself for the remainder of 2018.

My Goals for 2018

  • I will easily earn $95,598 USD this year while helping impact hundreds of people’s lives by December 31st 2018
  • I will easily have $30,000 USD in assets (cash, stocks, bonds, etf’s, real estate, businesses, crypto) by December 31st 2018
  • I will easily form a high level mastermind for entrepreneurs online by December 31st 2018

So there you have it, my 2018 goals. All in, layin’ it all out there.

For the last 3 years I’ve been in saving mode, retraction, a recession of life trying to save and skimp every penny in order to hit that goal of debt freedom, and now I’m there, having paid off all my student loan debt, my personal credit card debt, and having no outstanding auto or mortgage debt to deal with.

Now the challenge begins, shifting the mindset from saving and skimping to focus instead on income producing activities and creating value for the world.

Cheers,

Kristian

If you found this post helpful all I ask is that you share it with your friends and network. Also, What are your goals? Comment down below.

3 Reasons To Host Your Own Website

I’m going to share with you 3 primary reasons why I no longer use the free website builder sites like blogger, Tumblr, and wix and instead my own Website Hosting for only $4 bucks a month (which is the same as what I was paying wordpress{dot}come for their “personal plan”).

When you are first starting out in business, whether online or off, you don’t really know anything. In fact, you don’t even know what you don’t know… Cliche, I know, but it’s true.

Which makes it extremely hard to know the difference between the different resources and what they do.

So here are Three Lessons I had To Learn the Hard Way about website hosting

  1. Nothing is free: You will either pay with money now or time later. If you haven’t had to deal with site migrations or downtime on your site then you don’t understand what it’s like. Most hosting companies offer an extremely low rate and a la cart options followed by a bunch of additional services as optional buy ups. This is not only annoying but can start to add up if you don’t know what you are doing.
  2. SEO Out of the box: I learned this later but none of these “free” sites allow for you to use SEO monitoring tools besides the built in monitoring items.
  3. Your content isn’t really yours. Sure you can download it at any time but what happens if they decide to boot you from their servers or the server crashes. Good luck trying to backup something that crashed. It’s not veryl likely but it’s posisble. so in order to prevent losing your online asset I suggest you don’t do the freemium models and instead you host and backup your own site.

Nothing is Free

I would still choose to use wordpress.com over other free site builders such as wix, blogger, tumbler and instagram for the following reasons:

  1. You own the content and it’s easy to transfer (though not free if you want someone to do it for you)
  2. It’s the same framework: think languages Chinese -> Chinese; or Spanish -> Spanish, not Spanish -> Russian.
  3. Once you start to learn to use wordpress you won’t want to use anything else. The framework is very much like using apple or android, you begin to get used to the platform and then you don’t want to change.

So What gives, why can’t I use these free sites?

I’m not saying to not use them if you are just starting out, or you are still in highschool or college and don’t have a steady income just yet, I think starting out and testing the waters with some of these “freemium” sites are great. Just understand that if you decide to really shift gears and start to build your presense out online that you will want to consider moving from the renter to the owner position.

What’s the ‘renter’ vs the ‘owner’ position?

You can think about these “free” websites like rental units.

You don’t own them, and for many folks that’s fine you don’t really want to own a $1M home if you have $30k in student loan debt.

But, if you are effectively running business, or planning on starting a business, which will have the potential to cashflow more than the cost of your mortgage each month would you rather own that property or rent it?

And I know a lot of Dave Ramsey fans are out there screaming RENT! RENT!

But in the long term, what does Dave say? You want to own the property, of course he says you want to pay cash for the whole thing, which is kind of in line with the saving for retirement mentality… but still, the idea of ownership is great because it becomes your asset and not simply a liabilty or expense.

See, the secret to wealth, as I understand it, is to aquire assets and minimize liabilities. So rather than spend all my time, money, and energy building someone else’s wealth, I would much rather own the asset, and the cashflow, and the equity such that later I can sell it for X times what it’s worth.

In real estate we follow the same principles, buy with other peoples money, minimize the downside, and have other people live there to pay the rent to build your asset which later cash flows for you.

In the digital world these same principles apply.

We either own or we rent. It’s ok to rent for a while until you have proven a concept and it makes sense to begin to build ownership. Later, properties which you own and control, become assets which not only pay in cash flow each month but can be sold for a profit.

Social profiles are in line with the “renting” philosophy, you are essentially using their servers to host your “digital property” but if they decide to evict you or shut down the power you are done, and often times you have to pickup and lug all your crap to the next place or they just throw it out in the dumpster.

SEO Out the Box

WordPress.com has limited features for free, they brand their site with their logo (which no one really cares about), and you are limited to having a “follow this blog” option, no email lists building, or facebook popup building, and you don’t get google analytics.

With the free version of wordpress you don’t get any support from their staff, and going to WordPress meet ups and Wordcamps you won’t be able to learn much about how to adapt and change your wordpress site.

Ownership

Unfortunately, I’ve had to pay quite a bit for my mistakes over the years with site building and business starting. To date I’ve invested over $7700 in my personal education and learning about how to effectively run a profitable business, which is a whole lot less than what I paid to get an education and job after college, but still it wasn’t cheap and heres why.

It’s cost me just around $300 to setup and run websites, which if you think about it isn’t all that much in the long run. Why has it cost this much you ask? Well it comes with learning through trial and error. I’ve wasted quite a bit of money on domain names that really aren’t that smart, on sites that were doomed to begin with, and testing quite a number of different solutions to problems that I had and others had too.

What I can say is that it’s always best to start small and scale bigger over time, and running a site online it can come with costs which you are going to pay with either time, money or energy.

There are 3 common scenarios people find themselves in reading this post
(A) just starting out and have little money to invest in your business then a free word wordpress.com site or another free platform could be a great option to test some ideas before you sink $3000 into site development.
(B) you have money to invest in your business, $1000-3000 and you are willing to learn about site hosting, site development, or other aspects of business online/offline
(C) you have money and you just want to pay someone to do it for you to save you time.

So what’s the cost of renting vs. the cost of ownership?

Rent:
wordpress.com I spent
$59 on Premium themes which don’t transfer
$52 on Domains
$48 a year for The “Personal” Hosting Plan on WordPress ( removes ads and wordpress.com branding)
$129 for Site Transfer

Own:
On my own managed wordpress site with SiteGround I get SSD servers (fast & little to no site down time), free migration, free email support, a domain name for 1 year all for $159.
I can install google analytics
I can customize my site with unlimited plugins
I have up to 10,000 visitors a month traffic
All this costs the same per month as the “personal” plan with the rent service without having to upgrade through the freemium levels.

Blogger is the same structure, free to start with and then you pay more to get more.

The one plus to blogger, which is googles free blogging service, is that it comes out of the box with google analytics in the site. The only problem is that you don’t own the site, ie. If you need to pick up your crap and move it then you literally have to chuck everything in a box and move. There isn’t any “organizing it” or site transfering. All the formatting on your site will be gone when you move. Many of the photos could be broken. You could have some “lost in translation” stuff.

Moving sites sucks, and most of the time It makes total sense to pay someone to do it and not bother with doing It yourself.

In Conclusion

If I could do it over again, and save myself time money and headache, I would simply start with a single idea for a wp hosted site and then go to siteground.com  and get the basic wordpress hosted package for only $4 bucks a month and reserve my domain name for $10 bucks over at namecheap.com

This includes the wordpress.org open source software installed on super fast Solid state drives, which have little to no down time, and comes with email support and a very responsive support staff. This is super easy to setup and you can run as many names as you want.

Alternatively you could checkout hostgator.com or bluehost.com which can be cheaper but ultimately are all pretty much the same, but I do think they try and up sell more and i’m not so certain about their support staff.

Ultimately though, anything is better than being at the mercy of the freemium services and their slow, slow, loading times and restrictions.

Steps for Starting a Small Business From Your Garage, Apartment or House

It doesn’t take much to start a small business, you can literally start one from your garage or a spare bedroom and it can be done for less than $100. Also, and this is a main sticking point that most folks get held up on when they are trying to start their own small businesses, you don’t need business cards or a fancy website. I will repeat, you do not need business cards or a website to start a small business. 

What you need is a problem.

Solve a problem and then you get customers. With customers, you get business cards and a pretty logo on them. But if you ain’t got a problem to solve then you don’t need the business cards.

In the next couple sentences you will learn the 5 step framework you can use to start your own Small Business, on or offline, even if you just want to earn a little extra side income.

Step 1: Brain Storm Problems

The first step is to look for problems to solve. Is there a problem you are having or someone else you know is having which you know of or have a solution for?

There are literally endless problems needing to be solved and you can be the one to provide a solution for this.

I’ll give you an example, your mother is elderly and she is in a wheel chair thus she is not able to take stairs nor get in and out of cars easily.

Her issue is mobility, so cooking and taking care of chores would be a bit of a challenge for her. You, and the rest of her family, live in other states and are unable to move back because of your job.

So the problem, as we have defined it, is that your mother’s health is limiting her ability to move and thus do simple tasks like shop for groceries, go to the bingo parlor, go to the bank, or even just move around outdoors.

Just with this alone I can think of at least 3-4 possible solutions, and thus small business ideas that you could start, to help her and women like her.

  1. Personal Shopper
  2. Personal Assistant
  3. Task rabbit, ride share, Instacart
  4. Assisted living – some people are open to this and others are not
  5. Products like an electric wheel chair, a health button, or a set of supportive apparatuses that assist her with moving.

There’s always “more than one way to skin a cat” and no one solution is best for this problem, it’s very much so dependent on the individual and their situation. Some costing more than others monetarily, while others cost more in time spent, but as you can see there are options.

I’ll give you another example, in the health and Fitness Market.

What are people’s problems? Here are just a few:

  • Need to lose weight (physical need)
  • Want to lose weight (emotional need)
  • Limited mobility and range of motion (physical need)
  • Not strong enough to move body (physical need)
  • Want to “look skinny” (emotional need)
  • Want to look not “skinny” (emotional need)
  • Spouse doesn’t find me sexy any more (emotional need)
  • Have a physical limitation such as injured limb or limited mobility (physical need)

None of these is “right” or “wrong” in the market, they are just different needs and wants. Thus there are many ways of solving some of these problems. 

If you now look at “how does my solution address this need and solve this problem they are having?”

Once you Identify a problem that you can solve, you can begin formulating a benefits statement. Some Examples:

Need: I need to lose weight

Solution: Get this fat blasting workout program so that you can LEARN how to eliminate pesky body fat, get strong lean muscles, and develop habits which will lead to lifetime fitness, in a matter of just a few sessions. 

Notice the selling proposition is in terms of the benefit for the person trying to solve a problem.

Another example:

Need: Elderly person needing to have a part time helper to assist them with lifting heavy things like groceries, and maybe moving furniture.

Solution: Are you sick and tired of your kids begging you to move into a home only for you to remind them that you aren’t broke, you just need help with the heavy stuff? Get help only when you need it with on demand help from (Insert service name). We send out a service helper to assist you with not only lifting your groceries, but shopping for them and delivering them right to your door. Save time and energy with this convenient service. Get your service helper today!

Now you don’t have to sound like an infomercial, but you get the idea. The benefit is in the service and the “what” it does for them. If you are helping little old ladies with their shopping, or busy executives with their shopping, somehow you need to answer the question “what’s in it for me?”.

Step 2: Research Your Market

Now that You’ve identified a problem, find out what other people are saying about that problem.

You can go to sites like Quora, Pinterest, Reddit,  and start to see what questions people asking, what subjects people are talking about, and what problems people are trying to solve. Avoid social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, twitter and Linkedin for the first couple weeks of your business. They will distract in the beginning, though they are a great way to develop an ongoing conversation with your customers once you’ve identified a problem. 

The reason I like Quora, Pinterest, and Reddit is that these sites it’s not about social approval. These are more search focused, where as your “Social media sites” are focused on funny, fun, and entertaining stuff. It’s there to make you want to click deeper into the rabbit hole and not focus on problem identification. Facebook has a “feed” for a reason, they want to feed you so that you are constantly gobbling up their information and thus staying on their site not others… thus wasting time.

So go elsewhere for problem identification.

Other good ideas are Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist (check out the help wanted section and community), and sites like stumble upon and ask the public.

Find out what these people want.

Are they asking about the right food to eat?

Are they asking about healthiest recipes to make for a family of 4?

Are they asking about how to double their income or get out of debt?

Are they asking about how to invest $50,000 for a $12,000 a year payout (difficult but possible)

These are all surface questions, but surface level questions will point you in the right direction. The other question you need to ask is, what are they really trying to say? What problem are they trying to solve? 

Here’s an example conversation:

P1: What is the best way to lose weight? (public forum)

P2: Great question, are you trying to lose weight or build muscle?

P1: Lose weight, I want to get a six pack.

P2: Ok, in order to lose fat you need to build muscle. It helps to burn fat.

P1: Really? How do I do that?

P2: Well about 70% of it is your diet and lifestyle choices. I would start out with a couple questions first to help determine your best path. Would that be ok? 

P1: Sure! 

P2: Ok. First off, are you consuming, if any, junk food (ie. packaged food, chips, frozen dinners, candy?) and if so, how often? How often are you eating per day? Are you exercising much right now or not at all? How much water are you drinking per day? Are you consuming any caffine? 

P1: I do eat a little junk food, sometimes I eat out. I buy frozen Amy’s dinners and some candy every now and then. I eat at my work, they have a cafeteria. I usually eat 1-2 times per day. I don’t exercise. I drink water a couple times per day, maybe 3 cups. I drink coffee in the mornings but not after 12 pm.

P2: Ok so it sounds like you are not doing too bad.

Now at this point you have an opportunity to provide a solution, this can be in the form of a service, a book, a youtube video on the subject, a link to your website for an article you wrote about this matter, or just straight advice.

You have to consider online relationships like in person relationships, only slower to form. Don’t spam them with offers before providing value.

You send them an article answering their question, or a blog post you wrote, or a video which talks about building muscle through diet and exercise. Proper nutrition and rest are the quickest ways of building lean muscle. If you curate great content then they will be interested.

Now that you’ve answered some of their questions you can ask them follow up questions like:

P2: Just out of curiosity why are you trying to lose weight?

P1: “I’ve been told by my doctor that I have to or I risk having a (heart attack, diabetes, lung failure, further pain in my joints) etc.” or “I just want to get in shape and not look fat”

(not all strangers are this open, this is an example, but I’ve had people tell me some personal stuff only having met them a few minutes prior).

P2: Ok, so start making your meals at home the night before. You will save more money, start to lose weight and feel more energize throughout the day. Just pack yourself more food than you can actually stomach to eat, and make sure there are lots of fruits, apples, bananas, pears, and veggies, carrots, broccoli, with hummus. And make some healthy meals (include Link to blog article on healthy meal prep).

P1: Wow thank you, I’m going to try it.

P2: Great, commit to doing it for 2 weeks and then re-assess how you feel.

P1: Ok thank you so much!

Now you have validated that there is a need and you’ve provided value. write down or document somewhere the questions that you asked and the answers that you got because this is what we in the business and marketing world call “market research”. 

Step 3: Make An Offer To Solve Their Problem

Facebook Market place is a great place to begin making an offer.

You can also start out with a small following on instagram, or Pinterest, or your own website, or going over to the reddit community. But a word of caution, make sure you have engaged with this group for at least a week and provided ACTUAL VALUE through human interaction and asking / answering questions before offering anything.

Again, If you don’t follow the…

Provide value > Provide Value > Ask Questions > Provide Value > Make an offer

…format then you risk being a pariah and being outcast because you are “salesy”.

You don’t want to get kicked out of your own Cool Kids Club…

Now, when you make an offer, make sure that it addresses a perceived need, not just fulfill your wants to make money.

Of course you can’t do it for free but you want to be offering something that provides value to your potential customers.

Here’s an example of a business I’m starting with my girlfriend and we’ve actually been following this process for our small business launch.

She Posted this in the Facebook Market Place:

“I was noticing that a lot of folks are having problems with eating right and meal prep. I was thinking, what if I came to your house and helped you with meal prep? Would anyone be interested in that? Cost would be around $100 – 240 per week”

The obvious answer from health seekers who are just starting is…? YES!

So with that, anyone that was interested and asking questions we told them that we needed to put together a recipe list first, and get feedback to make sure that we provide the best possible experience, and that we would notify them once we had the meals ready.

Some questions to ask your clients who may be interested:

“Great question, Just out of curiosity why were you interest in X?”

“Great question, if you are interested in learning more about ____ and would like information sent to you on the program please send me your email. I promise to never spam you.”

Customers that were interested we asked them politely for their email address to notify them when we had a recipe outline.

Next, we sent out a simple survey using google forms which explained a little bit about the service and the though process behind it:

Then it asked a few basic questions:

Name, zip code, would you be interested in healthy made meals?

Would you be interested in delivery?

Which of the following 3 is most important to you: saving time, getting healthier, saving money?

Which meals of the day are you most interested in?

Which meals would you pick for breakfast? (3 options for each)

Which meals would you pick for Lunch? (3 options for each)

Which meals would you pick for dinner? (3 options for each)

What is your biggest challenge during the day?

How many meals a week would you be interested in?

How much would you expect to pay?

Any other thoughts or questions?

Step 4: Build a Prototype

This is where you create a working model or mockup of your solution.

For us, it was prepping meals for ourselves for the whole week, then our room mate, then doing it for friends and so on.

What this does is it shows you estimated costs for costs of goods sold, labor hours involved and any other expenses like containers and such.

Without knowing your costs you don’t know if you stand to make a profit or not (which you need if you want to be able to do this for the long term).

Starting out small and growing over time allows you to risk less and scale over time so that you don’t have to deal with sudden growing pains or sudden loss of everything.

Imagine a child growing 16 inches in a month… Owch!

When you are starting a business, it is your child, don’t try to make it grow too fast or you could hurt it or worse…

So once we figured out our costs, and all the other costs involved, we had a minimum viable product and the next step was to begin offering it to our customers.

Step 5: Offer your Prototype to clients and see if it sells

You can now take that group of interested prospects or potential clients and offer them the good or service and offer them a sample rate.

Basically start taking orders.

First thing we needed to do was take some photos of the product, and then share it with our potential customers, making them an offer of what we could do, where we could deliver to, and how much it would be. Cap the initial orders at a limit we thought we could produce, then wait for response.

Oh, and collect payment before you start doing all the work. It just makes it easier for everyone.

Once you sell out, repeat the process:

Ask for feedback > Make it better > sell out > repeat

In Summary

There you have it, my 5 step framework to starting a small business, online or offline, and a case study (me and my girlfriend), to share with you how it’s working.

If you have a problem chances are someone else does too and if you take the time to create a solution, then chances are you can sell that too.

So go out and find out where these people are hanging out and ask them what they think, feel and need.

Build a minim viable product, something with not a lot of bells and whistles but delivers on your promise, and ask your customers to try it or use it.

Once you collect feedback, improve the product, order or build a small batch, and then try selling it.

Once you’ve sold out of the product ask your clients for feedback on the product and make changes based on the feedback.

Reinvest the products and repeat the first 4 steps.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to comment below and share this article with your network if you found this article useful.