My Most Expensive Business Mistake

Even though I have no formal training in business, marketing, or writing anything besides literary analysis essays, the learning curve for the A-minus Mama seems to be less horrifyingly steep than, say, teaching a room full of teenagers about sexual reproduction. (In EUKARYOTIC CELLS, kids, please calm dow–okay, class dismissed, I guess.) I have never had an angry or disappointed client. I have never had an unpaid invoice. I always meet deadlines. But lest you think I have it all together (LOL), I want to tell you a bit about my costliest business mistake to date.

I paid $360 to send 25 people a few e-mails over the course of a year. And made exactly $0 as a result. Whoops.

But I’m not actually that upset about it. One, because I was able to write it off as a business expense. But more importantly, I learned a lot in the process.

Here’s what happened.

For those who don’t know, A-minus Mama started as a Pinterest-unworthy pregnancy blog. My pals started reading my work and hiring me to write stuff for them. (Or sending me to their¬†pals who then hired me to write stuff for them.) I slowly pivoted from blogging about cloth diapers to blogging about whatever anyone would give me money for.

About a year and a half ago, I attended a blogger meetup that was sponsored by an e-mail marketing platform. Said platform shall remain anonymous because I don’t want you to think my mistake was choosing the particular platform itself. Let’s call it…”TransformPack.”

When the time came for me to set up e-mail subscriptions on my website, I naturally gravitated toward “TransformPack” since I had seen it demonstrated at the meetup. Plus it was made specifically for bloggers! I was a blogger, right?

Guess what? I LOVED IT. It had all the features I wanted, with none of the clunkiness associated with, uh, “PostGorilla.” It was a cinch to add downloads and opt-in forms to my posts. Building my welcome sequence was a breeze. (Writing the actual content took me eight months, but who’s counting?)

It also cost $30 a month, but I knew I would start selling products and e-mail courses soon that would totally pay for itself.

Spoiler alert: that did not happen.

I ended up finding all of my clients through referrals and doing work that made me money, which is really not a bad thing. But I was too busy creating content for others to make content and products to sell myself.¬†It took me eight months to write even a simple welcome e-mail sequence, never mind an entire e-mail course. That’s $240 that I spent to offer a few free downloads to a bunch of strangers who don’t really give a fig about what I do for a living. (Most of my first downloads were housekeeping oriented because I thought I was gonna be a lifestyle maven. HAH.)

I kept thinking, “I’ll build my audience and write some e-mail courses when things slow down.” Things never slowed down. (Again, this is not a bad thing.)

Because the “TransformPack” interface was so beautiful and easy to use, I didn’t want to change over to “PostGorilla” or anything else. I tried to convince myself that I would start selling e-mail courses or at least automating customer service on my many product sales “soon.” I also told myself that as a blogger, I should have an e-mail marketing platform designed for bloggers.

But eventually it dawned on me that I wasn’t a “blogger” in the conventional sense of the word. I don’t make money with content (right now). I make money with my skills. My “list” is mostly friends who are being supportive.

And that’s totally fine. (Especially because those friends have sent me referrals!)

Eventually, I found a different e-mail marketing platform that had a similar interface to “TransformPack” and a usable free plan. (Wasssup, MailerLite?) After a few weeks of unnecessary dithering, I decided that rebuilding all my free download forms in an effort to trick people into subscribing to my newsletter was not a productive use of my time. I ended up putting all my free downloads on one page and putting a simple subscribe form on my home page. I figure if people really want to hear from me, they’ll sign up and I will remember to send a newsletter every few months or so.

This lesson of doing things the way that works for me cost $360 and a couple dozen hours of fretting and swearing at my computer, but I don’t regret it. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time and money to figure out what works best.

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