IMAGE: Dr. Angela attempting to launch her business.
6 years ago this month, Dr. Angela founded The Author Incubator. She had a tiny team cobbled together through barters and trades and the dream of taking 17 years of publishing and marketing knowledge and putting it to use for life coaches and other healing professionals who wanted to make a difference with a book.
Her original Facebook post that shared the news of her new endeavor with everyone she knew got a whopping 5 likes and 3 comments (one of which was her and the other 2 were from her mom and sister).
She had been killing herself for months putting in 50-hour work weeks followed by another 50 hours a week of working on the business. She had a full-time job but had read Crush It! by Gary Vee so she came home every night and worked on her dream of quitting her job and opening THE AUTHOR INCUBATOR.
She learned how to build a website and found someone to hire for the technical parts she couldn’t figure out.
She spent weeks on branding to get the name right. That was most of the Fall.
Then she designed her first programs:
- Free Your Inner Author (for aspiring authors) $597 DIY or $1,997 with a live event and Angela’s support
- The Coaches Book Circle (for authors at the writing stage) $77 a month
- Difference Press Publishing Services (for authors ready to publish) 50/50 Revenue Share
She wanted to have products at different price points for people through the whole book writing process. Each program had videos she filmed and worksheets she created and a private website.
She didn’t have much money, so she traded housing, social media marketing, website design, copywriting, and strategic advice for branding, design, development, and project management services to get it all done. There were a couple people she did pay, which was pretty scary. She’d say, “It was like giving away my kids’ food in exchange for some images or lines of code.”
She met accountability partners at coffee shops on the weekends and would work all day on Saturday and Sunday to “figure out” what she was doing. Figure out the branding. Figure out the messaging. Figure out the product line up. Figure out how she would run live events. What content she would teach and when. How much she should charge for each program and how she should take payment.
She figured out how to file for trademarks and how to get all her legal ducks in a row. Made sure she had insurance in case someone sued her. There were so many pieces and parts to consider and with no money everything took 10 times as long.
She wanted to launch January 1, 2013 but things were late and she was stressing. She wasn’t sure if the website was good enough but by February 7th, she couldn’t wait. She needed to start making money, so she released the site unfinished, put out a press release on PR Web, posted the announcement and….
And nothing in March, or April either. Not a single sale for 4 months.
What was she doing wrong?!?!
What she built wasn’t perfect— but it was good, and she worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get to it launch day. She really thought she deserved clients.
But she left clients out of the entire process.
She was building all these products and creating a website without any market validation.
That’s when she learned the most important lesson she’d ever learn as an entrepreneur.
Just because you build it with heart and soul – and just because it’s really, really good – does not mean anyone will buy it!
If you build it, they won’t necessarily come.
She truly thought what she created was so good in and of itself that she would put up a Facebook post on Feb. 7, 2013 (she was so nervous when she posted it) and she’d pick up at least a few clients and then be off to the races!
None of those first 3 products ever sold.
By May, Angela was dead broke.
No website traffic.
347 people on her list.
No idea where to turn next.
She had done everything she could think of. Even the law of attraction stuff.
She had acted as if everything was going to work out and booked a trip to one of her best friend’s weddings… In Vietnam.
But by the time the trip came she had not been earning anything for 5 months. Her savings were tapped.
She was at the airport with a churning stomach.
“WHY WASN’T THE LAW OF ATTRACTION WORKING?”
“WHERE WAS MY MIRACLE?!?!?!”
By the time this trip came she was supposed to have had at least $50,000 worth of business. Instead, she was $54,000 in debt and terrified to get on the plane without any working credit cards.
And so, in a moment of great clarity and terror, she made something up and sent it to those 347 people.
No mention of it on her website.
No time to figure it out with her accountability partners.
No bartering for great design.
No recorded videos or worksheets.
Just a short, typo-filled email with an IRRESISTIBLE OFFER.
She sat at the gate, cross-legged on the floor with her back against the only wall in the area with a power socket, and she did the one thing that is MORE IMPORTANT than a website, or a product or a plan….
She made something sellable, and she sold it.
Angela landed in Hanoi with 12 new clients and $12,000 in her PayPal account and she’s never been broke again.
She learned how to sell.
The DISASTER of this launch 6 years ago was one of the best failures in her life.
You don’t need a website.
You don’t need a list.
You don’t need branding.
You don’t need a clear message.
You don’t need to figure out your products.
You don’t need to prepare worksheets or videos.
You need SALES.
Sales are the lifeblood of business.
Get the sales first THEN go build the other stuff.
Otherwise you’ll run out of money.
That’s quite an uncomfortable lesson to have to learn from experience, but we’re 6 years old and on track to hit $20 million in revenue this year because of Angela’s decision to lean into her discomfort and rather than give up because things were hard.
That leaning in has produced some amazing results and garnered some pretty cool accolades. To name a few:
- We’ve published over 600 books by transformational authors (with about 200 per year to come)
- We’re rated as the 87th Best Entrepreneurial Company in America by Entrepreneur Magazine,
- And we’ve made it to the Inc 500 list two years in a row… this year we are the 275th fastest growing private company in America.
Cheers to 6 years helping coaches, healers, consultants, and other transformational entrepreneurs write books that make a difference and to the failures that brought us this far!
Have you had the experience of putting your heart and soul into launching your transformational business, only to have it fall flat out of the gate? Did you make the same mistakes as Angela? How did you learn from the experience? Let us know in the comments.