The Answer To “What Should I Do First?”

Every now and again, we are asked the $64,000 question.

“What should I do first?”

This is asked by lots of different people in lots of different situations.

It is, obviously, asked by people who have not yet started anything at all – I’ve got nothing, so what should I do first?

It is asked by people who have been running an ittybiz for 12 years already – I’m ready to take this seriously / rebrand / move into a new arena, so what should I do first?

This is asked by people who are in Very Serious Binds – I may be about to lose my house, so what should I do first?

I’d like to answer that question today.

But first, I’d like to tell you why nobody ever answers this question publicly.

You read the blogs. And the books. And the magazine articles.

The writer talks about the things you need to do, but they don’t ever tell you what you need to do.

Frustrating, no?

You’ve perhaps also read the disparaging reviews on Amazon, where readers complain that the author didn’t give a step-by-step list of What To Do And When.

Perhaps you have nodded sympathetically when you’ve read those reviews.

Why in the hell won’t anybody just give the steps?

I want the steps!

GIVE ME THE **********ING STEPS!!!

We at IttyBiz feel your pain.

Story time!

Here are a handful of real situations from IttyBiz clients and customers.

1. Crystal started a blog about issues related to hippie motherhood stuff. One day, she writes a fairly random blog post about recipes, of all things, and accidentally gets a freakish influx of traffic from Pinterest. Like, 1.5 million hits. A month. Over and over and over. She says to herself, “Self, perhaps I should capitalize on this traffic.” She buys How To Launch, sells 20,000 ebooks, and now wants to know how to get back to the thing she wanted to be doing in the first place.

What should she do first?

2. My ex-husband’s sister is a massage therapist and occasional baby Zumba instructor. She has no online presence whatsoever, but she’s friendly and charming and people really like her. She’s flirting with the idea of making some baby Zumba videos and selling them online for a little bit of extra cash. She has no idea where to start.

What should she do first?

3. Rob is, in his own words, “money agnostic”. He’s not following his passion, he’s following the money. He’s competent, capable, and ready to work very, very hard. He doesn’t care where he gets his money from, he doesn’t care what his “niche” will be – he wants money, he wants a lot of it, and he wants it fast.

What should he do first?

4. Suzanne is an established expert in a huge field and extremely well-versed in internet marketing. Like, EXTREMELY well-versed. The problem is, she only knows the old-school stuff. Everything was going just dandy. Then the latest Google algorithm change came around and she has been getting less traffic every day for over a year.

What should she do first?

5. Tammy sells a very specific type of life coaching. She wants to sell it online but offer it offline – local only. Standard platform building advice is all but useless for her. She has a significant network of local contacts from her previous line of work, but doesn’t know how to transition old offline colleagues into new online prospects.

What should she do first?

6. Blair has built up a huge following in social media. People ADORE her. The problem is, her following is truly social. There was never a business behind it. Now she wants to… maybe… make a business around it. Is it possible? Is it reasonable? Would that take all the fun out of everything?

What should she do first?

Same question. Different answers. Everybody’s “first” is different.

So here’s my little Tuesday thought experiment for y’all. If you do it properly, you’ll probably know exactly what to do.

Ready?

Maybe get a coffee or something. I don’t want you skimming this.

OK, here goes.

Imagine you came into my office for a consulting meeting and before you even got a chance to open your mouth, I rudely blurt out:

“Well, it looks to me like you’re totally ready. So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to hand-build a list of 1000 people that could, in theory, buy your offering.

Then I want you to draft up an email that you’re going to send, individually, to every person on that list. The email body should be boilerplate – as in, the same one goes to everybody – but you can customize the introduction if that works for your offering.

At the end of the email, I want a call to action for them, or a promise of action from you. Either “click on this pretty little link right here to buy something” or “I’ll call you on Monday to talk to you about this”.

You have a week. Any questions?

I imagine you would not like this assignment.

Furthermore, I imagine you are not ready to complete this assignment.

Am I right?

Good.

So here’s the thought experiment.

What is the most obvious impediment to you completing this task?

Yes, it is unpleasant and a lot of work, but those aren’t impediments. Impediments are tangible obstacles standing in your way.

Possible answers include:

  • My product isn’t done.
  • My website sucks.
  • I don’t have a sales page yet.
  • My 4,000 item long to-do list.
  • I don’t know what I would sell them.
  • I don’t know how to write a sales email.
  • I couldn’t handle the orders.

If you’re like most people, you probably have more than one impediment. If you don’t have a product, you probably also don’t know how to write a sales email.

So what we’re looking for here is the most obvious, blatant impediment – the one that is probably the hardest or most time-consuming to solve.

What is stopping you, today, from emailing 1000 strangers and asking them to buy your thing?

The answer to that question is what you should do first.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.