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So I did a pretty weird thing last week.

After having a slow couple of weeks, I was looking for a new retainer client on Craigslist to fill the upcoming gap. (Which I did.) But after working my way through the tech gigs, cam girl gigs, and everything else, I found myself in the Personals section.

I’ve definitely read Missed Connections before, because it’s kind of hilarious. (Once, I had an ex who posted one about me there, and apparently, one of the responses to it was, “Is that you, Roderigo?” which of course I read in an obscenely dramatic voice.) However, I’ve never posted a personal ad.

That’s pretty normal for most Millenials, because hey, we have programs with filtration systems now like Tinder. When I tried OKCupid a couple of years back, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages, I deleted it without contacting anyone. (Whoops.)

At any rate, after spending two hours of my life reading personal ads that ranged from guys who wanted to dominate you real bad to disillusioned dudes who just wanted a wife (and mother), I decided to test out my own ad.

9 hours and 122 emails later, I shut the damn thing off and started swiping. I mean, looking at photos and deleting emails.

What surprised me was my overall rate of dudes who I wanted to talk to was about the same as Tinder.

But you’re probably wondering WTAF this has to do with your business’ roadmap.

You see, roadmaps are a funny thing. Everyone kind of starts out thinking they need to follow the well-trodden path, and somewhere along the way, some of us either say, “Fuck that!” or get lost.

Over the years, I’ve often felt like I’ve done things out of order – or at least an order that leaves more than a few people scratching their heads. You know, like having my kids in my early 20’s and getting divorced twice before 30. (I fly fast and furious over here, what can I say?) But the reality of it is we’re all on our own path, just trying to figure things out.

But the reality is, there are just some things you have to stay on track for if you want to maintain a successful business.

The set of possible roadways you’re looking at can feel complex and overwhelming given the number of possibilities being thrown at you. (Try Facebook ads! You have to use this horribly unethical strategy to be successful! Here are 500 tactics I heard work somewhere once!)

It’s the same shit as dating. You have to identify your priorities, and roll with it from there.

But what’s actually the next step? How do you know which things are necessary? What’s not?

When it comes to your business roadmap, you need to focus on the basics first in order to make the most impact. Most of my beginning business clients get completely frustrated by the amount of information getting thrown at them, so here it is. This the short list of things you ACTUALLY need.

1. Lining up dates clients

I don’t care if you’re sending emails, calling people up, hosting parties, going to coffee with anyone who will hear you out, or whatever the way you book clients is, keeping money coming through the door is your most important function when you’re in the early stages of your business.

Hot tip: To optimize this, make sure you have an effective lead tracking system in place. Most business is missed in the followup, so make sure you’re staying in touch with everyone whose been on your radar.

2. Creating a place people can find you

You don’t need a fancy website to start collecting more leads – you just need to make it easy to find you and learn about you and what you do.

My clients often come to me overwhelmed by the laundry list of things their website allegedly must have. The reality is, a lot of it is garbage.

Here’s a list of the things your website actually needs:

  • A domain with hosting and a WordPress install using the Divi theme. (SquareSpace can eat a dick. #sorrynotsorry)
  • A basic brand (think colors and fonts)
  • A simple contact form (or contact information if that’s how your business works)
  • An email opt-in form so leads can easily let you know they are interested by leaving you their information (double points if you create a lead magnet so they have an added incentive to hand over their email)
  • Information about what it is you do and how you do it
  • A photo of you (so they know who you are)

Not so bad, right? You could totally start with something as basic as a landing page, as long as it has enough information for someone to decide whether or not they want to keep in contact with you. (And if you’re going to just use landing pages, use Instapage.)

3. A trackable way to contact everyone interested in you at the same time

In other words, you need email marketing software. If you need something free, use Mailchimp. If you want something effective, use ConvertKit. The Chimp is free up to 2000 subscribers with automation features, but ConvertKit lets you segment in incredibly effective ways.

4. A streamlined system for utilizing all of the above.

The technology stack I use to run my business is pretty affordable:

  • Dreamhost – 10/month
  • ConvertKit – 49/month (I have over 1000 subscribers, but the intro level is 30/month)
  • Instapage – 29/month
  • Shopify – 9/month

So for under 100/month, I can run a business from anywhere. It’s a pretty solid deal.

You’ve got what you need. Now get to it.