You created a course. It was bigger than anything you had ever done. You charged A LOT. People signed up. You made a lot of money. You then discovered that you bit off more than you could chew. A lot more. You panicked. You couldn’t deliver. People got maaaad. You threw in the towel and all the shit just fell all the way apart.
To fix it, you wrote a, ‘Don’t worry everyone. I know I totally let you all down and took your money and didn’t deliver, but it’s all ok because I learned from this,’ blog post and then reveal your new and improved plan for a massive re-brand. Apparently in the hopes that people would simply be blinded by your snazzy new graphics and would forget all about how you completely fucked them over.
There’s a reason why the greater business community views the world of online marketers and coaches as a joke.
Behavior like this is the reason. It’s the attitude that you can look at your options and weigh the people you burn against your potential for getting more people in the door under a new banner.
It’s the incredibly unsustainable view of business that there are always more customers and that they are both stupid and easy to find.
Writing a “vulnerable” post about how you screwed the pooch and how people really can still trust you [because you learned from your mistakes that should never have happened in the first place], does not actually release you from liability, nor does it mean anyone should ever trust you again.
And it DEFINITELY doesn’t mean re-branding is a cool way of wiping the slate clean.
You can’t re-brand your way out of fucking people over.
You can’t repackage your lack of integrity and expect to get away with it over and over.
You can’t snazzy-new-font your way to authenticity and value.
I have been at this for nearly seven years as a business owner. And in that time, I have launched exactly zero courses or group experiences. Nada. None. Wanna know why?
Because I wasn’t ready.
Because I didn’t have the time I knew I would need to devote myself to them at the level I want you to always expect from me.
Because I never, ever want to have to write an apology post.
Now, I’m not saying this because I want to claim some sort of moral high ground. I have made the choice to work with people one on one because I want my business to have a strong, credible foundation that’s based on working with people from a wide variety of industries so that when I do decide to lead on a bigger stage, it’s coming from a well of experience, proven results, and transparent strength. And not from repackaged marketing theory or manipulative over-promising.
I never ever want to HAVE to re-brand.
The sad truth is that people who do shady shit like this DO succeed. Over and over. Because:
A. Right now, there IS a seemingly endless stream of new prospective clients – eager to learn the ins and outs of how to live and work independently. And new eyes means that all the people you accidentally fucked over can be forgotten – collateral “learning experiences” that litter your wake. And all those new people are none the wiser. They don’t have anywhere to turn to know someone’s history. Not really. There’s no Better Business Bureau for online freedom-woo-business-location-independant-coachy people. And when you’re new to this space, every beautiful website and well-written offer feels SO COMPELLING. So sincere. So necessary.
B. There is a very, very firm agreement [I couldn’t bring myself to use the word ‘conspiracy’ – but that’s pretty much what it is] of silence in the online ecosystem. [Which is sort of ironic, considering the fact that people basically say whatever the hell they want about most other things on the web.] Those who get ripped off do not talk about their experiences because they are ashamed of falling for someone shady and don’t want to come off as if they don’t know any better, nor do they want to wind up feeling the wrath of the person’s fans who fucked them over in the first place.
It’s why people can get away with having terrible reputations behind closed doors and still make money.
It’s why people can look like they make money, and not pay their bills.
It’s why the term “six-figure-whateverness” grabs attention and gets people to buy.
And it’s why people can have one successful launch and then turn around and make even more money teaching others to do the same.
Because we all want the dream.
We come to this world [the world of online business in it’s various forms] because it feels like that last professional space where the dream is even possible. Where we can actually make enough money to both enjoy our life AND like what we do.
It’s a dream that used to exist in the brick and mortar realm, but that has long since gone the way of the dodo there.
It’s a big dream. And one that most thought was dead and gone, but that has been reinvigorated thanks to the Internet.
But here’s the thing about big (and possible) dreams: People will do a LOT of shady shit to achieve them.
Rules will bend when nobody’s watching.
Credibility will be bought when there’s a market for it.
And we wind up in an industry full of life coaches who have no life.
Business coaches who have never worked in a successful business – let alone HAVE a successful business.
Designers who were freelance writers last week.
Freelance writers who were VAs six months ago.
Health coaches who are taught that doing the exact same things as a thousand other health coaches will bring them success.
And a sea of people certified to do their whatever-thing, but who never actually take the time to learn what it takes to be a real, live business owner.
[For the record, I am not judging you for trial and error in an attempt to find your jam – I’m only pointing out that once you do, you gotta spend the time to understand the rest of what it takes to make it go.]
They never learned about customer service or longevity, or accounting, or marketing, how to plan for investment or growth.
They never had to compete with Wal Mart to get someone into their store.
They see dollar signs and ease and formulas for success and pay a ton of money for step-by-step programs that will never take them anywhere, led by people who will blame the user when their system doesn’t work.
“You must not have wanted it bad enough.” They’ll say.
“If you believed in yourself more, you would invest in your success.” They’ll say.
“You will never get anywhere with such a negative attitude.” They’ll say.
Steaming, heaping, stinking, bullshit.
It’s the teacher’s responsibility to deliver what they promise. To help those who pay them understand the material. To plan ahead. To be prepared. To have the experience to answer questions they didn’t plan for.
And if you don’t, no amount of new branding should get you out of the ethical pickle you created for yourself.
But unfortunately, unless the stream of new people coming into our industry actually starts doing their homework before throwing money at people, this will not change. We will continue to work in an industry where it’s next to impossible to separate the smoke and mirrors from the real-deal smart people.
I approach my work with the basic assumption that sometime soon, shit is just going to fall apart. Either bad press about the ripoff artists will sow so much distrust that the client well will dry up, or regulation will find our industry. I mean, eventually, the FTC or something like it will catch on that anyone can create a website, throw up a paypal button, promise the moon and the stars, buy fake social credibility, and make a gazillion dollars, and they will find a way to shut that shit down.
Because bad press is what happens when little guys make big guys look bad and regulation is what happens when large groups of people get together and get noisy about feeling ripped off, and/or when an industry grows large enough that a governing body finds a way to get a piece of the pie.
When those things happen, overpromising and under-delivering will stop being the Yellow Brick Road to six figures and laptops on beaches and internet celebrity.
And it will be the people who actually understand how to run an actual fucking business who will weather the storm. That’s what sustainability truly is.
So the next time someone gives you truly terrible advice like…
“Just launch and figure it out along the way.”
“Don’t worry about the people who want refunds. Haters gonna hate.”
“Just be vulnerable. People will forgive you.”
or, my personal favorite
“If you want it bad enough, you should risk everything to get it.”
…I beg you… for all of our sake… don’t listen.
Take the time to learn your work, then learn your business. Entrepreneurship is enough of a risk as-is without trying to sell promises you can’t deliver, products no one needs, or ideas that don’t belong to you.
Stripping naked and prancing through the streets selling pipe dreams and good intentions does not make you a leader, an expert, or an entrepreneur. And it definitely does not make you a business owner.
It makes you an asshole.
Please stop ruining it for the rest of us.