How to nail your marketing as a solopreneur

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré
Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

Rebecca Tracey is a business coach for solopreneurs, coaches, nutritionists and healers - anyone who wants to run a business from anywhere - even a van (though she doesn’t recommend it). In this article, she shares her personal tips for tailoring your brand, website, freebies, courses and content to your ideal clients.

Rebecca Tracey’s origin story as an entrepreneur starts in a van. Living in a van. Living in a van while creating the first incarnation of her Uncaged Life coaching business from a laptop with spotty internet in between rock climbing with her partner. They’d been planning to go off on an eight month climbing roadtrip for ages, but at age 30, Rebecca was done with putting things off for later - she says that trip was push she needed to finally make a website and start getting clients.

Rebecca Tracey
Rebecca Tracey

For the record, she does not recommend starting a business from a van. What she does recommend is for new, aspiring, and existing entrepreneurs to build a strong foundation in getting to know their clients really well before investing in branding, website design or marketing. In this interview, she talks about her journey from nutrition school to coaching, and shares her own strategies for web copy and program launches that speak to the deep needs, fears and hopes that drive people to act.

Rebecca’s backstory leading up to the van

Nobody becomes a business coach straight out of college - you have to have experience to draw from. The kind of experience you have tends to dictate what type of coach you become. For Rebecca, the urge to “help people take back control of their lives” was something she’d always felt strongly about, which made perfect sense with her chosen career path in nutrition.

But nutrition only addressed one aspect of helping people take back control of their lives. Rebecca found herself attracted to life coaching, learning and practicing both life coaching and nutrition coaching for different clients. But the job that paid the bills was managing social media, blogging, and promotional contests for an online business. She loved that too.

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Nutrition coaching, life coaching, content and social media marketing swirled around in Rebecca’s life, connecting in some ways, disconnecting in others. She began to notice that her life and nutrition coaching clients had needs that her experience in marketing or branding could fill.

“A lot of my clients at the time were people I knew from life coaching and nutrition, and the one thing they all had in common is that they were finishing up their coaching training and didn’t know what to do. I love life coaching, but I don’t love all of it. I found myself coaching them on what I’d call branding now, but pulling out the essence of what they loved to do and giving them permission to ditch the rest, and teaching them what I was learning about running a business online.”

Even though she was coaching a wide range of clients at this time, she decided to focus on the ones she loved working with most - the ones just starting their own businesses, who needed to find their own focus. She didn’t call herself a business coach back then, or even a marketing consultant, but her advice worked, and kept working.

“I finally owned up to what I do. I teach people how to start businesses, market them and get clients.”

She says this meandering journey is what most entrepreneurs go through.

“You start thinking you’re going to do one thing and it always changes. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now. I had no idea where this was going to go when it started. I’m always testing and trying different things, and I’ve put in the legwork to create a clear and consistent brand and message, and understand what my people need.”

Showing other people how to “put in the legwork” and create clear, consistent branding and messaging from extensive customer research to find out what they need is the cornerstone of Rebecca’s coaching. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but when done right, it changes every aspect of your business, branding and marketing.

It’s your website, but you’re not the main event

Rebecca Tracey is currently undertaking a redesign of her website, simplifying her offerings and site architecture, and changing her visual branding to represent her more closely. Undertaking a website redesign can be a tension-filled process for most businesses, and for solopreneurs, it can be a struggle to find the right balance between personal tastes and what best attracts clients.

It’s a process that begs the questions: How much should your website really be about you? And how should you present yourself on your website when you are the brand?

“Stylistically, the colors on the old site never felt like it represented me or hit the mark of how I saw myself. Other people loved it, but when I looked at it, I wasn’t so sure. These things matter and they don’t; it hasn’t broken my business to not have colors that I love.”

Color choice aside, Rebecca’s website, and even her brand, is far more focused on what her clients need to feel comfortable with her.

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For her niche of entrepreneurs just starting out, she felt it would be too unapproachable, even unattainable, to make her business coaching brand about the ‘travel lifestyle’ - a popular theme among coaches who teach people how to work from anywhere. After all, most entrepreneurs don’t work from beach huts in Bali - most work from home.

“There are a lot of different directions I could go with my Uncaged brand. A lot of my business is about having the ability to travel and take off and live your life, but it didn’t feel on brand to have pictures of me traveling or spending time outdoors rock climbing, even though those are things I do.

Not everyone wants to rappel off cliffs with their dog. To have gone in that direction with marketing - lots of people do that. Especially with business marketing coaching and consulting, there are a lot of people out there who are selling a lifestyle. ‘Be nomadic!’ ‘Run your business from the beach!’ ‘Look at me with my pearls next to the eiffel tower!’ There are a lot of ways business coaches sell the lifestyle without being clear on what they actually do.

But that’s not necessarily what my clients want. And it’s not a travel blog, it’s not an outdoor blog, so having that there might muddle the message.”

Rebecca is switching out her old photographs of her outside in Toronto to ones that are closer to home - much closer. Which she chose for two reasons.

“The new branding really represents me - especially the new photos of me in my apartment with my dog. Photos are a huge piece of any brand.

It’s important that the people using your site, looking at your brand, can see themselves in that picture. So taking super casual photos in my house is a lot more relatable than selling the travel lifestyle.”

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“Most of my clients are starting their businesses so they can actually have a life. I wanted the focus to be on the skills I have that can help them get there. They need to actually make their business work and that’s what I want to sell. Which is why the vibe is low key and relatable.”

That relatability is even more important on the About page.

The About page is often the hardest website page for entrepreneurs to write, because it’s hard to write about yourself, but it’s even harder to write about yourself in a way you know will appeal to your target audience. Rebecca’s About page gets rid of one of those difficulties immediately - it’s not really about her. It’s about what she can do for her clients.

“When I go to a website, I immediately click to the About page; it’s what most people do. And there are times I’ll see an About page, and it’s “I’m Jane, I went to school here, I love my cat” and I don’t care.

You don’t need to bring all aspects of you into your business. It makes it more about you than your clients. Your clients care about you in that they want to trust you, but they don’t care about your 27 quirky hobbies listed on your about page. It’s not the focus of what we’re marketing.

Tell me what this site is for and how I should use it.”

She says it’s more valuable to the potential client to talk about yourself as a service provider. For coaches and consultants, specifically, she says “you are your brand. It’s important that people feel like they can trust you - so telling your story is very important.”

For Rebecca, the About page should summarize “Why you do the work you do and why you care.”

“But we need to talk about ourselves way less than we think we do. It is important, but we’re not the main event.”

The main event is what you, as the entrepreneur, can do for your clients. And there’s no better way to show them what you can do than by offering a freebie.

The key to using freebies to effectively nurture leads to buy

The freebie is the first step in Rebecca’s marketing campaigns for programs, like Uncage Your Business. She uses the freebie almost as an introduction to prospective clients who’ve found her, but still aren’t quite sure how she can help them. It’s a highly effective marketing tool that increases sales tremendously, but she says a lot of people aren’t doing them right.

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“The first rule is to offer something actually useful. A lot of people don't create things that are actually useful.

A lot of people want to create a free thing that sums up everything they do in their business, like the coach who writes an ebook on how to find your life’s purpose. Really big concepts that, even if you worked with someone one-on-one, would take a long time to do, and condensing it into a watered down version doesn’t really work.

Make it bite sized and actionable, something people can use right away. Then use that to show them that what you create is actually useful - you can trust me - and not some watered down ebook that doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Once the freebie is delivered - in Rebecca’s most recent launch, she hosted a free webinar that covered the first step of her process, how to start doing customer research - your job is far from over. In fact, it’s just beginning.

“Follow up with them. Tell them this free thing is the first piece of the puzzle, and here are the next pieces. Then you send a blog post or something else free that gets them a little further. And if the free stuff is really good, they’ll believe that the paid stuff is even better.”

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Facebook post shared by The Uncaged Life

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But when you don’t deliver value with your freebie, or not enough value, you run the risk of turning off potential clients. Rebecca has seen this happen even with seasoned professionals.

“I’ve signed up for free stuff from people I really wanted to work with, but it was garbage. It wasn’t really useful. You have to give people a real starting point to work on their problems, then show that there’s still a gap and you swoop in with the answer to that gap.”

When and why to use Facebook live to get personal - not perfect - pre-launch

As Rebecca says, coaches are their brands - it’s a personality-driven business - which means making personal connections with prospective clients is necessary to get them to buy. One way she forges and nurtures these relationships is through frequent Facebook Live videos, especially when she’s launching a new course
“I try to do Facebook Live as often as possible during launch. It’s showing people you’re a real human being, showing your face in person and not in a polished webinar. One of my friends likes to say: ‘all things being equal, friends buy from friends.’ When I get to know someone on a personal level, I trust them more and I'm more comfortable buying from them.”

Friends buy from friends, but in order to feel like a friend, you have to present yourself like a real human being, which requires opening yourself up to showing some imperfections.

“I debated hiring a video team and doing proper launch videos. But I chatted about it with a few of my past clients and they said ‘hell no, don’t do that, because that makes it feel like you’re at a level we’ll never attain. Like you can do these things in your business, but they’ll never work for me.’

My Facebook Lives aren’t perfect. My dog’s running around, there’s messy stuff on the counter, my boyfriend might be walking around in the back, but that off-the-cuff nature helps with people feeling like they know you more than someone who seems too perfect to be approachable.

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"I think a lot of business owners fear they won’t be perfect. So showing you can have a successful business without makeup, with glitchy internet and a messy kitchen counter gives them permission to put themselves out there without waiting until it’s all professional and polished.”

Rebecca never claims to be perfect, which trickles down into her marketing. She’s always reviewing, testing, and surveying to see how she can do better. One of her tips anyone can try is the post-launch survey she sends out to people who didn’t buy.

How to find out what your ideal clients really need (and why they didn’t buy)

The Post-Launch Survey is simple. So simple, you might miss just how valuable it is. This survey is the secret to improving your business in so many ways, as Rebecca explains.

"I send out a survey after every big launch that says ‘curious why you didn’t buy, so I can address that in the future or create a different program if this isn’t what you need.’

"I get hundreds of responses every time I send it out.”

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The questions she asks each have specific wording designed to yield actionable insights into what she might want to change, add, or re-word in the future.

“The questions I ask are:

  • What’s the single biggest reason you decided not to sign up?

And then I give them options, like: You feel you’re too advanced, was the value not clear?

  • Would you consider joining this course in the future? Y/N.

If they say yes to this question, I want to ask what would make that ‘maybe’ into an absolute yes.

  • What would you need to happen to make joining Uncage Your Business a no-brainer?

This question is helpful to see what’s missing from the course that’s leading people to not want to sign up.

I also ask:

  • What else do you need? Where else are you stuck?

If they tell me what that is, I can create new courses and content for them.

That’s a goldmine of marketing language and ideas for new content I can create.”

Rebecca says she doesn’t have to guess what her customers want or need at all, thanks to this survey and other customer research she conducts via her Facebook groups almost constantly. The answers provide “copywriting language for days” and ideas for what to do next.

“It makes my life way easier.”

But, she cautions: It’s scary to send this email. Asking for feedback opens you up to criticism.

“I wanted to autosend the survey responses to my assistant, because it’s that scary. But most of the responses I get are really positive. It’s important to me to read them myself because I know my clients the best, and being able to read this and listen to them is really important to me.”

Even though by now Rebecca’s email list is extensive, and she sends her survey to nearly everyone, she says anyone can use surveys to get to the heart of what their customers really need and want. Or no surveys - just conversations.

“If you have a conversation with someone and they don’t sign up for what you're offering, ask them why. Have a conversation with them. People who you thought would be great fits and didn’t join, those are the most valuable people to talk to.”

A roundup of Rebecca Tracey’s tips

  1. When designing your website, think of what will resonate with your clients more than what resonates for you. What do they need? What will make them feel comfortable and confident that you’re the right person for the job?
  2. Gain trust by giving away high-value information that’s bite-sized, but still gets results for those who implement it.
  3. Don’t just give away one freebie - follow it up with more valuable information in the form of a blog post, or something else, that reveals the next piece of the puzzle. Of course, your paid product, service or course is the last piece!
  4. Get personal with Facebook live, and don’t feel like you need to be perfect. Use your Live events to answer frequently asked questions, or give a mini-tutorial. Anything so your target audience can get to know you and feel like you deliver real value.
  5. Send people who don’t buy from you a survey that asks them why - and what they need instead. You’ll get so many insights you can use to build future offers and content, and you’ll get words and phrases you can use in all of your marketing.