Confession: When I started my freelance copywriting business, I spent over $5k on online courses.

I tried to Frankenstein my business, piecing together 7-step frameworks, tried and tested templates, and proven systems that promised to get me the same results some big somebody got.

You know how this story goes, right?

Yeeeeeeeeeeah. That didn't happen.

No $2000 DIY course ever got me where I wanted to be.

Not even the ones I finished.

It's not that these programs didn't teach me something...

It's just that they were trying to approach my business challenges and goals from the same angle as everyone else's.

I'm happy to say that things look a lot different these days.

I've gone Full Nelson on my profits, refusing to let one more dollar creep towards a training program that won't give me the personal support I need to see it through.

Like, don't get me wrong. I think you're doing your business a solid when you invest in your education and upgrade your skills...

But eventually, you've got to prioritize doing over learning. Exploring over following. Innovating over mimicking.

Because while creative strategy, long-term relationship-building, and genuine engagement are sustainable...

Plug 'n' play systems, funnels, scripts, swipe files and templates are NOT.

It's only a matter of time before the trend wears out.

Before we can spot that 3-part video series or 20-minute-learning-40-minute-pitch webinar from a mile away.

Before those launch sequence emails all start sounding the same.

Before we roll our eyes when sales pages keep dropping the "sound familiar?" line.

As business owners, we need to bring the unsexy back: DOING THE WORK. (And the testing, tweaking, failing, and succeeding that's a part of that process.)

Because let's get real.

There is no shortcut to 6-figures, beach feet selfies, or working 4 hour days.

Your millions aren't waiting at the end of that sales funnel, Facebook ad, or marketing tactic.

And there are no steadfast rules in an online business game where "proven strategies" get offed faster than a lead character in Game of Thrones.

There may be no shortage of information on the Interwebs, making it easier than ever to figure out your way...

But there IS a major shortage of personalized support and accountability. And if you ask me, that's what we're craving the most in our learning experiences.

While I picked up a few new skills during my course junkie days, I never saw a measurable shift in my results.

I went YEARS feeling like I was in the same place as I was before, just holding steady.

But after being a part of two ZERO-COST masterminds this year, I'm starting to see real progress.

All because I found people who made me better.

They hold me accountable to my goals, support my daily ups and downs, give me honest feedback on specific business challenges I'm facing, sharpen my focus, tilt my perspective, and let me ugly-cry when the going gets gristly.

And sometimes, we even get to meet up in person.


The best part? It wasn't hard to create these business-building clubs.

It doesn't cost me a dime to mind-meld with these powerhouses. (If you want to join a $10k mastermind, that's cool. But I decided to simply connect with peeps I liked and respected who were at a similar level in business.)

And now, I finally feel supported. Not like I'm just 1 of 500+.

For me, the biggest business growth I've had to date happened in these intimate group experiences.

Small collectives are dynamic, adaptive, and structured to encourage action-taking.

They're a safe space for idea bouncing and testing.

And that leads to innovation and creativity, not the same copy 'n' paste formulas EVERYONE in online small business is getting bored of seeing in their inboxes.

No $2000 DIY course (no matter how awesome) has the power to help you progress that quickly. Because you're NOT a part of the teaching equation when it's designed for passive profits.

Following the tracks laid by others rarely gets you to the place you want to be in your business, even if it worked for them...

And that's the part that sucks the most. Because it leads you to feel like you're the failure. Like they've got something you don't.

The truth is: They do! Their own business, their own audience, their own brand, their own strengths, their own weaknesses.

This is YOUR business. So running it like someone else isn't going to get you any further ahead. I learned that the clumsy and costly way.

While most people in my industry have hopped on the "passive income" train, I've also started noticing the disenchantment. The mistrust. The secret failures. And I'm not the only one.

Being a service provider is mentally exhausting at times. But I'm a strong believer that creative work requires hands-on collaboration.

Fresh eyes, alternative perspectives, different background and experiences, y'know?

You have no idea how many times a client blows MY mind with their feedback, giving me an opportunity to make their copy that much better.

In my Facebook group, I've seen personalized feedback and group discussions help flailing web copy find its legs.

And if you saw the initial drafts or ideas I've brought to my own mastermind groups, you wouldn't even recognize them as the same ones I finally implemented.

With that said, here are a few tips I'd give you for starting or finding your own mastermind:

  1. Look for others who are at a similar level as you in business or only a couple of steps ahead. This gives you the best opportunity to get relevant feedback and be challenged enough to grow without feeling uninspired or totally lost.

  2. Create a structure and agenda for your mastermind meetings, so you're more productive. It's easy to start gabbing and lose track of time. Have a topic, theme or agenda for your meetings. And think about having a timeline to follow, like giving each person a 15-minute "hot seat" and actually timing this, so everyone gets a fair chance to get feedback.

  3. Think about being in a mastermind that's designed specifically for your niche and also other similar stage entrepreneurs. For example, I'm in a mastermind that's exclusively copywriters. But I'm in another that's got systems experts, a lawyer, a videographer, a graphic designer, and a Facebook Ads expert. One gives me an opportunity to learn from people who are specialized in my skill set and understand my unique challenges. But one lets me mind-meld with a diverse group of business owners who offer different perspectives, experiences and skills to help me grow. Both are invaluable.

  4. Choose someone to moderate. This helps keep your meetings on track. It can be the same person every time or you can take turns.

  5. Have somewhere you can interact outside of your meetings. Like a private Facebook community or Slack channel.

Janine Duff