The be all isn’t Marie Forleo

As a designer, one of the most common requests I receive from women is ‘I’d like a site like Marie Forleo’.

Which these days tends to illicit this response in me..urrrrgggghhh. Marie’s site is clean and simple, absolutely. It’s a great design and it’s been well thought out. It can be a style inspiration. But everybody’s business is different and you do not want to end up with a site just like hers.

If your sole focus isn’t being a blogger, you’re better off having a few other interesting things on your home page. You might have a different call to action. You could be way more creative. Your target niche could be into a way different style. And your business is YOURS. Not Marie’s. It should be your beautiful brand.

Plus we want the internet to be super high quality, clean, creative and full of goodness and unique you-ness!

Full disclosure:: I think a number of Marie’s videos are great with some solid advice but often she also doesn’t resonate with me. I’m not her perfect client – and that’s totally fine (and doesn’t make me a bad online, female business person!). I respect her for what she’s done and where she’s risen from. It’s an incredible journey and it’s one we should all keep in mind…it didn’t just happen and it took a helluva lot of hard work, persistence and truck loads of what I’m sure were ‘I just want to cry and hide from the world’ moments and then pushing on beyond that.

But because a lot of people are comparing their beginnings or middles to Marie’s current business structure I thought I’d go back into the web archives and see where she started.

Right back to 2001 and for quite a few years after. With a website that looked like this…

Marie Forleo - How she got started

Marie Forleo - How she got started

A number of years later she changed the business to ‘The Good Life’ and had a website revamp to this (2005)…

Marie Forleo - How she got started

In 2010 we shifted gears again and went back to the Forleo brand…

Marie Forleo - How she got started

Followed by more tweaks a few months later (there are always tweaks to websites I promise!)…

Marie Forleo - How she got started

And then in early 2012 it changed to the style and big booming brand we know it to be now…

Marie Forleo - How she got started


So if you’ve just discovered Marie in the last 2 years you’d be thinking WOWEE this woman is on fire. And indeed she is. With a team to boot. Except she’s been going online since 2001. That’s like 12 years ago…around the time the internet started (or rather, the time Australians started cottoning onto it).

Of course website building 10 years ago was far crappier than it is today. And it looks like she had someone else do it from the start, but the point is you’ve got to start somewhere right? Building a brand takes time. A lot of it. Coupled with determination, persistence, belief in yourself and a helluva lot of hustling.

Want another example? I was recently discussing a new project with a client (I hate this word by the way, we always become brilliant friends that I can’t wait to hang out with more!) and we looked back through the history of Rough Guides. They’ve been going along since 1982 and had their first site up in the late 90’s.

1999… Rough Guides Business Development Websites


Rough Guides Business Development Websites


Rough Guides Business Development Websites


Rough Guides Business Development Websites


Rough Guides Business Development Websites


Rough Guides Business Development Websites


There will be millions of these examples. Your brand, your website and your business are living, breathing things. They will change and evolve. You will step it up. You will invest. You may pivot directions or hone in further. Shops don’t splash a color of paint on and leave it for the next 10 years. Logos are constantly changing, branding is re imagined, style is revamping and websites – along with keeping up with technology changes – are revamped every few years in line with the business. It makes money. It makes you keep loving your business. And it makes your customers care.

If you’re easing your way into the online world and you haven’t figured out what you’re doing or where you’re going I would never recommend investing 5-20k on a website. By all means get a theme, pay someone a few hundred dollars to tweak it for your business (you don’t need to waste your time doing this) and get started. Figure it out.

Only when you’re truly clear on what the hell you’re doing and who you’re doing it for should you go custom and pro. If that’s on your first online launch – that’s great! But I highly recommend being absolutely clear on what you’re doing, the big vision that you’re determined to achieve and keeping focused.

Do I think you should custom brand and invest in your business? Abso-freaking-lutely. If your website is your primary source of income and marketing, you need to do this (there’s good reason all the ‘big players’ online are all upgrading their websites right now). You wouldn’t set up a shabby, stock standard, bland looking store in the city (that 25% of all people can’t get through the door in…yup I’m talking mobile) and expect to do demanding-my-god-we-love-you-and-keep-wanting-to-come-back business right? Oh and online you’re competing with over 345million other websites. Bet your city doesn’t have that many stores down town!

But you could set up a lemonade stand, build your foundation and move on up to that awesome store.

You get clear, get the vision and plan in place, test or have worked in the market, and invest in your idea and go pro. Or you dabble, you play, you figure out what it is you’re doing and who you’re doing it for, you make your beginning steps and you grow from there. Then one day you relaunch and turn the volume up on your brand and amplify your business. Can you do it quicker than Marie? Of course, particularly if you’re working with a business coach (like Becca at The Uncaged Life), you’ve dabbled in the online world before or worked in your market or you’re relaunching and are crystal clear on that next level (you should be able to explain it in words).

I had no idea I would start a business when I first got into the online world. On the suggestion of a friend I set up a blog rather than sending 6 page emails (ok, maybe more) of my journeys around the world. So I did. This is what it looked like.

Journeys in the Cloud - How Businesses Evolve

Not terribly great at all. Pretty crappy actually. Weeks before this I didn’t even have a photo of me because I didn’t want anyone to know. Nor an about page. Something I would convince you to have! I knew no one online. I had no idea what I was doing with a blog. I had no idea I’d suddenly see that other people had businesses outside the corporate world and I was determined to do that as well. I’d always been a creative soul and had regularly escaped the office to live my other life. I had the biggest learning curve EVER. I’ve never learned so much as I did in that first year (and I’ve studied a couple of degrees). Seriously, it went something like this.

New Business Learning Curve + Tears

These days I learn something new every day. Every new project is the opportunity to learn new things. To get better and better. Whether that be about coding, design, resources, new integrations, technology, Photoshop, illustrator, after effects, business or people I learn every single day. And I learn so much about other people’s businesses, dreams and desires and then I learn about mine more too.

I still have crazy, tear your hair out days but they’re much calmer now. I know I’ll figure it out and I know that I’m pushing myself every single project. To grow you have to keep learning and experimenting.

There’s only one way to bridge the gap between your vision and your current skill and that’s do the work and learn. And the best way to learn? Through doing. Through volume. Once you bridge that gap and grow beyond your original vision it comes down to refinement and focus.

Businesses evolve over time. Over the years. They hone, perfect, develop and grow. My own biz right here? You may have noticed it’s had a few random tweaks. Many services have disappeared. The portfolio has barely been updated all year. A few things aren’t quite right. I’ve been so, so busy with amazing projects that my site has taken a big hit. And so I can’t wait to revamp in December. To invest back into my business. So it’s way better for you, it’s better for me and so we have a kick ass 2014. But that’s just it…

You’ve just got to start and keep on going.

Wherever it is that you are, that’s an excellent place to start from.

Just start your business

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