ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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THE BUSINESS BLACKLIST: If You’re Doing Any of These 6 Things, STOP IMMEDIATELY.

In: Starting an Online Business

1. The first thing on the No B.S. Business Blacklist? Putting up an auto-responder that tells all of your customers that “in the name of productivity” you're only checking your email at 7am, 12pm and 4pm. 

Can everybody that's doing this go fuck themselves, please? I don't care about your personal time tables, and you're wasting my time sending me back an email about it. What's really happening is you can't stand the fact that you actually have no idea how to manage your email, or your business communications, or your time, or maybe even your life, so you get wildly overwhelmed every single day of the week, before deciding to “set boundaries” with your customers & clients—and maybe even yourself, since you can't seem to stay out of the shit. But then, you feel GUILTY AS SIN, because now you're obsessing whether everyone's thinking you're an unprofessional, no-good, rotten fraud because you're not responding THE SECOND AFTER THEY SENT YOU THE EMAIL. So you pull the autoresponder move so you can stop feeling so guilty, because now you've given people expectations, right? You've set boundaries.

But you know what you really did? You let every single person who emailed you know that, behind that autoresponder, you're actually a floundering, chaotic, unhinged mess—hence the need to overcompensate. Bonus? You also made the people you depend on to give you their money feel unimportant, tossed aside, and dismissed. If you want to make money like a real company, treat your customers like real customers. How much money would you continue to spend with Amazon if you called them with a question and they were all, “Oops! Sorry. We actually only answer the phones three times per day.” It's an arrogant, poor business move. As your customer or client, your personal overwhelm does not concern me, nor is it my problem. Learn how to run your business–or it will run you.

2. Telling your clients and customers that if they pay you with Paypal or a credit card “they need to add the fee percentage to the invoice.” 

Are you kidding me? THIS IS A COST OF DOING BUSINESS. Your cost of doing business. Running a business costs money. Why not also tell your customer they're responsible for paying a percentage of your electricity bill? And the food you ate while you were doing their work? And the portion of shampoo you used this morning to wash your hair? (Pro-rated, of course!) Newsflash, guys: Your cost of doing business should already be calculated INTO your hourly rate. And if you really feel the pressure to nickel and dime your customers to death, THEN YOUR HOURLY RATE ISN'T HIGH ENOUGH. Whatever you do? Don't make me feel like I'm being punished for doing business with you. Because I won't. 

3. Speaking of Paypal, get rid of those horrid Paypal Buy Now buttons on your website.

It's assumed that since Paypal is so big, and their name is reputable, that their Buy Now buttons will make you look reputable, too, right? Wrong, Jack. These buttons are the mark of an amateur who doesn't have a professional web designer, and they're ruining your credibility. And while I sincerely love Paypal for its capabilities…HEY PAYPAL: Step it up this year with some more modern button selections.

4. If you have a standard business practice you know your clients won't be thrilled about, don't hide it in the contract and hope they don't notice, or innocently forget to mention it unless it comes up.

It's your responsibility to outline the major details up front.  If you wait until later to drop the bomb, it will be much more unpleasant. If you're a graphic designer and you only give your clients their deliverables in PDF format, or you don't actually give them the rights to use the artwork you've created for them—make sure that's understood when you begin the work arrangement. Because later when they come to you asking for the raw files, and you tell them no and that they don't actually own what they thought they did? You look like the jerk. Not your client.

(If you're on the other side of this and you're working with a designer? Make sure you know up front whether the cost includes the raw files (the files you'll need if you ever want to edit things yourself, or your designer ever gets hit by a bus and you need to hire somebody else to make edits). You're paying a lot of money, and you should know up front whether you actually own the asset you think you're creating—or surprise!—your designer does.)

5. Asking anyone to “sign up for your newsletter.”

COME ON YOU GUYS.  I talked about this last year, but I still see it all over the place. Nobody cares about your newsletter! What they do care about? What the hell is in it. Advertise that. And if you can't think of anything compelling that's inside? That's a big, giant, ugly neon, flashing red warning sign you need to CHANGE WHAT'S INSIDE.

6. Stop being a lazy marketer. 

You want my attention? You want anyone's attention? Stop expecting it, and start earning it. This is particularly relevant to emails you send out via your “newsletter.” Every business owner should respect the time of the people opening their emails, and demonstrate it by going out of their way to earn their customer's attention—not just assume that since the data said if you include this keyword, then your heathen creature customers will open it.

The data also says that if I put a pop up in front of people's faces as soon as they land on my site, I will get more opt-ins. However, I don't do that because it's disrespectful to their experience, and furthermore, counteracts the real goal. Because even if a few more people do convert as an opt-in, it doesn't matter because they aren't the kinds of opt-ins I want.  I want quality opt-ins. (And you should, too.) The kind that are doing so because they're raising their own hands to say they want more.  Those are the kind that don't just become an opt-in, but a reader, a community member, a customer. And isn't that what the goal really is?

That said, I do appreciate data, and I know that smart decisions can be driven by data. I know data is wildly useful. But you must strive for a balance between using data intelligently, and treating people like humans—not numbers. You're still betting on a human on the other end of the screen.

There is nothing novel in online marketing anymore— consumers expect everything that you're throwing at them. It's become the norm to personalize your email subject lines. It's become the norm to ask for an opt-in. It's no longer delightful, or surprising, or even effective. The only thing that we, as business owners and, by default, marketers, can bet on? Is our shared humanness. Our personalities. Our ability to connect on that human level. It's all that's left.

And it's the only thing that, over all, will give you a leg up on everyone else who is still hoping their website visitors are dumb enough to be disrespected…and still donate their attention for free.

Aug 15

2017

DO NOT KILL THE PEOPLE SELLING LULAROE. They’re Actually Ahead of the Curve—And Here’s Why.

Aug 15, 2017

LuLaRoe. Rodan + Fields. Younique. AdvoCare. Usana. Beachbody. doTerra. Herbalife. Pampered Chef. If you’re anything like me, your Facebook feed is blowin’ UP with folks who have become representatives for these companies. (Some of them I like and respect, and others make me want to chainsaw their house.) So why is this becoming such a […]

In: Starting an Online Business

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2013

Are You a Dangerous Liability In Your Own Business?

Dec 19, 2013

How many books do you have in your Kindle library that you haven’t read yet? How many times have you said to yourself, “I should really learn how to write better copy,” or “I should really learn Photoshop,” or “I should really learn how to shower more regularly instead of rotting away in my yoga pants […]

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Jun 2

2017

When It’s Hard for People to Pick, The First Thing They Do Is Ditch

Jun 2, 2017

HI, IT’S ME, AND IT’S FRIDAY, AND I’M VERY EXCITEDDDDD. First off, our brand new flagship fuck yeah website launches next week. (We’ve been working on this behind the scenes for an entire year!) JUNE!!!!!!!!! THE MONTH OF CHAMPIONNNSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT’S GOING TO BE HUGEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!! (Please imagine me saying that like a forty-five year old balding […]

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Jun 6

2013

10 Uncommon Truths Every Business Owner Should Know

Jun 6, 2013

I’m not sure if you’ve ever served ice cream for a living, but there’s one thing you should know: It’s terrifying. From little league ball teams showing up twenty seconds before close (always a great time), to people who NEVER SPECIFY WHAT SIZE THEY WANT EVEN THOUGH THE PRICE IS DIRECTLY CORRELATED TO THE SIZE […]

In: Starting an Online Business

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Oct 25

2012

An Ode to Baller Status.

Oct 25, 2012

Lather up. Choose the perfume-scented body lotion. Put every last hair into place. Rock your most exquisite piece of clothing. Wink at yourself in the mirror. Pull out the stops. Look fucking smashing. And then get to work. Because when you feel like a baller? YOU ACT LIKE ONE.

In: Starting an Online Business

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Jul 11

2017

Take What You Love, And Figure Out How to Sell It To Someone—And Boom, You’ve Got Your Dream Job

Jul 11, 2017

So, listen, I’m not gonna lie—we got to our new London flat this morning, and the second I walked in, I FINALLY UNDERSTOOD THE MEANING OF LIFE. (P.S. You’re following these shenanigans via my Insta-stories right?) Which is entirely materialistic of me, of course, but I’m of the age these days where I don’t really care because […]

In: Starting an Online Business

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Feb 22

2015

The Smell of Desperation

Feb 22, 2015

You can smell the desperation. You see folks running sideways all over the internet trying to get noticed, be bigger, get heard. But there’s a simple truth that a lot of people forget: If your message is weak, no one’s going to care, no matter how loudly you parade yourself around. Have you ever had […]

In: Starting an Online Business

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Dec 4

2012

Finding Your Inner F-Bomb: What To Do When You’re Having a Hard Time Being You

Dec 4, 2012

So last night I did what any young lady would do whose internet has been down since Friday and, as a result, is staying in a randomly-selected hotel to mooch mega-bytes: Wondered what the fine would be for accidentally stealing one of these “firm” pillows–these things are fucking impressive. Side-kicked the air-conditioner upon discovering there […]

In: Starting an Online Business

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Apr 5

2013

Reason #959 to Start a Business

Apr 5, 2013

Employment freaks me out. It’s hard to imagine putting all of your intellectual, emotional, and physical energy into a company – with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. Or, the end of your life. Maybe a savings, if you were disciplined enough, or a 401K, but aside from that, you’re […]

In: Starting an Online Business

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Aug 26

2019

Introducing: The First Annual “Wipe Your Buns With $30,000” Challenge! (Haha, I’m Not Even Kidding.)

Aug 26, 2019

I know. I KNOW. I bring such an air of sophistication to everything I do. (See also: The Middle Finger Project, our Unf*ckwithable line of classes, and the sweet, sweet letterboard in my living room that reads, “My Name is Inigo Montoya.”) But let’s be honest: “The $30,000 Money Challenge” just doesn’t have the same […]

In: Starting an Online Business

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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