Oh, I know, there’s supposed to be a rigid formula you follow when you start any sort of business:
- A concept, tested by research and proven viable
- A set of offerings – product, services, knowledge, etc.
- Knowing your ideal client – the person your offerings are best suited for
- Setting up your business “stuff” and hanging out your shingle
- Doing marketing according to all the formulas available online
- Networking like a maniac, even if you hate networking
- Getting your first client(s)
- Learning from the experience and then
- Lather, rinse, repeat
And yet I know so many great people who did it all “wrong”:
My friend Sharla dreamed up a set of services that made life easier for local business owners – things she loved doing and was good at, and it seemed like lots of people needed them. She gave away some free sessions first, and completely blew people away. Soon she had her first word-of-mouth client, learned from the experience, went back and re-tooled what she wanted to offer, did a little research, then started marketing.
A pal in California has been coaching clients for years and still doesn’t have a business. He’s making enough money, healing the world, loving life, and thinks maybe next year he’ll print some business cards. Just to see.
Matthias, a designer I met in Mexico City, has had a steady stream of design clients since 2002, when someone in a cafe saw the doodles in his journal and asked if he could please help their nonprofit make a brochure. That client told the next, who referred the next, who referred the next. He’s far too introverted to turn people down, so this steady-supply kind of business works perfectly for him . . . he doesn’t want to be swamped with requests and doesn’t want employees.
As for me, well, I got my first client before I even knew I wanted to start a business. It was a friend of a friend who needed web design help. She became the blueprint for my ideal client. Some time around my third or fourth client (many months later), I made my own logo and website. I officially developed service offerings a year later and started marketing . . . somewhere around my tenth year.
For all of these people, the keys to beginning were very different from all of the ones recommended by the big gurus. They were firmly rooted in three basic actions:
- Visualize a person/population who you might want to help, someone for whom you have genuine empathy and respect.
- Brainstorm some ways to help that someone’s life be easier, happier, healthier, more connected, or more fulfilling.
- Find one person who fits your focus and your product/service, and approach them with an open heart and an authentic desire to help.
Have you been waiting to really move forward with your work, or struggling to keep going? Do you keep following all the popular advice and it really doesn’t feel right? If you’re afraid you’re not following the right dance steps, not stepping in the right footprints, maybe it’s time to ditch the one-size-fits-all programs and let your heart lead you to something more authentic, more solid.
Shake it up. Do it another way—a more personal way.
You might really be surprised. And you might have fun.
Rekindle Your Fire
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Oh, those times when you’ve done your best and just can’t seem to get where your heart wants to go. You’ve read every book, followed every guru’s advice, tried every tactic. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone in your life who “gets you” and can help you unravel what’s happening, and make it all fall into place at last? Let’s talk >>