The reason it took me three years of thinking, planning and learning to launch my business, wasn’t because launching a business is difficult. In fact the entry barriers for new online businesses today have never been lower, especially if your business is service based. Anyone can purchase a domain name for under $10 and website hosting for less than $50 for the first year. Business name registration is not expensive and an ABN is free. Of course, I’m talking about Australia, but if you research your own country’s requirements, you’ll find that it’s never been easier to start an online service-based business.
So what is stopping so many of us?
For some of us it could be lack of confidence or trust in ourselves.
For others it will be the inability to decide what kind of business to start, especially if you’re a generalist like me – someone who knows a lot about a lot and can’t decide where to settle down.
The good news is that no matter what you decide on, you can always change your mind. If you pick a business name that can apply to any type of business, or trade under your own name, you can always pivot away from your original idea and towards something that feels better aligned with your current situation. Even if you’re in a pretty specific profession, like a dietician or life coach, you can start of specialising in one type of service and then later move on to a different specialisation. You might start as a general practitioner trying to be all things to all people, but with time, you might realise that you only want to deal with specific people in specific situations.
But this might still leave you thinking, OK, but WHERE do I start?
I will share with you a method for choosing your THING, but first let me tell you MY story.
Choosing my first business
As you know, I began my entrepreneurial life as a personal blogger, who discovered that there were various methods of monetising your blog and I started to try them out one by one. I made my initial money by writing sponsored posts and offering advertising on my blog.
My blog led to other writing opportunities and I began creating content for other people’s blogs, which really was more of a hobby than a serious business. When it came to seriously thinking about a business, I was quite lost. I took part in various coaching programs for online entrepreneurial wannabes and hoped that the answer would present itself somehow.
I chose copywriting, because that was kind of what I did as a blog writer and I also had heaps of experience in business writing. I was also quite enamoured of the business name I came up with – Write Solutions. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any work, despite some help from a mentor ,and the one job I did get, put me off stand-alone copywriting for life. So I pivoted into digital marketing, which included copywriting, but was a much broader field and involved building websites, something I was really enjoying at the time. I also got involved in coaching and training local small businesses in digital marketing through a government program and realised that I really enjoyed being back in a teaching/coaching role.
To be honest, I was too scared to call myself a Digital Marketer for a long time, because I had no formal background in Marketing, but once I actually did the things a Digital Marketer does, I realised that formal education is not the only way to get really good at something. All that self-education was actually paying off.
As well as Digital Marketing, I found myself doing a lot of community building, both on and off-line. I had started a Facebook Group for Melbourne Bloggers, then Ballarat Bloggers and I was also involved in the Motivating Mum franchise as the Ballarat Associate for a year. Four years ago I started a coffee group for Ballarat’s women entrepreneurs and last year ran some events for the Ballarat business community. Clearly connection is a big thing in my life and while my introvert ways push me towards online communities, I also keep reasonably social with my coffee friends and those I meet at other networking events. Hence the latest reincarnation of my business as A Connected Life. Connecting businesses to clients, their values and new ideas through digital marketing and community building.
But just when I thought I had found my THING, I find myself pivoting more and more towards coaching in the Start Up community. I want to work one-on-one with women starting their own online ventures and guide them through the process. The actual things I do won’t change, but there will be a bigger focus on coaching and providing digital marketing as part of a business start-up package.
Choosing your first business
Now that you’ve read about my journey, can you see how it doesn’t really matter where you start? It only really matters where you end up and that you enjoy some success along the way.
I know you still want to know how to settle on that ONE first idea, so I want to introduce you to the Hedgehog Concept, or at least my version of it. The Hedgehog Concept is based on an ancient Greek parable that states: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Here is a picture:
In the parable, the fox uses a whole range of strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races, and plays dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, with a nose full of spines. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one thing perfectly – roll itself in to a ball full of spies to defend itself.
To make use of this concept – list at all the things you are passionate about and enjoy doing, then circle all the things that your are really, really good at, and lastly examine which of those things will give you the biggest return on your investment. This might not be easy if you’re just starting out, but you can use your judgement as best you can to guesstimate the answers. What will bring you a bigger return – a one hour coaching session, a website that takes 10 hours to create, or a coaching program that reaches many people at once? It helps if you do some research on your proposed services at this stage.
You may still end up with more than one thing, and then it’s really a matter of just making a decision. 1, 2, 3, go!
As you can see from my story, I have been a fox throughout my journey, trying lots of different things to reach my goal. It’s only now, that I’m beginning to be more hedgehog-like and focusing on the one thing – my niche.
It strikes me that many entrepreneurs start of as foxes and only with time start to naturally apply the Hedgehog Concept to figure out where to focus their businesses. You can be smarter and apply it at the very beginning of your journey to make sure your business is not only something you love and are good at, but that it also makes you money.