Whether you’re casually thinking about starting your own business, or are in the throws of building your empire, it is never too late to take a moment and realign your idea with a your creative business model. For some of you reading this, your business model doesn’t even exist and you’ve just got an idea or a hobby that you would love to make money from. Doesn’t it sound nice to make a living doing what you love? Back in the day, a while back, this was how life was for most people. People were crafters. They had a craft that their parents and mentors taught them and they made a living doing that. Think shoe cobbler, blacksmith, farmer, scribe, and the list goes on and on. People just don’t do that as often today. How many times have you heard about someone going through college, getting their degree, and having a hard time finding a job. People just don’t go into business for themselves anymore.
There are a select few though. The ones who make a living making things they love and following their passions. Something that these people have found is that being in business for yourself is even more lucrative than ever before, because unlike hundreds of years ago, it’s really easy to tap into a global marketplace and sell your services or your products everywhere via the internet. In some cases it allows business owners to live debt free and travel while working too. So how do they do it? How do small business owners like this make it these days? How do artists and creators live off of etsy sales? How do bloggers make enough money from their websites so that they can quit their 9-5 jobs working for someone else? Just how did they find success?
To answer that, we must understand the basics of how to start a business and how to develop a business model. Once you’ve read this post, you’ll be ready to work on your business model, and when you do, you’ll want to download the free guide to building a profitable online business model.
So, how do you start a business when you’re just casually thinking about it? Well, it all starts with an idea…
NUMBER 1. Have an idea that knocks your socks off:
It’s the truth. You must find something that will keep your attention for the long run. Ideally, this idea for a business will hit all kinds of personal points with you. Ask yourself: can it meet your monetary needs, personal and professional fulfillment, bucket list, work/life balance, is it scale-able?.. so on and so forth. Plus, you’re going to have to pitch your business, products, and services to actual people and if you don’t believe in your idea passionately enough, people can tell. They can smell it on you, see it in your face, hear it in your tone of voice and read it in your marketing copy. If they have even the slightest feeling that you’re just in it for the money – they’ll move on. Don’t pursue things that other people are doing just because they’ve been successful at it. You have to truly believe in it and own it. Don’t get me wrong, you can follow in someone’s footsteps, because most business ideas have been done before, and having a mentor or a professional idle is a good idea. However, don’t copy someone just because you want what they’ve got (money, popularity, swagger…)
If you’re having trouble thinking of a business idea, try searching your hobbies and making friends who enjoy those hobbies too. I wrote a little bit about finding your creative career in just 12 months that you may want to read. It gives more details on what exactly you should do to turn a hobby into a career.
NUMBER 2. Build an audience that gets you:
Gather your people. These people should understand your business idea and know who you are. They should be engaged in your interests. Don’t just dive into a business idea without having business prospects first. You need to have a pool of fresh clients waiting for you when you finally do launch your business. So, you need to start making friends with like-minded people who enjoy elements of your business idea. You don’t have to start pitching your business to them , but you do want to start testing the waters with droplets of info. If you think your business will be based online, go ahead and get a few social media accounts up and running. Start inviting friends and family first. Then start searching for people who use relevent hashtags, are part of groups you are involved in, or are sharing content similar to the content you and your business idea might relate to.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many social media platforms though. It’s a good idea to master one or two social media forms at a time. Having just 100 friends and connections is a great place to start but its important that the 100 people who are part of your audience are people you know might be interested in your business and have engaged with you before in some form or fashion.
NUMBER 3. Build a business model:
What’s a business model? This is the outline of how your idea for a business will make money and scale. (download the free guide to get more in depth learning) It’s not just building a website, throwing some ad’s up and hoping people will somehow find your website and click on your ads. Let’s say that was the case and someone did find your website and did purchase something from an ad. Then what?
You see, you need a clear outline for how you will turn your products into profits and how you will out-perform yourself year after year. A good example is if you are a crafter. Being a crafter is not your business model. Selling seasonal crafts in an etsy shop is a business model. Another element to the whole business model will be the sales pipeline, and sales funnel, and business scaling. This is a pretty in depth topic for a future session but for all intents and purposes, when you build your business model, you should be outlining the steps from:
- Determine your product (products or services)
- Generate sales leads (social media, facebook ads, print ads, email marketing, newsletters.. etc)
- Qualify clients as buyers (people may sign up for your newsletter, but how engaged are they with your content?)
- Provide quality free information (free content that people want and are willing to share. Like free booklets, printables, or even just a nice pinterest photo of crafts on etsy is a great example too)
- Propose a product for sale (Okay, they’ve been pinning your pins or reading your free content for a while now – reach out and convince and convert them to buy)
- Negotiate and then close the deal (Understand your prospects struggles and find answers using your services)
- Scale to grow your business (Done by improving your products, finding more needs in your market, growing your audience, hiring help to produce more, etc)
NUMBER 4. Test the online business model and idea among your audience:
Once you have a good idea and outline of your potential business model, you should start asking around your audience and see if these types of products and services work. Will they be willing to buy? There are a few ways you can do this. Here are some examples.
- Want to start an Seasonal craft product business? Start posting photos on your Instagram and ask your audience if they would be interested in buying it.
- Want to start a Photography Business? Start posting some of your best personal work and photos in a free online portfolio and share links with your audience. Don’t forget to ask what they think and if they know anyone who could use some headshots.
Don’t be afraid to work for free once or twice. This could help you build a portfolio of work and give you a sense of how this business model will do in the open market.
NUMBER 5. Build a Website and blog:
Once you feel your business model is pretty solid, you’ll want to start a website with a blog. I can’t think of a business that doesn’t need one. At the very least, a website provides contact information and samples of work. The reason a blog is so popular these days for personal and business use is because it provides another way for business owners to engage with their audience. If people find your blog posts interested or informative, they tend to let you know by leaving a comment, sharing it with others, and being your own personal brand ambassadors by saying to their friends “hey, look what I found”. People love being the first to find something and share it with their friends. If you don’t have a blog or website with information for people to share, how will you be able to scale? These are things you should be thinking about and considering.
When you are ready to start a blog, theres a spot on my website that I’ve dedicated to “How to Start a Blog”. I dove into that project January 2016 and provide one more step in the process every week. You can check it out here and sign up for the update when new content is release.
NUMBER 6. Offer free information and grow your audience for your online business:
Once your blog and website is up, go ahead and start offering free content. I know it sounds crazy because “aren’t I supposed to make money from the business?” Yes, but it’s no secret that people love free stuff and what better way to get people to love you and your business, brand , and products than to give them a taste of what they get when they pay for something. However, don’t just give them something for free and let them walk away. Make sure you capture their information so you can follow up with them on that free product, ask them how their experience was, and then engage them in further discussion. You’re probably thinking this sounds great in theory, but how in the heck is it done?! It’s done by setting up an email / signup form on your website using a plugin for a newsletter service like MailChimp.
Here’s the catch. You should provide your prospect with not just any old thing. It has to be something they really want and that has a lot of value. It may mean putting in 40 hours of work, but imagine how delighted your potential customers could be to receive such a great gift for free. I am willing to bet that if you play your cards right, provide them with support and care in some really fantastic ways that they could become your best customers. Some ideas of free products could be: A free downloadable ebook on a topic related to your business, a special discount on a product you offer, a bonus product with purchase, a workbook they can use to DIY a problem on their own, or maybe a free consultation. The ideas are endless but your main goal is to get them interested and to enroll.
NUMBER 7. Engage in follow up, help your audience recognize their problem, and convert that to a sale:
Eventually, you’re going to have to convert your prospects into clients and the best known way to doing that is helping them recognize they have a problem and that you are the person they need to fix it. You could send out weekly emails filled with just ads for your products OR you could send out weekly emails that discuss your readers issues and how you might solve them using a product you offer. These types of emails might dive into topics on a deeper level than your blog ever will. It could mean the difference between a cold prospect to a budding client who just had a light bulb and Ahah moment because something you said hit home and made them feel something. It will be up to you to develop this sales pipeline, how you get a prospect from point A and Point B. It will also be up to you to determine your sales funnel. Okay, now you’re confused, I can feel it! Here’s the gist..
- A sales pipeline is the exact steps you will take to turn a browsing person into an actual buyer. Imagine a potential client flowing down a pipe that leads to a bucket.
- The pipe represents every step you take (ie: social media, website, newsletter signup, email, determine a problem, offer a solution, sale!)
- The bucket represents the final sale and transaction
- A sales funnel is different than a sales pipeline. It represents the percentage of people who go through your pipeline and actually become clients. Imagine that instead of a pipe flowing to a bucket, you’ve now got a funnel over the top of the bucket. Only so many clients will fit through the end of your funnel. The larger your sales funnel, the larger number of people you will convert to sale. You can get a larger funnel in a few ways. One being by getting more people to engage and another by increasing your engagement. Here’s an example of the difference it can make when you create a larger sales funnel:
- Which business gets more sales? A website that has only 1 place where people can sign up for your email on your website OR a website that has it on their side bar, a pop up, and a reminder in the middle of their blog post?
- Which business gets more sales? A business that sends out emails monthly OR one that sends emails out weekly?
Now, some of this is subjective and depends on the quality of your work and the quality of engagement you give your readers. Remember, people can smell fraud. So, make sure you know your stuff and that you genuinely care about your topic.
NUMBER 8. Grow your business:
Now that you’ve developed your idea, created and audience, built a website, have a business model, and developed your influx of sales, you should start thinking of ways to grow your business and scale. Scaling a business means to grow it in size, volume, and possibly in types of product offered. This can wait for the right moment, but you’ll want to have this figured out for when the time comes.
A great example is a photography business. If it’s just you, how can you possibly photograph for more clients if you’re booked solid? It’s a business model that has no scale capabilities. UNLESS!
- You hire an assistant to take on smaller tasks so you can take more clients
- You start selling your photos on the side as stock photography (more income steams = scaling)
- You develop an ebook or an ecourse that can sell all year long while you continue booking clients (diversify your product offerings)
- Put your photos in a gallery for sale
- Hire more photographers to work for you and finally get more clients in other areas than just weddings (consider raising rates to cover your new hiring expenses)
- Develop a membership service for reoccurring income streams
As you can see, this is just one business model but there are multiple ways to scale and grow this business. The main goal is to look to the future and understand how you can grow, continue to learning, evolving, and expanding your customer base.
So, there you have it. You should now have a better understanding of how its done and how many online business owners make it so they can quit their day jobs and be full time business owners with money in the bank. The question you are probably wondering is, do you have a business idea that you can start working on? If you do, don’t forget to download the free business model workbook so you can get started right away.
You may have noticed I care a bit about your goals, so if you have any questions at all, please send me a message, leave a comment, or shout out on social media! I typically respond the same day.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be setting up additional resources for those who want to start on their own creative business. In the mean time, you can always sign up for our rymixer’s club below to get the free resources already offered here at Ivorymix.com plus be the first to find out about the additional resourse and courses I’m working on.