If you’ve ever seriously thought about starting a business of your own, you’ve probably discovered how difficult it is to get good advice on how to do it.
Most of the business guidance you find on the Internet tends to be about motivation. Entrepreneurial gurus say things like:
- • Get off your butt and go for it.
- • Work harder than everyone else.
- • Do it now before you regret it.
- • Never give up.
- • Mistakes are a part of the process.
But you already know that becoming an entrepreneur is going to take pluck, perseverance, and a positive attitude.
What you need is the map, the blueprint, of how to get from your cubicle to doing what you love. And you need to know how to make money at it. Because, let’s face it, making a good living is an important part of your security and happiness.
That’s why I’m so thrilled to have Dorie Clark, author of Entrepreneurial You, on the Building a StoryBrand podcast this week. She’s interviewed over 50 highly successful entrepreneurs about how they’ve monetized doing something they care about, and she’s going to share with us all their secrets.
You’re going to learn the 3 key phases to develop your startup. By the time you’ve moved through these phases, you’ll be making good money and doing what you love.
I’ve outlined the main points Dorie shares with us on the podcast, but to get the full benefits of all her wisdom, listen to the podcast sometime this week.
Phase #1: Build Your Brand by Becoming a Trusted Source
You’ve probably heard the phrase, Go slow to go fast.
Apply these words of wisdom to how you start your business.
Because there’s a lot disingenuous schemes on the Internet, customers have a healthy skepticism about buying anything. They’re not going to buy from you until you’ve built some trust.
Create a lot of high quality content that people can read and see for free.
One of the best ways to build trust with your audience, Dorie claims, is to create a lot of high quality content that people can read and see for free.
At our StoryBrand workshops, we call this “staking out your territory.” We recommend that you become known as a leading voice in your industry. Whether you’re the expert on hosting important events or getting rid of the weeds in your lawn, you should establish yourself as an authority on your subject.
Becoming a trusted source positions you as the guide who can solve your prospects’ problems. It also helps you to stand out when you’re competing in an overcrowded market.
“It can mean the difference between being able to command premium prices and just fighting for the scraps,” Dorie explains.
Dorie offers some steps on how to do this. Start by writing regular blog posts that help your customers with their problems. Then, if you’re able, write a book. After that, build a network of social proof that shows you know what you’re doing.
And she adds, build your email list. Here at StoryBrand, we show you how to capture emails in our Online Marketing Roadmap Course. Your email list is probably the most valuable asset you can have to communicate about your products or services.
Dorie offers some final words of advice to build credibility with your clients. It’s important to maintain a connection with your audience by actually interacting with them. At least in the early stages, personally respond to your audience. By taking the time to email someone who has reached out to you, you are forming a very powerful and meaningful connection. Dorie has found that some of her best customers are faithful to her because of the emails she replied to when she was first starting out.
I agree. I remember when I sent an email to Malcolm Gladwell after his book The Tipping Point came out. When he emailed me back, I could hardly believe it. I’ve been a fan ever since … and I’ve bought every book he’s written.
You can create forever faithful fans if you take the time to help them with their problems and if you connect with them as you grow your company. When you establish a deep trust between you and your customers, they’ll carry you to the next level in your business.
Phase #2: Monetize Your Expertise
Charging for your brand-new products or services takes a lot of courage. You really have to believe in yourself and what you offer.
Since this is challenging, Dorie suggests stepping into the identity of an expert in your field before you begin.
To explain, she shares a story from an influential leadership professor. When he was drafted for World War II, he remembers when he was suddenly expected to lead people into battle, even though he was only 18. The only thing that made it possible for him to do his job was to put on the uniform. When he wore that uniform, he was able to be a different person. He wasn’t a scared kid anymore; he was a soldier.
“In many ways, we have to do a kind of similar exercise for ourselves,” Dorie points out.
So how do we “put on the uniform” of our newfound persona?
It’s counterintuitive, but Dorie recommends starting out by sharing your product or service for free. This helps you to practice and, if your friends or first customers like it, they’ll give you referrals or great testimonials.
“Those are things that can be really valuable to you over time as you learn the process,” she says.
Your quote should be fear plus 10%.
It also helps you to believe in what you’re doing. When you try your product or service out and it works, it gives you the confidence to go out and ask for money.
After you’ve stepped into your new identity, it’s time to charge for your product or services. For a lot of us, we’ll fret for a long time on how much we should charge.
Since most people have a tendency to undervalue themselves, one of the best answers Dorie has gathered from her interviews is this:
Your quote should be fear plus 10%.
I completely agree.
You might be thinking you’re being humble and good for not charging very much. But, really, when you undercharge, you devalue yourself and what you offer.
Let me share some personal experience with you to prove my point. We have many businesses come through our workshops at StoryBrand. Most people thoroughly enjoy the experience and learn so much. But there’s been a few outliers who were distracted — they were on their phones throughout the sessions, they walked out in the middle of a group discussion, they took a long lunch or skipped an hour. The frustrating thing to me was, usually, these were friends of mine who had come for free.
If people don’t pay for what you do or what you offer, they won’t value it.
So I think Dorie is giving us needed encouragement. Charge more than you think you should. You’re worth it.
Phase #3: Extend Your Reach and Impact Online
You’re charging good money for what you offer and, at first, it’s really fun!
But trouble is coming (and you knew it would).
Eventually, your business will hit a stage that’s called “whitewater” (for more on this, see David McKeown’s talk here). This is when you start to max out what you can realistically do on your own.
Dorie says that people who offer professionals services are especially susceptible to this part of the process because your sole revenue stream is about giving time for dollars.
“Eventually, you reach a breaking point because there’s only so many hours you can work,” Dorie explains.
She adds, “There are finite limits to what a client will actually pay. You bump up against that and you’re just stuck.”
So the question we need to answer is How do you stop trading time for dollars?
You can bring your expertise and valuable insights to the public through your own laptop.
One of the most beautiful results of the Internet is we’ve essentially gotten rid of the gatekeepers. You no longer have to wait to be noticed by a publisher or move through the university system to teach others. You can bring your expertise and valuable insights to the public through your own laptop.
Dorie offers some ideas that can help you get out of the time-for-dollars trap.
- • Produce a popular podcast or blog
- • Create an online course
- • Start an online membership community
- • Organize affiliate partnerships
The goal is to build passive income. You want to make money while you’re sleeping, at the beach, or spending time with your family.
Essentially, you’re wanting to exponentially recreate yourself — which leads to more consulting gigs — that leads to more speaking gigs — that turns into more online courses.
It may take awhile to reach this point, but you’ll get there. You’ll reach a tipping point and discover you’re in a positive, upward cycle that makes you money without making you tired.
The beautiful thing about this process is that there are a lot of things you can do without any risk. You can build your brand by becoming an authority on your subject while you continue working. You can even try out your products or services on some of your friends and first customers. When those people start to rave about what you do, you can make the leap to running your own business in a way that’s strategic and calculated.
Soon, you’ll be making money doing something you love. Sure, there’ll be a whole new set of problems to deal with, but from that point on, you’re the boss. You get to make the decisions and you can make them on your own terms. That’s the beauty of becoming an entrepreneur!
Dorie gives us a lot more guidance than I summarized here. Give the full episode a listen to really understand how to make good money doing something that matters to you.