The birth of a business (and a business owner) Part 2

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Learning to take baby steps

At my coffee check-in with Ryan (the Lioness) earlier this week, I asked her to suggest a book – some kind of complete guide to starting a business. Her gaze was level and her voice firm. “No,” she said. “That would be overwhelming.”

She’s right. But not having a guide can be overwhelming, too, even though I’ve started to chip away at my to-do list.

In the last 2 weeks I:
• Decided that my company will be an LLC in order to separate my personal and business assets
• Came up with a couple of possible business names that I like and am investigating whether they and the associated domain names are available, and
• Identified three groups of target clients and the services I can provide to each
But…what next?

Ryan’s favorite word is “clarity.” She cut through the clutter in my mind with one question: How are you going to generate consistent monthly income?

Oh. I realized that my focus had been on my “ultimate” client – a high-end customer who would hire me to do a big project. The problem is, those projects are time-limited and happen unpredictably.

Instead, I needed to develop a plan to bring in a guaranteed monthly income, even if it wasn’t enough to earn a profit (very unlikely) or cover my household expense (highly probable). Take baby steps, said Ryan. Get a solid footing and then grow your business. My eyes had been on the finish line and I needed to shift my gaze to the starting line.

Ryan’s advice to me was to package my services in a way that would attract clients willing to sign on with me for an extended period – 6 months or a year. Be specific, she said (clarify), on what you will offer, for how much, under what conditions.

We discussed an example. One service I will offer is writing blogs for clients’ websites. I could create three tiers of packages:
• Basic package:
o The what: One 300-word blog/month
o The how much: $250/month (assuming 2 hours of work/blog, this provides me a decent rate and the client an affordable service)
o The conditions:
 1-year commitment
 Paid monthly
 Blog topic and supporting materials (up to 10 pages) supplied by client
• Standard package:
o Two 300-word blogs/month
o For $500/month
o Under the same conditions
• Deluxe package:
o One 300-word blog + one 1500-word article/month
o Cost: $1,000
o Conditions
 Same as above, plus the following for the article
• Client provides topic
• I research topic and provide an outline for approval before writing the article

Good, said Ryan. Now put it in writing so that it is clear to you, to me (Ryan is developing my website), and to your clients (I’ll have a menu of services I can hand or email to potential customers).

Ryan’s advice has caused me to shift my thinking from the short-term to the long-term. I now understand very clearly that it will take some time – probably a couple of years – to develop my business to the point that it is profitable. I accept that I’ll have to take on some part-time work for the foreseeable future to supplement my income from the business. And, surprisingly, I’m okay with that. The clarity is calming.

Everyone needs a Ryan.