The number one point in my post Lessons from those who have taken the plunge to starting up on their own is “Specialise don’t generalise. Go an inch wide and a mile deep in a niche or a couple of niches rather than trying to serve everyone.” You have to be very clear right from the start on who your target market is and what you are offering them and avoid the temptation to be all things to all people.
By the time someone becomes self-employed and starts up on their own they often have a significant number of years of commercial experience (about 20 in my own case) and have developed the skills and abilities to do a wide variety of things. The challenge is not about lack of services that could be offered. Instead it is about finding something that you love doing, are skilled at and that others will pay you for and that can involve a fair bit of letting go of things that you could do and used to do.
Here are some thoughts on how to develop that focus:
1. Tune into your passion
This will greatly improve your chances of being successful. Why? Because it’s the only way you’re going to be able to devote the kind of time and effort to create a meaningful business, engage the kind of customers you want to work with, generate worthwhile income, and enjoy what you’re doing.
Reflect on those achievements in your life that you have found most satisfying whether they be at home or at work. What do you love to do? What do you find most rewarding? Who do you like to work and spend time with? Based on that, what would your ideal piece of work or project be? Who would be your ideal client?
2. Define your unique talents & experience
Reflect on the skills, knowledge and experience you have gained. What are your unique talents? Your unique talents are those things that you’re best at and really love to do. These are the talents that will set you apart from others and impress and engage the people you want to work with.
It is worth asking your friends, family and colleagues for their feedback on this. Quite often our unique talents come so naturally to us without conscious effort that we don’t realise they’re talents. Its only when we realise that others don’t know how to do what comes easily to us that we realise how good we are and how we might be of value to others.
The other thing that makes us unique is our experience. What industry/sector experience do you have that will distinguish you from others? What experience do you have in solving particular challenges? In achieving particular goals?
3. Get to know what problems your ideal customer wants to solve
When you define your business proposition, the number one step is to find out what your ideal customer really wants, not what you think they need. Pay careful attention to the people that you want to work with. Listen to their conversations, comments and complaints and you will quickly identify the “hot topics”. The key here is to listen and learn. What problems do they really want to solve? What results do they really want to deliver?
4. Determine how your unique talents and experience can help
Once you know what problems your ideal customers have and what they want help with, you can determine how your unique talents can help. If you choose a business proposition that is too broad it may be hard to stand out from the competition so really tap into what makes you unique in terms of your knowledge, skills and experience and how you can package those to really address the needs of your target customer.
Finally, don’t worry about not getting your business proposition perfect at first. Areas of expertise can and will change. Your proposition will evolve with your business. But evolution can only take place if something exists to start with. Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.