Two years ago I made the extremely exciting decision to build my online business.
I wanted what we all want: to quit my day job, leverage my income, to work from anywhere, to be able to work flexibly around my children, all the things that are attractive to this vocation.
I got caught up in the whole “All you need is a laptop and an internet connection and you can make money online” thing and started an online course about how to build my online business.
The very first thing you learn from the plethora of people vying to teach you how to launch your 6 and 7-figure business is some variance of ‘the world needs that thing that only you can offer’, ‘just be your authentic self' and, ‘if I can do it so can you’.
So many of these online business courses then follow a similar line in my experience, with the whole ‘you can make money before you’ve even built your online course’ thing. They teach us to do a Beta Test of some sort by following some ‘simple’ steps:
Phew. O……K. If you’re still with me you’ve heard (or tried) some version of this, and it’s been a STRUGGLE.
I’m guessing you now fall into one of two camps. You either:
Well, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in both of those camps, and I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned.
What you need to know
I think everyone is starting with the wrong questions. Who is my audience, how can I help them, what is my offer, and even what do I want to do, are important questions, but they are not the first questions. If you try to make them the first questions you might get stuck.
People will buy from you not for what you create or what you offer, but for who you are.
I’ve bought a lot of online business courses. When choosing what to invest in, I haven’t sat down to look at who has the best business credentials, can offer the best transformation, has the ultimate testimonials or any of the other things we think are important when we are trying to position ourselves in the marketplace.
I buy from people I like. What makes me like them? I can see myself in them, we have a similar sense of humour, they tell interesting stories, they show up and give good value consistently, they live the kind of life and run the kind of business I aspire to live, they support the kind of world issues I’m supportive of (we have the same values), they are consistent, they are kind, they don’t hustle me to buy, they provide a lot of support that feels individual to me and shows that they ‘get me’ and they care, they talk about other things that I’m interested in, they have a body of work that is moving in a direction that I want to go in.
To be able to do all the things that make me like them, they have to have three things:
What was extremely difficult for me, was figuring out the above three things for my brand!
All of the online business courses I’ve done tell me some version of how important it is to be my authentic self, before moving on to module 2.
I’m stumped already. How the hell do I figure out who my authentic self is, let alone be her online while showing up consistently, providing content of value, serving and helping and helping and serving my audience who I've attracted and developed a deep connection with like the magical unicorn that I am?
What you could do.
I’ve tried to make this online game work in a lot of different ways, and I am now CERTAIN that your very first question when building a personal brand or an online business should be related to your identity.
Who am I? What sets me apart from other people?
I am two years in to excavating some answers to this question and just now getting clarity around it in a way that feels like a truer and truer version of myself that I can share with others!
It is not a question that is simply answered. It is something that is discovered through intentional work on some level, across your entire lifespan. It is challenging, but the reward of knowing who you are, what you truly value and how to communicate it to others in a way that deeply resonates with them, has *huge* benefits not only in your business but in your life!
Working on this with my 1:1 clients is my favourite, most personally rewarding work.
What you need to know
If you don’t have a really strong sense of yourself and your vision of where you're going and where you want to take others, you might still have success in your online business, but it is likely to:
That’s cool, any form of action is an extremely powerful learning process that you can use on your path to success. There is *always* a period of incompetence before we achieve success.
Take note here: there is a curious paradox at play. While not having a strong sense of yourself and your business might affect your success, it doesn’t mean that you should stop everything and go inside yourself to figure out who you are.
The best way to help get clarity on who you are and what you stand for is to take action in your business. You cannot figure this stuff out in your own head. You have to put something out into the world in order to be able to reflect upon and learn from the experience yourself AND to get feedback from others.
What you could do
When I say take action, it might not be *huge* action. You might not just choose something and dive head first into beta testing it (although you might, I did and learned a LOT).
What small action could you take?
You might just start a conversation with someone outside of your immediate circle of friends and float your idea with them. Putting your idea into words in a real conversation will help with clarity. Even better, you might do this with a coach or mentor.
You might make a detailed comment on someone else’s idea. If you’re in an online group and someone is asking for feedback, just the process of having to put your feedback into real words is a very beneficial process. Helping someone else, taking the focus off yourself will most likely help you discover something valuable about yourself. You can join my private Facebook group here.
You might start at the end point and work backward, think of what problem your online business might solve, and write a few blog posts/videos/podcasts on it that you put out into the world for feedback. Think about what you might create and start with a couple of small projects to see both how it resonates with you, and your audience.
Aim to help just one person, 1:1 in the field you’re thinking of, even if it doesn’t feel like quite the right thing. There is power in getting all kinds of feedback even it confirms which paths are not right for you.
Whatever you do, do not try to convince yourself that you can figure this all out in your own head. You will get stuck. Recognise fear for what it is. Your brain will use logic to try to talk yourself out of things: it’s not the right time, it’s not fully finished yet, I’m not certain this is right for me, I don’t have enough money for professional branding, why would someone want to listen to me?
But often this is just fear of failure, dressed up in logic’s clothing.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
What you need to know:
When we put something we have created out into the world, whether it is in the form of a conversation about our own ideas, commenting on someone else’s ideas, or doing a full course launch, we are likely to get feedback.
Even ‘failure’ is not failure, it is just feedback.
But feedback varies in quality, and if we have not done a lot of the internal work required to feel really grounded in our identity, our vision and our skills, feedback can have the potential to rock our confidence, set us back in our work, or propel us right back to the drawing board if we let it.
This is why I put a couple of boundaries around whose feedback I will allow to impact the decisions I make around my life and my business.
Those people fall into just two categories:
1. Other people who are living the kind of life I aspire to live
2. People who are in my target audience
Now, family and friends can be tricky. They deserve their own paragraph. Here are a few things to be mindful of when it comes to the feedback that comes from close family and friends:
They could tell us everything we are doing is wonderful and they are proud of us, because they love us and they’re biased and they don’t want to hurt our feelings - this is beautiful and affirming and confidence building, but not overly helpful when we’re looking for deeper feedback in order to develop our body of work.
They could be unusually critical because they love us and want what’s best for us - they may have put us in a certain box that we have been very compliant with in the past, but now that we are rebelling a bit from the culture that we were raised in, doing work that takes us closer and closer to what we feel is a truer version of ourselves, they might not ‘get it’ or identify with that person yet
They could try to dissuade us from what we are doing, ignore what we are doing, or help us see that this is just ‘a phase’ before we get back to our ‘real job’ - once again this might be because they love us and want to see us in a place that is safe and predictable. We don’t want anyone we love looking silly, failing, or struggling. But the failing and the struggling are really paramount to success! What they don’t know is that we have accepted that there will be a period of incompetence that we have to work through in order to be great and that it will be awkward at first but we’re willing to do it in order to get to the good bit!
What you could do
So enough of the family and friends, back to the people whose feedback I do (sometimes ;) allow to impact on the decisions I make about my life and business.
If you take feedback from other people who are living the kind of life you aspire to live as an online professional, a creative or an entrepreneur, then you will be taking feedback from someone who has been through the awkward period of incompetence before the success comes. You will be taking advice from someone who is interacting boldly enough with life that they have had their own version of failure many, many times and see the value in it. You will be taking advice from someone who knows what it feels like to be vulnerable and to make the decision that you are not going to engage in a lifestyle in which feeling discontent is ‘normal’. It’s ok to want more out of life!
If you listen to people who are in your target audience, you’re doing the best thing you can be doing. Shut up and listen. Never challenge, never disagree, NEVER say “Yeah, but…” You want them to feel confident to be totally honest with you. Take their words, their experience, and their perspective as total truth, like you are gathering nuggets of pure gold. In doing this you are working towards building a body of work that uses deep empathy to really resonate with the way that your audience experiences life.
It is not your audience's job to see the world from your perspective, it is your job to practice deep empathy so that you can see the world from your audience's perspective if you want your work to truly resonate, be meaningful and make a difference.
If you’d like to surround yourself with other people from my category number 1, you can join our private Facebook group Brave, Like a Boss!
Your first few attempts at launching your online program, or even trying to build your audience are likely to either suck or only have very small success. This does not indicate that you are a failure. This is part of the path to success. Take the nuggets of wisdom you learn and continue to build your purpose and your success day-by-day, tiny step by tiny step.
In summary friends,
I could go on all day about things that I’ve learned from trial and error that seem counter-intuitive and ARE counter to what I have learned in my online business courses, and I often do! You can follow me on Facebook to hear my best stuff. But now I want to hear from you: What is the number one struggle you’ve experienced while trying to figure out what you want to do with your life or business?
PS - If you’d like more of MY musings on figuring out who you are, what you want your life and business to look like and how to make that happen in a way that resonates with people and makes a genuine difference follow me on Facebook, or sign up to get my blog directly to your inbox by clicking the subscribe button on the right.
PPS - If you’re a genuine doer, and are looking to fast track this process of identifying your unique contribution in the world so you can launch and grow an online business that genuinely resonates with people, I’m taking a small number of 1:1 clients by application for a limited time. Email me at [email protected] for details and to book a free 20-min consult to make sure I can help you with exactly what you need.
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