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How to start a business doing what you love and keep loving it

How to start a business doing what you love and keep loving it

When she was 22, Sophia Amoruso began selling clothes on EBay under the name Nasty Gal Vintage. At the age of 28, she had amassed $250 million. How did she do it?

Simply put, she took a culture that she loved–vintage, hip, girl culture–and made a business out of it. She continued being fresh and relevant to her audience of Millennials. She did this by staying true to herself as an empowered Millennial woman–a #GIRLBOSS.

Like Amoruso, you can take what you love and make it a business without sacrificing your love for it. But beware. The journey isn’t easy. It takes vision, courage, smarts, persistence, and organization. You may have to sacrifice some of your idiosyncrasies to appeal to a broader audience.

At first, you may feel a twinge about making money from a purely passionate activity. But ultimately, if you truly love what you’re doing, you’re giving something valuable to people, something worth more than money. You’ll keep adapting to make it fresh. The world, and you, will be better because you’re doing this.

Examine yourself

Do you really want to do this? Have no doubt. The reality is you’ll be embroiling yourself in the world of business; you’ll be taking what you love and attaching numbers to it. You need to make money to live. Are you doing it because you love it, or because you want to make money?

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Do what you love because you love it. The money will come because you’ve taken the right steps to make it a business. Making what you love into a business is just required for you to be able to do it all the time. The real question is: do you want to do what you love all the time? Of course you do.

Set your expectations

This won’t be easy and you won’t even necessarily make money. You can expect to take what you love to the next level. Your art will get better. Your writing will improve. Your people skills will flourish. Expect to excel at what you love. If you don’t find yourself excelling, keep at it. If you find yourself excelling, keep at it. This is what you love and you know it. You can expect to excel when other people know it, too. They’ll see what you love for what it is, like when people are immersed in a painting. You’re just a conduit for something truly independent of you.

Get down to the nitty-gritty

You knew this was coming: there are practicalities to making this a business so you can do it all the time. These things aren’t what you got into it for. They’re the necessarily evils of the system. Keep your eyes on what you love–but get the practical stuff right.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a gateway to the logistics of starting a business. You can use this as your push-off point. Here you’ll find advice and links on everything from how to start a business to hiring and retaining employees.

Determine your business structure. If you’re not going to have any partners—say you’re a visual artist—you’ll want to register as a sole proprietor. This simply means that what you do as an individual is your business in the eyes of the law.

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But say you’re in a band. Then consider registering as an LLC (Limited Liability Company). The LLC means each partner, or member, shares tax responsibilities. But any debts accrued won’t rest on your shoulders. Instead, they’re on the business as an entity.

Once you’re officially setup as a business, head over to the IRs site and get your Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. You’ll also need to register your business with your state.

Prepare to accept payment

As a small business owner and an entrepreneur, it’s important to be able to monetize your work. If you’re selling your art, an EMV (Europay Mastercard Visa) card reader allows you to do so from anywhere. With a credit card reader, you’ll be able to take payment from the many people who don’t have cash and prefer a card. EMV is the evolution of the card readers you see on seller’s phones at farmer’s markets and concerts. EMV is now mandated by banks, because it reduces fraud. If you don’t have it, you may be liable for fraudulent card transactions.

Find funding

There are multiple ways to get funding for your business:

  • Crowdfunding—Kickstarter, Indiegogo, PledgeMusic, Sellaband, etc.
  • Competitions and grants—colleges, government organizations, trade organizations
  • Venture capital—MicroVentures, VCapital, FundersClub, etc for online; and see Wikipedia’s list of traditional firms
  • Microfinancing— Kiva, Accion, Opportunity Fund, etc.
  • Angel investors—angel groups, e.g. AngelList, Gust
  • Venture debt investors—firms such as Trinity Capital Investment and Kauffman Fellows provide financing even if you don’t have positive cash flows or assets.
  • Bank loans—most local banks have funding for their account holders

The type of funding you pursue will depend on the nature of your business. There’s all sorts of crowdfunding available for any sort of venture, but a site such as Kickstarter is best for artists who have a physical product to promise investors. If you’re going to take on venture debt, have a clear view on paying it back, or you’ll have to liquidate or declare bankruptcy.

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The SBA also may provide financial assistance to you if you:

  • Operate for profit
  • Are doing business in the US
  • Have some owner equity to invest

Try out the other options, including using your own assets, first

Overall, there will be funding for you if you’re willing to buckle down, do the research, fill out the forms, and go for it. Just make sure your business plan is in place before gunning for funds.

Do research and networking

As you’re preparing to start your business, and once you do start your business, talk to anyone you can find who has done something similar:

  • Access internet forums
  • Research local entrepreneurs and reach out to them on LinkedIn
  • Find Facebook groups
  • Look at their websites and physical locations
  • Send emails, introduce yourself, ask for advice
  • See about sitting down with them for coffee

Anything you can do to find a mentor will help you immensely. Mashable has a list of entrepreneur social networks for just this purpose. Ask about every stage of starting, maintaining, and excelling.

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Understand your brand and audience

The branding process is ongoing. Your brand strategy is essentially a roadmap for how you plan on adapting to an uncertain and volatile marketplace.

Your name is a big part of your brand. Like Sophia Amoruso, make your DBA (Doing Business As) name a reflection of what inspires you. In Amoruso’s case, it was funk singer Betty Davis’ 1975 album, Nasty Gal.

If what you love is art, you have a set of ideals. Your ideals are related to who you are, they’re related to your views, and they determine your aesthetic. Understanding your brand is a matter of identifying your aesthetic. Write it down in pencil so you can go back and change it. That’s because your aesthetic can, and should, change as you and your audience evolve.

Evolving with your audience is important. It shows you’re paying attention to what’s happening around you. It will also help you keep loving what you do, because evolution keeps things fresh and exciting.

Featured photo credit: Wikipedia( via en.wikipedia.org

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Published on December 18, 2018

How to Brand Yourself and Make Your Business Stand Out

How to Brand Yourself and Make Your Business Stand Out

You’ve been in business for years and have finally hit your plateau.

The tactics you’d implemented for your customers aren’t working as they’ve used to. You feel like your business has fallen out of the spotlight and now you’d have to settle for any business you get. It’s how businesses work, right?

The truth is that some brands will fade off the business world–while others will adapt well and continue to grow. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself for where your business currently stands. After all, you’d kept applying tactics that provided predictable results.

Instead, decide to not settle for average results and spend more time building your brand. To make your business stand out from your competition, you need to be unforgettable. But how can you?

In this article, I’ll cover timeless tactics that have worked for other businesses. If you apply these tactics correctly your competition won’t be able to copy them. Here’s how to brand yourself and make your business stand out:

1. Win Your Audience’s Hearts with Authenticity

The truth has always shined.

Even without the technology we have today, people always had a way of finding out if someone was lying. And, with everyone engaging in social media today, it’s hard to hide from the truth. Yet, this seems to be what many businesses fail to do.

For example, companies like Listerine have been fined for lying.[1] A quick buck today won’t be worth it in the long run. Instead, practice being authentic to your customers and they’ll eventually rely on you.

Allow your customers to buy your products with a money-back guarantee – then deliver on your promise. Be consistent with the content you provide and stay true to your brand.

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For example, if you provide coaching services for entrepreneurs, don’t sponsor irrelevant brands. If you stop caring about your brand’s mission, your audience will notice. They’ll question your integrity with your business and stop trusting your brand.

But if you gain your customer’s trust, you’ll start standing out from your competition. Your customers will feel safe purchasing from you since they’ll know you’re honest.

2. Share a Story No One Will Be Able to Copy

A few decades ago, a brand would’ve gotten away without being unique. That’s because back then starting a business was not accessible to most people. You’d either need enough money to launch your business or have the credentials. And even if you had all these qualifications, you needed to get past the gatekeepers.

Today, technology has disrupted many of the barriers that were present a few decades ago. For example, today a college student can launch a Podcast within a week. He can create a website in a few hours and record a few Podcast episodes. If he’s persistent, he can build a large following overtime and get paid by sponsors.

This is great news for aspiring entrepreneurs but there’s more competition than ever. You can only do so much before other businesses begin to copy you. But what no business can copy is your story.

That’s why you need to share your story with your audience.

For example, if you have a money blog, share how you’ve overcome your financial struggles. If you run a freelance writing business, share how you’ve overcome writer’s block. The more your audience can relate to you the better.

Without a story, your business won’t stand out. And if you copy what’s working for other businesses, you’ll experience short-term success.

Take some time to share your story with the world, your audience will love you more for it.

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3. Stop Reinventing Every Single Thing

“Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” – Anthony J.D’angelo

You may have heard that being original is the way to stand out. While this is true to an extent, you also shouldn’t be original when something is already working.

For example, if your competition has a successful Podcast in your field, then so can you. Don’t search for better alternatives to a Podcast if it’s already working.

Why?

Because this is a waste of time. Instead, copy what’s already working and make it your own.[2] If your competition has a Podcast, figure out which areas you can improve and tailor it around your brand.

Knowing this you can now spy on your competition and determine which areas you can improve. But, know that it also works the other way around. Others will view your business and copy what’s working for you.

That’s why it’s important to stay true to your brand and be authentic with your audience. When you do, your competition won’t be able to copy your unique traits. Have an abundant mindset and feel confident for what your business has to offer.

4. Shine Because of Your Uniqueness

Stop trying to help the entire world and focus on helping a specific group of people instead.

I get it, you’re willing to help almost everyone because you want to bring in more business. But the truth is that if you resonate with everyone, you resonate with no one.

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Take, for example, a marketing agency that helps businesses promote their product. This business doesn’t speak to anyone but gets occasional sales throughout the year.

But what if there was a similar marketing agency dedicated to helping real estate agents? If there was a real estate agent looking for help in marketing–who do you think they’ll choose? That’s why niching down is necessary if you hope to stand out from your competition.

Determine which customers you enjoy working with the most and determine which customers bring in the most revenue. Once you’ve gathered enough data, focus on servicing your ideal customer.

Don’t expect immediate results since this won’t be an easy transition. If you’re currently helping a narrow audience, slowly transition into a niche audience. Niching down is crucial to building raving fans.

5. Be the Brand Everyone Can Depend On

Being the brand your customers can depend on is important. How many times have you bought a product that’s failed on its promise? Or have settled for an average service?

Exceeding your customer’s expectations is a sure way to make your brand stand out. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, studies on human psychology prove that when you give to others, they’ll reciprocate. Offer your customers free consulting, a free ebook, or free quality content. Eventually, they’ll be happy to reciprocate after receiving value from you.

View what your competition is doing and surpass their offers. For example, if your competition offers a free 15-minute consulting call, offer 30 minutes. When you focus on helping others more, your customers will notice.

Make it your mission to serve your customers first and then worry about making a profit. Other ways for your business to be reliable is by inspiring your customers. That’s right, a business isn’t only about selling, it’s also helping customers achieve their goals.

For example, you can write content that will inspire your audience to take action. You can interview guests that will push your audience to break bad habits. Get creative and look for more ways in which your audience can depend on you with.

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The Bottom Line

Imagine serving fewer customers and getting paid more than ever.

Despite the fierce competition, you’ve got fans wanting to buy your products and services. Although this may seem impossible right now, it’s not. If other brands have been able to stand out in a crowded industries, why can’t yours?

The truth is that standing out from your competition isn’t easy. There’s no secret formula that’s available to the rest of the world. The trick is to do what most brands are unwilling to do.

Many businesses don’t want to niche down because this will mean a loss in sales. But that’s sacrificing short-term gains for long-term success. Niching down is necessary to build a brand your customers will love.

Many businesses will spend a lot of money looking for ways to innovate, but won’t apply what’s working. But, not you.

You’ve got what it takes to stand out from your competition. Start slowly and master each principle covered here. Now go and make your business stand out like never before.

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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