First Do This If You Want to Start A Business

When I asked my readers what topics they would like to be trained on the most, “Starting a business that brings in passive income even if you have a 9 to 5″ was at the top of the list so I decided to create a course to teach this. Let me tell you a story about two businesses I first started that failed and how I would do things differently. As you read, you will see which pitfalls to avoid in starting your own business as a creative entrepreneur with passive income.

In my first business, we created one of Africa’s first iPhone/iOS apps. We had the idea and in a few months we had launched the app. The praise and reviews came in but we made no money from it. Not even $1 dollar. One of the reasons was that, it was 2009 and we did not know how to monetize an app. We could have charged for the app or allowed in-game purchases but no one on the team understood sales or marketing very well. To tell you the truth, I was just excited to have worked on something cool at the time. There’s a bigger reason why we did not make any money on the app but let me tell you about another business I started that made zero dollars as well.

first business

The lion that never roared

Fresh Words Inspired was a blog I started to talk about business about 3 years ago. I like lions so nearly all the posts had an image of a lion. Very soon people were sending me photos of lions. I have always liked the t-shirt industry because it allows your illustrations and designs to receive tangible life on a piece of fabric. There’s something really fulfilling about seeing someone wear something you created. I wanted to monetize the blog and the only way I knew how was to have a friend design a tee and put it up so I did exactly that and guess what? No one bought a single shirt. Not even one. I did not understand how to promote products online so I did what I saw others doing and got no good results. Here is the point I was getting at.

“Not understanding how business or anything for that matter works is the same as walking around in a dark room trying to find something you need.” In both of the illustrations I just gave, I was ignorant. I had not studied what it took to promote and monetize software or t-shirts. I was trying to use common sense like everyone else.

“Common sense will get you common results but understanding will make you see farther than anyone else.”

What I should have done was to first understand the market, identify who my ideal client was and then create a strategy to monetize the products. I could have also researched to find out who else was making money in their field and sought to understand their business model. For example, with the t-shirt company, I never bothered to find out if there were any prospective clients who wanted to buy a tee with a lion wearing a snapback. I just assumed others would like it because I liked it.

Understanding can make you so much money in business. It’s the difference between a broke real estate developer and a wealthy one. Many people build apartments, not because they know of a specific demand for the property but because they have a few acres of land and think that is the best way to develop it. A wise developer will first find out if the prospective clients seek condos, apartments, town houses or a hotel. She will first identify what the exact opportunity is before laying one brick. Instead of building and then trying to convince someone to buy, she will find out what they want and build with those specifications in mind. This way, her property will stay at full occupancy while her competition are busy wondering why the market is not responding.

Now that you have decided to start a business or monetize your current online assets such as your blog or website, I am going to give you a step by step system you can follow. If you have any questions, subscribe and send me an email with the subject “Question.”

Step 1. Identify your value.

God has placed in all of us, the ability to create wealth. We all have something of value that we can develop. Everyone I have ever read of or met that has had consistent success over decades is doing what they love. By this, I mean they are harnessing gifts that God gave them. They discovered these interests and developed them through reading, practice, internships or apprenticeships. As a creative person, I was good at a lot of things.

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Fortunately for me, I could understood both technical and non-technical subjects but I did not begin to flourish until I tried my hands at them or read enough about my inklings to know if it was something to consider of not. For example, a few years ago I wanted to be an investment banker so I read The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life and took a 3 month course at the Securities Exchange. By the end of the course I knew I was not ready for that life so I moved on and tested another interest. The most successful people create businesses out of what they can do in their sleep.

This step is to find out what unique value you should package as a product. To have fulfillment and success in your business, you have to create a product or get into a niche that is authentic to your strengths. God has put in all of us something that this world needs, this is one way to find out what that is.

  • Write down 3 things you are good at and what skills you already have. e.g. – graphic design, event planning, helping others get interviews, writing resumes, interviewing, designing jewelry, cooking, writing poems, teaching music, making beats, encouraging people, etc.
  • Write down 3 things you know better than most people (this may be something that is so obvious to you but others do not see.) e.g. blogging, photography, chemistry, passing standardized tests, the inner workings of the legal system, how to fill taxes, how to read 50 books a year, etc.
  • Write down 3 ways your friends describe or introduce you to others.
    e.g. she dresses really well, she knows how to manage a project better than anyone I know, he can bench press 250 pounds, he is a designer, pastor, he makes cool beats, she speaks so softly you want to tell her everything about your life, he loves movies, etc.
  • Write down 3 things you have been successful at that most people struggle with or would like to achieve. (these are sometimes things that come very easily to you that you can do it in your sleep.) e.g. Passing the SAT, starting a business, creating a logo, running 1 mile in 10 seconds, taking free kicks, building a website, painting on canvas, illustration, getting a job at a bank, saving money, filling out lengthy forms, losing weight without going to the gym, etc.
  • Write down 3 skills you already have e.g. graphic design, copywriting, singing, branding, selling t-shirts,etc.
  • Write down 3 things you like reading, watching or studying. e.g. leadership, cooking, sales, faith and grace in the bible, basketball, counseling, interior decor and furnishing, strategy, lead generation, speed reading, etc.
  • What can you teach easily? e.g. fencing, rowing, football, writing love letters, picking out investments, styling outfits, teaching young girls how to use make up, etc.

Finally, imagine you have $300 million in the bank. In order for you to keep this money, you have to pick a career that you will love. It has to be something you can see yourself doing every day with ease even if no one was paying you for it?

E.g. I’d help entrepreneurs learn how to start and grow businesses online, I’d help nursing mothers know what kinds of workouts to do in order to lose weight, I’d help university graduates find jobs, I’d help CEO’s organize their schedules, I’d help retail stores organize their shelves better to convert more customers, I’d help big companies to file their taxes, I would like to help good politicians to plot and execute a successful campaign so the bad ones do not win, I’d like to paint caricatures of famous people, I’d like to help small businesses automate their finances, I’d like to help creative entrepreneurs make money online, I’d like to knit Christmas sweaters, etc.

Once you discover what your unique value is, you will understand what problem you are naturally equipped to solve. One of the saddest things in life is to see an individual who is not fulfilling their destiny by working on the wrong thing. I am convinced the reason so many people say their jobs are hard is because they are working on the wrong things. The minute you find out who you are and what you have in you, success will start knocking at your door.

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Step 2: Identify your ideal client; find out who you want to serve, what niche you will fit into best and what unique problems they have.

Do you know what is better than having 1000 new customers? It is having 1000 starving customers. As an entrepreneur, you do not want everyone to walk into your office or visit your website. You only want those who are hungry for your product because those people will appreciate your value and will most likely buy from you again and again in the future. Most importantly, starving customers rarely argue over price and will most likely refer you to other people who are as hungry as they are.

I am not a fan of pepperoni pizza even though it may be one of the most popular kinds of pizza. I think most of the ones I have tasted are too salty. For this reason every time I see a pizza place with a buy 1 get one free pepperoni pizza deal I look away. I am not their ideal client. I may even be craving for pizza but at that moment, I am not their ideal client.

One of the biggest mistakes I made and I see others make all the time is to first get the idea, create the product and then start looking for clients. The right way is to find out who wants the product and then tailor your idea to fit paying clients. For example, if the head of the United Nations gave you a contract to supply a nation with drugs for malnourished children, would you go and order 2 ships worth of drugs first or would you first find out which specific vitamins and minerals you need to make sure are in the drugs you are yet to import? You can call this feeding the hungry, or giving water to the thirsty or clothing the naked. The principle is the same.

“This is like choosing your destination before you get on a plane.”

Many people get this wrong so they start a business or website, create posts, upload content to social media and then wait for money to come. After a while when there’s no money coming they post more content or create more products on more social networks. This doesn’t work either so they get frustrated and quit or move on to something else that they will inevitably fail at.

The first thing is to do here is to write down (not just in your mind) the specific kind of person or niche or customer segment you would like to cater to. If you were a fish, what specific pond would suit you? Are you a don at helping working mothers get back into the workplace? Are you excellent at helping immigrant professionals get 6 figure jobs in healthcare consulting? Or can you literally get any college graduate a resume and cover letter that will help them get an interview with Goldman Sachs?

The better you know what you can do and who needs you the most, the more money you will make. We are intentionally foregoing building a website and other stuff in week 1 until we get the basics well defined. Even if you have done this before, please answer the questions below. Those who answer these questions thoroughly will have a better chance of success.

Who is your perfect audience? Who would you love to serve?

  1. Answer the following;
  2. Who are the hungry?
  3. Who are those you are equipped to serve?
  4. Who are those who can relate with your message you can relate to and who need to hear your message to live a better life or to not make certain mistakes?

Please describe in detail

  1. Who he/she is……………………………………..
  2. What does he/she like? ……………………………………………………
  3. What products and services does he/she buy and use?…………………………
  4. What does he/she look like?………………………………..
  5. What Instagram pages, websites and blogs does he/she read often?……………………………………
  6. Who does he/she listen to?……………………………….
  7. Where does he/she work?………………………………….
  8. If you wanted to find 10,000 people exactly like him/her, where could we do that? Both online and offline examples……………………………..
  9. What are some questions she has that you can answer? What problems does she have that you have overcome or can give solutions to because of what you have experienced or read?………………………………..

Let me show you an example of how I used the above exercise for our Business Growth For Creative Entrepreneurs course. You can answer the questions below as well.

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1. Who is the ideal client? Creative Entrepreneur

2. What is his/her occupation? Small business owner, fashion designer, chef, developer, freelancer, consultant, stylist, blogger, artist, musician, graphic designer, etc.

3. What is his/her biggest desire and end result? She wants freedom..the ability to quit her job and make enough money doing what she loves…She wants to be able to grow a business that allows her to live the lifestyle she dreams of and not be tied to a desk all day… She wants a step by step system to follow… She wants fame, fortune and recognition for her work

4. What is his/her biggest problem? He does not know where to start because there are too many books, Youtube videos and courses out there. He’s not sure which of them will help him achieve her goals.

5. How can I help him/her today? By offering a step by step system that takes him from the idea stage through to the marketing, sales and profit stage… I can create a free ebook today that does that and also a detailed course that he can follow every week.

Chris Dixon has a really interesting article titled Founder/Market fit. Many people focus on product/market fit when that should be secondary. Entrepreneurs pride themselves on how many ideas they have but many people are not equipped internally to execute on certain opportunities. Many people get to where the puck is going only to realize they don’t have the skills of a professional athlete.

Now, you know what you have that this commercially valuable, you need to find out what needs that you are making. Talk to people you have already sold to and find out why they bought from you. Segment them into groups so that you can decide of which group is worth your effort and will pay you what you want. For example when I started out as a brand consultant, I found out that corporate clients who had a sales but no experienced marketing team were willing to pay whatever I asked. There were others who also paid me what I wanted but the marketing manager would waste my time with unnecessary emails and phone calls many times because he wanted to take me on some ego trip to prove he knew his job.

If you are yet to start your business, then one way to find if people will buy what you are selling is to ask them to. Go up to someone you believe is an ideal client and say “I am selling this product/service for $100, you can buy it now.” The reason I say you should ask for the money is because many people especially your friends or family out of politeness will say that your idea is great and that they would buy it. Until someone pre-orders your product or gives you money for it, do not take their word for it. I know someone who ordered over $3000 worth of samples because his friends had expressed interest. After the products arrived, those who had showered praise on him were nowhere to be found. All of a sudden they had other financial obligations. 

It is said that in college, even the janitors knew who Sam Walton was because he would speak to you whenever he saw you on campus. It came as no surprise when he was elected student body president and president of his Bible class. Sam knew he was built for sales and he found his home in retail and stuck to it. This is an excellent read. Get it “Sam Walton: Made In America.”

“Obvious Adams — The Story of a Successful Businessman: New Business Edition”
I was pleasantly surprised by how good book this was. It tells the story of a gentleman who notices the obvious and turns it into commercial value. You’ll enjoy it especially if you like marketing and advertising. Get it Obvious Adams — The Story of a Successful Businessman: New Business Edition

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3 main ways to grow a business.

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