Raking it in without
breaking your soul

Find Your Edge

When you have the trazillion dollar marketing legacy of McDonalds behind you, your franchise does NOT need to find your edge. In fact, you want to be cookie-cutter-right-off-the-factory-line samesies as every other McDonalds franchise because customers expect a consistent experience no matter which McDs they roll into.

But when your town has more Mickey Ds than elementary schools, you’ve got competition. The franchise holder down the road is hoping the post prom crowd is going to use his spot for their Tik Toks and french fries and the corporate McDonalds doesn’t care which franchise they visit because it’s still cash in their pocket.

So, my friend, if you want to build your empire, you’ve gotta find your edge. Make yours a Rock-N-Roll Cafe.

You ARE Different

It’s just that you haven’t thought through exactly how you’re different.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – you could be making bespoke broaches for cats – you have competition. Even if you think you’re soooooooo unique. Don’t forget: Sometimes your competition is your potential customer’s choice to do nothing. To not buy. Who actually needs a cat broach?

In other words, your market is crowded, whether you like it or not.

The way to stand out is to find your edge – the thing that makes you unique and different. The cinnamon caramel in a world of vanilla ice cream.

You won’t be everyone’s favorite flavor but you’ll be some people’s go-to, no-questions-asked, extra sprinkles top choice.

Edgy Can Mean Contrarian

Stirring the pot is one of my all time favorite activities. As early as third grade, I was organizing my classmates and mounting campaigns that questioned the status quo. That is, I was every teacher’s most troublesome student (sorry, not sorry Mrs. Jones ❤️) and student hero of the week for getting that English test cancelled in 11th grade.

Questioning the status quo is a part of my constitution. While it still takes some pluck and therapy, it’s what led me to publish blog posts like this one, this one, and this one, which get me emails of admiration and DMs of venom to this day.

To find your edge, list what’s accepted as “common sense” in your field and examine it through your own unique lens. Look for the holes. Talk about them.

It takes a good deal of privilege and a strong support system to buck a trend on Twitter. Some people don’t have the social safety to speak up like that.

But here’s the thing: Contrarian doesn’t mean you have to be cranky, snobby, and up late at night smashing out snarky responses in the depths of the comment thread on your blog. In fact, when your industry is full of cantankerous men cracking at each other online, doing the same makes you vanilla. The contrarian move would be kindness.

So, my Cinnamon Sweet, what’s your edge? Bust out your business journal and write down 5 things that make you different from the others in your field. Then write to me and tell me what they are. We’ll put bells on them and celebrate.

Books Are Not Lucrative

My editor is in my inbox. Again. She gently prods me a couple times a year about writing another book. Or updating an old book. Or writing anything besides newsletters, really.

I’m so resistant.

Writing a book was such a “Should be on my bucket list” notion back when I was in grad school. Before I published a book. Before I knew how much work it would be.

When I was contemplating whether to write it, I was in Indianapolis at a dinner for the keynote speakers of a conference. I was deliberating about this with another keynoter, who told me “Books are your best business card.”

He handed me a copy of his book (yes, he carried copies).

He explained that the book itself won’t make you much money.

Royalties are crap.

Way more recently, I saw this tweet, which validated that things haven’t changed much since then.

https://twitter.com/SimoneKolysh/status/1502055947216330756?t=syTEPqi_xJYb28H_2OTupQ&s=03

By contract, my royalty payments amounted to 14% of sales. Just 14%. For writing the whole damn book (and doing most of the promotion, I might add).

So Mr. Keynoter was saying that the book won’t make you money. But it will open the door for bigger opportunities. You’ll be invited to give keynotes and workshops. You’ll be asked to consult. You can immediately double or triple your prices.

All of those things are 100% true. Publishing a book will not make you rich. You aren’t Stephen King. You don’t get advances. You’ll wait years – literally – after signing the book contract before you’ll see your first royalty check and it’ll be nice but you can’t quit your day job on those dollars.

Writing a book makes you more visible. So if it’s something on your bucket list, the moment you send the manuscript to your editor, you need to start preparing the services (workshops, keynotes, etc) you’ll sell to your new audience.

Books aren’t lucrative.

The opportunities you get from publishing are.

Of course, not everything has to be lucrative. You can write for the pure joy. You can write because you have something to share with the world.

But you don’t need a book to do those things.

See, Mr. Keynoter was advising me at that dinner back before social media became A Thing. Before anyone could start a podcast or a newsletter and grow a following of thousands. Pre-Tik Tok.

15 years ago, books may have been your best business card but now your social media could be even better.

If you want to write, start writing.

Don’t wait for the book deal. Your social media or blog or podcast will likely be the thing that attracts a publisher anyway. So just get to the writing.

Your writing, no matter where you do it, will open up opportunities that make you a lot more money. Writing a book takes months to years of intense focus, patience, and organized thought. Most people underestimate the amount of time and energy required. If you put the same time and energy into your podcast/newsletter/Tik Tok, you’ll get the same opportunities.

If, after reading all of this, you still want to write a book – awesome. Prepare for the opportunities. Get your promotional house in order. Keep writing – that online course, that pitch deck, that story for Forbes.

Once you see that career growth doesn’t come from the book itself, but from the promotion and offers that stem from the book, you might even consider a popular route among many authors I know – self-publishing. Where you keep 100%, not just 14%.

When You’re a Threat

I’ve gotta tell you about the *funniest* thing that happened to me at work in 2021. I mean, in the whole entire year.

Let me set the stage:

My team was hired to help a group of scientists redesign their go-to graphs and, in fact, their entire PowerPoint template. Their main audience was other scientists so the bar isn’t usually very high in these cases but lemme tell ya, they needed help.

I wish I could show you what their slides looked like before, but I’ve gotta protect the innocent.

As we do in all design projects, we developed a handful of options for design directions and had a Zoom call to walk through and talk through the strengths and shortcomings of each possibility.

These folks were suuuuper drawn to the direction that included icons for each section of their talk.

Totally cool. Icons can be fun.

But then came the real work: Getting them to agree on each icon.

I say this with all the love and humor in my heart: Leave it to a group of scientists to totally overthink the meaning held in each icon choice.

Bless the hearts of all nerds, everywhere.

The Great Icon Debate led to a few more Zoom calls, where we’d decide on a finalist for some sections of the PowerPoint and, for others, they’d send me back to the icon ocean to fish for more options.

Third or fourth call that included icons on the agenda and lemme tell you what went down.

We’d been walking through some of the icon choices they needed to make for the first half of the call.

I wrapped up the deliberation by saying “ok why don’t we move on and you all can decide about these icons on your own and get back to me.”

And someone who had her camera off and thought she was muted yelled out “BECAUSE YOU’RE OBSESSED WITH FUCKING ICONS!”

On a work Zoom meeting. In front of 10 of her colleagues. Including her boss.

I couldn’t control my face.

Her colleague on the line said “What was that?”

And the sailor suddenly found the mute button. I can only imagine their sheer horror.

I AM STILL CHUCKLING ABOUT THIS. IT’S BEEN MONTHS.

Aside from being a hilariously human moment, there IS a business lesson in here.

It took me a second to see it because I had to catch WHO, exactly, had gaffed so well. It was the in-house graphic designer.

Now can you decipher what was going on?

I’ve witnessed this situation before (though this was the funniest instance, by far).

In the past, it ended up revealing that the unhappy staff person was not really frustrated with the topic at hand. More so, they were unsettled by the fact that they had the skills to do what I was doing and weren’t pleased that there was an outside consultant brought in.

Underneath that coulda been a turf / ego protection mechanism.

Or it coulda been that this person knows a lot more about managing an icon discussion than I do.

Or it’s possible the project made them feel like their skills aren’t where they should be and this, therefore, was a threat to their security.

It’s not really my place to find out what’s underneath. As the outsider, it’s my place to recognize that something deeper is going on and strategize on what to do about it.

I haven’t run into this situation that many times, but I can tell you that I tried:

  1. Partnering with the internal expert to come up with something even better
  2. Transitioning the project to the internal expert & staying on hand to be a resource
  3. Totally ignoring the problem

And I added a point to my Discovery Call Checklist to specifically ask about existing internal talent. Better to strategize how to handle them with my point of contact at the very beginning of the project instead of waiting until the Best Zoom Outburst of 2021 happens.

Ok, let’s trade. What’s the funniest business moment you had last year? I know you remember it. Write back and share. (It’ll stay between us.)

Robin Hood Pricing

Tell me if you can relate to this newsletter reader who wrote:

“I really want to find ways to use my business skills to help my local community and neighbors instead of working 50+ hours a week so a bunch of rich guys in Connecticut can get even richer.”

!!!

I don’t know who the rich guys in Connecticut are, but in my mind’s eye, they look like this:

man holding two bags of money, twisting the end of his moustache

Is that how people in Connecticut dress? I don’t even know.

This dear reader was struggling to reconcile working for clients who can pay the big bucks while her heart belongs to the local nonprofits and small businesses.

The super pious among us might conclude that the only choices are to cast your lot with your community and commit to a low salary or sell out with Mr. Moneybags and beat yourself up with endless guilt.

Let me offer a third option.

Robin Hood Pricing

When you Robin Hood, you say yes to a few Connecticuts and use that income to subsidize your time working with your locals.

I know, I know. My cheeky “Robin Hood” name is a bit inaccurate. You aren’t stealing anything. You’re doing your job to the best of your ability. And getting paid handsomely.

Which gives you to the space to charge much less for those you want to help the most.

This means you charge higher prices for the work you do in the corporate world (where higher prices are expected).

Robin Hood Giving

To make this all sit right in my soul, I take my approach one step further. Robin Hood Giving.

When I work on one of these helping-the-rich-get-richer contracts, I take some of the profits from that project and give them directly to the local nonprofit that does the exact opposite thing as the big corporation.

Like, when I work with Facebook, I donate to local journalism efforts.

When I work with global credit card corporations, I give to an underground group here in town that provides cash seed money to launch baby businesses – no interest, not even a loan, just cash.

Every time I work with Chick-fil-A, I cut a fat check to Outfront Kalamazoo, my local LGBTQA+ resource center.

One way or another, you can Robin Hood your way through these seemingly irreconcilable duels in your heart. This isn’t an either/or proposition. This is, my friend, is using the power of AND.

Have you ever partnered up with someone slightly (or more) questionable? How did you make it sit right with your soul?

My Epic Pandemic Business Mistake

I hate learning painful business lessons when I’ve been around the block this long. But here we are.

It’s almost two years to the date. I was in Ottawa giving a workshop to a room full of very distracted Canadians. Their phones were buzzing with emails about mandates to work from home, starting pretty much immediately. Their childcare was closing, come pick up your kid.

In retrospect, we should have cancelled the workshop but you know how it was back then – everything was changing hour by hour.

I flew home through the quietest I’ve ever seen DTW, chatting up my verycloseneighbor about how weird life had gotten, as we bathed our seats in Purell, maskless.

There was just so much we didn’t know.

Like, what’s this going to do to my business?

Uncertainty is every entrepreneur’s enemy.

I used to spend at least a week a month jet setting from city to city, racking up Delta miles and teaching my heart out. If you wanted to get into my speaking schedule you had to book about six months in advance.

So in March 2020 I was looking at half a year of work that needed a Plan B, ASAP. Nearly every client was happy to shift to virtual work and I’m grateful. My online workshops are totally rock-n-roll, I knew we’d be ok.

But everyone else was at a standstill. I spent afternoons completing puzzles with my teenager instead of negotiating new contracts.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, as I was finding the corner pieces, anxiety about my future was on the rise.

So when the Are You Available emails started rolling back in, I made a rookie mistake.

I said yes to everyone.

Uncertainty breeds desperation.

When I launched my first business, I was definitely desperate to make it work so I said HELL YES to anyone, no questions asked.

You don’t realize it til later but the trouble with the Yes to All Approach is that you lose your focus. You don’t have a clear audience. Your marketing gets murky. And you backbend your offer to make it fit what each client wants, even if you aren’t actually flexible.

In other words, it hurts.

It took me years to finally trust that the work would come and that I could be choosy about my projects (just like I’d always wanted when I was dreaming about working for myself).

I thought I knew better. After all, this is the counsel I had given to the students in my business mentoring course for years.

Find your niche! Have self respect! Set boundaries!

But there I was, in late 2020, giving four talks in one day.

I was quickly back to booking six months in advance. Which meant that even in early 2021, when I realized I’d made a rookie mistake, it was too late. I already had dozens of workshops on the books.

Literally, dozens. In December 2021 I posted this on LinkedIn and then laid on the green shag rug in my office for 20 minutes.

Beyond the risk of losing your niche, saying yes to everyone is taxing to your soul.

Your girl was tired.

If I could rewind to the plane ride home from Canada, I would have (1) put on a mask and (2) assured myself that even if things appear uncertain, the best play is to honor the natural limit of my working capacity.

I 100% respect that this is easier said than done.

Too much business is definitely better than too little.

I’m profoundly grateful that things weren’t worse.

I need, like, just two days where no one emails me or wants anything from me.

^ All of these thoughts ^ co-exist, side by side, in my head.

Here’s to calendar caps and regular naps.

What about you? What was your pandemic mistake? Write back and confess.

Singing into the Ocean

I just made one of my dreams come true. I launched an online course while I was at the beach.

I’ve always wanted to be in such a well-prepared place that I could put some work on auto-pilot while I snorkel with sea turtles and lobsters.

I arrived.

I answered a few emails each day from prospective students who wanted to join the Data Visualization Academy. But mostly I drank mojitos.

You’d think it’d be all sunshine and starfish but I have had a teenager in tow, who was being very teenager-y. Why is it so hoooooooot? Why is there sand evvvvvverywhere?

My teen was (rightfully) irritated after an unexpectedly long and sweaty hike back from an unexpectedly amazing tide pool. How looooooong until dinner?

When I told him it would be another 90 minutes, his mood turned so sour, it would have aged me 10 years had we been making direct eye contact.

We diverted to a beachside bar and ordered pineapple juice (with added rum and mint in mine) to see if that would turn that tide.

It didn’t.

But while we sat on the top of a picnic table, watching the sun set into the waves, I spotted this week’s hero.

Just as the sky was starting to turn colors, this guy at the bar faced the water, turned up the tunes playing in his headphones, and danced in the sand.

He sang along, too – loud enough for us to hear him, even over the ocean waves. I couldn’t tell what song he was singing but let me tell you right now this man was doing something holy.

Even though signs from Kohl’s like “Dance like nobody’s watching” makes my guts cringe, that’s exactly what was happening here.

He didn’t seem to care about the cranky teenager brooding nearby.

He didn’t pay attention to the two young girls ripping around the courtyard threatening to put everyone in their Tik Tok video.

He didn’t get distracted by the cook and the bartender, who were married and in a screaming match.

Dude put on his red LED headphones and jammed.

Just him and the music and the sky and the water.

At the risk of romanticizing what was going on in this guy’s head, let me stop here and pull out the lesson for the rest of us.

Prepare for In the Zone time.

You know The Zone. It’s when you’re in that coveted state of flow, where it’s just you and your task/project/focus. Where time passes without you knowing it. That’s The Zone I’m talking about.

It doesn’t just happen by chance. Being In the Zone is a result of how you set up your circumstances.

Like, this guy needed to be at the beach. At sunset. With his headphones. And his playlist. He wouldn’t be singing into the ocean without those ingredients. He came ready.

What circumstances do you need to prepare for your In the Zone time?

For me, I need my mornings. After a cup of coffee and a meditation. With my phone on silent and my social media tabs closed. That’s when I’m at my best.

Because I know that about myself, I don’t schedule meetings in the mornings. I protect the time when circumstances are most favorable for being In the Zone. What takes me a half hour when I’m In the Zone would take me 90 minutes in the afternoon.

What works for you? Write to me and tell me.

I also gotta point out:

he didn’t over-engineer the circumstances. He didn’t demand to be surrounded by silence and good vibes. He didn’t sweat a lot of what could have been distractions.

It’s really easy to find reasons (excuses) for why you can’t just get to work. This is why people have the most beautifully decorated home offices but generate zero income. Time to stop shopping for succulents and publish that website.

We tend to prop up a goal of perfection so that we look productive without actually producing. Actually producing means that people will see our work. And they might point out our flaws.

Next time I find myself lacking the courage to do something I know I want to do because I’m too scared of what my peers on social media will think, I’m going to recall Jam Man on the beach in St Croix, doing his thing.

Just Close Shop

Jeremy Chard handles my highlights. While he’s waiting for the foils to hide my grays, he checks his phone and reads off: “I have to move our haircut scheduled for tomorrow.”

“Ugh!” he says, “Another one.”

Another cancellation?

Yep. His fourth one so far that week.

It was only Monday.

Not just any Monday – the Monday of Thanksgiving week.

Jeremy’s week is going to be potholed.

Like when you only have 15 minutes between Zoom meetings. There’s not much you can productively do in that time.

The solution is to just close shop the week of Thanksgiving.

Once you see the pattern of cancellations, that’s your clue of what’s to come next year too. Wonderful! Use it as feedback and plan around it.

When I started my first business I got high from every email asking to be my client. So much so that when Thanksgiving hit and my supply of new clients went dry, I would go through withdrawals and cry to my father that nobody loved me. It took me a few years to recognize that, in my industry, it’s a pattern.

It’s as quiet as the moon from Thanksgiving until New Years Day.

Budgets have run out for the year and everyone is distracted by fellowship and family (and consumerism).

Now I know to plan around it. I don’t rely on December to contribute to my annual income goals. Heck, now *I* start closing up shop around Thanksgiving.

Plan around it.

Don’t expect responses from potential clients. Don’t try to launch a survey. This is not the time to launch a new course or a book.

In Europe, somehow everyone vacations for all of August (I’m jealous). When I was preparing for a September workshop and needed input from clients in August, I got nothing but out of office replies. Now I know better.

If you can’t NOT work (which we can address in another letter), plan to use this quiet time to generate future work.

Hatch your next marketing campaign.

Reflect on your year’s successes and what you want to accomplish next.

Draft up 2 months of your email newsletter content.

You can still be productive – if you need that – while closing shop to clients, who are already closed themselves.

Plus you get to avoid the awkwardness next time you see a client who was part of Cancellation Week. No need to try to hide the hint of resentment in your voice or enact revenge by letting a gray stick out.

What periods are quiet as a moon in your industry? Write back and tell me when it’s quiet and what you’ll do in that time.

Listen to this.

The largest obstacles you face in growing a business live in your head. You accept thought patterns and limiting beliefs as Absolute Truths and Very Good Questions.

And chances are, you aren’t even doing this on purpose. More than likely, you’ve inherited these beliefs from people around you who think success is “for those other people” and a society that says “not you.”

Let’s rewire some of those circuits and get your head in the game.

Think of this as a curated playlist from me to you. A mixtape for your mindset.

Your responses to my questions in previous newsletters have been the muse for this mindset mix.

Jay Acunzo – Maker Monsters

I got this email from one of yall: “I’d like to ditch [my current job], but I’m daunted by the notion of having to run my own business.” Sound familiar? While there’s a LOT packed into that statement, I detect a good dose of “I’m not sure I’m good enough to pull this off.”

My friend, Maker Monsters are the mean, nagging questions in your head that really don’t have an answer so they never show themselves out. Their ongoing presence actually clouds up your ability to just think and work and be creative, unburdened.

Jay has three different episodes on Maker Monsters (eps 161, 167, & 170) where he interviews a wide range of relatable creatives about the gremlins in their heads and how we make friends with them in order to get back to the good work.

Listen here.

066 When You Think You've Tried Everything - HelloSeven

Rachel Rodgers – Boo, You Need Boundaries

I hear this statement a lot, especially from women: “I’ve been running my business for 4 years and I’m ready to scale but I don’t know how because I’m already overworked and stressed out.”

There’s no one better than Rachel Rodgers at shifting your mindset from Broke Boo habits to Rich Boo habits. While her whole podcast is full of hits, this episode is actually her reading chapter 4 of her book.

Listen here.

And, ultimately, be good to yourself and read her whole book. If you think that money makes you evil and empires are for colonizers, this book is one loving therapy session. She addresses money mindset issues that get baked into our gray matter and how to reframe “rich.”

10. How Much Content Do You Need to Create Before You Can ...

Jereshia Said – How To Overcome Your Fear of Success

A student once said to me, “I think I might be fighting growing.” <mind blown> What a huge insight! If you find yourself procrastinating on the things that will actually grow your business, you might have an unacknowledged fear of success.

For those of us who grew up eating SPAM for dinner like I did (not because you liked it, but because it was cheap), success can be awkward.

And we can do some real weird self-sabotage. Like, for years. Without realizing that we’re getting in our own way.

Because (1) we’ve got some deep rooted belief systems to re-wire and (2) we’ve generally lacked role models of how to be successful and sane.

Jereshia Hawk peers right into your soul in this episode and talks you through to the other side.

Listen here.

Hidden Brain – The Psychology of Self Doubt

I’ve heard you say, “I have so many things I want to do but I’m a Jill of all trades – not sure I’m actually good enough at any of these to make a living at it.” Sweetheart, recognizing your value is hard work made even harder with self dout.

Shankar Vedantam’s podcast is a classic but this episode with psychologist Kevin Cokley is an absolute must listen. Dr. Cokley studies the make up of self doubt aka imposter syndrome. And how everyone has it – even Michelle Obama.

But more than just feeling like you aren’t alone, Dr. Cokley shows you how to make self doubt an ally. This is the podcast to replay when you’re having a bad mental health moment.

Listen here.

Jay Shetty – Eliminating Self Doubt

“Stephanie, I’m not sure how to reach new customers. I feel stuck.”

“Ok, let me send you a strategy for getting new referrals.”

<sends strategy>

“Stephanie, I’m not comfortable with any of these ideas.”

Your brain is designed to keep you alive. Which often means taking as few risks as possible and conserving all atoms of energy. And that’s going to prevent you from trying new things and living a life you’ve dreamed about. This episode is about how to get your brain on board.

In this episode, Jay interviews Mel Robbins, a popular motivational speaker. They talk about how to become kinder to yourself. How the only person who can convince you to be happy is the one who stares at you in the mirror every morning. The real work has to happen internally.

Listen here.

It takes a lot of love to uproot those mental blocks. So don’t be hard on yourself for holding onto bad thoughts. Be compassionate. This journey isn’t easy but you aren’t alone. Listen to the words in this mixtape and rewrite your internal script.

Hear one more thing from me: The risk of sending you a playlist is that you’ll stop everything you’re doing and listen. Pause growth – I must learn first.

But that’s not how it actually works. You learn as you do. Which means you should listen to these episodes (likely, more than once) while you continue to grow your business. You can work on your mindset at the same time that you reach out to a new client or update your website.

There’s no such thing as getting ready, then making business dreams happen. Being an entrepreneur is an ongoing process of getting ready.

Figuring Out Your Next Big Move

Back when I was only running a research company, in my pre-dataviz days, I had the can’t-be-ignored sense that my heart just wasn’t fully in it anymore. And I hadn’t even been there very long.

Sure, I was making plenty of money, paying the bills, investing back in my community.

But I had the whisper. THAT whisper. The one that says you can do more.

It’s really annoying, that whisper. Because it doesn’t have good follow through. Like, what’s that more? What should I be doing?

So if you’re trying to figure out your next move and you’ve got the whisper in your ear, here’s my advice.

Spend six months to a year dabbling in some low-stakes spaces.

Pick spaces that seem like possible candidates for your next move, even if you’re only 10% leaning in that direction.

So if you’re looking for a career pivot, any kind of career pivot, you need stints in any place that seems appealing. A younger Stephanie woulda sought out job shadowing or internships in forestry, restaurant management, and journalism.

The goal is to accumulate a crap ton of experience in a wide range of places so you can see what makes your heart sing.

What resonates in your bones.

Plenty of people become millionaires without their heart coming along for the ride. Get this: I know a guy who launched his multi-million dollar empire by choosing it from a list he found on the internet about quick business ideas. He’s pretty dispassionate about the actual product.

But life is exponentially better when you feel like your work aligns with your life’s purpose.

Life is also reallllllly big, which is why it can take some time to play around so broadly that you find where the tuning fork is your pitch.

Read some. Experience more. It’s one thing to read about something in the abstract but you’ve gotta get your feet wet. Travel, if you can.

In her epic graduation speech, Shonda Rhimes says, basically, get off your tushy and do something. You can only dream for so long. You’ve gotta test the waters. Get experience.

At the very least, schedule some informational interviews with people currently in the field. Ask about pain points, victories, growth possibilities, and the ugly stuff no one likes to talk about. And then listen to what, if anything, is resonating in your heart.

You’ve also gotta be good at it.

Listen, I love LOVE the smell of baking bread. I love kneading the dough. I love slicing into the fresh loaf, spreading some butter, and taking that first bite.

However, I suck at baking bread. Trust that I tried several times a week during the darkest times of the pandemic. I just can’t figure it out.

Bread baking is not my next business move.

Better to figure that out before investing my savings into a commercial oven.

So – something you love AND you’re good at. Both. Together.

But there’s more:

The world pays for it.

In your adventures you might find that leading a girl scout troop is makin your heart sing. The kids love you. You’re GOOD at this.

That’s nice. But that job doesn’t pay. It’s a hobby. A cool hobby! But still.

Your next business move has to actually bring in business.

So if you’re zoning in on a potential next step but you aren’t sure people will pay for it yet, here’s what to do:

Talk to potential clients. Get the scoop on whether this is something they’ve ever hired for or see an actual business need for. It’s ok to send someone a $5 coffee shop gift card and ask for 15 minutes on Zoom to get at this.

Don’t try asking if they’d be willing to pay a certain amount. That doesn’t work because people will say yes to seem supportive but when it comes to brass tacks they may not actually buy.

If you want to test the pricing, try putting a pre-launch into the universe. A pre-launch is when you sell your service before it’s fully formed. You’ll say if you buy now (at a lower cost) I’ll share as a build and you’ll have a hand in shaping the offer. If you get traction here, you’ve funded your build. Cool! You can keep testing pricing strategies from there.

Whether you’re looking for a full career pivot or itching to form a new branch of your existing business, you’re taking a big leap into the unknown. What if you hate it? What if no one wants to buy it?

Six to 12 months spent exploring these three areas should tell you which way to go.

And if you love your current job, it’s probably hitting all three of these points.

Well…. is it? Write me back and tell me which it’s hitting and which it isn’t.

Two Phrases Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Would you take a wine recommendation from a teenager? Of course not. People want to partner with someone who has experience.

Which is why the question Tom sent me is so common among those of you considering entrepreneurship: “How much experience would you recommend having before going it on your own doing the consulting route? Do I need to consult beforehand?”

Though it might look like it on the surface, this question is not just for newbies.

Seasoned entrepreneurs who want to expand their empires into new (and perhaps more lucrative) markets run into this same issue.

People pivoting to new fields, despite a decade of experience, face the same fear.

No matter how long you’ve been on the block, you need two key phrases in your entrepreneurial vocabulary:

“In my experience with similar situations, I recommend…”

The purpose of this phrase is to convey confidence to your clientele. You can be trusted. You’ve done this sort of thing before.

All this means is that you need enough experience to say I’ve seen this.

You don’t have to have that experience in the same industry you’re trying to break into right now. In fact, your cross-industry experience is an asset.

You don’t have to have that experience through paid work. Real life grad school projects or free time portfolio development exercises absolutely count here.

But the truth is that even though I’ve been in business for a dozen years and I like to think I’ve seen it all, a client will still surprise me every once in a while. That’s why you need this second key phrase:

“I haven’t run across this yet, but I have some ideas and I’ll do some research and get back to you.”

You don’t need to know e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g but you do need to have the unwavering faith in yourself that you can figure it out.

Talented entrepreneurs can find the answer even if they don’t have it right now. They’re resourceful. They’re also timely – you’ll get those ideas back to your client within 48 hours.

I’ve seen the experience question hold too many would-be successful entrepreneurs back from starting their empires.

How much industry experience did you have before you launched your business? Click here to tell me in an email. My hunch is that it’ll be a very wide range. The path into entrepreneurship has 1,000 different entry points.