When you’re living a creative life, it’s a fair bet that you’ve got way more ideas than you can handle at any one time. Especially if you’re a passion pluralite, like me!
What’s a creative to do?
That’s what today’s post is all about, in response to this question from Cathy:
Hey Melissa, being a creative I have A LOT of ideas for my business (classes to teach, workshop ideas, different kits I should offer, etc). How do I prioritize and choose what to focus on?
Ah, yes, the $64,000 question.
As with so many questions about living a creative life, there is no one-size-fits-all formula, I’m afraid (though many “gurus” will try to convince you otherwise).
There are, however, some questions you might want to ask yourself, which can help you hone in on a direction. For example:
- What resonates most strongly with you right now?
- What would be easiest/fastest for you to take to market?
- What are you getting the most requests for?
As you ponder these questions, there are a few overarching principles to keep in mind, particularly if you’re just starting out in a new business (or a new business direction).
Business Offers Principle #1: Anything you offer for sale will be a step up from having nothing for sale.
So from that perspective, if you’re just starting out, it doesn’t really matter which of your ideas you choose to focus on first. Just pick one, and start.
Business Offers Principle #2: Your business is constantly evolving.
Just because you offer something now does not mean you will continue to offer the exact same product or service, in the exact same format, a few years — or even a few months or weeks — down the road. So again, on one level, it doesn’t really matter what you choose, because whatever you offer for sale will help you get clearer on:
A) What your audience wants/doesn’t want to buy.
B) What you want/don’t want to offer for sale.
Until you try selling some stuff, you’ll probably feel pretty hazy about both A and B above!
And remember, getting clear on what you want/don’t want to offer is just as important as getting clear on what your audience wants/doesn’t want to buy, if you want to create a business that will truly sustain you.
For example, if you try out offering some one-on-one coaching sessions and discover that they suck you dry, you’ll know that it probably doesn’t make sense to pour a ton of time and energy into creating a set of awesome one-on-one coaching packages, or sink money into expensive appointment scheduling software.
Business Offers Principles #3: Your audience knows better than you do.
Before you start madly creating offers, I also strongly encourage you to find out from your audience what kinds of things they’re looking for help with, in relation to the specific expertise you have that can help make their lives better.
What are the biggest challenges or frustrations that they struggle with?
What are the biggest questions or concerns they have?
What are their deepest desires?
If you have a mailing list, consider creating a simple survey. In addition to the questions above, I like to ask “
I’ve learned a ton from surveying my audience, but surveys are not the only way, or even the best way to find out how you can best help your tribe.
Talk to them!
Read their conversations on social media, yes, but even better, get them on the phone or talk to them in person!
An open-ended conversation with real people in your tribe will reveal more than you ever thought possible, and may spark new ideas for what to offer that will best help them, while also keeping your creative self well nourished.
Business Offers Principles #4: You know better than your audience.
Okay, before you start scratching your head or accusing me of being a nutcase, here’s what I mean by that:
Don’t expect people to tell you what they want you to offer — they probably have no idea.
Your potential clients and customers know very well what difficulties and challenges they face, and how they wish their lives were different. But it’s your job as “the expert” to take what you know about their frustrations and dreams and craft that into an offer that will help them.
Business Offers Principles #5: Start with a minimum viable offer.
As you craft that first offer, I strongly encourage you to do what the most successful businesses do here in Silicon Valley: iterate!
If you’re at all like me, you’re always in pursuit of excellence. I know you don’t want to share anything that’s less than the full amazingness that you’re capable of, but if you wait until it’s perfect, you’ll never sell a thing.
Plus, your “perfect” offer may not be what your audience wants at all! (Been there… Ouch. What a waste of time and energy!)
So instead of getting stuck in Polish ’til it’s Perfect Syndrome, ask yourself, what is the absolute minimum you can do to create something to offer? Then make that, and just that.
Resist the urge to try and perfect it! Just get something out there.
You’re going to need feedback in order to develop the ideal offers for your audience, so put something together, allow it to be imperfect, and put the offer out there. You may wish to offer it to a small group to start, before sharing it with the world at large.
Call it a “beta” offer, or a “pilot program” if you like. Then get feedback from those “beta testers,” revise, and then offer the next iteration (to a larger group this time, if the first group was small).
Example: I want to teach a 6-week in-person class.
Minimum viable product: Offer a one-hour intro workshop to introduce people to your work and gauge interest in the class.
Yes, the first group of buyers may be smaller that you’d like. It happens to me all. The. Time. Get used to it.
Craft your offers so you’re not losing money by selling to a tiny group, and just start.
I hope this helps you figure out how to choose what to focus on, Cathy! Keep me posted.
What would you add to this list to help someone decide among their many business ideas and prioritize business projects?
Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Email me and I may use it in a future Question Time! blog post.
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!