It is tough to hear, but there are two things I know for sure about business: at some point you will fail and you will eventually need to pivot.
Many of us dream about following our passions, leaping off the corporate ladder and starting a business. But it seems only a few brave souls actually turn their dreams into reality.
In the past 6 months, my business partner and I have interviewed freelancers and business owners about their successes, struggles, and tips. Time and time again we received the same feedback.
Their courageous entrepreneurship stories included three common lessons. Understanding these tips can help you fail fast and pivot quickly as you grow a sustainable business.
1. Tell someone
If you find yourself thinking about an alternative life path, start talking about it. Why? Honestly, many times there are holes in our ideas that become visible once we start talking it out. But more importantly, when you are starting a business — even if it is just a side-hustle — you need cheerleaders in your corner to keep you motivated and push you forward.
A support system is critical, and without one you can quickly lose momentum as you face challenges. More often than not, some of the first people you tell will become your biggest supporters.
For example, Allison, a communications freelancer, jumped into freelancing nearly a year ago. She still doesn’t have a website, but benefits from a booked schedule due to telling old colleagues, friends, and family about her services. Similarly, Marielle, a health coach and owner of MK Wellness, found that sharing her own story and current practice has helped others feel comfortable approaching for coaching.
2. Just do it!
If you find that you make excuses like, “my website isn’t complete” or “I just need to finalize my logo” then you’re stuck in a pre-launch rut. Even large brands rebrand themselves when needed. Google was once BackRub, Nike was Blue Ribbon Sports — the list goes on. It is better to get out there, test your idea, and prove you have what it takes rather than focusing on what’s not perfect and ready.
Casey Smith, owner of Liberty Designs Co, a screen printing shop in Florida, said, “Stop thinking and just do it…” I completely agree. You can plan and plan, but until you get out there, you won’t really understand what your target market wants.
3: Listen to the market
It’s important to listen to feedback from your ideal customers. Pay attention to what people ask for: does your product or service actually solve their problems? Are you positioning it correctly? Is there another audience segment that would be better served by your offerings?
My favorite example of this is illustrated during an episode of U.S. TV series The Office. David Wallace, a character played by actor Andy Buckley, created a product idea called Suck It–a children’s vacuum designed to suck up toys, and teach kids to clean up their toys. Suck It was designed to work for a variety of purposes, including cleaning up radioactive and nuclear waste. In the show, the product patent was purchased by the U.S. Military for $20 million (and likely used for that purpose).
As you receive market feedback don’t hesitate to pivot, test new messaging, and approach new target markets.
Caitlin McDonald helps freelancers, business consultants, and solopreneurs find simple solutions to complex problems. As co-founder of the Social Speak Network, she provides freelancers and business consultants real advice to live the life they’ve always dreamed of. Visit SocialSpeakNetwork.com/thrive to learn how to most effectively grow your freelancing business. Connect with @socialspeak on Twitter.