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Some of you may remember my wife Laci from the last episode she was on: seanwes podcast e189 Finding Your Passion.
Today we’re talking about coming up with a practical business plan.
It’s been a year and a half since Laci was on the podcast and I’m excited to have her back on! We talk about going from the exploratory phase of finding what you’re passionate about to actually starting a business.
Laci and I had a great conversation about this over coffee recently. She had an idea in her mind of what it would look like to start her business, but that ended up changing significantly after we talked.
We’ve decided to share that conversation here on the podcast to help you figure out what you want to do and then sit down and come up with an actual business plan.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- The words you use to present yourself to your friends define what they’re going to remember about you.
- The more specific you are when describing what you do, the more memorable you are.
- Own your passion and you will start to see it as a real job.
- Content marketing is great in the long run, but it’s not a quick solution.
- You can get clients right now from the people you already know (and the people they know).
- Network even before you have a website.
- Don’t undervalue in-person relationships and connections for getting your business off the ground.
- Go where the people are who might want to hire you.
- When you’re in person with someone, you are your website.
- Counter imposter syndrome by focusing on others.
- 02:45 Sean: We’re assuming that someone has gone through the initial exploratory phase of finding their passion. Now that you’ve found that, you’ve done things and found the passion in the doing, you’ve differentiated between the idea of something and the thing itself—“I’d love to be a bestselling author!” Yeah, but do you like waking up every morning and writing every day? That’s what it looks like to be a bestselling author.
- 03:12 A lot of people have an idea of a passion, but you only know whether you’re truly passionate about something if you’ve done it for a while, if you’ve encountered resistance and overcome it. On the other side of resistance, that’s where you know that you’re passionate about something. There needs to be an initial exploratory phase. If you don’t know what you want to do, if you’re still trying to figure that out, this was the topic of the last episode Laci was on besides the most recent one (Related: e189 Finding Your Passion).
- 03:49 It was called Finding Your Passion. There’s that exploratory phase where you’re doing things, you’re trying things out. Now, a year and a half later, we’re taking the next step. When we start talking about it, maybe you can tell people a little bit about the exploring and discovering of what you want to do, and then we’ll get into, “Okay, you’ve found what you’re passionate about. How do you actually turn that into a business?”
- 04:15 How do you come up with a business plan and a business model? Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we went and got coffee, and I have to clarify—I’m really good about segregating business from personal stuff. We’re technically on a coffee date, and I didn’t bring up business. This was totally your idea, Laci. You were like, “Hey, can we talk about my business stuff?” I may or may not have rubbed my hands together, but that was totally you.
- 04:46 Laci: Yeah, it was totally me. I still haven’t learned that lesson. When I sit down and say, “Hey, so about this,” and then it’s three hours later.
- 04:54 Sean: Did somebody say business?
Finding Your Passion
- 04:56 Sean: You had a specific idea of what it would look like to actually start treating this seriously, actually building a business from something you’re passionate about, and that ended up changing rather significantly as a result of this conversation. We thought we would share it and rehash it, reiterate it, because a lot of other people can probably relate. Before we get to that, let’s roll back the clock a bit.
- 05:24 Bring us back to that time, episode 189, where you’re trying to figure out what you’re passionate about. How did you make it to this point today?
- 05:33 Laci: Right. My background has been in the food industry. I have done a lot of various jobs from catering to restaurant management. I was a supervisor at Starbucks. I’ve done a lot in the food industry and I’ve always had a passion for the food industry. I wanted to become a chef when I was a kid, and I decided that I would burn out on that passion fast, so I didn’t go to culinary school or anything.
- 06:00 I ended up getting a job as a catering coordinator, and I thought that was kind of my dream position. I ended up leaving that job to work for seanwes two years ago in November. I kind of thought, “I’ll be in the family business now.” I needed a break from what I was doing. I started doing show notes, that was the first thing I did for seanwes, and since then, I edit content, proofing for show notes, customer service, and all kinds of things for seanwes.
- 06:32 Sean: Shipping and fulfillment, administrative stuff.
- 06:35 Laci: Accounting, payroll, all that stuff. Now, I organize the conference. I organized the conference this year. Honestly, I just haven’t found the fulfillment that I thought I would in doing all of those administrative type tasks. My number one passion is food, number two is event planning.
- 06:58 For the last two years, I guess it’s more like a year, I didn’t think about or realize how unfulfilled I was until a little over a year ago, and that’s when I decided that I needed to start thinking about what I can do to scratch the itch of food and event planning. The conference was definitely a huge thing for me this year. I found so much joy in planning that and putting that on. That’s my favorite part of my job. If I phase out of literally everything else I do for seanwes, I would still want to do the conference for the rest of forever, because it was so much fun for me.
- 07:37 Sean: I’ve repeatedly said that I want that to be your full time job. When we start treating it like a full time job, that’s when it becomes one. You could literally just focus on the conference for the year, and that would be all of your work.
- 07:53 Laci: Absolutely. Even if it’s not a full time job year round, it’s definitely a full time job seasonally. Even if it’s a part time thing or whatever before that, the last few months before the conference, it’s very much a full time job, more than a full time job.
- 08:11 Sean: Throughout this time, are you still trying to discover what you’re passionate about? Did you ever feel like you were in a place where you did not know what you were passionate about? Or did you feel like you always knew?
- 08:25 Laci: I’ve always known it was food, but that could mean a lot of things. I did all the things I thought it was. All my past jobs were what I thought would be the thing, what I would think was awesome. A year ago, I started thinking about how I can channel the best parts of my passions into a business. I had a few conversations with Community members and with Sean about what it is exactly that I want to do.
- 09:04 For months, I had thought through a lot of things that I thought were really glamorous jobs in the food industry and the social media world, and I just shot them down. I was like, “Because of these things, I could never do that. That’s silly.” I had some conversations with Community members, which was great, and I really narrowed it down, finally. What I really love to do is to make food look pretty. That’s when I decided to explore food styling and food photography. I decided that about a year ago, but just recently have I really niched down and narrowed it down even further. This was after exploring for so long. It has taken me forever, I’ll be honest. A year is a really long time.
- 09:57 Sean: Can you share how you went on this path where you were thinking that it was food photography, but then the realization that you had that helped you focus in even more?
- 10:08 Laci: I spent a long time learning photography, specifically for food—it’s a lot of still life or product photography. I decided that I really wanted to learn food styling. That’s the core of what I wanted to do.
- 10:23 Sean: You wanted to do food styling, but you felt like you had to be a food photographer.
- 10:27 Laci: Right. A lot of times, they go hand in hand. You can make food look pretty all day, but if you take really crappy pictures of it—or if you don’t take pictures of it—no one is going to see it, and it doesn’t matter. The photography aspect is the canvas to the paint, which is the food.
- 10:45 I decided that I need to set aside the styling stuff and learn photography, and honestly, that paralyzed me. For months, things were going well. I read a lot of books and articles, I talked with photographers and looked into online sources, as many resources as I could find, but then it started to become about the gear and about everything else besides the food, which is what I want to do. The editing process of photography is what really paralyzed me.
- 11:19 That terrifies me, and I feel like all my photography friends are judging my every move now that I’ve said the word “photographer.” I didn’t do anything for a long time, for several months. I didn’t pick up my camera. Then I ended up getting a pro bono food photography client. Someone asked me to do food photography and I said yes. It was terrifying.
I did all the things I thought I wanted to do, and I didn’t like the act of doing them.
- 11:46 Sean: How did you get that client? How did they know about you?
- 11:49 Laci: I have a friend of a friend who is starting a food tour company here in San Antonio. They just launched their business a few weeks ago. They needed photos for their website. This friend said, “Hey, I know this person who’s into food styling and food photography. You should get to know her.” I ended up making a connection with these guys, and I did a shoot for them. It’s really more like event photography.
- 12:23 Sean: I want to roll back a little bit. I feel like some people are stuck in this area. How did someone tell the other person that you were someone that could help?
- 12:36 Laci: I had been talking with my friend about finding my passion, what I want to do, food styling, and food photography.
- 12:44 Sean: This client needed someone to shoot photos, and your friend thought, “Food, photos, Laci.”
- 12:53 Laci: Yes.
- 12:54 Sean: Okay. I want to highlight that, because I feel like it’s important. Correct me if I’m wrong, but during that season, you were very into figuring out cameras, getting good photos, and probably talking about food photography a lot, even with friends. Laci curated a persona of food photography even among her friends—that’s what they remember out of the conversations, and that’s why she got recommended to a client.
- 13:31 Eventually, a little bit later, she’ll explain how she actually doesn’t want to shoot the photos. She wants to style the food. She’s a food stylist. That’s very powerful, though, and it’s something people should be aware of.
The words you use and how you present yourself to your friends is how they’re going to remember you and how you’re going to be referred.
- 13:52 Laci: I think part of that was people not knowing what a food stylist is or does, and I would just kind of say, “Food photography,” so they had a better idea without me having to go too in depth into it. It kind of encompasses that a little bit better.
- 14:08 Sean: I think people are scared to be specific. “Well, no one’s ever heard of this. It would be silly to say it. I’m going to go much broader, because that’s what they’ve heard about.” The broader you go, the more you have the problem of someone saying, “Oh, Cory, you’re a…” I don’t know what a more broad version is for what you do.
- 14:29 Cory: Just saying “film making” is very broad.”
- 14:32 Sean: Yeah. So, do you make films for other people? Who knows?
- 14:36 Cory: Documentary? Fiction?
- 14:45 Sean: You think that’s a good thing. “Well, I’ll get more exposure,” but you’ll get more exposure, maybe, to the wrong people. Secondly, since you’re so broad, there are going to be a lot more people in that realm. There’s less to differentiate you. The more specific you go, the more memorable you are. I think that’s a common struggle for people, being afraid to go really specific because people haven’t heard of this.
- 15:11 Laci: Right. I ended up doing this photo shoot for this company. What the company does is they go downtown San Antonio and they have these predetermined restaurants that they lead a group of people around to taste all the food, so you get a small plate at each restaurant. What I did was not food photography. It was more event photography. Everyone sitting down and eating. I imagine it’s like photographing the reception of a wedding or something.
- 15:41 You have to get good pictures of people eating. That was very, very challenging. It stretched me and tested my photography skills, for sure, but I came out of that realizing that’s not what I want to do.
The more broad you go in describing what you do, the likelier you are to be matched up with the wrong people.
- 15:54 Sean: You started taking pictures for this client, and you’re like, “Actually, I don’t want to shoot photos.”
- 15:59 Laci: I was more like, I definitely don’t want to do event photography that involves food at all. That was in August or September. Then I had some really great conversations at our conference about niching down from food photographer to food styling. I got some clarity, even getting the permission from someone else saying, “Project yourself as a food stylist, not as a photographer. It sounds like that’s what you need to do.” I was like, “Yeah, it does sound like that’s what I need to do.”
- 16:31 Sean: That’s what Kyle went through. Kyle Adams was like, “I’m an illustrator. I do user interfaces.” He was scared. No one is an icon designer. That’s not a thing. But it is a thing!
- 16:49 Laci: I realized that I need to own food styling. Something else happened. I found someone who just projects themselves as a food stylist online. I had never seen anyone do that. Anyone I follow, and I follow like 100 food accounts on Instagram, and they’re all food stylists and food photographers. A lot of them started as food bloggers and got really good at taking photos, so now they just do all of it. I had never seen anyone just do that, and that’s what I was really struggling with.
- 17:25 I was like, “I don’t know how to project myself as a food stylist without talking about the photography, too.” I found someone online who pretty much does exactly what I want to do. The other thing I realized through the conference and some other stuff is that I want to bring in a human element to what I love, food. I love planning events. I have always loved doing that. I love that people sit down and eat together.
- 18:05 It’s a very communal thing. I wanted to figure out how to tie that in as well. The person I mentioned that projects themselves as a food stylist also does dinner parties, specifically. She styles dinner parties, from centerpieces to food. I’ve been trying to figure out how exactly to project that, as well. I don’t just want to sit in my kitchen and take photos of food. I want to style food for and with people, for companies, and for their people.
- 18:44 Sean: We’re talking about coming out of the exploratory phase of finding your passion. In a moment, we’re going to get really practical and bring in our conversation about business plan, business model, how to get clients, who to talk to, how to network, where content marketing fits in, if it fits in, your website, your brand… We’re going to get really practical in just a moment.
You can make anything your thing if you own it.
Food crosses language barriers and emotional barriers when people sit down and eat together.
Is This a Real Job?
- 19:08 Sean: Before that, I have a question. Laci, have you struggled with feeling like this isn’t a real job? I’ve niched down so far. This isn’t a thing. Who just does styling, styling for events?
- 19:20 Laci: Totally. I’ve always thought that, even since I wanted to become a chef. When I was in the culinary chef world, looking into doing that, years ago, I remember hearing about food stylists who work for the Food Network. I was like, “That’s not a job.” It’s such a glamorous job. You show up, you make food look good, and then you leave. You don’t even have to cook it or photograph it. I was like, “Yeah, right.” I’ve thought that for a very long time. I think that’s why I never followed through with the dream of it. It was that. It was a dream.
- 19:59 Sean: How did you overcome that feeling?
- 20:00 Laci: I think I really overcame it when I found someone else who does it online. No one told me about her, I just stumbled across this person who was a food stylist, and you could tell that she worked really hard to project herself that way. Her styling is really great. Her photography is good. I wouldn’t call her a photographer.
- 20:19 When I realized that I don’t want to be about the gear, I don’t want someone to come talk to me about, “Oh, what cameras do you use,” etc. I don’t care.
- 20:37 Sean: So you’re starting to take this seriously. Maybe you can tell me, what caused you to start thinking seriously about this, actually making or working with clients? What flipped that switch?
- 20:54 Laci: Again, probably, knowing people do it online. It seems glamorous, like, “Oh, that’s what you do.” I follow other stylists who do events, interiors, or whatever. For example, there’s a stylist I follow who had gotten hired by Williams-Sonoma to style a booth with their products in it. It had food, cutting boards, and whatever, for some festival. She got hired to make this booth look pretty. I was like, “That’s what I want to do!” That’s when it was really real for me. I thought, “You can totally make money from this.”
- 21:34 Sean: You basically were like, “I could do this. I want to make money from this.” Why not just do it on your own, for your friends, or for your own events? What makes you want to do it for other people, for clients?
- 21:49 Laci: I’ve done that for years. I’ve done baby showers. I’ve catered things. We did a Friends-giving with two of my best friends recently.
- 21:59 Sean: You planned our wedding.
- 22:00 Laci: I planned our wedding. I did it for jobs. I’ve done it for people. I don’t want to be an event planner. I don’t want to be a caterer. I don’t want to get hired by Joe Schmoe down the street in San Antonio and do events every weekend.
- 22:36 I wanted to really niche down. I think where food styling is best utilized is for companies. What’s the importance of making food look good? No one wants to eat it if it doesn’t look good. That’s restaurants, magazines, companies who sell food or even plates or something. Crate and Barrel has someone who makes the food look good on their plates so that people want to buy their plates and eat food that looks that good on their plates.
- 23:09 Sean: You come in, you style something, you make it look good, and you don’t even have to worry about the photos. You step away, and magical photos with the right exposure and white balance and lighting are taken.
- 23:19 Laci: Pretty much. It’s all very magical. Even talking about it right now is making it sweat. This is so silly.
I care about the food—when I owned that, I started to think that food styling could be a real job.
I don’t want event planning to be my job—that’s too broad for me.
Should I Start With Content Marketing?
- 23:31 Sean: Let’s bring us to the conversation we had in the coffee shop. You’re starting to think about doing this seriously. You have this idea in your mind, and you make the huge mistake of saying, “Sean, can we talk about business.”
- 23:48 Laci: Huge mistake. I think my coffee got cold because we talked so long. My idea was, “Okay, I’ve decided. I want to project myself as a food stylist. Now I need a website, a portfolio. I need to start making food. I need to start taking pictures of it.” That’s where I’m at. I don’t magically have a photographer who’s going to come over and take pictures of my breakfast for me. I was thinking, “I need a portfolio. I need to take better pictures when I do events with my friends.”
- 24:46 “I need business cards, a website, an Instagram account, and all the social media things… I have to decide on a business name first, before I can do all that stuff.” That’s my order: business name, website, business cards, boom, I’m in business.
- 25:05 Sean: Then what happened?
- 25:07 Laci: Then, I sit down, and I told Sean this. “This is the order of things that I’m thinking. Is that the right thing to do?” I shouldn’t have asked. Of course it wasn’t.
- 25:19 Sean: I prefaced everything I said with, “Are you okay with doing this the best way that will yield the best results long term, even if it’s different from everything you have in your mind right now, even if the order is completely different?” Laci said, “Yeah, sure.”
- 25:35 Laci: Actually, I struggled with it. I was like, “If I say yes, how long are we going to be sitting here? Is my whole life going to be ruined right now?” That was my whole thought process. I almost said no, but I did say yes. He was like, “Do you want the long answer or the short answer?” I chose the long answer.
- 25:53 Sean: I would never say that. It’s always the long answer.
- 26:08 Laci: It makes for a better podcast.
- 26:11 Sean: This isn’t about the podcast. It’s about you, and we just decided to share it.
- 26:14 Laci: I know. It was a really good conversation. I think other people would benefit from it. That’s why we’re talking about it now.
- 26:19 Sean: You were thinking, “I need a website. I need to start blogging. I need a business name, a brand name, I need business cards, and I need to start putting out content regularly.” Content marketing, you want to attract clients. I basically brought us back to the same conversation I had with Ben about not doing content marketing now and investing in relationships (Related: e288 Make Money Faster by Not Ding Content Marketing Right Now (And What to Do Instead)).
- 27:03 You definitely want to go check out that episode. Ben was starting to do a bunch of content, putting things out regularly, and I said, “Content marketing is a two year game, minimum.” It’s not going to pick up steam when you’re starting from scratch until about two years in, if you’re putting out content regularly. I’m talking about weekly, at a minimum. That’s when you’ll start seeing clients come in from a blog post you shared, from a video, from a podcast.
We could spend a bunch of time figuring out the fastest way to run in the wrong direction, but it’s a little more interesting to run in the right direction.
Content marketing is not a quick solution, although it’s great for the long term.
Start With Networking
- 27:36 Sean: If you want to start working with clients, you know people right now. You already know people. We also talked about going to events. A lot of people are like, “Conferences are a waste of money. I can buy the videos later.” You’re clueless. You don’t get it. That’s not what conferences are about. They’re about the people that you meet. I have so many examples. I go to a conference, I meet with someone, I go to lunch or coffee with them, and I have a conversation. We now have built rapport.
- 28:10 That’s rapport that couldn’t be equalled by six months of online communication. We are now friends. We now know each other. That leads to all kinds of things. That leads to, “Hey, do you want to join my mastermind? Hey, do you want to speak at my conference? Hey, do you want to be a partner in this promotion? Hey, go check out my friend Sean’s link, go check out his show, his course launch…” The ROI is insane. You can’t even measure it.
- 28:43 Meeting people, maybe you end up becoming accountability partners. Meeting people, maybe you end up hiring them to do video for your conference. Every single one of these things is something that has happened to me. It’s not a random example. Meeting people, and maybe they don’t hire you, but they know who would want to hire you. I said, “You need to start networking with people. You can get clients right now from the people you know already and the people they know.”
- 29:12 By going to conferences, events, and meetups in your city, you’ll meet people that, in a lot of cases, will want to hire you for your services. In a minute, we’ll talk about the fears that Laci had. Basically, she was like, “I don’t have a website. I don’t have a portfolio. How does this work out?” We’re going to address that. In a lot of cases, these people will want to hire you. If they don’t, they’ll know someone who wants to hire you.
- 29:37 This only happens when you have the guts to be very specific about what you do. Be so specific about what you do that it scares you, so specific where you think, “I’m going to turn a bunch of people off.” The right person will be like, “Oh my gosh, this is perfect. Who else would I go for? I’ve never met anyone who said this is what they do so specifically.” Everyone else will immediately think of someone they know and say, “You’d be perfect for them.”
- 30:06 Laci: That’s what shocked me the most. I know in the episode with Ben, you guys talked about content marketing. I wasn’t even thinking about content marketing. I was just thinking about having a place where people can see my work. I wasn’t thinking about putting out stuff regularly, even. I knew that would come, but I was just thinking about getting a website, having that be step one.
- 30:43 I was not expecting that at all. Don’t you network by telling people you have a website? That totally blew my mind. He was like, “Meet people. Network. You’ll make all these connections, or you’ll meet people who know people.” That’s true, but I didn’t think I could even do that without a website first.
You can’t measure the value of in-person relationships and connections.
It shocked me when Sean said to network even before having a website.
You Are Your Website
- 31:04 Sean: It’s amazing. The things that hold us back so often are not even factors. They’re not even in play. We’re thinking about things from our perspective, not the other person’s perspective. I just went to another conference, and had we been in a financial place to accommodate this, I might have considered hiring people—either as consultants or, maybe eventually, employees. I was ready to hire people. I had such great conversations.
- 31:35 These people were such good people, they had a good head on their shoulders. They told stories about jobs they had been at and had great experiences, and you can’t really lie when you meet someone at a conference. It’s so easy to Google your name and see if it’s true. I don’t have any reason to believe that these people are lying. It was very credible. The stories were real. I feel like I can tell when someone’s being authentic.
- 32:03 They’re telling stories of jobs they did, and this has happened a lot for me. I’m ready to be like, “Let’s do a project together. I’m ready to hire you.” In some cases, they gave me a business card. In some cases, those business cards didn’t even have a website. I didn’t even look for it. It just had an email. I didn’t even think to ask for a website. People forget.
- 32:38 Your website is just trying to be a representation of you while you’re sleeping, while you’re not there, while you’re not in Singapore or London. That’s all your website is. When you’re in person with someone, you are your website. You are the messaging, the headline, the tailored headline to this person. How great would it be if the headline of your website could be tailored to present what you have to offer to this specific person in a way that resonates with them?
- 33:13 You’d be like, “Where do I sign up for that technology? Is it $100? I’ll pay it.” People are working on things like that, but it’s very hard to personalize a website. You can personalize how you interact with people in-person. You are your website. It’s not like, “I’m not going to hire you unless you link me to your site and I pull up my phone.” You just told me about your experience. I said, “You start talking with these people and they will not ask you for a website. I promise you.”
- 33:43 It will blow your mind. You’ll be like, “Why didn’t someone ask for my website?” They won’t ask you. What you do is this. You say, “I do food styling for events,” or however you want to personalize it for this person. Say you’re going to a conference, you met this person, and they’re some kind of influencer. They have a big audience with an event coming up. You meet them, and they’re like, “Hey, what do you do?”
- 34:11 This is something we have to work on, like in the episode we did recently with Ben about how to pitch yourself in different amounts of time (Related: e297 How to Pitch Yourself in Six Seconds, 60 Seconds, or 10 Minutes). “I do food styling for events for people who…”
- 34:28 They’re like, “Woah.” You’re like, “Do you have any events coming up?” They’re like, “Yeah, actually, I’m doing this dinner/conference/workshop…” You say, “Here are some things to be thinking about.” Idea, idea, idea. “I’ve done this. I’ve done that. We’ve tried this and that in this situation, and this worked really well. This is something you’d want to avoid. I’d love to follow up with you. I have plenty more ideas to share, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time.”
- 34:55 “Where can I get in touch with you?” You go on the offensive. You get their email address. They’re not going to ask you for a website. You just said that you would follow up. Giving someone a website is giving them homework. It’s saying, “Go on this device, type this out, hit enter, do work. Try to navigate my site. Go to the contact page. Fill out the form. Send me a message and wait.” You’re making them do work. Do all of the work for them. Be your website in person.
- 35:23 Say, “How can I contact you? I’m going to follow up with ideas.” They give you their card. They can have the card, website, and the brand name. Doesn’t matter. You don’t need that. You come back with these email addresses. You follow up with them and you say, “It was so great to hear about your event. I’m super excited about what you’re doing. I wanted to share a few more ideas, some things I think could help. I would love to help with the planning and the styling of everything but even if it’s not me, feel free to run with this. I just want to help your event be successful.”
- 35:54 Idea, idea, idea, idea. “Let me know if this sounds good. Would be happy to hop on a call if you want to talk more details.” Boom. You do four of those? You get a client.
- 36:05 Laci: Mind blown.
Your website is not your credibility.
Your experience, the stories you tell, and the stories others tell about you are your credibility.
Personalize your pitch to the person you’re talking to.
What Comes First?
- 36:07 Sean: This is what we’re talking about in the coffee shop. I’m trying to rehash it for the value of other people, but what’s going through your mind at this point, Laci?
- 36:19 Laci: It’s a chicken and the egg thing. I’ve been trying to figure that out. I can go to conferences. There are a couple I want to go to next year that I think have excellent connections, if I can meet some of those people for what I want to do, but I would need to have something I could give them even when I email them. I could say, “Here are a few photos of things that I’ve done,” even if it’s not a website. I can have great ideas, but they also need to see that I can execute them.
- 36:53 What would you recommend? Would you recommend that I just kind of do some work myself to create this, not a lead magnet, but something I could give people when I do follow up with them? Or should I take a client that takes a chance on me, and then I have something to give the other people?
- 37:16 Sean: Yes. What you have—when you have someone’s email address and you’ve already had a conversation with them, you’ve pitched your services, you’ve told them how you can help, and they’ve given you permission to follow up—that’s a lead. You don’t need a lead magnet, because you already have the lead. Then you just need to follow up with them. Whatever you share in that follow up, the ideas, that’s giving them value.
- 37:43 That’s going to cause them to hire you. I honestly would not overthink it. People are so ready. They’re in various stages of readiness, but some people are so ready. They meet someone who’s competent, courteous, and they’re just giving of themselves, and they’re ready to hire them. “Here are ideas. I would love to help. I’m focused on you and your success.”
- 38:11 There are a lot of clients who aren’t saying, “Show me six portfolio items. I want to see seven. I want to see eight.” It’s not that way. Having that on your website is great, but when you make these in-person connections, we’re essentially talking about bootstrapping your business here. You don’t have thousands of dollars to invest in website development and a whole brand, so you’re bootstrapping by going where the people are that you want to reach, providing value to them, and sharing stories.
- 38:46 Do some work for them. Maybe you end up doing pro bono. You come back and you say, “Great, this event will be $3,500, not including flights. You’ll cover flights.” Put out the whole proposal and then say, “This is taken care of for you.” Maybe they do it, maybe they don’t. If they do it, you’ve got some money, some experience under your belt, and a case study.
- 39:08 If they say, “I can’t do $3,500,” if you feel like they’re the right client, at this point, you can come back and say, “You know what, I believe in what you’re doing so much, I would love to do this pro bono.” Follow up after they say, “I can’t do the $3,500.” You say, “All you have to do is fly me out and put me up in a hotel. I’ll do this pro bono. I’m just excited about what you’re doing.” They’re going to be blown away. They’re going to fly you out. You’re going to do this job as if it were a $3,500 job.
- 39:38 You’re going to have an incredible case study. Now, you can use that case study with your next lead. You still don’t need a website. You write this up in a document. Save it as a PDF. Attach it to an email and say, “Here’s a project I just did for so and so that you probably know,” because they were both at this event, and they’ll say, “Oh, you did an event for them?” Automatic credibility.
- 40:08 This person actually pays you. They see the example of a job you did that looks like it’s worth $3,500, and it is. Now they pay you money, and you build up that way. You bootstrap your business that way. Now, you’ve got cash and experience. You’re starting to get ideas for what you want your brand name to be. You can invest in development, or some kind of website platform or theme, and then you can start playing the long game of content marketing. Now you have a name, money, case studies, and credibility.
- 40:42 Laci: And content, when you have a website.
- 40:45 Sean: Yeah. When you get a website, then you would start the long, two year game of content marketing, where you don’t expect it to pay off until two years. Then you can start playing that game. It flips it all completely around.
- 40:59 Laci: It does.
- 41:00 Sean: Instead of, “Start content, invest in a website with money I don’t have, get clients in two years, and start making money then,” you flip the whole thing around.
- 41:20 Laci: I have so many questions.
You would be surprised how many deals you’ll close and clients you’ll land just by focusing on the other person.
You take on the credibility of the person for whom you did work for.
Frontload the revenue, experience, credibility, and the case studies, invest that into a website, and then content marketing accelerates all of it.
Filtering Clients Without a Website
- 41:22 Laci: First, how do you prevent the wrong kind of clients in that networking situation? How do you filter without a filter for your website?
- 41:35 Sean: You still have a filter. Remember, you are your website. If there’s one take away from this episode, that’s it. You don’t need a website if you’re in person. Everything your website does on autopilot, you can do in person even better. The filtration process would look something like this. You have a questionnaire on your site. Maybe that’s a contact form. Maybe certain fields are required. That’s all technical details.
- 42:07 You can still have a questionnaire without a website. You follow up with this person. You have this lead from a conversation you had at a conference. You got their email. You follow up, “Hey, super excited about your project.” They already gave your permission to follow up. You give them ideas, you convey your excitement, and you say, “I just have a few questions.” List out the questions. That’s your questionnaire. You’re like, “This should take you no more than five minutes. Would love to hear some more details. If you want to hop on a call after this, let me know.” Whatever you want to say.
- 42:41 We’ve had other episodes about doing a questionnaire and the right questions to ask (Related: e182 Client Communication: Starting the Relationship Off On the Right Foot). I can help you with that. The questions are your filter. The questionnaire is the filtration device. You are asking questions to solicit a response that helps you determine the seriousness that this client has.
- 43:05 You phrase a question a certain way, and the answer will help you determine whether this client will be a good fit for you. As you do this more and more, you’ll encounter certain red flags where you’re like, “I definitely don’t want a client like that ever again.” You figure out the right question to ask upfront to help you disqualify the clients you don’t want in the future.
Repurpose the questions from your questionnaire in your follow up email.
- 43:27 Laci: I have a question, I guess, about Imposter Syndrome. In this networking situation where you pretty much have to talk about yourself to be your website, how do you combat Imposter Syndrome? My biggest fear is presenting myself and coming across narcissistic or weird because I don’t actually have past clients. If I’m talking to potential clients, I don’t have past clients to talk about.
- 44:04 Sean: A few things on Imposter Syndrome. First, go back to episode 212, Defeat Imposter Syndrome & Stop Feeling Like a Fraud. There’s a lot of gold in that. To summarize, Imposter Syndrome is focusing on yourself—you have to focus on others. You have to be so focused on others that you don’t even think about yourself.
- 44:39 You have to focus on other people, on your desire to help other people. That’s going to come across as genuine. People will recognize that. People can tell when you’re seriously invested in them. Laci, you just said that you don’t have past clients, but you have past experiences. Whether or not that was an official client job with a contract, whether or not it was paid, pro bono, or friends and family, in various bits and pieces, you’ve done the type of work that you’re going to do.
- 45:16 In bits and pieces, in different places, you’ve done the type of work that you’re going to do. You have this experience. Now, you’re just formalizing it. You’re just putting a stamp and a brand on it. Maybe you’re using a proposal in a contract, but you’ve done this before. You’re not just making this up as you go—you have real experience, and you can help these people.
If you’re worried about how you feel about something, it’s because you’re focused on yourself.
Making It About Others
- 45:48 Laci: The reason I’m doing what I’m doing is for myself, because I like making food look good. I can make food look good all day without anyone seeing it, but that human element of wanting to share it with others, having a culinary experience with other people, having them experience my food and how it looks, that’s all very self-centered, in a way. How do I change that into it being about a potential client?
- 46:24 Sean: You just said that it involves other people, right?
- 46:26 Laci: It does, so inherently, yes, it is about other people. How do I appeal that to a client for their people?
- 46:39 Sean: I think that this is passion problems 101. We love our work. Our work involves doing something for someone else—at some point, some other human touches it—but we feel guilty because we enjoy our work. It’s like, “Well, I’m really doing this for me.” It involves other people. For instance, the people that are involved in and are touched by the work you do, do you want them to have a good experience?
- 47:09 Laci: Yes.
- 47:10 Sean: If they didn’t have a good experience, would that affect your enjoyment of it?
- 47:15 Laci: Yes.
- 47:17 Sean: Them having a good experience is important for them, sure, if you want to be altruistic, but it’s also important for you and your fulfillment in the work you do. Included in all of this, intrinsically, is the other person’s experience. You have to care about the experience of anyone who is touched by your work. What does a company or an organization want who’s putting on an event for a bunch of people? What do they want for their people who are involved?
- 47:50 Laci: They want them to have a good experience.
- 47:52 Sean: They want them to have a good experience. For someone to have a good experience, other people need to be involved in facilitating that experience and giving it to them, thinking of all the details. That’s what you’re providing.
- 48:12 Laci: Yeah, that helps me. I was feeling like it was very self-centered. Even though it is about other people, at the root of it, it’s about me.
- 48:20 Sean: Because you enjoy it.
You may enjoy the act of providing a good experience for others, but it really is a service.
What Is Your Business Model?
- 48:25 Sean: One important thing that we talked about initially in our conversation was figuring out what your business model was. Do you want to sell products? Do you want to do work for clients? You have to figure that out for yourself. Do you want to be a personality who’s doing a show who sells training? You have to figure out what the model is. How do you make money and who are you working for? Even if you’re selling products, there’s still a who. It’s the customer, this person. You have to figure out the who.
- 49:04 Ultimately, if you want to make money, it’s just commerce. You’re exchanging. You’re giving something to someone else and they’re paying you for this. You’ve indicated that you want to make money from this. If you want to make money, you have to provide some kind of value, service, or goods, and that involves another person. Who is that person? For you, Laci, you’ve determined that it’s companies, organizations, or influencers who are putting on events that they want to look good.
- 49:36 They want the people attending to have a great experience. Someone else needs to figure out this who. Figure out who you want to serve and then figure out your business model. You can’t just throw everything up at the wall. “I’m going to have ads on this site! I’m going to have sponsors. I’m going to sell products. I’m going to take donations. I’m going to have a membership. I’m going to do client work, sell training, and have courses and other material.” You can’t just throw all of that up there.
- 50:03 I’m not saying that you can’t eventually get to the point where you’re utilizing a lot of those streams of revenue, but in the beginning, pick something to start with and be purposeful with. For Laci, that’s clients. There are a lot of ways to get clients. You could go to events and meet people. You could incentivize referrals for people that you know. You could run paid advertising. You could do your own content marketing. There are a lot of ways to do it.
- 50:30 The fastest way to do it, if you’re bootstrapping it, would not be content marketing. That was a big takeaway from this. That’s not to say that you can’t blog for two years. Sure, feel free to share things and write case studies, but as part of a purposeful content marketing strategy, I would instead focus more on the in person stuff. We’ve talked about you going to conferences. You’re going to these conferences not for the speakers, but because the people you want to work with will be there.
- 51:06 Laci: Right. The biggest takeaway for me was not just, “Oh, hold off on content marketing.” It was the fact that I should hold off on my whole business plan and network before I even have a website or a business name. That shocked me. I see where you were talking with Ben about holding off on content marketing to network, but he has a website. He has a portfolio of stuff. It just blew me away that you said, “Don’t do any of that stuff. Just go talk to people and get clients.”
- 51:45 Sean: Go where the people are. Maybe it’s not even conferences. It could just be meetups or groups. Where are those people? Don’t be afraid to be specific. If they don’t want to hire you, they’ll know someone who wants to hire you.
- 52:01 Laci: Right. That had me thinking about the connections I can make with the food tour people, even though I don’t want to do photos like that again. They’re in on the foodie scene in San Antonio now, and they may know influencers that I can connect with.
Be purposeful about the kind of business model you choose.
It Has to Start With You
- 52:22 Sean: Circling back to talking about enjoying your work but feeling kind of guilty about that, Hannah in the chat says, “Your joy in your work makes your work better, and that’s to their benefit.” That’s a really good point. Kelly says, “This completely relates to me.” Keshna says, “Wow, this breakdown is amazing.” I’m glad people are getting stuff out of it. This was good. This brings us to a segment I like to call The Way I See It, With Cory McCabe.
- 53:02 Laci: We had a good conversation a day before Thanksgiving on the floor of my in-laws dining room.
- 53:22 Cory: We were talking about our “why.”
- 53:23 Laci: Yeah, our why, and doing work for yourself vs. doing work for other people. That was a really good conversation that ties in here as well.
- 53:34 Cory: I’ve had a lot of clarity recently, even in the past two days, but especially in the last week. I’m still processing all of it. For me as well, I have these films I want to make, I’ve written these scripts, and ultimately, it feels like I want to do it for myself. I love the act of what I do. On a deeper level, through people asking me questions, I realized that all of my films have a message that I hope some people get. It’s not just entertainment. They said, “It sounds like you really want to help people. You like that, helping people. It’s not just for you.”
- 54:18 I was like, “I guess not.” They’re like, “That’s what you’re telling me. You want to make these films, yes, for you, but you have a message behind them that you want to share with the world, and you want it to impact people.” That was a really cool thing to realize. I didn’t feel entirely selfish anymore.
- 54:51 “I do this for others, as well.” When that comes in, that’s when making money from it gets so much easier. You’re doing something that’s of value to somebody out there.
I think it has to start with doing it for yourself—take care of yourself first, and when you have more freedom, it can become more altruistic.