Every coach needs to have their own business plan model, based on other well-established models as well as personal experience.
But let's face it, even though well-established and well-proven, not every business plan or marketing strategy or blueprint of any kind is going to fit YOU - your personality, your needs, your struggles, and your goals.
As I keep saying, we are all different and therein lies the opportunity to create something that is authentic, that STANDS OUT in a sea of sameness.
So here I am, giving you the very basics of my business plan for creative rebels. Because I can't let you be confused by the many models that don't apply to you. Because I want to make this journey as joyful as it is challenging.
Now grab pen and paper, and start brainstorming...
Step 1: Your Purpose (and Core Message)
Your purpose contains a few elements without which your business is not your business. Without purpose, your business is someone else's good idea.
First of all, your purpose is that which brings meaning to your business.
Secondly, your purpose is more than a calling, it's your higher calling. It's more than a mission, it's your higher mission. Basically, your purpose is not something temporary, or at least it is something that lasts more than a few months.
Thirdly, your purpose contains the people whom you want to serve and the ways in which you can help them do what you have done yourself. We're not talking about a specific skill you have, that comes later. We're talking about the underlying REASON for your business and your CORE goals for it.
(When something Is CORE, it goes deeper than job titles or skills or superficial things. It goes straight to the heart of things.)
Let's try this well-known exercise:
I am drawn to helping_______________________________________________ (who) to______________________________________________________________________ (what) because______________________________________________________________ (why).
So you fill it out like this:
I am drawn to helping (the people you want to help, start from their core characteristics like who they are and what they want, not from specifics like what they do for living or what they call themselves) to (here you put the thing you help these people do, the overall result of your efforts) because (and this is your WHY, which is very important according to everyone with a soul).
Now you try it! Sometimes it's going to feel like you have several purposes or like it changes from time to time but this is normal until you find something with more staying power. In the end, anything that feels authentic is good.
P.S. As for your Core Message, it develops over time as a natural by-product of your purpose, and you can find a free mini-guide on that topic here.
Step 2: Your Core Values and Strengths
Your Core Values are your compass that helps you keep to Your Path.
You know how sometimes you lose your way and don't know how to get back on the right track, YOUR track? Well, this happens to all of us all the time because we fall victims to mindless consumption, comparison, and expert advice.
Creative rebels keep their compass close, and it never fails us. :)
Here are the Core Values of some lovely rebels:
Caroline Kelso Zook keeps hers on her about page.
Sian Richardson shared hers in this post.
Which is why you have to make sure your audience knows your values, that every decision you make is based on your values, and so on.
As for your Core Strengths, they are your UNFAIR ADVANTAGE, and yes, I borrowed this phrase from The Business Model Canvas. As you know or might expect, your Unfair Advantage is that which your competitors do not have. While they can have a similar purpose to yours - it's not a crime unless they've worded it the same as you - they don't have your Unique Strengths Cocktail. I call it that because very few people in the world are likely to share the exact same combination of strengths that you have.
Which means that your business plan will a) be different from the next creative business owner's and b) stand out from others because it's based on the things you do best, not on the blueprints that you've copied (please don't do that). Which is the #1 reason why some people fail when using blueprints and why others are miserable when using blueprints. Because each blueprint is custom-made for the person who made it, and you can never achieve the same level of je-ne-sais-quoi by using something someone else made. OK?
So the best thing for you is to find what your Core Strengths are and use them to build your business. That way, everything you do will feel natural, you'll feel strong and confident, and you'll have an advantage over the sameys.
Here are a few resources that will help:
- the StrengthsFinder test will give you your top 5 strengths (and I'm talking really core things you may not have realized were strengths)
- Beth Grant's Archetype Alignment Grid will give you your persuasion power and natural style, which will both help you figure out what kind of marketing strategy would fit you and your business (one that wouldn't suck)
- Cerries Mooney's test will give you some pointers about your personality and how to apply it to your branding (I got some pretty cool ideas from it when I was re-branding - you can read all about it here)
Step 3: Their Struggles and Your Solutions
This is where we get real deep into our knowledge of our ideal clients.
In the purpose part, we learned who they are in general and what they want, but we didn't really go deep into what they struggle with on a daily basis and how we can help them overcome those struggles. This also has to do with HOW we can get our clients from Point A (where they are now) to Point B (where they want to be), which we briefly touched in Step #1 as well. But here we have the chance to expand on both WHO and HOW, so buckle your... pajama pants?! Heh.
Here are some helpful things to try:
- Make a list of struggles you see your clients having
- Ask people who would be perfect clients what they struggle with and what they need to be more confident in those areas
- Start outlining possible solutions to these particular struggles
As I mentioned, this is a sort of a journey, or rather a transformation, from Point A to B, where A is before and B is after the transformation. It is helpful to determine what the transformation looks like for your clients.
For example, in The Hero's Journey, there's the Abyss (or the Ordeal), where the protagonist reaches an impasse where there's no more to learn and they have to decide to jump and risk everything or to ignore what they learned and go back. Almost all protagonists will jump, but most real people prefer to stay on the safe side. Luckily, your clients are as brave and rebellious as you are, so you needn't worry about that. What you do need to figure out is what lies on the other side and how you can give them what they need to survive the jump.
You need to enable their transformation, or they will fall.
Sometimes the transformation is going to be obvious and sometimes it's going to be more subtle. Some transformations are mindset changes, other transformations are obtaining knowledge or skills...
Figure out what your ideal client needs to make that jump and give it to them.
Step by step, you're responsible for someone's emotional, intellectual, or spiritual evolution and growth, so be mindful of that before you proceed.
Step 4: Your Signature and Secondary Offerings
Let's talk about monetizing. If you run a business, it needs to do that.
So you need to have offerings. I'm adding the word "signature" not because it's trendy in the online business world right now, but because it helps to have focus. Trust me, if you start offering everything you can think of, you will soon be exhausted, burnt out, and confusing your clients and customers.
There are things they need to know and/do before they can take their transformation and those are your CORE BASICS. Once you have your Basics, you can provide corresponding services and products. Think of your Signature Offerings as the things your people NEED in order to move forward.
For example, you could have a signature course that is the first step of your ideal client's transformation, or you could offer a signature coaching program. You could even come up with a signature freebie / opt-in.
Once you have your signature offerings, then you can move on to secondary offerings and diversify your income streams.
Let's take this step by step, and ask some helpful questions:
- Do you want to coach? Consult? Teach? Sell products (apps, books, courses)? Speak? Run workshops? Create art? Run a media company? An agency? Monetize your Blog? (there are many options, and you don't have to do the first thing that comes to mind or you hear about online)
- You have a vague idea of your business model. Can you see how you can monetize? Is it clear from your purpose? If it's not clear, how would other rebels monetize your idea? Can you think of a way you want to monetize even though you haven't seen it done before? (i.e. Buy Our Future)
- What are your Signature Offerings? What can you offer that is BASIC for your clients to have/know before their transformation occurs? What can you offer to help them overcome their struggles and get closer to their dreams?
- Other than your Signature Offerings, what else would be nice to sell/do for your clients/customers? How many income streams can you think of? Can you simply diversify your existing income streams? How?
- What kind of pricing points would match the value and effort you put out? Are your price points varied enough to appeal to different budgets? Is there a way to offer at more accessible prices (if you don't already)? Is there a way to raise your prices or come up with a higher-end products? Do your prices feel good to you? Are you getting back your time's (and value's) worth?
- How much money do you need to make on a consistent basis to stay viable? How many clients/sales/etc. does that make? What can you do to make it happen? Why isn't it already happening? How can you fix it?
By now you should have a working business model, a few income streams and offerings, and some solid financial goals. That's more than many people ever figure out for their business, so we should have a celebratory drink.
Step 5: Key Channels and Partners
The channels part is all about the marketing. It asks:
What channels are you going to use to reach your ideal clients?
Generally, I have a pretty good marketing strategy that focuses on 4 channels, even though we can add a fifth, and that's partnerships.
- content (where you give value)
- social media (where you find your peeps)
- email (where you engage them on a more personal level)
- community (where you make it more about them)
- partners (sponsors, collaborators, affiliates, etc.)
Your job isn't to be everywhere and do everything - that's the fastest track to burnout. Your job is to be strategic about where you are and what you do. For example, if you decide that one of your strengths coincides with a social media channel where you can find many people who'd be interested in your offerings, then it's a win-win, isn't it. If your strength is creating content, then utilize that channel to get people to come to you instead of constantly pitching to them. If you have a natural talent for setting people on fire (not literally), then create a community and start doing your thing. If you're not so good at running communities, however, or you dislike it, YOU DON'T HAVE TO.
And if you're a really great email sender... send cold emails, why not?
Choose the channels that FEEL RIGHT for your business and go ALL IN ON THEM. Because if you just choose whatever, then you're gonna get whatever. But if you're strategic and intentional about your channels, you'll get excellent results. Just don't forget - it's not just about them, it's about you, too.
Some experts will tell you to research the market, see what your competitors are doing, decide on the best channels to reach your audience, and do it. However, that gets YOU out of the equation. That's always a mistake.
A great exercise that I got from my coach Jen Carrington is - check out how other rebels are reaching out to their audiences and make a list of ideas. Don't forget to note which strategies you like and which ones you dislike. When you have a list of things you like and things you dislike, you'll have more clarity about what you could do for your business and what you don't want to do.
I know you'll choose right for your business. :)
I'm not big on "epic posts," but this one is definitely epic.
I hope that you got what you needed from it, and even if you do have a business plan already, make sure there isn't anything missing. It's so easy to forget about things when they're not "fun" or stimulating." I recently had to make a list of all the important things I'd omitted because I didn't want to do them...
Let's just say that it's going to take me a few months to complete that list. If you don't want to fall into that web, make sure your foundations are strong enough to hold all of your crazy and creative future ideas.
Good luck and-