10 Year Plan for Authentic Business
Here is a plan to help you create a business that expresses your soul -- and allows you to have a semi-retirement lifestyle.
What’s possible with this plan:
- Year 2: Part-time income with providing your authentic service.
- Year 4: Full-time income by providing both 1-1 and group offerings.
- Year 10: Full-time income, somewhat passively, allowing for semi-retirement, and being one of the best in your field.
Although this is called a 10-Year Plan, you might be able to speed things up. It depends on your time management and consistency of action. This is why I consider joyful productivity to be the foundation for authentic business growth.
10 years allows a spacious and realistic way for most solopreneurs to realize this dream, by developing good habits, bit by bit.
If you currently have a full-time job, or if you have requirements for caretaking, the first 2 years of the plan may take you longer, as you get used to creating healthy boundaries in your business and life.
Without further ado, here is the plan…
Year 1: Authentic Content Marketing
To begin, focus your efforts on building an audience of kindred spirits, people who resonate with your authentic voice and style:
- Using a blog and/or video channel, share your thoughts regarding your passions, learnings, and experiences. Explore your “voice” and ideas. Create a variety of content.
- Find a rhythm that works for you to do this consistently. Carve out a schedule of content-creation that doesn’t interfere with your other responsibilities in work and life.
- Allow yourself to be authentic in your content, not trying to copy anyone, but doing it in a style that feels true to you. This is how your true fans will find you.
- Learn how to distribute your content -- otherwise nobody will be seeing it. The simplest way to distribute is through Facebook & Instagram Ads. (FYI I have a whole course on this stuff: Facebook Ads Course.)
- Occasionally study the stats for your content: what's the average amount of engagement you're getting? Which pieces of content get above-average engagement? Try to create more content like that, and yet, keep experimenting with the expression of your authentic voice.
- For a comprehensive content plan, study this course: Authentic Content Flow.
In the first two years, I also recommend working eagerly on your joyful productivity habits. This is foundational. It allows you to work with efficiency, calm focus, and a healthy balance of work, rest, and play.
Year 2: One-to-One Services
While continuing your rhythm of authentic content marketing, now also make yourself available to your audience for 1–1 services, such as coaching, counseling, consulting, healing, mentoring, or being a freelancer.
Providing services is the quickest way to start creating a meaningful income. And, it's the best way for you to learn what really works, and what types of people you love to help through your services.
Consider the tapering strategy for getting your first clients.
If you are in no rush to build an income, and prefer to sell something more passive (that takes less of your time) then skip down to the actions in or Year 3 (group program) or Year 4 (online course), then come back to offering 1-1 when you have more time to spend in your business.
Tips for 1-1:
- Make it easier for your clients to schedule or reschedule with you by using software such as Calendly or Acuity Scheduling. This also allows you to automate reminder emails (or text messages) to them.
- Begin to create client case studies. Take on the mindset of creating real transformation for clients. This will speed up your learning and get you more referrals.
Year 3: Group Program (maybe also a Book)
By this point, you’ll have created at least a part-time income. You might now be able to quit your job, or switch to a part-time position. If you’re a caretaker, you can now hire some help for your children, parents, or others you’re caring for. This allows you to spend more time on your business.
In this year, while you continue your content rhythm, and your 1-1 client work, you’ll also now create a group offering.
Combining your 1-1 services with a Group Program helps you to achieve a full-time income. For example, perhaps you now have 10 one-to-one clients paying $300 per month, equalling $3,000 per month income for you. Now, you are also enrolling 20 members into a group program where they each pay $150 per month, to create a total (with your 1-1) of $6,000 per month of income for your business.
A group program is a wonderful alternative to offer the people who aren’t ready for your 1-1 work. You can also offer it to your 1-1 clients who are completing their package, and are ready to move into a maintenance-mode in their work with you.
However, enrolling enough clients into a group is only possible after you've gotten traction with your marketing, which is why I recommend this for Year 3.
You might offer a group coaching program where you facilitate a call every week, along with an ongoing private Facebook group to facilitate mutual support among members, and for you to answer questions.
To see an example of how I structure this, check out the description page for my MasterHeart Business Program.
Once your group program is formed, you might want to reduce your 1–1 client load, so that you have more time for the group program.
At this point, you’ve created a lot of content, so you might also want to put together your first book… it doesn't have to be complicated! You can simply collect your existing writings into one long document. Then, organize it so there's some kind of flow, and then fill in any missing gaps. This is how I’ve been able to write 4 books!
I simply organized my best posts — that I’ve already written — into themes, and then organize them into books, and self-publish using Amazon's KDP service.
If you’d like a comprehensive plan for creating and marketing your books, take my online course: Simple Self-Publishing.
Now that you’ve been engaging with your fans for a few years, notice who shares your content, and who signs up for your services and programs. You are starting to understand who your true fans are.
Going forward, focus on making your content and offerings for your true fans -- write and speak with them in your mind and heart -- and more of them will find you!
Year 4: Online Courses
During this year, get up and running with your own online courses, which will be the foundation of your semi-retirement.
A few tips:
For years, you’ve learned deeply and widely in your field — by creating content, doing 1–1 services, and offering group programs. You have case studies that demonstrate that your modality, or process, and framework indeed works for your ideal clients.
This is why I put Online Courses into Year 4. Having the abundant experience of serving clients and seeing what works (and doesn't work) allows your online courses to be more impactful and credible. (If however you find it easier to teach instead of providing 1-1 services, perhaps due to your schedule, then it’s ok to move your course creation up to Year 2.)
What I'm referring to here is creating low-priced ($30 - $300) do-it-yourself online courses so that people can benefit from your experience and personality, without you having to be there.
One of the common blocks I hear: "I feel that I need to be there for the students in order for them to really benefit."
If you're struggling with that, consider these questions:
- When you read books, do you ever blame the author for "not being there with you" to answer your questions immediately?
- When you watch videos online, do you expect instant interaction with the creator?
A low-priced, DIY online course is similar to these: It's a video and/or audio series that includes some written content. Students should be able to submit questions to you, but you don't have to be there immediately. It's perfectly acceptable to take a few days to respond to them. They'll be grateful for your personal response.
As we'll see later, you can eventually delegate these responses as well, as you grow a team, so that you can semi-retire.
To go deep and learn my methods, check out my online course for how to create/market your own courses.
You’ll now have several streams of income:
- 1–1 services
- Group programs
- Online courses
- Possibly books as well
Reminder: As you read this post, are you coming across any internal blocks or concerns that this “couldn't work” for you? Let me know by adding a comment. I'd be happy to hear from you.
Year 5: Scaling with Ads & Automation
(Some might say that this is where it “really” becomes a business, because your income has gotten to be much more stable and autopilot.)
Now that you have online courses, you can use Facebook/Google Ads to reach tens of thousands of additional ideal audience members.
To learn my complete strategy for doing so, study my Facebook Ads Course.
You’ll also benefit from starting to use software such as Zapier to automate recurring tasks in your business. I do this with many of the tasks, so that I can stay as a solopreneur instead of having a team, yet be able to deliver more than 15 evergreen courses ongoingly.
It’s not just “making more money” but making truly good money — from a deep sense of service to one’s ideal audience, having the income emerge from a direct connection to one’s meaningful work.
Year 6: Training Mentees
When you get to this point, you’ll have hundreds (or thousands) of people taking your online courses. You’ll start getting many requests for working with you 1–1 that you are unable to accommodate. Your group program might even be full at this point (as mine has been for more than a year.)
This is where it’s important to have mentees to take over some (or all) of your 1–1 services, and/or to help you facilitate your group program so that it can expand:
- Make a list of your most ideal clients.
- Which of them are interested in doing the kind of work you’ve been doing?
- Start a mentoring program, with these individuals as your first mentees.
- You might even want to offer a certificate / certification by the end of it.
- Refer the people on your waiting list to your new mentees.
- True mentoring is where the mentee is doing the real work with real clients, yet have consultations with you to learn from challenging client situations, to keep improving their service.
Also, by this point, you may have a large enough audience such that you could create in-person gatherings (workshops / retreats / conferences / cruises) and be able to recruit enough people from your audience to make such events worthwhile. Many people try to do this too early on, and find it very difficult to fill their events.
Year 7: Hiring Your Assistants
By this point you have:
- A thriving group program
- Online courses with thousands of students
- Mentees to refer clients to
- You might still keep a few 1–1 clients if you’d like
- Perhaps some books you’ve published
With more than enough income at this point to meet your needs, it’s time to focus on hiring and training assistants to take over the administrative tasks, so that you can free up more time to do your highest-level work.
Important -- Before you hire, I would recommend spending a year focusing on how you can automate more of your tasks. This is currently my focus. I do most of my automation with Zapier.
If you’ve already hired by this point, this year’s focus is to create a more optimal working relationship with your assistant(s) so that it creates more time freedom for you. In fact, you might encourage your assistant to use automation software more skillfully, so that they can do the human tasks for you that bots don’t do well.
One of the best places to recruit great assistants is your own audience of true fans. They know your work, and they love your style. There are undoubtedly some in your audience who would love to work for you.
Year 8: Larger Joint Ventures
Now that you have a sizable audience from all your efforts of consistent content over the years, and the scaling of your courses with ads, you can now collaborate with the bigger players in your industry, if you wish to.
Or, if you prefer to stay at a small scale, just skip forward to the following year’s focus: Systems Documentation.
To scale your reach, consider creating telesummits (virtual conferences), co-created courses, and cross-promotions of courses or products.
Perhaps you'll also want to co-facilitate (and do joint marketing for) in-person gatherings.
Such cross-pollination can grow the creativity of your business, and scale your reach to more ideal audiences compared to only using ads.
Your assistant can help you track these JV's (joint ventures) and all the logistics involved.
When you get to this scale, and have any questions, reach out to me. I’ve already done many JV’s (joint ventures) even before I started this 10-year plan. I’ve learned what kind of partners are best to seek, and how to do these partnerships simply and effectively.
You can get a shortcut to my learnings about JV by taking my course: Authentic Joint Ventures and Simple Collabs.
Year 9: Systems Documentation
You’re getting ready for semi-retirement.
This is the year to focus on making sure that just about everything done by your assistant(s) is documented in an organized and easy-to-consume way.
Your assistant(s) can create the training videos, written guides, and FAQ’s, so that if they need to move onto other jobs (which will inevitably happen!), your future team members can get up and running quickly, thanks to the step-by-step documentation that’s now available.
Year 10: Kaizen Forever
Congratulations — you have reached the freedom of semi-retirement!
Why “semi” instead of “full” retirement?
Mahatma Gandhi said that the dream of “wealth without work” is one of the ills of society. I don’t believe that full passive income has true integrity. There are still so many people struggling in the world that your business can help even more effectively, that it’s your opportunity (perhaps, responsibility) to continually innovate and improve your services and products.
Plus, it’s better for your physical and mental well-being to keep working, in the spirit of true service to your clients, customers, mentees, and your calling.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “continuous improvement”.
I call it Kaizen Forever because your business can always be improved in its effectiveness of serving its customers, and always deepening the fulfillment of your mission.
I encourage you to bookmark this page and set yourself a reminder to return every year and check-in on how your progress is going.
(This post was originally written in 2018. Updated in 2023.)