FAQs when Starting an Authentic Business

An authentic business is one in which you are able to make a sustainable living expressing your authentic self. 

Examples of products/services include: 1-1 work with clients such as coaching or mentoring; facilitating group programs based on a modality you believe in; selling online courses that you love to create. Other products can be developed based on your creativity!

To start an authentic business you may have certain questions such as:

  • Is the timing right?
  • Do I have enough capital to invest in a new project/business?
  • Will there be any demand for my product/service?
  • What about in 5 years?
  • Which amongst my competing ideas should I invest my time and resources in?

In this post I’ll offer my opinions on these questions. I hope this will help you make a difference by adding value to others' lives, while also making a living for yourself.

"Is the timing right to start my business?" 

This question makes sense when taking a well-trodden path, using the same process many people have, to get the same results. Then, you would be able to study the right timing for that process.

The problem is that it wouldn’t be an authentic business! You’d be constrained by a so-called proven formula: what exact product you should offer, what niche you should be in, what audience you should target, what kind of marketing should you do…

The other problem is that society is changing so fast, that even previously proven formulas for business-building are breaking faster than before.

In my 10 years of successful entrepreneurial experience I can tell you this:

The timing to start your authentic business is now.

Here’s why:
  • You will need to build an audience.
  • You will need to discover their wants.
  • You will need to try offering them different products.
  • You will need to explore your authentic marketing style.

All of the above takes time.

If you were able to work 20+ hours on your new business, it might take you 3-6 months to do enough of the above activities to start making money.

If you were only spending 5-10 hours weekly, it might take you 6-24 months!

There's a wide range in the timeline because it depends on you-- 
  • How much do you still need to learn business and marketing?
  • How tech-savvy are you?
  • How much can you invest in support from others (such as a business coach)?
  • How much can you budget for paid advertising?
  • Do you already have a network of potential clients/buyers or referral sources?
  • What’s your ability to be consistent in taking actions that might feel scary to you (because you haven’t done them before) so that you can learn quickly?

The bottom line:

The sooner you start figuring these things out, the sooner you'll have a viable (and eventually thriving!) authentic business.

The later you start, the more you feed your self-doubt and erode your self-efficacy...

The best timing is to start immediately.

"How much money should I expect to invest/spend?"

Monthly operational costs for a new authentic business is typically about $50-$100/month, for things like website hosting (I recommend Weebly), scheduling tool (I recommend AcuityScheduling), video conferencing (I recommend Zoom).

No matter the level of your business skills, I recommend either hiring an authentic business coach/consultant or joining an authentic business mastermind program. I’d recommend starting at only $150-$300 per month, and only hiring someone (or joining a program) that comes highly recommended by friends. (Don't just sign up with someone / some program because the website looks great -- it's easy to make a mediocre service look amazing!)

If you cannot pay that much, then consider taking affordable online courses to learn business/marketing... I offer 
Authentic Business Courses which are about $60 per course.

Lastly, I’d recommend budgeting for paid advertising. In 2019, my recommendation continues to be Facebook Ads, as it’s still considered to be the best deal, by most marketers, for paid advertising. You can start with $30/month to get experience using it, then gradually increase your monthly Ad budget to $300/month as you see more traction with your audience building. I offer a Facebook Ads Course if you're interested.

"Will there be any demand for my product/service?"

Some simple ways to do market research include:

  • Ask your own network: has anyone bought the kind of thing you’re thinking of selling? What options did they research and consider? Or... has anyone provided this kind of service/product, and are willing to talk to you about how easy or hard it is to get enough sales/clients?

  • Google the product/service you’re considering, and contact people selling it and ask their opinion of the industry -- is easy or difficult to make enough sales? The reason you need to contact them is because no matter how amazing any website looks, you have little idea whether they have any business at all. I’ve known hundreds of people with great looking websites and almost no clients/customers. You can’t judge the success of a business by its website.

  • You might try doing some research via Google Trends… but the problem is that Google Trends typically only tracks mainstream keywords and by definition your authentic business is probably not mainstream.

My best answer, after 10 years of entrepreneurial experience and personally coaching hundreds of authentic businesses, is this:

The only real way to know whether there is demand for your product/service is to offer it to your audience and see if they buy. 

In other words, you can do all the market research you want, but at the end of the day, you need an audience who trusts you enough, and you need to understand them so that you can tweak your product and its marketing to align with your audience’s wants.

A question that is better than “Will there be demand” is this:

Are you willing to adapt what you sell, to the audience you want to serve?

As you build an audience you’d love to serve, and get to know them, you’ll come to see what products/services they love to buy. Then, adapt what you offer to their wants.

"Will there be demand for my product/service in 5 years?"

This question assumes that everything stays the same -- Your product/service doesn’t change; your audience composition doesn’t change; their wants don’t change; the market doesn’t change.

Having everything stay the same is not realistic, nor would it be interesting (and authentic) for you! Trends are changing so fast these days that it’s not easy to accurately predict what kind of demand there will be 2 years from now, let alone 5 years... 

By being willing to continually adapt, you give your business its best chance to survive and thrive.

"Which amongst my competing ideas should I invest my time and resources in?"

Here’s how I would decide:

  • Test every idea with your friends/colleagues first -- see what their reactions are. Or if you already have an existing audience, even a small one, test every idea with them.

  • How to test? Surveys can be helpful, but a better way is to create content on each idea -- something that is helpful and uplifting -- and see which of those content pieces get the best reactions, comments, even shares.

  • Also, ask yourself which idea seems to have had the most sustainable interest for you, year after year, and you can easily imagine being interested in that topic for another 5 years.

If you’d like a simple scoring system to decide among ideas, try this: Intuitive Niche Decision Template

I hope this post inspires you to get going immediately, and adopt an experimentation mindset as you start your business!

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