“Do what you love” …vs… “Offer what they want”
Here's a common idea among solopreneurs:
“If I have a passion for something, then there must be enough other people with that passion, which means I can build a viable business.”
Building a business on passion alone takes a lot longer than you might think. You have to look far and wide for individuals with that specific passion as you. Or, you have to build an online audience from scratch and educate them until they really "get" why you're so passionate about it.
Even then, there might still be too few people willing to spend money on your passion.
To build a business that can support you sooner, you need to build a compassion-focused (market-led) business.
These are the dual focuses when building an Authentic Business…
Passion Focus — creating a product/service from what energizes you, from the philosophies, ideas, strategies that you love... your own background, knowledge, trainings you've received, peak experiences you’ve had, topics you enjoy talking about. In short, your passions. “Do what you love.” This can work, if you build a large enough audience that you nurture and educate over the long-term.
Compassion Focus — creating a product/service based on what energizes your existing audience/network. Actual problems, challenges, issues, frustrations, and yearnings that are named by the people you already know. In short, what they want so much, that they would pay for it. “Offer what they want.” This creates a financially-viable business much sooner.
When we focus on “other people’s problems” we are looking at "what they want" rather than what you believe they should want — “I think the world needs this” or “I believe people need that.” Keep questioning whether you're stuck in your own head.
Compassion focus comes from real individuals you have talked with. You know their names, you know enough about their life to know the actual problems they face, and how they describe those problems.
You know enough about what they’re going through, such that you can design (or re-design) your service to help them.
Compassion (Com-Passion) = “To Suffer With”
Think of the last time you naturally felt moved to help someone who was suffering.
Or think of a time when you got excited about someone dream, and you felt naturally energized to help them along their journey.
You were energized by compassion. You were motivated by what other people were wanting.
And that’s a wise thing to do in business too, because your income is derived from other people’s spending. And other people spend on what they want, not necessarily what you're passionate about.
So when you build a business from a compassion focus, you get clients sooner. Your marketing becomes about giving people what they want.
How to Build Your Compassion Focus? Conduct "Fan Interviews"
Reach out to people in your audience and schedule individual conversations.
(If you don’t have an audience at all, read my blog post about building one: Build your audience first, then define your niche.)
Here are the steps for doing what I call a "fan interview" --
After having 10 such conversations, you’ll be much clearer. You’ll be able to create a service/product that solves the problem of the actual people you’ve talked with.
Or you will be able to re-design your existing service/product to align with the language and wants of your ideal client.
Once you have designed (or re-designed) your service/product to serve their actual wants, go and share it with them. Are they interested? See if they will sign up and pay you for it. (However, at this beginning stage, it is fine to get some clients purely for their honest feedback, and maybe even testimonials if they loved it.)
“Being a nice person” vs. Focused Empathy
“I’m such a nice person, I do so much for other people, but I’m still not making any money.”
It may be that your compassion is not focused enough — you’re just helping anyone and everyone, versus being focused on helping your ideal client type. (Outside of business you can do anything you want, but what makes business viable is to focus on helping the ideal client.)
Or maybe you haven’t turned your focused compassion into a product/service, so you’re just giving and giving without monetizing. That’s ok, if it’s a hobby/volunteering. But if you want a viable business, you need to charge for at least some of your compassionate labor.
Money is society’s allocation signal for valuable work. People are spending money where they want the work to be done. So notice where your ideal clients are spending the money, and design your services accordingly.
Again, if you don’t need income, then you can develop your “business” (really, a hobby) from your own passions and ideas. That can lead to income, but much longer-term.
It is up to you. Make a conscious choice about whether you want to focus your compassion and turn that into a product/service.
Eventually you may find a sweet spot: the combination of the two.
Passion + compassion creates a genuinely authentic business. It is being able to do what you love, and talk about it in a way that others understand and would love to buy. However, it usually starts with either passion (a long road to financial viability) or focused compassion (listening to the market.)
You can flavor your market-led work with your passion.
Even if you must make income now, and are “forced” to create a market-focused business, you can still bring elements of your Passion in order to flavor your paid work, to make it more meaningful, unique, enjoyable.
Even as I coach people on business/marketing, I enjoy talking & writing about spirituality and personal growth.
Even though my clients won’t pay me to talk about those personal topics :) they do enjoy it when I bring in spiritual values. It makes me a unique business coach for them.
Still, they are paying me for the business expertise… not for my philosophizing :)
I share my opinions and values to make work more meaningful for me, and more unique to them.
So if your passion isn’t paying the bills yet, make it a hobby for now.
Make your paid work (focused compassion) more interesting by bringing aspects of your hobby (passion) to it, like how I bring spirituality into business coaching.
Experiment and play with it; bring your creativity to it!
The aim of Authentic Business is to gradually bring the two into perfect alignment: your passion + compassion.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for Counselors, Coaches, Speakers, and Authors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
This blog only contains some of George's best writings. To see all of his recent writings, visit his Medium.com profile.
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