The mantra of story writing for journalists is “who, what, when, where, why.” The equivalent mantra for becoming self-employed – from the four basic principles of marketing – involves narrowing down what you can do for which there is a market need and knowing how to bring your product or service to a market that will pay for it.
- Product. The first basic idea of any college marketing course involves having a product – or service – to make available to a reachable client market. What product can you make or what service can you deliver? Are there people who can and will pay you for this product or service? If someone wants your service, but can’t pay for it – or can pay for it, but doesn’t want or need it – then you’re going to have a hard time earning a living. If you have something new and particularly novel, you may need to step into a promotions role (marketing) to educate potential customers about the value of what you’re offering to them. More below about offering something for which you can build a client base.
- Distribution. How are you going to get your product or service to your potential clients? Do you go to them? Do they come to you?
- Promotion. How are you going to market yourself to your potential market? Marketing sometimes gets a bad wrap when associated with over-marketing hype, but marketing is a really a basic essential. Marketing is about communicating the availability and value of your product or service. If no one knows your product or service is available, they can’t buy it. If you don’t differentiate your offering as distinct from competing products, you won’t stand out. Clearly communicate how you are offering something of distinct value. More on marketing next Friday.
- Price. Offer your product or service at a price that will cover your expenses, earn you a profit (income), and be at a price that customers will pay.
If you would like to become self-employed, have you thought about what you could for which you could earn a living? Have you thought through your skills-abilities and resources that could be applied to meet a market need (i.e., your business idea) as well as any personal challenges that could hinder your business idea? In other words, conduct a SWOT analysis – matching up your own strengths (what you could deliver to a particular market) and weaknesses (drawbacks) compared to market opportunities and market threats? This could help you start looking at potential business ideas. If there’s something you know how to do and/or create for which there’s sufficient reachable market demand and you could sufficiently overcome challenges (weaknesses), then self-employment could well be an option for you. Conceptually working through a formal business plan could then help you better identify whether your self-employment plan really is viable.
Thinking through possible ideas for one’s own business can take time. Sometimes, a business idea clearly develops when you see an unmet market need that you know how to fill (sometimes, individuals recognize that the work they are already doing for an employer has a large enough market that they could go out on their own, while other people think of something else entirely that they could do). Other times, the idea of wanting to be self-employed comes before developing an idea of what you could provide to potential markets. In any event, thinking through potential business ideas – and then how to implement those ideas – is a precursor to self-employment.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you have to think through several possible business ideas on your way to a business idea that could work. If you have to consider several possible business ideas, you are not alone! Take an example from my own experience about the thinking – and potential rabbit holes – involved in looking for business ideas. When the internet economy was developing, new business models/ideas such as Facebook and Amazon were emerging and “taking the world by storm.” At the time, I was a newly-minted MBA working as a market research consultant. My business partner and I were watching the emergence of these online businesses and brainstormed about what kind of online business we might “think up” to get in on this emerging marketplace. In hindsight, we made a rather simple mistake that prevented us from “getting in” on the emerging “online economy.” We overthought the situation and tried too hard to think up something brainy. Rather, the new online businesses that “made it big” – the likes of Facebook and Amazon – met basic needs such as communication (Facebook) or easy shopping (Amazon) in a new online manner.
If you are interested in self-employment, contact me for assistance with pre-planning, business setup, and/or logistics management once you start your own business. My business experience and MBA make me a good business-development provider for clients who are creating their own opportunities through self-employment.
Kim Burkhardt, MBA has taught college-level business courses, is an occasional book and article writer, and has a self-employment background. These days, Ms. Burkhardt is working with clients who are starting their own businesses. She’s the author of Agents of Success: Moving Forward Professionally (Personal Application of Marketing Principles). Check out her services at “The Practical MBA.”