An old friend of mine (he’s a real history buff) asked me yesterday how I liked Angkor Wat. I didn’t know at that time it was a rhetorical question.
– I didn’t. The most interesting thing to me was the monkeys.
He proceeded to explain to me that I *must* appreciate the historical significance of these buildings and basically ‘you-must-like-it-or-you’re-an-uncivilised-barbarian-and-I’m-not-talking-to-you.‘. I kindly thanked him and moved on with my life instead of explaining myself.
Ironically, I used to believe that as someone with a university degree you have the moral obligation to take interest in history, politics, literature and culture. I spent years beating my brain to memorize historical events and dates I had no interest in only to forget them a few days later. Again, it took me years to realise I can embrace my strengths and I don’t need to work on my weaknesses just to meet the social expectations. I stopped wasting my time and energy (or ‘fucks’ – as Mark Mason put it in his book ‘The subtle art of not giving a f*ck’ – which I highly recommend and which I am re-reading right now, hence inspiration for this post) on things that do not contribute to my goals and life purpose.
The same goes for business. Before I understood and embraced the minimalist mindset (and I still have a lot of work to do) – I used to waste a lot of time on unimportant decisions and flounder in tiny little detail in my businesses (I have run 3 businesses so far – a translation/content marketing agency, sports nutrition start-up, and a web-app). Guess what? It took me exactly *nowhere*.
Here are a few examples of pointless f*cks I gave about unimportant things in my business:
- Spending a month designing *the perfect* website by myself and then having no one visit it anyway (I should have just chosen a simple template and focus on the hired a designer to do it for $ 1000 and meanwhile focus on creating my marketing strategy and content).
- Investing 10k in a product just to find out nobody wanted it (instead of dry-testing).
- Spending too much time on subjective aesthetics rather than objective functionality – choosing the perfect colour of labels on the packaging (nobody cared. Instead, I missed an important detail – how easy it was to open the packaging).
- Doing too many low-level $10/h tasks myself (like accounting or translation project management) instead of outsourcing it to a virtual assistant to save small change (while leaving big bucks on the table because I simply did not have the energy to focus on the important things like marketing, sales or strategic planning myself.)
I see the beginner-entrepreneurs make similar mistakes over and over again. In this post I am going to bust a few myths and go through the list of things you should not give a f*ck about while starting your service business.
What you should not give a f*ck about when starting your business?
1. Sweating over your website design and branding for too long
What should you give a fuck about instead?
Information architecture on your website + being laser-focused with your niche, message and offer
When you are just starting out in your business, have no clients, no traffic and no subscribers, the particular shade of pink you chose for your website header has literally no impact on your business success.
The same goes for the template, photos, and logos.
It may sound counterintuitive but these things are really much less important than you think.
What is *extremely important though* is whether your target audience can find what they are looking for *where* they are looking for it on your website (aka great user experience).
Good news: creating a website with great user experience is easier (and cheaper) than you think. In fact, most great service-business websites (i.a. coaching websites) have the same structure: 4 pages + fixed homepage elements.
- Big bold header / slider with 5 fixed elements:
- Your PHOTO – a big, professional headshot of your face or full body – make sure it’s taken by a PROFESSIONAL photographer with a *good* camera. This can be cheaper than you think if you drop by a local photography studio instead of booking a photo shoot outside – especially if you live in a ‘cheaper’ country – I had mine taken (including clothes and makeup) for…about $25.
- Big, bold Business TAGLINE – the motto of your business
- A link to a SUBSCRIPTION form / embedded subscription form – to unlock access to a freebie in exchange for an email address
- LOGO – with your name – I will show you how to make it using Canva
- 5 must-have pages on the MENU: about, work with me (services/ packages), testimonials (/praise), blog, contact (+ if you have a Facebook group, you can add ‘community’ and your ‘free resources’ – if you have them already)
Put your social media buttons on the homepage as well.
- Introduction – who are you, what you do + your STORY.
- Client testimonials
- Whom your service is intended for
- Your packages (with link to ‘work with me’/ shop page)
You can find out more in this blog post.
And you can use my website copy generator here
Your story: be personable and emphasise why you have started your business: your motivation and passions.
3. Work with me:
A more detailed description of your packages and services (with pricing if it’s an > $ 200 service, or without if you’re serving high-ticket clients)
Include your contact details.
Defining your niche
Another thing you cannot miss is defining your target audience and niche really well. It’s surprising how many beginner entrepreneurs forget about it.
Don’t try to do what everybody is doing – choosing a broad, highly competitive market with a lot of more established and powerful competitors, and having nothing to set yourself apart from them, is going to put you in a very difficult position – one where your only competitive advantage will be a lower price. Soon enough an even newer player will enter this ‘red ocean’ and drive the prices even further, making your position even more difficult. I highly recommend reading ‘The Blue Ocean Strategy’ by W. Chan Kim on how to stand out from the competition, leave the crowded ‘red ocean’ and create a ‘blue ocean’ for yourself.
Instead of doing what everybody else is doing, ask yourself:
- What are you really good at?
- What do you really enjoy doing most?
- If you were to serve only one type of client, who would they be?
If you need more help with defining your niche, download my ‘DIY Marketing Guide’ (for free) and do exercises on page 5.
I have recently talked to two amazing ladies (Marta and Marisa) who were just about to start their coaching businesses and labelled themselves as ‘mindset coaches for female entrepreneurs’.
There are thousands of coaches with exactly the same tagline so swimming in this ‘red ocean’– how will they differentiate themselves? What is their unique value proposition?
After a few minutes of conversation around how they see their business, what motivation they had for starting it and whom they would ideally like to serve, we established that in fact, their niche and ideal target audience is a lot more narrow than what they initially told me:
- Marta decided to choose a beautiful niche – empower people to change their lives through a physical challenge – running their first marathon. She wants to help women, men and families transform their lives and boost their confidence through achieving the ‘unachievable’.
- Marisa, who hails from Spain, has experience as a ‘trailing wife-turned-expat-entrepreneur’ in the Philippines. She organises retreats for business women. We decided focusing on that niche – female expats who want to find themselves and start a business in a foreign country – will be the most relevant and genuine target audience for Marisa.
2. Having a finished product– and generally being ‘ready’!
What to give a fuck instead?
Doing a legitimate test of the market – pre-selling, dry-testing or building an MVP
This may sound the most counterintuitive…whaaaat?! You can start a business without having the product?!
This is the biggest mistake I have made so far in two of my businesses – the product businesses – that cost me a lot of money and a lot of time. Is spent a year creating a range of 10 flavours, designing packaging…only to ditch 70% of them as the production proved not to be commercially viable. I invested 10k in building an app before selling niche advertising space…only to find out nobody actually wanted to buy.
The truth is – you will never be really ‘ready’. The lights will never be all-green. You need to deal with it and start selling as soon as possible to verify the demand for your product in real life. The only legitimate way to do it is to start selling.
Otherwise, you may spend months and thousands of dollars building something nobody wants.
What should you do instead?
Organise a pre-sale, dry test or create an MVP
This is my favourite as it not only helps you test the market but also forces you to deliver to a strict deadline. No more procrastination that is such a common plague among beginner entrepreneurs (who do not have many clients yet imposing deadlines 😉 ). Faffing around with your website, and fretting over every detail is a common strategy to mask procrastination – but being busy does not mean being productive.
So – instead – start a pre-sale using a simple landing page created with your email marketing tool (e.g. MailerLite or MailChimp) and using PayPal to accept payments for starters. Give your customers a discount for the longer wait. And then – overpromise and over deliver.
If you don’t want to do a pre-you can do the so-called ‘dry-testing’. Hire a graphic designer to create a mockup of your product (you can get one cheaply on Fiverr.com or I can recommend a really good designer if you want) and then set up a simple online store on using Shopify (you can find step-by-step instructions here) which will take your customer all the way up to the ‘pay’ button…and then the ‘sorry, we are currently out of stock – but drop your email and we will let you know when the products become available again as soon as possible’. That way you can test how many people are really interested in buying – not just ‘window shopping’.
The most robust way of testing your product/ idea is by creating an MVP. It does not need to be expensive though! Thinks about creative ways of emulating your product/service cheaply. You will probably need to give up on automation and actually do the ‘behind the scenes’ work yourself first before you have enough evidence of demand to outsource manufacturing / automate the processes. Let me give you some examples of how this can work:
- In my sports nutrition startup one of our flagship products was all-natural instant porridge for runners. The production in a manufacturing facility would cost us £ 12,000 for three flavours, and we wanted to market test ten. Instead of outsourcing production, we registered with the local food standards authority, got tests for food manufacturing, and rented FSA-approved kitchen for a few hours, bought food packaging and heat sealer, and produced the first batch for testing ourselves.
- In my app business, instead of creating an app for iOS and Android, I created a simple website that emulated the core functionality (slashing 90% of the extra ‘frills’) – which saved me an enormous amount of money.
You can even create a sketch video or Power-Point presentation demonstrating the functionality of your products and ask people to buy it at a discount in pre-order.
You will find a few great examples of budget-MVPs in Dan Norris’s book ‘The 7-day Startup’.
3. SEO and Google Ads
What should you give a f*ck about instead?
Creating high-quality content, growing your following and building relationships
A lot of beginner entrepreneurs spend too much time fretting about optimising their website for SEO and investing in Google Ads.
The truth is, at first it will be very difficult for you to rank for popular keywords with a new domain (the domain authority depends on a lot of factors but most experts believe new domains are restricted from ranking high in Google – which is often referred to as ‘Google sandbox’ – due to low reputation of domains below 1 year of age). Unless you are an expert or hire a really good (read – expensive) expert and have a sizeable budget, you will most likely get no results from your Google Ads (aka ‘Google stupidity tax’)
When you’re beginning in a service business, the first thing you should do is make sure everybody you know knows about it.
Start from friends and family and their circle, join relevant forums, groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and then respond to relevant questions and requests, network on events – both in real life and virtual such as webinars and Facebook lives, share useful content for free on your blog and social media (you can learn more about how to plan your content marketing strategy here)
Hope this helps 😉 let me know in the comments what other things you think one should not give a fuck about when starting (or growing!) their business.