Create your business model and stop recreating it

It starts harmlessly enough.

There you are. Being your passionate, idea-driven, in-the-moment self.

And you meet someone.

Maybe it’s at a networking event. Maybe it’s a friend of a client.

Either way, she finds out what you do.  She lights up.  And she says that she needs something just a little bit different from what you offer, and could you possibly do this one other different thing for her because hey, she’s heard good things about you?

And hell, who are you to turn down a little extra money in your business, right?

So even though the thing she wants is something you don’t love doing, you create kind of a contorted customized package just for this person and you hunker down and do the work.

Well, not much later, someone hears about this thing you did, and says hey we were thinking about something just like that only a little different for our group and do you do group things like this?

Well, as a matter of fact, you DON’T do group things like that.  But hell, you could learn right? That’s how you’ve done everything, right?

So, you make it up on the fly and don’t sleep a whole lot and yeah, you ignore your other clients for a bit but you pull it off and get paid…

And then another person comes along and says, “Wow. That’s almost exactly what we need, except for…”

…and pretty soon, you’ve got a big problem.

The big problem is not that you aren’t skilled enough to make these things happen. You are.

The big problem is not that you can’t think on your feet and pull it off. You’re doing just that.

The big problem isn’t even about the services themselves.  Hey, you may even like doing some of them.

The big problem is that you’ve reacted a business model.

And at some point, you discover that, holyshit, you’re all twisted up and contorted with no sense of exactly what you do and no idea of exactly who you serve.

I meet this person all the time.  Her business feels like abstract art.  Like a Picasso. Only, instead of two noses, three eyes or a limb poised at an impossible angle, there are services strewn around here and there, programs off in the distance, and no sense of center or direction.   She’s playing Picasso in her business with no end in sight.

Why does this happen?

Well, mostly because it can.  Entrepreneurs are idea people.  You can think on your feet and pull pretty much anything out your ass.

So, why is it so hard to break the pattern?

Well, that’d be where fear has taken over.

From fear’s perspective, it’s a lot easier to be “at effect” in your business than “at cause.”

After all, what if the thing you want to do doesn’t work?

And this is a key turning point.

Many business owners reach this point and think the problem is the WHAT of their business. (As in, “I gotta go find something else to do. I’m just not passionate about this work anymore.”)

But usually, it’s not the WHAT that’s the problem.  It’s the HOW.

And this is when you must get in the driver’s seat.  You must create your business model and stop recreating your business model.  You have to take your abstract art and turn into something less confusing.

Start by asking (and answering) yourself three key questions:

1.  What is my superpower?

(This is the thing you know you are best at, you know you love to do and you spend most of the day doing it and love your life.)

2. Exactly which activities am I doing that take way too much time because I am not the best person to be doing them?

(Make a list. Do a brain dump. Don’t hold back.)

3. If I could only offer three services (or products), what would they be and how would I price them so I make even more income than I make now?

Yes, it can be this simple.

Don’t believe me?  Then fight me in the comments below. 🙂

Or just take it from Steve Jobs:

“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Now, I’d love to hear what your business model looks like, or any stuck spots your encountering when answering the key questions above. Share with me in the comments below!

19 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Lisa Van Ahn

    Christine…I am actually in a bit of a conundrum with this.
    1. What is my superpower?
    Inspiring people

    2. Exactly which activities am I doing that take way too much time because I am not the best person to be doing them?
    Actually I am the best person to be doing them. I am inspiring peeps in their fitness and nutrition BUT my passion is inspiring girls and teaching them the inside out self-defense. I can inspire people through fitness but I long to teach and lead girls with my ‘i am initiative’ program.

    3. If I could only offer three services (or products), what would they be and how would I price them so I make even more income than I make now?

    I would offer my girls i am presentations, my empowerment parties for girls, and my speaking services to educators. I have priced these things to make more than I do now but I’m working on building this business. In the interim I am making my money by teaching/inspiring via fitness classes and fat loss coaching to adults. I really want to shift out of taking on the comfortable role of inspiring adults in fitness, but the money is there. In my new endeavor with girls the money, clients aren’t built up.

    So here’s my question. How do I shift out of the current biz model (which has been my income for the last 10 years AND works), stop taking on more of “the same” and make forward movement on what it is I truly desire to do, and start serving the peeps (the lovely girls) that speak to my soul and passion?

    Would love to hear your input on this…gratefully, Lisa-

  • Maureen Sharkey

    That describes exactly what has happened to my career, and has always happened. Everybody wants to be the art director.
    1.) Creating paintings that I believe in, is my main goal, and is where I excel.
    2. & 3.) People are constantly begging me to paint portraits of their loved ones–and from their non-professional photos–and for a very cheap price compared to what I’d be making in mass produced prints of marketable subjects.

    • Kimberly Wills

      Hi Maureen! I’m just starting on a painting path… starting with portraits of their loved ones, lol… but you’re right, people think the price is too high, but it’s NOT, and I don’t know what to say when someone asks, “How long does it take you?” Maybe they’re just curious but I feel like they’ll be doing the math to figure out how much I’m asking for per hour, and there’s more to it than that; it’s not a fair question. If you have a suggestion as to how to answer them I’ll take anything! Regardless of that, I’m glad to see another artist around and glad to hear you’re making some money at it; there’s hope for me yet! 🙂

    • Chrissie

      My art teacher would never let me go off photos…the subject is directly in front of us and that was it. Maybe you can start there? Saying no to the “Here’s the photo…” and say, “The sitting fee is $X and the average time is Y hours (maybe it’s 3-4 hours a day for 2-3 days, with a few small breaks in between? Just making it up), and any “extras” are billed at an hourly rate = whatever. I modeled in art classes for students and it would take 3 class sessions at 3 hours each for them to complete a painting of me. I’m sure you’re more efficient 🙂 The second someone hears he/she/they have to sit — like they would for a photo portrait – it changes the equation.

      The other piece is to know we live in a least common denominator economy. The iPhone and apps and social media have made everyone an “expert” or self proclaimed guru in their field. It means the quality is hard to find and when we do we balk at the fees. Professionals are not valued because the best friend with a DSLR can do the same thing for a lot less.

      I’d spend time honing the right market segment for your service – who isn’t afraid of and believes in professional portraits? Where are they? And when the others come asking, have a standard response that offers a bit of education without being arrogant. Maybe it’s a page on your site that offers an overview of the pricing structure. This way they can go there, see your work/portfolio, read testimonials, and review the pricing. When you reposition it as a luxury (because it is), and use language like “sitting fee” and “commission,” I suspect you’ll find the right clients.

  • Damaris Pierce

    You had me at “You can think on your feet and pull pretty much anything out your ass.”
    Great article for artists, thanks!

  • Court

    Christine,
    Thank you so much for this post! As an artist, I get asked all the time to do other things than the things I am really good at… even though those are the things that drew people to me in the first place! It is so subtle so often and trying to get paid as a creative person can definitely lead to that contorted feeling. Thanks for reminding me to offer the things that I feel really authentic about. Only doing three things sounds not only amazing, but a relief! To do only the things that I am really great at and not to contort…wow, that is truly the dream.
    Thanks for your posts!
    -Court McCracken

  • Ramona King

    Wow, it’s like you were reading my mind. Yesterday, I was contemplating what to do about a gig I was asked to consider. It’s not a paying gig and the person who asked me to participate was excited that I would consider doing the show as it was “along” the lines of what I do. There were networking opportunities with the University which on the surface looks good. But as I considered it further, I realized the event would draw people who were just a wee bit different from whom I call my ideal clients. I saw myself moving farther away from my ideal work. That’s when I thought about how easy it is for me to create on the spot and not really give energy and effort to the work I do best. Thanks for this blog. It reaffirms what I knew but needed to hear outside myself too. Eventually, I will start paying attention fully to the wise inner voice. Thanks, Christine.

  • Amanda Young

    So guilty of this. Looking forward to getting my systems in place this July. 🙂
    Thanks for your help and guidance.
    Amanda

  • Nneka, Working Mystic

    I was just about to do that as I’m starting to get GAC’s for clients again. Thanks for the reminder to stay focused on who I serve and what I offer. Unique paths to freedom for busy professionals.

    Question though: What happens when non-ideal clients want to work with you? They are willing to contort to what you offer, but you can see that it’s not going to be a fit.

    I know:-) (My inner Christine: Did you read the article?)

    • Christine Kane

      Nneka – The non-ideal client question is a good one. Sometimes (especially at first) you may try taking them because you can learn quite a bit – and occasionally be surprised that someone who appears to be non-ideal ends up being your favorite client.

      But if you simply KNOW this is not the right person, then the challenge is to stick to your original vision and tell them no. Be honest and clear. They will appreciate you for that. This is, i believe, a test that every business owner must go through at one point. (I just went through it yesterday. Turned down a boatload of money because it wasn’t the perfect thing for me at this time. and of course, the monkey mind wants to say things like, “Are you NUTS???”) But this is how we create clarity and also how we create great businesses!

  • Ann

    ” Entrepreneurs are idea people. You can think on your feet and pull pretty much anything out your ass.” If that ain’t true! Making a commitment to stick to my 3 tier plan this year. No extras. No privates. No special just this one time deals. My plan is solid and I’m on the right path. Can’t wait to come to NC to see you sometime soon.

  • Sara Fackelman

    Great blog!!!!!!!!!! I am excited about July because I need to focus and I know this program will inspire me to connect even more than I do now.

  • Herdis Pala

    Love this blog, a good kick in the butt for me, can´t wait to attend next GOLD event in July to find my spark again, to renew my faith in myself and what I can do!

  • Andrea

    When I started my first career as a Mime under Marcel Marceau, I was fascinated by the simplicity, the elegance of his Performance. He learned me that this was pretty hard to make it look that easy and light. So what I learned through him was: that we have to master the techique and once we have that we need to forget about it. Because it is not the tecnique that people are touched, it is the heart, the emotion. So I do a lot of Mime in my new Business as a Dreamcoach. ❤

  • Marcia Bennett

    This is an excellent blog. I can totally relate to playing Picasso. As someone who possesses numerous talents, I have a difficult time creating a clear path for my businesses. For example, I have a business that works with individuals and organizations teaching about time management, organization, and productivity, but as a former teacher I am also in the process of creating a tutoring business. This article is going to help me get clear about what I will offer in my businesses and how to create without being complex and convoluted in my approach.

    When you are a thinker, you tend to over evaluate concepts and ideas. So yes, I agree Christine- simple is best.
    Thanks!

  • Alexandre L’Eveille

    So easy to slip into the “pleaser” and slip out of the “leader” role. It is a challenge for me, but I’m getting better at it. In my business, another big culprit is “scope creep.” Thanks for the reinforcement and reminder to assume and maintain my leadership position.

    • Christine Kane

      You are most welcome Alexandre! And yes, we are ALL getting better at being leaders. It’s a process! 🙂

  • Kate

    Christine,

    I love this. This is exactly where I’m at, and I was asking my husband about this very conundrum just the other day.

    Hmmmmm – I’ve been UYBing with you this last couple of months and have a feeling the answer lies in me better defining my ideal client.

    Deciding to focus on a particular target group has helped me immensely in marketing and getting clients. HOWEVER

    I’m beseiged by two brains: the ‘sensible, linear business brain’ which can see a potential market, with money, and can create lots of juicy to intervene and offer value, and the ‘sensitive, spiritual, ME brain (the clue is there!) who wants to completely be ME in the process, but (there’s the but!) isn’t sure what the being ME is, when it comes to packages etc. Overactive brain means I can see a MILLION ways to be ME and I’ve got lost.

    The market I currently market to is fine (it fits me to an extent) but it feels I’m not living my essence.

    Overcoming the fear, I’m 100% committed to. Part of that is DECIDING WHAT my offer is, and living it. Is being ME and my thoughts about the world and life, and personal development enough? YES, they are! Who am I marketing that to? I find it really hard to ‘describe’ my ideal client – they’re kind of everyone curious about themselves and the world, and who find themselves struggling to make sense of it all.

    Confused and a little exhausted by my self.

    Love to you and the Uplevel team,

    Kate

    • Christine Kane

      Hey Kate — So, what are your answers to the three questions I posed up there???