by Jill McAbe
The pandemic’s impact on the U.S. workforce has left an unprecedented 30 million wildly talented and ambitious Americans jobless. But amidst the uncertainty, there are many “accidental entrepreneurs” who have discovered a silver lining — the gig economy.
Oftentimes, a layoff leads people to take the leap into creating their own business, either because they have to in order to generate income or this is the push they’ve been so desperately waiting for. Severance or unemployment pay can also give them the runway to get income through the door while in the initial stages of starting a business.
However, there is a widespread gap of knowledge about how to efficiently build a business that sells talent and time keeping solo entrepreneurs from achieving their potential. There is so much noise about what to do that it’s confusing for anyone to figure out what should be done first, second, third, and so on.
Well-meaning practitioners and coaches will tell you that you need a brand strategy, content marketing, social media, funnels, client journey mapping, public relations, systemization, advertising, graphic design – the list goes on. In a way, they are right; you may need all these solutions at various stages in your growth. But there is an order of operations that will make each project more successful as it builds on the last.
When you do the right work at the wrong time, you risk not getting the benefit you hoped. You’ll end up spending time and money on things you didn’t need, and eventually, you’ll find yourself needing to circle back and do it again when the time is right for you.
When it comes to being immeasurably better with your time, one of the smartest things you can do is pick the right project at the right time. To do that you need to figure out just where you are on the Gig-Economy Career Ladder (GECL).
Businesses do one of two things: they solve a problem, or they fulfill a desire. You have developed a skill that you enjoy and sell it to fulfill a need or desire, but your business is inconsistent. It demands too many hours from you, or you cannot step away from it and keep money coming in. If this is the case, then congratulations; on the GECL, you’ve made it to basecamp. The great thing about being at basecamp is that it means you are ready to leverage everything you have learned about yourself, your industry, and your clients, and turn it into your ideal business.
The easiest way to think about the exploration phase of a business is to think of research and development. The exploration phase is where you take ideas and test them and see if they have merit before dumping all sorts of cash or time into them only to find out they’re not going to work out. Projects to focus on during the exploration phase include:
- Identify a target market you can predictably find and that you want to serve
- Develop a proprietary solution for a problem your target market will pay to solve
- Confirm that your target market will pay you to solve their problem
- Test your sales process and solution delivery
- Refine your marketing and sales until you can predict your sales volume
- Refine your marketing, sales, and solution delivery to ensure worthwhile profit
The things you are looking to prove in the exploration phase are that you have a target market that you can reach and who will buy from you, that you have a solution at a price that is profitable for you to sell, and that you have marketing or advertising channels that lead to a predictable volume of traffic and eventual sales conversions.
Once the viability of your idea is proven, you can advance to the exploitation phase. The types of activities that are the focus of this phase have to do with efficiency and expansion. Because you’ve locked down your service or product, you will finally be able to streamline your operations with tried-and-true standard operating procedures (SOPs). It makes sense that you will be positioned to create standards once what you sell is standardized. Standardizing your processes is a key to becoming the owner of a system that makes money with or without you. The exploitation phase is also where you pick up a megaphone and tell everyone what you do through activities including marketing, advertising, and public relations. The types of projects that you focus on during the exploit phase are:
- Clarify a business vision, mission, strategy, and structure
- Create standard operating procedures for marketing, advertising, sales, solution delivery, legal, and administration
- Continuously improve all your standard operating procedures
- Outsource everything you can
- Manage your systems, not your people
- Enjoy your newfound free time (or start the explore phase for another solution!)
You are better off going through the exploration phase five or ten times than jumping to the exploitation phase before you’re truly ready. Once you have successfully explored an opportunity, you can move to exploiting it very quickly.
Jill McAbe is a Business Coach, High-Performance Expert and the #1 Amazon-Best Selling Author of It’s Go Time: The ALL-IN System For Unstoppable Success in Business and Life. By focusing on success-skills that are grounded in the contemporary sciences, Jill helps talented creatives, coaches, and professionals design and build purposeful, six and seven figure service-based businesses that work on-or-offline. Jill carries a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University, is a faculty member of York University’s Schulich Executive Education Centre and is a Top Teacher on the global career-skills platform, Skillshare.