Episode 2. The ONE Thing You Need for a Successful Online Business

Let’s take it back to March 2019 when I first launched my paid 1:1 program to help side hustlers build a brand and online business and sign their first paying clients. A lot of people know me as a brand and content strategist or business coach, but what many may not know is that I actually tried to do career coaching before this.

I wanted to help people with their resumes, CVs and cover letters, especially if they were applying for research positions. I worked with two people for free on their job applications, and let’s just say I did not like it. I was really good at pinpointing weaknesses in their applications and writing, but I didn’t like the scope of work and the program I was developing. 

In This Episode

How I went from career coaching to business coaching

During this time, I was also building a Youtube channel (which doesn’t exist anymore!), and was starting to build a small but mighty audience. Some of you reading this right now may have found me from that channel! Here’s where the magic started happening – People began to ask me, “Cheryl, how did you find the confidence to put yourself out there? How are you building an audience? What are your tips for gaining visibility? How do you plan your content?” 

That’s when a lightbulb went off – I can start a business helping people build their brands. I started coaching and consulting for free, and guess what? My clients were able to grow their businesses and get paying clients as a result of our work together. That’s when I knew I could start my own business where I help people build a brand and business that makes an income and impact. 

Fast forward to today, my work is focused on helping clients with building their online business and personal brand, signing on their first paying clients, developing their own content strategy, and leveraging their voice, message, and mission to achieve all of the above.

The entry bar to starting an online business is low. Honestly, anyone can become an online coach or start a service-based business. As long as you have been able to solve a problem or achieve a result for yourself or help others do the same, you can start an online service-based business to help people do just that. Service-based businesses also require little start-up costs, tech or other investments compared to business models such as product-based businesses. 

In other words, there’s a lot of competition. In my niche, for example, there is no shortage of branding experts or business coaches. That’s why the standard for success or quality is really high. Which leads to the question: how can you as an online entrepreneur stand out from your colleagues when the competition is so keen?

Why we feel compelled to follow thought leaders or influencers

What makes you feel compelled to follow entrepreneurs, thought leaders or influencers?

For me, it comes down to three things:

1. Do they offer me something that I can only get from them?

Is their content or message or work unique and different? Is what they’re saying fresh and original? If not, I can just go directly to the primary source. With so much noise online, I can’t be following thousands of people or else I’ll be overwhelmed with information and repetitive ideas.

2. Do I like their personality, style or approach?

We don’t have to like everyone we see online, just like how not everyone likes us. If I’m going to follow someone on social media and consume their content, I want to actually like their vibe and personality.

3. Can I sense their genuine enthusiasm or intention or energy from their work?

If I feel that they don’t really care about their message or they’re not confident in their work, then I’ll feel skeptical about whether I can trust them. Whether they truly back their work or or not. If I can’t sense their energy and commitment to what they’re sharing, it’s hard for me to be convinced to follow them.

One of the biggest criteria I look for when deciding whether I want to follow someone or even invest in one of their programs and offers is based on whether the value they give me is different, unique, and gives me something new to consider or think about. 

Chances are, these things are also something that may influence your decisions about who you think are leaders in your niche, who you want to follow or buy from, and who’s content you actually want to consume and learn from.

The ONE thing you need for a successful online business

If you’re a side hustler, online coach, or a service-based business owner, how can YOU stand out from the rest of the crowd, especially among those who are selling the same thing as you?

This is the ONE thing I believe that all entrepreneurs need to have if they want to have a successful online business. 

Now the question becomes “Okay, I know that if I want to differentiate myself from other people who are selling the same thing as me, I need to be 1) offering something unique, fresh, and different 2) show my personality and style so that the right people will resonate with me, and 3) really show my true intention and passion for what I do or talk about. How do I actually make this happen?”.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about standing out in the online space is developing your own unique thoughts, ideas, opinions, methods, frameworks that comes from experience and practice. If you’ve just started out in your business, there’s a good chance that you haven’t yet mastered your voice, message, or methods. This means the quickest and best way to get clarity on what makes you different is to go out and work with people. 

And here’s the part where people get hung up on: A lot of times, people end up not wanting to take any action at all because they lack clarity. They may also be lacking the confidence in their skill or message or ability to help others achieve specific results BECAUSE they feel like they aren’t yet clear on what it is they do. 

The only way I knew that career coaching was not the right business direction for me was actually working with people and testing it out. If I had spent time and energy or even money trying to build up a career coaching practice by doing things like creating lots of content or building a website even before I ever worked with people to find out it wasn’t a right fit, that would have been a very tricky situation. 

Why you need to be making decisions and implementing quickly

Many people think that clarity needs to come first before they can start working with people and making offers, but I’d argue that you need to work with people before you can have clarity around your brand, content, and even your offer. I’m not just talking about working with people in a paid capacity. I also mean working with people for free in order to gain clarity for your business. 

I get it, you may be worried that people won’t even want to work with you if you don’t have a clear brand messaging or a clearly mapped out program.

But here’s the thing: You CAN have a clear brand message and a clearly defined offer even at this very moment. All it requires you to do is to make a decision about what you’re articulating to your audience and what you’re helping people with. Then start finding people to work with either for free or paid.

This is what all successful business owners need to be able to do – make decisions and execute on them quickly. That’s the only way you can evaluate what works and what didn’t work so you can make an educated guess on what to do next or what to do differently moving forward. 

A common fear that comes up a lot from my audience and clients is that they’re worried they’re not making the “best move” for their business. They want to know for sure that what they’re doing is indeed the best strategy or best action step. 

I’d like to offer you something to think about: What if I told you that you CAN make business decisions without validation from anyone else? What if you can simply just make your own best informed decision and make sure that you like your reasoning behind this decision? What if that’s all you really needed to move forward and take action?  

Entrepreneurship is very different from school or work. If anything, entrepreneurship is the opposite of school and work. There were these invisible checklists that we were trying to check off, and who knows who created these checklists? Well, these supposed checklists or systems are basically how school and work maintains order.

When you’re starting your own business, you get to create your own action plans and define your own criteria of what success looks like to you. You get to choose what to do, think and say in relation to your business. Because if you made a business move that maybe wasn’t the best move, it’s not like someone’s gonna kick you out of school or fire you. You can easily learn from this supposed failure and do things differently. Messy action is the name of the game here. 

You are the decision maker. Business owners make decisions. CEOs make decisions. And if you’re running a business, then yes, you are now the CEO of your business. 

There’s no longer one best approach or method that’ll lead to success. The only best strategy is to decide on the next action to take, take the action, see whether you like the outcomes of this decision, and make sure you like your reasons behind this decision. That’s it. Making your own decisions and acting fast is precisely what you’ll need to master if you want to have a successful business on your own terms.

How developing your own thought leadership is going to differentiate you from your colleagues or competitors

We’ve been taught since a young age to want to know the correct answer or next step. We learned to follow step-by-step processes and rely on our supervisors or superiors to tell us what to do next. We’re trained to crave a sense of familiarity and security, and to avoid what’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable. 

Interestingly, that’s just not how it works in business. The people who put out novel ideas and who take the biggest actions even if it seems risky are usually the ones who see the greatest return. 

You know what’s the fascinating thing about a lot of the content creators, entrepreneurs, or thought leaders we follow? We follow them because they share ideas, content, or messages that are unconventional or make us see things in a new light. 

This is also a reminder and encouragement for you to start stepping into your own voice, ideas, opinions, examples, and experiences – and own it. You truly do not need approval from anyone when making a decision for your business.

Your business trajectory is going to look different from others, even from your colleagues who are seemingly selling similar offers. That’s why you don’t need to look to someone else to see what they’re doing and you don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. What you should be doing instead is to make a decision about what you want to do or say, and do it or say it. People need to hear something about your message and see your work, and they need to hear or see it coming from you.

A new perspective on how to gain clarity for your business

In order to figure out what actually works best for you and your business, you need to start getting experience and work with people in order to have more clarity about what is actually working for you. 

I urge you to be confident and comfortable with making your own decisions quickly, without looking to others for advice or evidence of what works for them. This includes not trying to see what the trends in your niche are. This includes not asking your colleagues what they think you should do. This even includes not relying on your mentors for advice. You can definitely seek out different perspectives, but remember that you are the ultimate decision maker, and you need to decide quickly so you can implement quickly. 

There’s no need to spend unnecessary time thinking through every little detail or every potential outcome because you truly don’t know what the outcome will be until after you take action. Any extra time spent trying to predict the outcome or mitigates pitfalls is just time and energy wasted on your end. The simple advice here is to not overthink. Just make a decision. 

Specifically, don’t waste excessive time over small decisions like omg is this post good enough? Is my sales page copy clear enough? Should I launch a group program next month? Is now the right time to start a podcast? 

You have much bigger or more pressing and urgent decisions to make. There are bigger things that will truly require careful attention and thinking. I can almost bet that a good proportion of your decisions right now, especially if you’re just starting out in your business, are relatively small and you can make a decision quickly. There is no time to spare telling yourself “I don’t know what to do next”/ Just make a decision and act on it, so long as you’re happy with your reasons for doing so.

People can easily tell when there’s a lack of authenticity or genuine enthusiasm. They can tell who’s a generic cookie cutter version of someone else. It’s easy to tell who has subscribed to someone else’s step by step processes and are simply regurgitating other people’s work. That’s why it’s easy to get washed out. 

I highly urge you to go out there and start working with people so that you can not only hone your craft in terms of helping people get results, but also figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you and what you like and don’t like so that you can develop your own thought leadership. Practice and experience are the foundations for being able to develop your own original thoughts, ideas, opinions, and stance on different issues within your niche.

By being able to make your own decisions, you’ll be able to think for yourself and think of your own approaches and ideas. I mean, just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean you should just follow them blindly. You need to decide whether someone else’s approach fits into your own goals and business.

Trusting your own decisions and showing up for them takes you one step closer to success

I want to encourage you to proactively make your own business decisions and not rely on validation from others to decide on what’s the next best action step. If you’re currently lacking clarity about what to do with your business, then you can go get clarity by actually doing the work. By doing so, you’ll be able to dive deep into your practice, figure out what works best for you and your business and your clients, and also develop your own ideas and opinions. 

You can be a thought leader in your niche by stepping into your own voice, message, ideas, opinions, experiences, and so on. This means you need to do the critical thinking for yourself instead of relying on another person who’s supposedly ahead of you to do the thinking for you. You need to be proactively learning, growing, and making decisions if you want to step into the role of a thought leader in your space. 

Yes, this requires you to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Making your own decisions is oftentimes not that comfortable because there’s a sense of uncertainty. But here’s the thing: Growth does not happen from doing the same things over and over or from staying stagnant. Business is about stepping out of your comfort zone. 

Finally, I want to remind you to trust your own decisions. More importantly, show up for your decisions. Trust that each decision is a lesson AND a step closer to success.

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