I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who was suffering a real low point after a lot of work-related stress. She was really struggling with the 9-to-5 grind, looking for a way to break free and find a healthier work-life balance. She asked how I’d ended up starting my business, whether I enjoyed it, and whether it had given me the freedom she craved. My answer?
When I started my business it was for very similar reasons. Creating my own business has enabled me to manage the stresses of life and work far more easily. Life is a lot freer and a lot more enjoyable, because I spend all my work time doing something I absolutely love, and I’m in total control.
I work when I want, where I want, doing what I want.
Really, it’s just been an incredibly rewarding and wonderful experience.
That being said, it has been a lot of hard work. When I told my friend this she said,
“Oh, well, it’s not something that I’m thinking of doing now. I want to do it in the future, but I need to wait for 10 years until I’ve got enough experience.”
She genuinely didn’t think that it was possible to start a business unless you had a lot of experience doing exactly what your business demanded.
My question to her was simple: “When did I spend a decade working in a 9-to-5 job as a freelance writer before I set up a business as a freelance writer?”
That confused her for a minute until she realised that you can’t be a freelance writer until you ARE a freelance writer.
You can work as a writer, in various roles, in 9-to-5 jobs and corporate settings, but you can’t work as a freelance ANYTHING without first become a freelancer.
It’s physically impossible to start as a freelancer saying you have X years of experience working as a freelancer.
Entrepreneurship is much the same. Running your own business is a completely unique experience, and the majority of us start out without any idea what we’re getting into. We have life experience and work experience, but nothing prepares you for the challenge, thrill and slight insanity of running a business of your very own.
And if nothing can prepare you for it, how can you possibly have a decade’s worth of experience?
The question that grew from this was really simply: how exactly do you start a business when you have no ‘official’ experience, or the experience you do have is ‘unrelated’ to the business you want to create?
The answer is ridiculously simple: content marketing.
Let me explain…
When I Started My Business…
When I started my business it was just after I finished my PhD scholarship. My entire career up to that point had been in archaeology. I’d gone to university, done an undergraduate degree, and a master’s degree, then spent two years working in corporate archaeology. I’d dug all over the country, and in Europe. I’d gone back to uni to study for my PhD. Throughout my post-graduate studies I taught at University, so there was nothing in my background that screamed, “writer”.
My official experience was as an archaeologist, teacher and student. When I started my writing business my ‘official’ writing experience was nonexistent.
Despite having no official experience I had been writing in various capacities at a high level for years. Just going to university teaches you write to a very high standard. I’d had papers published. I’d been writing fiction. I’d had fiction published. So I had been writing for a very long time, but I had no official experience.
I’d had papers published in international archaeology journals.
And I’d had fiction published and self-published.
But despite years of writing, I had no ‘official experience’.
Why Seemingly Irrelevant Experience Is Never Irrelevant…
A lot of people find when they start their businesses (or find themselves thinking they want to start a business) and they can’t don’t have any official experience. And it holds people back. Like my friend, it’s often the thing that prevents people from ever getting started.
If you actually stop and think about the experience that you do have, you will usually discover something quite remarkable. Because the ‘thing’ you want to build your business around is likely something you are passionate about, something that you love, something you know you’re good at, your background will reflect it in one way or another.
Even if it’s not in an obvious way.
My friend’s background is in anthropology. The study of anthropology is really just the study of people. Branding is all about people: understanding how people think, what people want, what people like or need. It’s all about crafting individual brands that are unique to a specific person while appealing to a wider group of people.
So my friend actually understands the theoretical side of things and the mechanics behind how brands work extremely well because she spent so long learning about people and what makes them tick. It may not be a formal education or a decade’s worth of experience in graphic design or branding, but it gives her a unique perspective.
There are various other elements to her background that actually inform her new purpose, the career path that she now wants to take, and the businesses she wants to start. The problem was, she was looking at it from the perspective of, “I have no experience”, rather than asking,”How is my experience relevant to what I want to do?”
How To Turn Your Experience Into Your Unique Selling Point…
We can’t live our lives, move through the world, age and grow without gaining experience.
We all have experience in something.
You may have only ever worked a part-time job, or worked in a job that you consider to be dead-end, or horrible, or a generic office job. Perhaps you’ve been a cubicle monkey or a checkout clerk. Whatever you’ve done, you felt your job lacked meaning. Perhaps you had a very rewarding, very good job, but you’re now looking to shift careers and you feel you lack tangible experince for what you want to do moving forward.
You feel your experiences haven’t given you anything you could use to start a business. They were either meaningless or meaningless in the context of the new business reality you are trying to create.
Nothing Is Meaningless…
It’s insane that people think that their experiences are meaningless. Nothing in life is meaningless.
All of our experiences have meaning. Everything that you have done in your life, everything that you have seen, felt and thought, every single thing has led you to your present situation, to this moment in time, all of it had meaning. Something along the way drew you to want to start your business in your specific field, your specific niche, doing one particular thing.
You would never have got to that point of thinking, “Yes, I want to start a business doing this!” if your experiences hadn’t driven you to it.
For that reason alone, everything you have ever experienced has meaning.
So no matter what your official experience might be, you do have experience in your field. You just don’t know it yet.
Starting a business when you’re not able to say (for example), “I have 10 years of experience working as a professional writer”, or “I have 10 years experience working as a professional branding expert”, or “I have 20 years experience working as a marketing specialist”, can be tough. It’s be difficult to find a way to establish your business and yourself as trustworthy and knowledgeable in your field. Citing X number of years working in a particular job or field is an incredibly quick and easy way of establishing you know what you’re talking about.
It’s one line in a mini-bio that immediately tells people that you know your stuff.
It’s Not All About The One Liner…
The thing is, people are not convinced by a line in a bio.
They are convinced by what you say, what you do, and the presence you have as a business owner.
That’s where content marketing comes in.
Content marketing immediately helps you establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field. It allows you to demonstrate your expertise by providing informative, interesting, funny, or just plain invaluable content.
If you are giving people things that are of value to them, that (far more than a line in a bio) will convince them that you are worth investing in. Your content will convince potential clients that you knowledgeable, capable of fulfilling your promises.
How To Use Content Marketing To Start A Business When You Have No Experience…
So how exactly do you use content marketing to start your own business? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think, but there are several key things that you have to do.
Find Your Niche…
The first thing I suggest you do is to niche down as much as possible. Really define your business niche. One mistake I made when I was first starting out in business was failing to clearly define what I was doing.
I started out happily doing editing, proofreading, writing, illustrations, helping people with their books, design elements…so many different things!
They were related to each other within a general sphere of ‘writing and books’. I loved doing them, and was capable of doing them, but result, unfortunately, was that nobody really knew what I did.
My business message was all over the place because I was talking about so many different things.
When I niched down, and really focused on the one thing that I wanted to do more than anything else (writing) things started falling into place really quickly. When I niched it down even further I realised I could get incredibly specific:
The one thing I do is create/teach the creation of blogs/vlogs to help business owners and entrepreneurs harness the awesome power of content marketing.
When I got that specific, suddenly everything fell into place.
My business started growing astonishingly quickly.
So finding your niche is the first thing you need to do in order to establish a business using the Content Marketing Business Model.
One thing I will say is this: when you think you’ve niched down, take a while to think about it. Come back to it later and look at it again. Because I can almost guarantee you that you will not have found a niche. You will have found a broad subject area, like ‘writing’, and thought, “Yes! That’s my niche!”
When you actually stop to think about it, you realise that what you’ve come up with isn’t really a niche, and it encompasses loads of different things. You want to drill down as far as you can to get ridiculously specific.
Exactly what are you’re going to be doing? How are you going to be doing it?
Find Your Ideal Client…
The next thing you need to do is figure out exactly who you want to work with. I know a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of saying, “I’ll work with everybody. I’ll work with everybody. I don’t mind who I work with, I just want clients!”
I can understand that impulse, especially when you’re first starting out. I did it myself! At that stage in your business, you really just need to get money coming in. You’re quite happy to take on any work, with any client, anytime, anyhow, anywhere. Just to get money coming in.
But if you can be really specific about the exact type of person you ideally want to work with, and target all of your content to that specific person, so that’s most appealing to them, you will find that the overwhelming majority of the audience you grow will naturally be the people you want to work with most.
It’s really important to know who your ideal client is so that you aren’t writing content that’s aimed at just anybody. If you do that, you will end up with an audience made up of anybody and everybody. Tailoring your content to a very specific type of client allows you to build an audience that’s predominately made up of people you really want to work with, who will be the most interested in what you have to offer, who will find the most value in what you have to offer, and who are most likely to buy from you.
For example, my niche is writing content for entrepreneurs and small business owners. I could have simply left it at that and said, “I’ll write for any entrepreneur or small business owner.” To some extent, that is true. I do take on clients from all walks of life. But I got a lot more specific than that and decided that my ideal clients are female entrepreneurs/small business owners in their 20s and 30s who are:
- Building a business based on something they’re truly passionate about.
- Looking to use content marketing as the heart of their marketing strategy.
- Want to ensure they’re always selling in a soulful manner.
They are my ideal clients, and all my content is tailored for them. Your ideal client might be very different.
RECOMMENDED READING ON FINDING YOUR IDEAL CLIENT: DID YOU KNOW YOUR BUSINESS IS BELOVED BY THE GODS
Tailoring Your Content To Target Your Ideal Clients…
Niche down to a very specific audience, for your very specific niche, allows you to target your content at a particular sector of a particular industry. Not only that, it allows you to target a particular subset of the people interested in that particular sector of that particular industry.
You get very targeted.
The more targeted you are in your content creation the more obvious it is that you know exactly what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and how you can help those specific people.
Imagine trying to explain to somebody how you can help them, but you’re not addressing them as an individual, you’re words are generic, and seem to be designed to convince anyone that you’re right for them.
How can you be a good fit for everyone?
This is exactly what happens when you’re writing a blog post or recording a video, and you’re trying to explain exactly what you can do for the person watching, but you have no idea who they are.
They could be anybody. You end up saying a message that is very generic. It has to be generic because it has to appeal to everybody.
If, however, your message is directed at a very specific person, you can get really detailed on exactly what it is that you’re going to be able to do to help that person. You can be really clear on the exact way your product or service can fix the problems in their lives, make their lives better, help them in their business/personal lives.
The more specific you get in your marketing messages, the more effective your marketing will be.
RECOMMENDED READING ON WRITING FOR YOUR IDEAL CLIENT: 10 TIPS TO ENSURE YOU’RE ALWAYS WRITING FOR YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
How Specificity Demonstrates Experience…
Not only does content marketing allow you to target a really specific audience/niche and deliver a really specific message, all of that specificity demonstrates your knowledge, expertise, and experience. It proves that you are the person who is most capable of helping that group of people in that particular niche do that one specific thing.
Being specific proves you are the person most capable of helping your ideal client when it comes to that one thing in that one niche.
Content marketing is a way for you to demonstrate your experience in a tangible way. People can hear it, watch it, and read it. You can provide them with solid evidence of your experience and your ability follow through on your promises.
That is something that a bio can never do.
So if you’re worried that you don’t have anything to put in your bio to prove your expertise, there’s nothing to worry about.
All you need to do is put together a really solid content marketing plan that proves your value, worth, and knowledge.
The more effectively you can do this, the easier you will find it to build your business.
Why Giving Away Free Content Is The Key To Building Your Business…
It may seem like a contradiction to offer free content to people. You may be thinking, “I’m running a business, not a charity! Why am I giving this stuff away?”
But the thing is, creating valuable free content in turn creates a place that your ideal clients naturally want to be. It enables you to create a space they will naturally gravitate towards. People will learn that you are the person to come to for this specific type of advice/method or form of amusement/entertainment – whatever it is you’re offering.
They’ll learn that you’re where it’s at.
They will come to you.
They’ll spread the word.
More people will come to you based on their recommendations.
You will naturally grow a brilliant audience.
Once you have a core audience of ideal clients who are in love with your free content, they will naturally ask for more.
They will be saying, “Wow! If your free stuff is this good, how good much your paid products/services be? I want more of this amazing stuff and I’m quite happy to pay for it, because you’ve given me so much value for free – I know that you’re worth it. I know that you can do it. Here, take my money, just give me more!”
RECOMMENDED READING ON THE POWER OF FREE CONTENT: The Cake Construction And How To Use It
That’s a very simplified version of how content marketing works. It takes an awful lot of work (I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t). Content marketing isn’t an easy or a quick fix. But it is a very effective way of building a business.
So if you’re looking to set up your own business, doing something that you love, and you’re holding yourself back because you believe you are lacking the experience required to do it, don’t worry. The experience that you have had in your life will feed into what you are doing in some way, because your experience is what led you to where you are.
Where you are, is at a point where you want to start this business.
You can start a business when you have no experience. You don’t need experience. You just need cracking content.