Are you looking to make some quick cash, or are you aiming to create an enduring brand that exceeds your expectations and vision?
This is a telling question that has two polarizing answers.
- Option A: Involves a money-centric approach, that can easily lead to burnout, a brand you don’t believe in, and another job for yourself.
- Option B: Allows you to create a strong foundation first, a slow and steady approach, and a business that aligns with your vision.
While there is no right answer, I think we all know which option we aim to achieve.
Last week I shared how my best ideas came from my cubicle job, and was overwhelmed by the positive response and encouragement I received. If you haven’t made the time to read through it, I highly recommend you digest part one of this series first, as it provides the groundwork for today’s part 2 of the enduring brand series. We’re getting to some juicy stuff here, to help you build a solid foundation to build your own lasting brand.
Narrow your focus
I’ve seen it pop up over and over again — either when thumbing through resumes at a previous job, or researching for a purchase of my own — a claim that one individual/small business can do it all. Sure, we are all created with multiple passions, but at the same time we surely can’t be an “expert” in several pursuits.
Which would you trust more? A restaurant that markets as the best pizza in town, or the restaurant that offers the “best” fine italian dining, a pub and a chinese food? Sadly, I didn’t make this up. This is an actual restaurant in San Antonio my brother-in-law ordered pizza from and I picked up on the way to their house. Needless to say, I was very confused when I was greeted with a clash of typical chinese restaurant, pub and italian restaurant decor all in one strip mall space.
Despite the recommendation as a good slice of pizza from my brother-in-law, I lost all faith in my evening’s meal, and began to question the quality of this restaurant.
You need to narrow your focus, in order to build a sustainable business.
While on the subject of food, let’s take a look at cooking a meal as an example. When I’m preparing dinner, I read the recipe first and pull together a game plan. I know that I can’t do everything at once, so I take it step by step strategically. First, start boiling the water. While that’s heating up, I’ll cut the vegetables. Taking it step by step, rather than trying to do everything at once. I recognize my limits — I can’t prepare an appetizer, full meal and dessert all at the same time. This would no doubt lead to disaster, a burning pie in the oven, and less than ideal timing.
Find focus and take your business one step at a time. Eventually, you can open up your services and expand through hiring employees/contract work. But first, start with boiling the water and take it from there. Otherwise, you are wasting your time switching between tasks, rather than focusing on one pursuit.
Take a moment to see if you are confusing, or turning away, your potential customers and clients by offering too many services. If you are a graphic designer, do you offer everything from logo design, signage, custom Wordpress sites, wedding invitations, illustration and photography? Though you might feel qualified in all of these areas, I would highly encourage you to narrow your focus in an effort to better serve your clients.
Establish a strong foundation
Though you may feel tempted to accept any inquiry that comes through your inbox, this can be a dangerous game to play.
When upholding a long-term approach to your business, rather than looking for quick cash, you allow yourself the freedom to be selective, and choose which clients + services best align with your business. There are only so many hours in a day, and if your business is operating in tangent with a day job, you can afford to be selective. In contrast, if you have a short-term approach to your business you can’t be selective. You’ll accept any client work that comes through your inbox and before you know it you’re offering pub food and chinese cuisine at your pizza restaurant.
These aren’t just business principles I’ve read about, I’ve seen the danger of this short-term approach first hand at a previous job. This design studio accepted anybody with a credit card through their doors — from wedding invites, coloring books, custom websites, illustrations, powerpoints, logos and even board games. The sad part is, I’m sure they started their business with high hopes of creating a fun design studio. What they ended up with was a diluted brand, a scattered portfolio, and a job full of busy work and no passion.
As an employee, I had a front row seat to this #hotmess, and witnessed the lack of clear direction. Their portfolio was too general, and therefore appealed to no one. Why would I book their branding services, when it isn’t clear they have much experience in crafting brand identities? Don’t they design coloring books? Their portfolio comprised of almost 100 projects (I would know, one of my tasks was to update their portfolio), and lacked a clear direction both visually and in services.
Establish a strong foundation in your brand regarding services, and you’ll avoid diluting your brand. Though it may seem backwards to limit your service offerings, you will actually appeal to more clients because of this narrowed focus. People crave specificity. They want to hire the best, experienced and passionate. They don’t want someone who “does it all,” they’d rather work with an expert. The projects you accept and take on, dictate the direction for your brand and inform potential clients of the type of work you offer.
Protect your pursuit
Whether you are pursuing a side business, or own a business full-time, you need to protect your passions. Owning a business is not an easy feat, and requires SO much energy, time and focus. I see you nodding your head in agreement. So why would you compromise this valuable time by pursuing clients or services that don’t meet your passion?
You started this brand for a reason:
- You saw the flaws in your current employment, and desired to create something better.
- You wanted to pursue your passion (maybe that’s different than your day job).
- You have a unique perspective that didn’t align with an existing company.
- Or maybe you wanted freedom to create a brand you were proud of.
Whatever your reason for starting this venture, you need to protect it. Don’t allow yourself to accept any and every client. Make sure it aligns with your brand, and isn’t just a source of quick cash. If you don’t protect your pursuit, you will quickly spiral into a directionless brand dictated by the projects that step into your inbox.
On the flip side, if you protect your pursuits, maintain a long-term approach and narrow your focus you will create an enduring brand that allows you the freedom to pursue your passion. This is hands down the option I would choose any day, over any amount of quick income.