Some entrepreneurs start with a big idea and a vision of what that idea will become. Then, they set out to build their business from the ground up.

    And other entrepreneurs (like me!) start with a skill or talent (think: design, copywriting, coaching) and the idea that it could make them money. Then, they earn their first dollar using that skill or talent, and their business grows from there.

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    At first, it may not seem like these two types of entrepreneurs are very different from one another. However, as someone who fits into the second group, I have to say that I think the first group has one key element working in their favor. It’s something that every single business could benefit from thinking about in the very beginning: vision.

    Having some sort of a vision for your business allows you to set goals. Most of the time, those goals will directly relate to how you’ll serve your target market (to make money and an impact in the world) right now, and down the road. Then you can establish a brand that’s in alignment with the goals you set.

    I’m a do-er, so this visionary/goal-setting stuff doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. But, when I when I decided to commit to Jess Creatives full time, I realized the importance of at least considering questions like:

    • Who is my target market?
    • How will I serve them?
    • How much will I charge?
    • What core values will drive me to do this work?

    After that, it became easier to build a brand that appeals to the type of people I want to work with.

    So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been your own boss for a while, complete the questions listed above as pre-work before following these next steps to establish a brand that appeals to your target market.

    Research what other people are doing in your industry

    But not so you can copy them! (Sorry, just had to get that out of my system.) Remember that the point here is to build your brand so you appeal to your target market — not to build a second-rate version of someone else’s business.

    As you take a look at what other people are doing, make note of how they’re pricing and packaging their offerings. Notice what nobody seems to be offering or marketing — are there gaps you could fill by packaging your offers with a unique twist? For example, if you’re a copywriter and everyone seems to offer website copy packages, is anyone offering “copy audits”? If not, this could be a great service for you to offer.

    Start by picking a few people in your industry and studying their sites, their social media accounts, etc. Some of them may have their offerings detailed online, prices and all. Others may require you to do a bit more digging to discover how they do business (you can always reach out to these people and ask for suggestions or feedback, but just a heads up that not everybody is 100% open to those sort of requests).

    Get to know your target market’s biggest struggles

    In my opinion, one mistake that people make when they’re doing market research is jumping into Facebook groups and posting something like: “Hey! I’m working on my new service packages, what are your biggest struggles with _______?”

    First, these posts rarely get many insightful responses. And second, you’re practically doing the market research for your competitors. This is how it ends up seeming like everyone has the same packages, the same list-building strategies, practically the same business. Because everyone is getting their answers the same way!

    Think outside the box here. Look at industry blogs with a big following. What are people asking in the comments? If you’ve got answers to any of their questions, that’s a great starting point for problems you can solve in your business. Look up books relevant to your industry on Amazon, and then look at the 1, 2, and 3 star reviews – those can also be helpful.

    If you really want to survey people from a specific Facebook group, here’s a workaround strategy to get the answers you need without giving them all away:

    1. Check and see if/when it’s ok for you to post links/research requests in the group
    2. Make a post that explains what you’re looking to research
    3. Include a link to a survey form (like Typeform or Google Forms) in the post
    4. Assess responses

    Bonus: It’s also a lot easier to analyze responses from forms versus comments on a Facebook post.

    Define how you will stand out in your industry

    Make sure that the brand you’re establishing will actually be attractive to the people you want to work with. Christina Scalera is a great example. She is a lawyer who works with creative entrepreneurs. Her site showcases her personality and creativity, with modern features and a unique color palette. Other (“traditional”) lawyers in the legal space might have neutral, corporate-looking sites, but that look wouldn’t really appeal to people in the industry she wants serve.

    It’s all about finding balance in your brand so that your business is both memorable and attractive to your target market. Need some out-of-the-box inspiration for your brand? Check out this post for some unexpected tips, or grab my DIY visual brand guide below!

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