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June 23, 2020 9 min read 1 Comment

THE MINDFUL BUSINESS SERIES

  

Creating your own business is an exhilarating and fulfilling journey. Every day as an entrepreneur you'll find something new to learn, a new challenge to overcome. Being an entrepreneur offers complete freedom of expression, independence, flexibility and financial opportunity. If you’ve got the entrepreneur bug, prepare yourself thoroughly, and then just do it. Don’t wait too long to bring your idea to life; that idea might decide to move on to someone else.  

 

You could get started building your business part-time while working your job. Or give it your full-time attention and dive right in.    

 

Being a solo entrepreneur requires a specific mind set and a specific set of skills. You have to be extremely self-motivated, self-disciplined and passionate about what you do. 

 

Staying inspired while working mostly on your own can be a challenge, particularly if you are used to working with a team.

 

For me, I’ve always got ideas popping up in my head and my idea generation was turbo-charged as I began to build my business. My challenge was to find ways to capture, organize and channel the ideas.

 

When I became an entrepreneur after 20 years of building business for others, I found my own ways to fuel my solo creative process.  I hope they will inspire yours. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing and organize your ideas. They are useful at the beginning of your entrepreneur journey, and any time you have something new to work through.  They will empower you to build your business thoughtfully and mindfully.

 

ASK YOURSELF SOME BIG QUESTIONS

If you're serious about creating your own business, there’s lots you will need to clarify so you can get started and move forward with confidence. You need define what you want to do, see ahead to where you are going and find the best path to get there.  

 

First let me ask you a question: Do you see the forest or the trees? The old saying “see the forest for the trees” means you can see the big picture. If you “can’t see the forest for the trees”, you are more focused on the details and can’t always see the bigger pattern and picture.   

 

I actually believe that to be successful you need to see the forest, the trees, the branches, the leaves on the branches and the bugs on the leaves. 

 

In other words you need to have global vision so you can see the landscape, identify the opportunities and options, define your objectives, and map the best pathway to get there. A big-picture strategic plan will be your guide. And you also need to pay careful attention to the details.  These are the subtle and often imperceptible layers, that will enchant your customer and make them remember you. 

 

Creating a strong strategic plan for your business is foundation work you must do if you want to be successful. And it will also evolve and change as you build your business. A strategic plan covers all areas of your business, from creation, product development and content creation, to operations, legal and financial.  It may seem overwhelming - so just start at the beginning.

 

These are some of the big questions you need to get clear on first so you can begin to build your strategic plan. These are the questions that will help you to find the soul of your brand. The soul is what will make it authentically yours, unique and memorable. The answers to these questions will give you the words to tell your story.

  • What exactly do you want to do?
  • Why do you want to do this particular business?
  • What do you want to achieve, personally, professionally, financially?
  • What is the purpose that inspires and motivates you in this business?
  • How will you express that purpose through your business?
  • What are your personal values and how will you carry them into your business?
  • Who is your ideal customer? Write a story to describe them in detail, even if you know nothing about them right now, just imagine. Bring them to life, with a name and a lifestyle. Who are they? What is important to them? What are their values? What are their interests? How do they live their life? What are the challenges and pain points they face? How do you want to help them improve their life?  
  • What is your offering? Describe in detail your products, services, coaching, online programs… etc.
  • How does your offering differ from others in the market?
  • How will you stand out from the crowd?
  • How do you want your customers to feel when they encounter your business, buy your products or services?
  • What will you do to make them feel the way you want them to feel?
  • Where will you find them and how will you reach them to connect them to your business?


WORDS REALLY MATTER

The words you use to answer these questions will help you to to create your concept, define your mission statement, your brand bio, set the foundations for your website copy and your marketing copy.  This is your brand voice.

 

As you are writing, use proactive language when it makes sense. For example use customer-centred verbs such as to help, empower, enable… instead of self-focused verbs such as to be or become. You always need to be thinking about your customer first, and the benefits they will get from your products and services. Every single potential customer and client will be thinking: “what’s in it for me?” You need to be able to answer them.

 

If you don’t think you are a writer, don’t worry! It’s important to start with your own words, this is what will make them authentically yours. Writing becomes easier the more you practice. You can always find a copy writer to help you refine them later on.

 

And remember that your words will evolve over time. I still revisit these questions, and each time I continue to streamline and refine the words and language I use to communicate my brand.  

 

BRAINSTORM ON YOUR OWN

Brainstorming is a great way to generate a wealth of new ideas. Choose any topic or question you want to think about and let your imagination run wild. These techniques are very useful to help you work through the big questions above. They are also useful when you have a new product or concept you want to design, a course outline you want to create, the navigation of your website, the topics you want to write about for your blog or podcast...any topic or problem you need to solve. 

 

The trick with brainstorming is to unleash your creativity and bring up every single idea you can possibly think of, the crazier the better, and without censoring or judging during the process. There are no limits or boundaries when it comes to brainstorming. Censoring, streamlining and optimizing will come later. Start first with as many ideas as possible. Most of my best ideas first started in a mind map or a Post-it note!  

 

Here are some of the techniques I’ve found most useful for generating and organizing my ideas, mostly working on my own.  

  1. Mind mapping - This is a visual tool you can use to get all your ideas out of your head and onto paper, to connect, synthesize ,organize and analyze them. It literally helps you to map out all your ideas and strategies.
    • Get yourself a large spiral notebook or sketchbook (ie 11’’ x 15”) and a handful of colourful markers.  
    • On a fresh page, write your main topic or question in the centre.  
    • Write any sub-topics around your main topic. 
    • Then around each sub-topic start writing down your ideas as they come up.  
    • Work quickly, use single words as much as possible. Keep it simple.  
    • Use your coloured pens to connect the ideas that flow together.  You may see connections and directions you hadn’t thought of.
  1. Solo brainstorming with Post-it notes - This is another easy way to generate and organize your ideas. The beauty of Post-it note brainstorming is that it’s entirely flexible, you can move your ideas around, reorganize, rethink, and add to them later.
    • Get some stacks of Post-it notes (get the real 3M Post-it notes, not the knock-offs which don’t stick well) and a pen.  
    • Find a large space you can sit comfortably and stick lots of notes.  A big white wall is best, it could be a counter or a big table.  
    • Start by writing your main idea on a Post-it note and place it in the centre.  
    • Then write the sub-topics on notes and organize them below or around it. 
    • On a different colour Post-it, start writing down any and all ideas, as fast as you can.  Just one idea per Post-it.  Keep going until you have all you ideas in a pile of Post-its, or until there is an ebb in the flow of your ideas.
    • Take your pile of idea notes and start placing them, organizing around your main topic and sub-topics.  You may find you need to add more sub-topics.  And more ideas.
    • This method allows you to rearrange, reorganize, sort and streamline your ideas. 
    • I leave my notes up for a while so that I can keep referring back to them, adding to them.  If you can’t transfer them to a large piece of paper, you big notebook or take a picture.
  1. Brainstorming with a friend - Find a creative friend who’d be exciting to spend a few hours developing new ideas with you. The Post-it brainstorming technique is great for this. Ideally you would be together in the same room, but you can also do it through Skype, FaceTime or Zoom, with one person recording all the ideas on the notes.
  2. Create mood boards - Getting visual is a great way to get creative and find new directions, new ideas. I’ve found this particularly useful when I feel stuck on something I'm working on. You can search for stock images and create your own mood board (I like to do it simply on a Keynotes presentation, and there are apps and tools to create mood boards online). Or create a Pinterest board.
  3. Look at companies that are completely outside of your area of interest - Researching interesting companies that have nothing to do with your business will help you to think laterally, to find innovative ways to do things.  Google may just become your new best friend.
  4. MeditateSeriously. Meditation is a wonderful way to fuel your creative process and to get clarity. I have found so many insights and ideas as a result of my meditation practice. Put a question out there, and just meditate, focusing on a single object such as your breath. Don’t focus on your question. And just see what comes up, either during your meditation or afterwards.

 

TAKE A BREAK

Often we are so closely involved with our work, including our creating thinking, that we don’t see it after a while. Or we run out of ideas.  Sometimes we need to take a break and see things differently.  Here are five fun ways to practice mindfulness, clear your mind, disconnect from previous thought patterns, and find fresh sources of ideas.  

  1. Go for a walk in nature and really connect with it
  2. Do some mindful movement, like 20 minutes of yoga or qi cong.
  3. Visit a museum, explore one single masterpiece in depth 
  4. Make a big beautiful colourful crunchy salad for lunch
  5. Get into a garden and tune into everything your senses experience

 

PUT A STAKE IN THE GROUND 

Is there something you could do right now, in a simple way so that you can get started sooner rather than later?  A way to prototype for your business dream?  This is a highly useful and experiential way to learn what you need to be successful.

 

I had a dream for HUM, and I knew it would take me a while to be ready to launch. So I took an opportunity I saw to get started early with the ecoYoga mat business. Starting with one single product, even if it wasn’t my own creation, gave me the opportunity to put a stake in the yoga ground, to learn about the market and the customer, and to learn about how to run an online business. I discovered so many big and little things that are essential but that I never even knew I needed to know for this type of business. I learned so much that when I started HUM I had all those key learnings already and I could focus on other things like creating the content and new product lines.  

 

What are your ways to fuel your solo creative process?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

THE MINDFUL BUSINESS SERIES:

The Solo Entrepreneur's Mindful Mindset

6 Ways to do "Business From the Heart"

Inspire Your Solo Creative Process

 

*The beautiful photo is by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash


1 Response

Kate Dauphinee
Kate Dauphinee

June 30, 2020

I love that you share your own personal journey. I love the photos of your work process in your very own workspace. You’re such an inspiration, Sarah!

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