There’s this intriguing little idiom that says “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.”
We’re talking about the shoemaking kind of cobbler, by the way, not the delicious fruit concoction. Though maybe we should switch gears right now because holy pumpkin, it’s fall baby!
Anyway, if you haven’t heard that cobbler saying before, it’s poking at the fact that we might be great at doing work for other people, but we neglect that same work for ourselves.
How often do you see designers who have lackluster websites, tech companies with bad internet in their own offices, fitness icons who sneak in cheat days…
Or copywriters who have bad About pages? Or, like, no About page at all.
Ack. Oops. That one was me.
Getting my website to an acceptable state has been a priority for me from day one specifically because of that stupid cobbler saying. For some reason, though, it was taking me forever to write my About page. I returned to it almost every day for a few weeks, but nothing I put together sounded like me or my business, and for the life of me I couldn’t articulate my offer.
(Because if you didn’t know, a good About page should be more than a bio. It’s one of the most-frequented pages, and you should treat your About page like a sales tool.)
What I realized after hours of striving is that I couldn’t write a clear About page because I didn’t know what I was all about.
You kind of have to know who you are as a business before you can try to sell yourself as one.
Now don’t get me wrong—I’ve done a heavy bit of journaling, business planning, and brand discovery for my business. As a messaging strategist, it’s my compulsion. But I was scared of actually sticking to the decisions I made. What if I wanted to switch gears? What if my target audience didn’t work out?
Naturally, this hemming and hawing wasn’t getting me anywhere.
When I finally sat down and laid out my intentions, everything got much clearer. So today I wanted to share the three questions that every business owner MUST answer for themselves in order to understand the foundations of their business.
Seriously, go open up a new document and start answering these questions.
1. Who do you serve?
In other words, who are your people who are giving you money? You can’t speak impactfully to someone without understanding who they are.
Now, for many service-based businesses, there’s a bit of a conundrum here. What if the people you’re currently serving aren’t the ones you want to serve?
It’s probably because you never defined for yourself who those ideal clients are. Or, if you did, you aren’t calling them out on your website.
You have to be specific about who you’re for. Don’t try to serve everyone, or else you’ll end up serving no one. Name your target client on your homepage. Only use examples from past ideal clients in your portfolio. Make it crystal clear who you’re about.
Does narrowing your focus sound scary? Don’t worry—by doing this, you’ll start attracting more of your favorite kinds of clients, but you’ll also still get people who are outside of that circle. Then, you have full freedom to choose who you work with.
2. How do you serve them?
Now, what do you offer to your clients?
You might be tempted to list out your services. And great, it’s important to have a services list in order to define for yourself your boundaries of what you offer and what you don’t.
But when we’re talking about the foundations of your business, we want to think more big picture.
What are the benefits that your clients get from working from you?
What is the impact that your work has on their businesses and lives?
As a designer, you might offer beautiful websites. But the actual benefit is that you give businesses an effective point of connection with their customers, and you help them sell more.
As a nutritionist, you might offer downloadable meal plans. But the real benefit is that you help busy parents keep their families healthy.
Get the idea?
When you keep your focus on the benefits you intend to provide, it keeps you open to new ways you can help your audience.
3. Who are you?
This is the piece of the puzzle that brings it all together. Anyone can do what you do. But no one can BE you.
So if you get really clear on who you are and what you stand for, you have a powerful differentiator, and you’re going to build trust with your audience in a very personal way.
Now, when we’re talking about who you are, we’re actually asking a few specific questions:
- What makes you uniquely qualified to offer what you’re offering to the people you’re offering it to?
- What are the values that you hold that help you deliver a great experience?
- Why do you do what you do?
Let’s dive into these a bit more, because there’s a lot to unpack.
What makes you uniquely qualified to offer what you’re offering to the people you’re offering it to?
This is a question of credibility and authority. What life or work experience makes you the perfect person to serve your audience, and to offer your service? Is there training you’ve gone through, or certifications you’ve earned?
This is an important part of not only selling your services, but also remembering that you’re qualified when that impostor syndrome comes knocking.
And if you’re having trouble answering this question, what can you learn in the next month that will up your game and set you apart? There are tons of resources, free and paid, available to you. Get out there and find them. Never stop learning.
What are the values that you hold that help you deliver a great experience?
Your values don’t have to be stodgy, one-word ideas that every big business has plastered on their walls. Integrity. Speed. Teamwork.
In fact, they probably shouldn’t be.
When we’re talking about values, we’re talking about the ideas that you hold about your industry, your work habits, and how you treat customers and employees. In other words, what do you stand for?
By way of example, here are some of mine:
- I believe that the traditional workspace is not for everyone, and you shouldn’t have to give your life to a 9 to 5 if it’s not right for you.
- I’m here to help people attract and create profitable projects that make their hearts beat faster.
- I believe that well-written copy is the key to turning a profitable business idea into a profitable business, period.
Why do you do what you do?
This last question especially forces you to be really honest about your motivations in your business. And that is 100% necessary, because at some point, shit’s gonna get real, and you’re going to wonder why you do this in the first place. You need to have that base understanding of your own motivations in order to pull you through.
Personally, my motivation comes from several places. I’m fiercely independent in my work habits, and I like to be in charge of my own day, so I will do what it takes to maintain my independence. I also want to travel with my husband, get debt-free, and care for family members when they need it. And if I have a kid one day, I want to have the option of raising them while still working part-time.
Now, am I going to put all of that on my About page? Not likely, because I have more impactful information to put there. However, it’s important to know this for myself, and to understand it as a foundational aspect of my business.
Know your business
By working through these questions, you might make some radical discoveries.
For example, if you’re a blogger who makes most of your income from affiliate posts, you write for your audience, but you serve advertisers. How can you appeal to them better?
If you offer a luxury home cleaning service and you’re only getting low-paying local clients, how can you present yourself to make it clear you’re the higher-end solution to appeal to more affluent customers?
The better you understand the foundations of how your business actually operates, the better you’ll be able to present yourself to potential clients and stay true to what you’re really all about.