TT#042 - Your business needs a North Star (and this is how you find it)...Dec 20, 2022
Damn near every solopreneur charging premium prices and choosing their own hours has something in common:
They have a North Star.
A North Star is a clear vision of where you're taking the business.
What are you building? What kind of work do you want to do? For who? In what way? What does success look like?
The beauty of a clear North Star is that it guides every decision you make. It gives you direction.
It's your personal compass to help you get your ideal outcome.
And anytime you’re unsure what to do, you simply ask yourself: What’s going to move me closer to my North Star?
How do you create one for you and your business?
Here’s a 6 question framework you can use to define your North Star – your dream business.
It's designed to help you define where you're going. And knowing where you’re going is the first step in figuring out the best way to get there.
The North Star Framework
Question 1: What am I building?
There’s a surprising number of different ‘types’ of business.
And the steps you take to succeed with each aren't the same.
A step forward for one might be a step backwards for another.
What are you wanting to build?
Side Hustle - a part time role to make some high quality income on the side.
Freelancer Income- a source of income where you are the product and doing the work.
Solopreneur Venture - a “company-of-one” selling digital products or scalable services.
Business - “full-on-entrepreneurship” with employees and an independent brand.
The blueprints to build each of these are very different.
Question 2: What am I marketing myself as?
Premiums are paid to strong brands.
And strong brands are built by becoming known for something.
You can’t get known for something trying to be all things to all people.
Are you a:
Consultant - someone offering answers to problems, business solutions, and advisory services.
Fractional Contractor - someone who works directly for clients on an interim, part-time, or contract basis.
Coach - someone who helps clients develop the abilities to solve a specific problem or set of problems.
Creator - someone who monetizes content and intentionally has limited interaction with clients.
If you aren't clear about what you do, your market can’t be clear about when to hire you.
Question 3: What am I the best at?
The “Adequate Work Trap”: taking on work you’re just ‘adequate’ at.
Barring a need for cash in the here and now, taking on work outside your area of expertise is almost always the wrong move.
Pricing Power - your ability to command premium rates is highly correlated to your ability to deliver exceptional results. When you accept work you're 'adequate' at, you end up earning commodity rates.
Imposter Syndrome - imposter syndrome will always surface when you're questioning whether you're capable of delivering incredible results. That also sinks into your marketing, your sales, and your delivery - making you less effective overall.
Pointless Testimonials - you don’t want to get stuck doing work you’re only ‘okay’ at forever. So the testimonials and referrals that you get when you take on 'adequate' work aren’t really helpful - they don’t directly help you get your next ‘dream’ client.
Instead, identify the areas you’re truly badass, not what you “can” do.
If nothing comes to mind - what are you prepared to become world class at?
Question 4: What do I value?
2 people with identical answers to everything so far might still want to pursue wildly different opportunities.
That’s because they ‘value’ different things.
Some people want to maximize their free time. Others want to maximize their income.
What makes life exciting for you? What do you need to really flourish?
For inspiration, here are some of my values:
Working Remotely - without being able to work remotely, I’d never have been able to move my family to a beach in Mexico.
Spare Time - spending time with my family is a huge priority. And I’d have to rule out any job or business that made that impossible.
Client Interaction - part of what makes my work so meaningful is that I get to work with clients. Seeing them progress is inspiring, and a job that didn’t facilitate that wouldn’t be for me.
Ideal Income - my goal is to net $1 million a year from my business while living my other values. That helps me filter opportunities that aren’t aligned with that goal, even if it means more money.
Question 5: What is most important right now?
Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum - it happens in the context of your life.
So it’s essential to identify what’s important - and what’s urgent.
When I started as a solopreneur, I was the sole income earner in the house.
Creating a certain level of income within a certain period of time came first.
What is most important for you right now?
Building an audience?
Discovering your niche?
Clarifying your vision?
Answering this with conviction makes it easy to prioritize and focus activity.
Question 6: What makes me feel alive?
You’re going to spend most of the day working in one form or another.
If you want to avoid burning out, your business has to give you more energy than it uses.
If you’re unsure what work meets that criteria, audit yourself:
Which 3 projects would I be most excited to work on again?
Which 3 pieces of work did I finish with more energy than when I started?
What 3 clients have I most enjoyed working with?
This is the source of sustainability and long-term satisfaction in your business.
I didn’t always have a North Star. And it cost me nearly a year of progress.
And here’s the scary part. It didn’t feel like I was wasting time.
It felt like I was busy and productive. I had work and I was checking off to do lists.
But because I didn’t have a good answer to these types of questions, I was just treading water.
These questions don’t have right or wrong answers.
They just answers that feel inspiring, or don’t.
My advice: take your time with them. Leave a quiet weekend (or more) to think them through.
Business By Design > Business By Default
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