Consultants often help clients solve problems the consultant has solved in the past for a previous employer.
A great example, is multiple New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and consultant Mike Michalowicz.
In an interview I did with him for my show, The Courageous Entrepreneur, he explained how those early experiences formed his mission to “eradicate entrepreneurial poverty.”
His journey perfectly illustrates the intention to “make your mess your mission.”
Helping others avoid or overcome something that brought you to your knees can become a driving force in your life. So much so, that you want to build a business around it.
The emotional drive to do this work is often so powerful it can feel as though you’re answering a calling.
And it may be that you are.
Humans are sense-making animals and looking for deeper meaning in our suffering is a common way to do that.
I also believe with all my heart that each of us is put on this planet for a reason and gifted with purpose and a series of missions. (That’s right. I think we have more than one mission in our lifetime. Our mission changes. Our purpose never does.)
I believe the abuse I suffered as a child and as an adult, combined with complications from my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) all happened because I was charged with the responsibility to help me help others deal with the emotional fallout from their own traumas and trials.
So if you’re thinking about how to help others and “do well by doing good” by making your mess your mission, here are the steps to build a business around your that while helping others triumph as well:
- Reach a point in the Healing Journey where you’re fully functioning and are in the process of moving from Surviving to Thriving. This is important for several reasons. First is the need to be able to control your emotions when discussing your experiences and explaining how to overcome the challenge you faced.Many of us have faced truly devastating problems and it can be hard to move past the raw emotions of them.Talking through your story or practicing a presentation or an explanation of what you did to overcome your mess can help you bring those emotions under control.
My TBI includes an injury to the area of the brain that manages emotional regulation. That meant it was really hard for me to control my emotions – I’d cry if something just touched my heart and I’d sound furious when I was just mildly annoyed.So be sure you do the work you need to do to be able to talk about your journey and maintain control over your emotions.
It’s perfectly fine to get choked up or have your voice quiver but if your emotions are still so raw that they’re hard to control, it can be too easy for people to get caught up in the overflow of emotions.
- Investigate if starting a business is the right step. Starting a solo business is a resource drain – emotionally, financially, and personally as it takes up so much of your life and energy.It can easily become a money pit if you don’t start out with alot of clarity. So be sure to do lots of reflecting to discern your next step.There are ways you can test the waters and begin to get your message out as you work to understand what God’s calling you to do while you deepen your understanding of how to best help others overcome what you went through.
You can start a blog or join a blogging platform like Medium as a way to start to tell your story and share your point of view. This can give you some insight into what people are drawn to and can help you begin to build an audience and a web presence as you develop your message and key elements of your message.
Don’t make yourself crazy by trying to identify your ideal client first. You need to start by getting clarity on your message and start getting that message out. You’ll begin to discover who resonates with the message.You can also try your hand at speaking, appear on some podcasts dedicated to your topic, or do some volunteer work to help you clarify your direction.
I’m a big believer in journaling as a way to deeply reflect on your thoughts and next steps. It helps you capture those brilliant ideas in one place to refer to later.
- Document the steps you took, then look for ways to powerfully express them. You might not realize this but, as you worked to overcome your mess, you followed a process. It might have included lots of stops and starts but it was a process.List out the steps you took. My preferred way of doing this is to brainstorm in a notebook or journal, then use Post-it® notes. I stick them on a blank wall or – my new favorite thing – on a tri-fold display board. You know…the sort of thing used for a science fair project?
Here’s a picture of one of mine. I’ve got three I’m working on right now.
Once you have your thoughts laid out, look for ways to communicate them simply.
I like summarizing steps into a single word when I can, like I did for the Healing Journey.Once that’s done, break the individual steps into their own processes.
Asking yourself questions like “What did I do to move from one step to the next?” can help you remember and begin to document them.
Then consider how you can you create a worksheet with the steps written as questions you asked yourself. You want to build the process into a series of exercises to help people work through the steps on their own.
- Get help if you need it. One of the giant mistakes solo professionals make when they start out is to worry about things like a logo or business name when they just aren’t needed at this point.You’re really figuring out your message and that should always come before any big visual branding work.Working with a coach can help you get clarity on your message including your foundational beliefs, point of view (POV), and identifying your steps. Often we’re too close to our own situation to be able to spot all the things we did to find our solution.Another mistake is we get caught up in trying to come up with something clever or that uses a play on words to communicate the elements of our message.
People are in a hurry and may not get your message.
When I feel myself getting stuck on naming and word choice, I remind myself of the famous quote by advertising legend, David Ogilvy – “Be clear, not clever.”
- Do some testing to see if you have an offering people want and are willing to pay for. This is where the rubber meets the road. Notice I didn’t say “have an offering people need.” That’s because people have to want the solution you offer or the transformation – the outcome – you deliver.Your offering is the package or specific thing you do with or for clients. If you want to be a coach, the package is the process you take people through and it’s usually bundled into a length of time, like a specific number of weeks. Be sure to think from an outcome or transformation focus. How long is it going to reasonably take you to be able to help someone? Naturally that length you estimate is going to depend on things like how committed the client is, how skilled you are at guiding them through the process, among other things.Don’t underestimate the power of your past experience in doing this work. Look for times in your life when you’ve done what you want to help others do. Did you do this work — or similar work — in your corporate life? What worked and what didn’t? Who responded to your process and style and who didn’t? Start talking with friends and colleagues about your focus and ask people if they’d like to help you fine tune your process and message if possible. If you’re a consultant looking to work with businesses, examine your work history for times when you’ve done the same or similar work and what wins you had doing it.
- Identify your business model and the frameworks that support it. This is the big picture of how you’ll make money doing what you’re going to do. The key is to choose or construct a model that works with your introverted personality.Frameworks are the elements that support the effective achievement of the model.
It’s easy to create a framework that you don’t want to use when you ignore your personality type and strengths and try to just cut and paste the same framework some (extroverted) guru used.
- Identify and create proof elements that demonstrate your ability to consistently produce a result. Create case studies and capture testimonials to use as proof of your ability to help. Ask former coworkers and colleagues to provide recommendations on LinkedIn that celebrate your knowledge, skills, abilities, and wins as an employee.
- Begin officially offering your services to potential clients. This is the hardest part of the whole process, especially for introverts.One great way to get started is to create a list of other professionals that serve your potential clients and begin networking with them. Put together a list of questions to ask them including questions to help you learn about them and what they do.
Offer to help them in some way so they can get to know, like, and trust you.
For example, you could introduce them to someone you know who could help them or who may want to work with them.You could offer to write a blog post or speak to their subscriber list or group they manage.
It’s easy to feel needy and anxious about getting clients; but no one wants to deal with someone who’s needy and we don’t make good decisions when we come from a needy place.
Remember, you’ve achieved great things and have something outstanding to offer others.You can market yourself with courage and confidence when you come from a place of love, believing in the value of the outcome you provide.