Remember a while back when I mentioned that starting your business has to start with you?

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But if you missed it the first time, I invite you to stop by and get a quick recap….you’ll see why as we go along!

With me there? Yay! It always bears remembering that you need to be your biggest fan–if you’re not crazy excited with what you’re sharing, well…it’s probably going to be a lot harder to get your clients to agree with you, right?

But then again….even when I say “start with you”, it doesn’t mean that just because you follow those words exactly that the idea ALWAYS magically manifests in front of you, ready to run. Sometimes it’s easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself for an immediate answer here–I mean, after all, I surely know myself, right? How hard can it be to figure out what I love and what I want to do? Come on, this should be easy! This should be the FUN part, right?

Only sometimes, it isn’t quite that clear. Sometimes it’s hard to see not only what might be right in front of you but also to discover and unleash what is inside of you….especially when it’s done on demand. As in, tell me now. Or else.

And it can leave you feeling frustrated, confused, and even a little bit foolish. You might find yourself thinking, “you know, maybe this cubicle really is all I can expect out of this life…I could do worse, right?”

Well, that’s not what I want for you, love. And truth be told, you don’t want that either. Do you?

But what if your Special Talents—and I’m not just talking about what you’re good at, I’m talking about what sets your SOUL on fire that you know you could rock with the most insane passion AND get paid for it–just don’t seem clear enough with just exploring yourself? (At least not yet?)

Sometimes it helps to take the pressure off of yourself just a little bit.

Sometimes if you shift the question away from yourself and (in a strange way, maybe) enlist the help of others, you might find an answer through the backdoor (or at the very least some hints!).

How do you do this? Take the pressure off of you for just a moment. And think about them.

And by “them”, I mean your people. Your dream clients. Your customers, your fans, your followers-to-be.

You might think it too soon to start considering who THEY would be if you’re not sure yourself what you want to do…..(I’ll admit it sounds a little bit “cart-before-the-horse-ish”, and I usually don’t advocate such things!)…but stay with me on this.

When you find yourself agonizing over what your idea is, when you can’t quite focus on anything in particular, when it all seems to be spinning around like a whirling dervish and getting you nowhere fast, the next step is usually to bag it all. Forget the whole thing. Go back to the life you knew, all the while thinking that you could’ve been a contender. (Insert woeful sigh right here!)

But what if you just need to give yourself a break for a moment and approach it from another direction? That is, who would you want to help with what you intend to do? In other words, WHO are your kind of people? The kind you could see flocking to your doorstep? (Or your website?)

Get real, be honest. You can probably see them, even if you’re not sure exactly why or how they’re there just yet. Your people. Who are they, JUST in general? Working moms, other entrepreneurs, yoga teachers, cross-fit fans, foodies or football fans? Who would you love to see stopping by your website? Who would you love to help?

Now here’s the fun part: so you’ve landed the client. Made the sale. You’re having the greatest sales-closing conversation of ALL TIME and you can’t wait to get started. Neither can they. You’re both so jazzed you don’t know what to do with yourselves. Feel how awesome that would be in the greatest of detail. Go on. I’ll wait!

Now ask yourself this: what was it that you and the dream client were talking about?

What are you and the Dream Buyer about to agree to? What are you going to do for them that’ll change their life? (Or at least make it a little bit more fun?)

What were you talking about doing for this person that not only makes them more than willing to hire you but also makes you want to spin around like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, your so dang happy to have found them? Was the conversation about specialty Coaching? Special products? Dance or Pottery lessons? Personal training? Crocheted doilies?

Do you come up with anything? Well….maybe that’s what you want to do with your business. Maybe that’s your special talent. Maybe the answer wasn’t quite clear yet….but it also might be providing a few hints or nudges in the right direction. Or at the very least… can get you experiencing those feelings of joy, purpose, and action that go along with hitting on the right idea for the right person. Even if that’s all that comes of this little exercise, go with it. See where it leads. Start writing down the details of what’s going on with you and this client. And start to REALLY let those feelings in. See where they go.

So here’s the question I originally proposed: What Do You Do, and For Whom?

And if answering the first part of it is making you feel as though you’re drowning in a sea of “IDKs”, let it go for a few moments and focus on the second part. Yes, the “For Whom” part (because we like proper grammar around here!) and go wild. See that dream client, see them signing the agreement to work with you, see their face light up with amazement at something beautiful that you made for them.

….and from there, tell me what it was you did for them! And see how that goes!

So have you ever gotten so frustrated with figuring out the “what” that you turned the question upside down like this? How’d it work out for you? Think that it might be helpful from time to time to approach a debacle in this way?

And while we’re at it, I’d love to hear your results! The shortest Ideal Client line EVER–tell me what you do and for whom. Or tell me what you’d LIKE to be doing, and for whom. Or tell me one or the other—and we’ll see if we can answer the rest!

13 Comments on For Whom Do You Do What? (The Backwards Way of Figuring Out Your Business Idea)

  1. Merri
    September 9, 2015 at 9:43 pm (2 years ago)

    I love this approach! My Dad always used to love saying, “if you don’t know what it is, do you know what it’s not?” Always makes s confidence boost when you can get at least part of your answer … Often times , the rest comes along quickly when a bit if clarity is added! Great ideas today ! Thank you🌞

    • Jennifer
      September 11, 2015 at 10:03 am (2 years ago)

      Yes, sometimes it is helpful to look at things from a different perspective. After all, the businesses we want to create are definitely about us, but they’re also about our people, those who we want to benefit from what we have to share. I’m all for “everybody happy” moments, and I believe that this exercise can help get you there! Glad you appreciated it. πŸ˜‰

  2. Maggie
    September 10, 2015 at 12:05 pm (2 years ago)

    I had a brainstorm just the other day that my ideal clients are recovering academics. People who have been in education and want to take their careers in a new direction. My business has been geared towards any career changer or job seeker, but I like the specificity of this new focus for me. Thanks for shaping this conversation so well.

    • Jennifer
      September 11, 2015 at 10:00 am (2 years ago)

      That’s great, Maggie! Sounds like you’ve gotten a lot of new clarity and enthusiasm about who it is you want to work with, and that is fantastic! Love to hear this! πŸ˜€

    • Roisin
      September 12, 2015 at 10:20 pm (2 years ago)

      Haha I love the term “recovering academics”. Sounds about right!

      • Jennifer
        September 13, 2015 at 7:06 pm (2 years ago)

        That “recovering academics” is gold, it’s true! πŸ˜‰

  3. Conny
    September 12, 2015 at 5:42 pm (2 years ago)

    This is an interesting approach and will keep me thinking for a while. I do know what I am really good but I still have not found that one thing, that puts my “SOUL on fire and that I know I could rock with the most insane passion”

    • Jennifer
      September 13, 2015 at 7:11 pm (2 years ago)

      Glad you appreciated my rather unusual approach, Conny! When we look at what we’re good at as opposed to what we love to do more than anything, I think of how Gay Hendricks describes the difference between the “Zone of Excellence” and the “Zone of Genius” in the book The Big Leap. I think that part of determining what the difference between the two lies with what you love the most and how it makes you feel. And if you’re not sure, consider (as Danielle LaPorte would say) how you would want to feel–figure that out then work backwards. Just another tool in the toolbox, and a useful one, I think!

  4. Roisin
    September 12, 2015 at 10:22 pm (2 years ago)

    I know what puts my soul on fire – writing about psychology. I love taking mainstream ideas and critiquing them – are they useful? Is there enough evidence for that idea? Or, is the evidence good enough? Why do people want to think this way? It’s something I want to do more of in my writing….but I have no idea WHO that is for!

    • Jennifer
      September 13, 2015 at 7:16 pm (2 years ago)

      And you do a great job at it, too, Roisin! (Your last post was amazing in that regard!). Your passion for your subject matter really comes across well. What kind of audience are you looking for/already have for your current blog, and who would you like to see stopping by? Students? Professionals? Coaches? Or maybe a little of everyone with an interest in the subject? πŸ™‚

  5. Wenda
    September 13, 2015 at 11:33 pm (2 years ago)

    Funny, I had the “for whom” come into greater clarity for me in the past few months when I was struggling with feeling like I had to know *everything* about Salesforce (vast, moving target!) and I was having self-doubt. Then I remembered that one of my biggest strengths has always been that I understand beginner questions. I understand … and I remember … what it’s like when you first start using Salesforce, when everything you can find online assumes that you know how to get to step 1! My “Who’s” are Freshman users. Newbie Admins with aptitude, but a whole lot of “what are we doing.” Having just called them “Who’s,” I am now picturing them all joining hands and singing the Xmas song like Dr. Seuss, but I completely, absolutely agree, that figuring out who my Who’s were was the exact piece I needed to start figuring out the what. Great strategy, Jennifer!

    • Jennifer
      September 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm (2 years ago)

      That is so great, Wenda! That’s exactly what I was getting at when presenting this strategy, and I am glad that you could see your people and from there could come up with what they need. I can see that you do this very well on your blog, too! (And I am singing the Dr. Seuss Christmas song in my head right now!) πŸ˜€

  6. Val
    September 16, 2015 at 12:51 am (2 years ago)

    “Only sometimes, it isn’t quite that clear. Sometimes it’s hard to see not only what might be right in front of you but also to discover and unleash what is inside of you”.

    This really resonated with me. I tried for years to figure out what I wanted but could never quite figure it out. I was never fully inspired or happy doing what I was doing. For me, my work calling wasn’t very clear. What I really needed to do and wanted to do was right inside of me, but it was so hard to go there. The pain of losing my little sister to cancer was kept bundled up inside me for over 6 year. But when I finally accepted that grief work was what I really need to do, only then did I finally become excited and passionate about my work.

    Thanks for sharing Jennifer!


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