In today’s episode, Anna looks at when and how to diversify in different aspects of your business.
To strengthen your business and make it more resilient to potential setbacks, consider broadening… (1) your traffic sources, (2) your client targets, (3) your products and services, (4) price points, and (5) even looking at different businesses entirely.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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Hello everybody and welcome back to the Reimagining Success Podcast. Now, we’re continuing on to look at a few different aspects of starting and running a business through the lens of COVID-19. It does put a different spin on things and certainly puts us all in a slightly different situation, maybe for some of you in extremely different situation. However, a lot of the things that we’re being confronted with now are things that we probably should have been or at least could have been focusing on previously and they’re definitely things that will make our business all the stronger if we do now focus on them.
As painful as it can be, when we’re forced to make these decisions or maybe even we’ve been forced to be put on furlough or even been let go from our full time jobs, this is now an opportunity potentially to finally work on that business idea that you had. Or maybe you’ve been freelancing and all your clients are in a particular industry that for now doesn’t have the finances to continue and suddenly all your projects are cancelled and delayed.
It’s awful. It’s so painful. It’s so frustrating. It feels really unfair. However, again, once we get over sort of those natural and emotional reactions, responses to what’s happening, if we can take a breath, take a step back and look at, okay, what can I now do? Given the situation, what can I focus on? What can I control? It can be really powerful and you may well and probably will come out with a much, much stronger business for it.
So this week I want to look at diversifying your income streams.
This is something that I always recommend. I’ve often talked about portfolio careers and I think that’s a whole different podcast episode, but portfolio careers is really the idea, for example, when you’re transitioning out of a full time job is potentially you could start by consulting, freelancing, taking the skills and experience that you already have, the network and so on, in your corporate work life, your full time job and just making that into a freelancing or consulting capacity. So you’re working for yourself, but you’re taking exactly the skill set and experience and types of clients that you were doing before.
However, maybe that’s not your passion and in the meantime you might be then developing a completely different business, a yoga instructor business, you’re qualifying for that. [inaudible 00:02:13], practise healing or photography or something. Often it is for something very creative. In my case, it was the coaching that was developing alongside a lot of more traditional, I guess corporate consulting and so on. That could be a temporary way of doing it, that you’re transitioning and you’re gradually shifting the balance more in favour of your passion and away from the hardcore consulting corporate work.
However, it could also be something that you really enjoy. You like the intellectual stimulation and challenge on that, and you don’t want to turn your back on your years or decades of experience and alongside this you can then build another business. So that could be a portfolio career. Now again, that’s a different episode, but the dangers and the pros and the cons I guess, of a portfolio career can be similar to the pros and cons of diversifying.
But let’s look at, okay, why would you diversify?
Well, one of the main reasons is to defend yourself against adversity. In the current situation, again, if you’re only working with a certain type of client or the same thing goes if you’re only working with one client, sometimes we think we’re freelancing, we’re running a business. But actually almost all of our business comes from one or maybe two clients. That client work is so time consuming that it means we don’t have time to work on business development, we don’t have time to market ourselves and get other clients. It’s a very comfortable position to be in until that client suddenly turns around and doesn’t want to work with us anymore and suddenly we have nothing. We have very little and we haven’t been doing the things ongoing that we should have been doing.
So that can be really a risk if we’re tied to any one client, two clients or even a certain type of service, a certain type of industry, a certain price point, a certain way of working. And that can unfortunately, as we’ve now seen, put us in a very difficult situation potentially. Now this was pretty much unprecedented in its global scale and it’s not something anyone could have predicted. I would never have, although I always encourage people to develop online businesses in the interest of being location independent, being able to juggle a young family or go travelling and all the things we want to do, work from home and so on. I would never probably have said to go only online for that reason and because you can never know that suddenly the whole offline business, face-to-face in-person events and so on has been wiped off what’s possible at the moment.
Now, this is the new normal certainly for the foreseeable future. So it’s important to look at, okay, if your business was reliant on only in-person events or only a certain type of clients and so on, what can you now do? It’s a tricky one. It’s balancing the short term need with the long term. You don’t want to be too opportunistic and do something now that diverts your attention away from your longterm vision and goals and everything you’ve been working so hard to do. But we do also need to be pragmatic and ultimately we need money coming in, right? So, that’s a little bit of a tricky balance to think about. And I will talk about later how you can have a chat with me maybe if you feel this is quite tricky and it’s always good to have a different perspective.
Thinking about when you would want to diversify, a few questions to ask is, would your lifestyle be really drastically changed if your income was suddenly cut in half, let’s say.
If the clients you work with right now, if suddenly, let’s say you have 10 clients, you suddenly have five or you have two, even worse you suddenly have one, would your lifestyle be drastically altered if suddenly your main income stream was cut in half? And for most of us that’s probably the case. Or it’s not just the source of income, it’s also the source of traffic. If you have your entire business based on word of mouth or based on a particular kind of application process, proposals only from Google, only from Facebook, only from Instagram and so on, what if that suddenly gets cut in half?
What if suddenly Mr. Zuckerberg deletes Facebook or suddenly Instagram doesn’t work anymore, or whatever it is, would that really impact you as well? Maybe, and this is a tricky one because we always talk about niching down and being specific, but does all of your business come to one niche, come from one niche? Because if that’s the case, again, maybe that niche might not be so resilient to every situation. And again, there are particular industries, particular niches that right now maybe aren’t as strong and prosperous as they were before.
So again, is there only one thing that you’re doing really specific. I hesitate to say this because of course we always talk about being really specific and the idea of the Blue Ocean, Red Ocean, if you’ve heard of that book. The Red Ocean is where all the sharks are swimming. You want to be in the blue ocean where you’re really unique and you have a really specific niche. However, if you only have one type of business, one type of niche, one type of client, one type of income traffic source and so on, that does put you in quite a vulnerable position.
Maybe you rely completely on just one product or service that you have, or again, one particular client.
Maybe if you think about it, it’s really easy for someone else to come and disrupt your business rights. Or maybe in fact you’re not that unique and you’ve been sort of plodding along. You’ve been okay, but suddenly if it becomes more competitive, you’re realising you don’t have a USP, you don’t have that really strong competitive edge. And so, you really need to look at, “Hang on a second, how can I really double down and make sure that I am an expert, a go to expert, and really excelling in what I do, or potentially pivoting and do something else.”
Now, we will look at pivoting, actually how to know when to pivot, next week. That’s a slightly different question, and just a few questions to ask ourself: are you completely reliant on one or two clients, one specific product or service, one way of getting your clients, one niche and so on. And that could suggest that you might want to diversify your income streams. So just a few questions to think about there.
Now, of course there are risks as I said right at the beginning and one of the risks is the current situation because we’re having to make a decision under pressure.
If we’re already feeling stressed about, oh my goodness, my income has been cut in half, everything has disappeared, what am I going to do and then having to suddenly go, “Oh, what am I going to do now, I’ve got to diversify.” That might not be the optimal headspace I guess to be in. So make sure that you’re really taking the time to reflect on what it is you want to be doing and I’ll raise a few more questions for you to think about as well in the moment.
The other danger of course is that you dilute your efforts away from what is already working. It might be right now that what you’re usually doing doesn’t work at all at the moment for whatever reason and in which case that’s not a problem. You need to very quickly focus on something that is working. But if you do have or be at a reduced income stream but you have an income stream that is sort of working, you obviously don’t want to then dilute your efforts across lots of different ideas and then neglect those areas that are working. You don’t want to start a new income stream and then lose your initial one because then you’re just replacing one with the other. What we’re trying to do here is add income streams, not just replace it.
Okay, so a few ideas of how you might diversify, and we might want to get more specific into these. Do let me know if there’s anything in particular you want to focus on and you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. But based on those few questions that I asked a moment ago, what about first of all your traffic sources and platforms? If all your clients come from word of mouth, and I have talked about this before, it’s a great way to get clients at the beginning, but it means you’re not being proactive, you’re not really in control of where your clients are coming from, unless of course you have a very robust systematic structured programme for having referrals and ambassadors and so on, in which case affiliates maybe and so, and that’s great.
If not, then that’s something to consider. Okay, how can I really market myself actively, proactively, so it’s not just reliant on clients recommending me, which is great that they do that of course, but that should be one part of a marketing sales plan. Again, if everybody is coming from Facebook or Instagram, that might be quite dangerous. By the way, again with the niche, if you were let’s say teaching people how to do Facebook ads or how to do Instagram stories and so on, that’s perhaps dangerous in my view of things to just be doing that.
Now, maybe you’re fine with pivoting many times in your business and you’re quite optimistic and right now this is working so you’ll do this and you’re absolutely fine with a couple of years from now changing, doing something else. That’s fine. But do you keep your eye on that and make sure that you’re not getting too complacent and stuck in something that definitely won’t be working in a couple of years. My way of building a business would be a bit broader, I suppose, away from just being really specific and opportunistic.
But first of all, diversifying traffic sources. Again, we don’t want to dilute our efforts across every single social platform, but perhaps you might have Facebook and LinkedIn or Instagram and Pinterest, offline and online ideally, right? And then word of mouth and some online marketing. So, try to think of at least two or three sources to make sure that you’re not just reliant on one.
Something else you can diversify is keeping the same product or service by having a different client target.
So again, if you’re reliant on just one major client and working with that client means you don’t have time to get others, that’s a really dangerous position to be in. So, how can you first of all look at other clients but also more broadly look at different targets. Off the top of my head, maybe I’m a web developer, I could do web design for hairdressers. Great.
But maybe right now hairdressers aren’t working so I might also then go, okay, I can do web design for online tutors. Maybe that’s something that would be quite important right now, or fitness instructors. So, you can have the exact same service just packaged up in a different way. And even though it is pretty much the same service, having it filtered through or framed, packaged up in that specific way will make you really appealing to that specific target. And that’s one way to diversify to work with different clients.
Then of course you can also have different products and services, so in particular different formats. Thinking about memberships and subscriptions, you have more of a recurring revenue, so you’re not just working one on one with somebody or one off rather, you’re not just working three months being done. But I’m sure you’ve seen that there’s a move in the industry and in all industries really towards more of a subscription model, whether it’s a meditation app or of course traditionally gyms have always been a subscription, software as a service, and you’re paying your fee every month. And that just gives you, as the business owner, more of a reliable income. There’s a little bit coming in every month rather than there’s a massive peak, someone works with you and then you’ve got to quickly struggle and scramble to get new clients.
So different structures, memberships, description courses, it could be… Again, you’re not just doing one-to-one freelancing, maybe you’re packaging up your skills and also teaching what you’re freelancing as. Maybe you’re a copywriter, but you can also teach copywriters how to launch a successful copywriting business. Same with graphic designer. You might be… And that’s a really common model of diversifying actually, which I think is really strong, really powerful. Number one, I’m delivering a particular service, but then actually different targets and different product and service, I’m also teaching others how to deliver that service. So that’s quite a good model to use. Again, thinking about, okay, I do the freelancing by myself, but also I teach freelancers how to do this.
Or maybe I’m a virtual assistant who’s managed to launch my business on Instagram. I can teach other what would be virtual assistants to launch their business as well. Or maybe you have only services right now, in which case you could launch some products. So again, if you’re doing a lot of freelancing, selling your time for money effectively, you might consider launching a course, again, as I said, or maybe writing a book. And if you went to series of books, that’s a great way to make a little bit of money. And many bits of little money will add up. Maybe you just write one book and that doesn’t give you a whole lot of money. You’re not going to have a bestseller right off the bat, most likely. But if you have a series of books and that can be really powerful.
Someone I know Kayla Karen, shout out to Kayla, has a series of books of yoga for different physical elements, let’s say. So it could be for a particular chronic illness, a particular type of pain. Rather than just having one massive book that has all those particular elements in one book, you can have them in a series of mini books. Maybe I would write one little bit on this is how you can decide on what you want to do in your business and then the next one is, this is how you build your confidence. So I could do a different book on every pillar that I have, for example, rather than having just one. But the point is, diversifying your way from services into products or for that matter if you have products, maybe adding some services onto that as well.
Another way to diversify is different pricing tiers.
If you only have really low cost and cheap products and services, maybe you want to look at, okay, how can I have some more high end services? Likewise, maybe if you have only really expensive products and services, maybe you can also mop up a bit of the lower tiers of the market. And again, we don’t want to dilute and try to be everything to everybody, but having a better progression is always good.
If you want to work with me, you can join my group programme. Well, in fact of course at the bottom there’s really all the free material. So the podcast, the Facebook group and so on, the blog, and there’s all sorts of free content you can get, the challenges in the Facebook group and so on. Then you might join the group programme, which is a certain price tier. A more expensive group programme that’s more one-on-one. And then of course one-to-one bespoke mentoring will then be sort of at the top of that.
So really thinking about different pricing tiers, different delivery formats. So one-to-one versus group delivery, DIY, self-directed. It might be someone who does a course on their own time or in another scenario you’re actually helping them out with more accountability and more regular calls and so on. That will really help you to charge more as well because you’re giving a lot more value. So if you’re going to do a higher end product or service, of course you need to think about how can I pack that sort of value and to make sure that that then warrants that higher price.
And of course it could be a different business entirely. It could be that portfolio career as I was saying. So, okay, this is one business. I’m doing this consulting or freelancing. Again, right now maybe that sector isn’t so strong. So actually I’m going to rely on a different stream. I have a client who’s looking at relying on her existing teaching experience and qualifications, for example, to have an additional income stream right now.
Now, it might not be your passion that you want to really build your business in in the future, but it could be a great way to supplement your income and bring you something that in a way has no correlation to your other business. And that of course is the point of diversifying. If you know anything about investments, I mean, it’s about diversifying across different countries, across different industries, big companies, small companies, gold, precious metals, all these things, bonds and stocks and so on. So if you want to diversify, really defend yourself against adversity and strengthen your business. Just think about whatever it is you’re doing, what is one factor that you could change? Different clients target different traffic source, different web marketing, different product, different service, different pricing tier, different delivery format, and maybe a different niche, a different business entirely.
With a client target by the way, it could be that you work one-on-one with individuals, but now actually you could also add workshops and consulting for companies. Maybe right now is not the best time to do that, but you see the point of, if you’re already working with groups maybe you can work with individuals in most lesson and so on.
Now just before we wrap up, I’ve gone on for quite a bit, but this is quite an interesting, hopefully you agree, topic as well and lots to talk about. Just a few questions to ask yourself just to make sure that this is really going to work for you. As ever, you want to think about, “Okay, what are you really good at and where could those skills be around you?” So, thinking outside of what you’re doing at the moment, what could you do for another type of client, for another target entirely. How could you package up your skills in a different way?
But also if you find that new area, what else would you need to be good at in order to succeed?
Because maybe I have these three great skills, but actually in order to succeed in this new area, you also need to have all this other stuff: the tech, the team, their contacts, whatever, which I don’t have in which case that’s probably not the best place to diversify.
And what’s going to give you a competitive advantage, right? So again, you want to make sure that you can stand and not just, “Oh, I could be. I’ve known my case. I could do some translation or editing because I’m good at writing and I’ve got good language skills.” Would I be great at that? Probably not. Because there are other people who have spent years working as editors and translators and so on. You don’t turn that much money in, why on earth would I then have a competitive advantage with zero experience? So, do you have a think about, okay, how am I going to really stand out and be competitive?
And then finally, again, think about, okay, is this going to distract from your primary existing income? Is it complimentary or at least worst case, not conflicting. And think about the hours. So let’s say if my day job is literally during the day. If this new income stream also requires me to be available during the day, that might not work. So it might be, not to say that we should be working 24/7, but it could be that one type of clients are corporate company client as Monday to Friday, whereas the other one I’m going to be doing photography of young children, babies, whatever, and that’s more weekends, let’s say.
And think about how are you going to market yourself. Think about the tools, the equipment, the software you’ll need.
Ideally you can use as much as possible of what you already have and make it complimentary. Now, some people, and again with a portfolio career it’s different business entirely, some people want to do completely different things precisely for the reason that they don’t want to be, let’s say, sitting at their computer all day. If I’m working on my computer as I am now writing on the phone all the time, then maybe I want to then have another business or another string to my bow which is me being out and about and being outdoors with people and face-to-face. And again, right now is not the best time. But thinking about complimenting when in fact you’re contrasting with what you’re doing, and that could be something that’s really appealing for you as well.
However, to make life easier for you and at least in the short term, you might want to look at it being complimentary. Or again at least not conflicting in terms of the hours you need to work in terms of how you’re going to market yourself. Maybe, and I’ve had clients who’ve done this, I use LinkedIn for my consulting work and then I use Instagram for my photography business. That works really well, having two different channels for two different targets and two different businesses.
But I think I need to leave it there so I don’t go on for too long already of the usual time. Do let me know if you have any questions about this. I think it is a big topic that warrants more and to focus on specific areas. It’s something definitely we work on in our group programmes in developing and strengthening our businesses and it’s something that’s really important right now.
Next week I’ll look at how to know when to pivot and that’s very much related, slightly different angle in terms of, you know what, this just isn’t working for me or for the client or for the market and it’s time to pivot. I need to change the actual, so not just diversify, add something, but actually you stop doing what you’re doing and do something else entirely. And if you have any questions, again, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d also love for you to consider booking a call with me and the details will follow in a moment. That would give us an opportunity to really look at, okay, what is your current income stream?
Maybe you’ve really been shocked by what’s happened. Your industry is really suffering during this particular situation. I’d love to help you out and really think creatively about, okay, hang on a second, how can we look at how can you diversify your income? How can you use what you already have in terms of skills, experience, network, software, and so on tools and add another string to your bow, add this other income stream so it’s really going to help to strengthen your business in the short term, but also in the long time. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.
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