12 Jul Launching Your Passion Project: 10 Easy Steps
Once upon a time, there was a girl whose father claimed she could spin straw into gold. Problem was that her dad had a big mouth, so when the king said, “Prove it,” the poor woman had to rely on some creature named Rumpelstiltskin to do the straw spinning for her.
She knew what needed to be done, but she had NO IDEA how to do it.
You might know the feeling.
You have a dream. Maybe it’s an idea for a sweet new brewery where people bring their cats and listen to banjo music. Maybe it’s an app you and a friend have been developing to let organ donor families anonymously message recipients. Maybe your idea feels like a pipe dream.
Dude. Dame. We are here to tell you that YOU DON’T NEED RUMPELSTILTSKIN TO SPIN YOUR GOLD.
You have everything it takes. You have the idea and the passion. Companies like ours exist to help companies like yours take off. But before you move on to branding your business, there are 10 tried-and-true (we know that because we’ve tried them!) steps to making that straw start to glimmer.
- Define your brand.
Write down what makes you stand out against similar companies around you. If you don’t think you have anything unique to offer, find a deeper niche or figure out how your worldview and personality will shape your company differently than any other. In advertising, they call this the Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. In film, they call it the weird attractor (like, “Young man sets out to save galaxy and discovers he can tap into the Force of the universe to help him along the way”). Call it what you want. It’s basically whatever you have to offer that no one else does.
- Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm.
This is a great time to bring in a friend or family member to bounce ideas off of (just make sure you don’t choose the kind of person who will say, “But…” to every idea). Write everything down. Make a Pinterest board to match the mood you’re looking for in your project. Doodle your ideas. The classic rule of brainstorming applies: No idea is a stupid idea. You can edit everything down later. If you think you should hand-paint tree stumps in the wild to market your bird-identification app to hikers, great. Make a note of it. Maybe it’ll inspire your logo.
- Dedicate a certain amount of time to your project.
Chances are, at this stage, you’re still working a full-time job or taking care of three kids or freelancing for a whole bunch of clients. You don’t have endless time, and even though we all wish we had endless energy, you just don’t. They say everybody has the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé, but that fails to take into consideration that Beyoncé probably has 300 people working for her. Like, she probably doesn’t fold her own underwear. So set some realistic expectations and boundaries for yourself so you don’t get burned out before you even have time to get started.
- Look into free resources.
There are so. Many. Resources. For people like you. You can find the answers to hundreds of your questions, plus hundreds of questions you didn’t know you had, by attending webinars, going to free workshops like the ones we host, and downloading printables and guides. Take advantage of living in the age of information. You might need to sift through some resources to find the ones that work for you, but once you find a great resource, see what else that site/innovator/account recommends, and follow the rabbit trail.
- Set some goals.
The first part of this step is, well, goal-setting. Something you probably do every day. (“Goal No. 1: Get out of bed.”) Set goals for different levels: You want to create social media accounts in a week, you want to build a website in three months, you want to quit your day job in a year. Whatever your goals are, be sure to define how you’re going to measure your success. In research design, they call this operationalization. (We dare you to say that out loud. It’s really hard.) If your goal is to build awareness of your brand, maybe you’ll say that getting to 5,000 followers is how you’ll meet that goal. So on, so forth.
- Put yourself out there.
This is where all the extroverts burst with joy and all the introverts praise the heavens for the invention of email and text messaging and very small group gatherings. Take stock of who you know. What connections you have. Is there someone who has shown interest in your idea? Someone who runs a similar business in a different niche? Someone who started a company you admire and just might let you pick their brain? Set up a coffee meeting. A beer meeting. A dog-walking meeting. Networking, or that thing you kind of learned to do your last year of college, is crucial. You never know where you’ll find a gem of advice or a new unofficial sponsor.
- Find a mentor.
According to Forbes, this person is a “source of guidance and advice,” someone you should go to with specific questions and goals and whom you should probably be friends with before you hit them up as a mentor. Know that your mentors don’t have to be in the same industry as you, but they do have to be honest and forthright. You’ve probably done this personally without realizing it, looking to friends a few steps down the road for life advice. Now do it in your career.
- Get out of your head.
At this point, you’ve laid your foundation. Now get out there and get started. Spend a hundred bucks on materials. Experiment to see what will sink and what will float. You don’t have a million-dollar seed fund to protect at this point. The pressure is low. This isn’t the time to be a perfectionist. Sure, learn from others’ mistakes, but there’s only so much prep work you can do before you dive in. You go, Glen Coco!
- Fake it till ya make it.
Just about every small business owner we know went through a phase where they were like, “What the hell am I doing?!” Trust us: That’s normal. That’s when you go back to your mentor and resources, or you remind yourself why this is your passion project by going over your goals. There will be days when this new venture feels IMPOSSIBLE. But we are living proof that it IS possible. We can’t predict what situations will arise for you, but we’ll tell you this: When you hit that swamp, you can make it through. It’s the same quality in you that got you to start in the first place.
- Start marketing.
Set up your social media accounts. Set up an Etsy shop or get a Square account. Now that you’re ready to, well, be in business, it’s time to market yourself and offer your product. Much more on this to come…because this is exactly where a company like Denver Digital Dames comes in. Don’t underestimate the power of a clean website, a sleek logo, the kind of social media that people connect with — all backed by your killer product.
Take note: These steps don’t include the legal points of starting a business, like incorporating your company or paying taxes. For help with all that, start with the U.S. Small Business Administration or your local small business incubator.