The way to the first job – Part 2: Proof of Concept

After you have worked on your offer optimization in the first step you should also check if your offer is really accepted by your target group. Maybe you have been working on your offer for a long time and can’t see the wood for the trees anymore. You urgently need the perspective from outside. Even established freelancers should check their business concept or offer at regular intervals. In this article you will find out which methods are best suited to check your offer. This is called “Proof of Concept”.

The examination of one’s own offer is time-consuming. In this phase you will be required to have a tremendous amount of courage and discipline. You must approach strangers openly, accept criticism and be open to necessary adjustments of your offer. This means that long conceptual work can be destroyed by justified criticism from outside. But how do you get new perspectives?

The perspective of the target group

It is most convenient to ask people close to you. parents, siblings or friends. However, you should only do this if these people are also potentially your target group. Usually this is not the case. The advice is well-intentioned but misleading. The reason is clear. The characteristics of the respondents often only correspond to those of your target group in a few points. Try to find at least five people from your extended circle of acquaintances who fit into your target group and who would be happy to examine your offer for you as part of a friendship service. Also actively use second and third degree contacts.

The entrepreneurial perspective

You should also make an effort to use your network in this respect. Do you know people who have already gained experience as entrepreneurs? Use second and third degree contacts from your network. In XING or LinkedIn you will see how enormous the reach can be. But why do you need an external entrepreneur to evaluate the services you offer? You are an entrepreneur yourself! In the first point we have checked how your offer is accepted by the target group. But it is also essential that your offer is entrepreneurially viable. Especially as a newcomer you need the perspective of a successful entrepreneur with many years of experience.

Interviewing the target group and entrepreneurs at the same time

So-called expert bodies are widely used. These are often independent business consultants who check whether a business concept is viable when applying for a start-up grant. Mostly this service costs less than 100 EUR. If you find a good consultant, he will not only check the financial viability of your freelance job but also the attractiveness of your offer. If your offer is aimed at self-employed sole proprietors, you already have a potential customer during the consultation. Ask him what your offer should look like that he will accept.

Tip: There are some business incubators where you are advised by people who are only employed themselves. It’s like having a vegetarian advise you on meat consumption. In any case, look for a consultant who has gained experience as a freelancer / sole trader.

Find the most important sales argument

You have a whole range of great selling points? Concentrate on the most important ones! But why name so few sales arguments? Imagine for a moment that you throw a ball to your client. He can catch a ball without any problems, maybe even a second one. With 10 balls, it’s difficult. You can apply this little metaphor to the number of your sales arguments. If you have too many sales arguments, your offer loses profile. But how do you find out which sales argument is most important for your target group? The answer: online ads.

As a loyal blog reader you will now wonder if I suffer from multiple personality disorder. In almost all previous posts I have advised against advertising as a marketing measure for individual services. However, for testing the sales arguments, online ads have proven to be quite useful for me.

A simplified example:

You have 10 selling points. With an advertising budget of 200 EUR, you place 10 ads on Facebook or Google. For each sales argument one ad of 20 EUR each. At the end of your small advertising campaign you can see which ad was clicked on the most. From this, you can find out relatively inexpensively how attractive each of your sales arguments is. The higher your budget, the more people from your target group will take part in this small survey.

Note: This example is very simplified. The quality of the survey results also depends on the settings of the respective advertising campaigns.

Conclusion on the Proof of Concept

A few years ago, the disciplined implementation of a self-imposed business plan was considered very promising. Today, the terms Proof of Concept, Try and Error, MVP etc. are increasingly used in the start-up scene. I would not like to advise any freelancer to start his business without a plan. But especially in Germany I have the impression that we get lost in theoretical tables and forecasts. We should put more into practice again and incorporate practical insights into our theoretical forecasts at an early stage. It is important to check the response to the service offered at an early stage. This is why this article is already in second place in this series, directly after the offer optimization.

Finally a nice quote from the title cover of the BrandEins in November 2014*. It shows impressively how important practical experience is.

“The first company I started failed with a big bang. The second company failed a little less badly, the third company failed decently, but that was kind of okay. I recovered quickly, and the fourth one already survived. Number five was then Paypal. ” – Max Levchin

I hope you enjoyed this article about the Proof of Concept! Next week the third part of this series will be published.

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