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Last week I was tweeting about ‘The Hedgehog Concept’, and it got me thinking about the different ways creators can identify their business’s core focus/niche/purpose. This is something you should be thinking about constantly if you want to best serve your audience.
Today, I’ll be talking in more detail about the Hedgehog Concept, and discussing two other frameworks for establishing your creator business’s raison d'etre.
In the next five minutes, we’re going to cover three different frameworks for identifying your business’s ‘reason for being’:
- The Hedgehog Concept
- Core Focus
- The House Model
💬 Let’s get into it...
There are conflicting opinions about ‘niching down’. On one hand, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘the riches are in the niches’ more times than you’d care to count.
On the other hand, aggressively niching down can feel limiting. There are some great videos from creators like Sunny Lenarduzzi and ThinkMedia, as well as a lesson delivered during the Part-Time YouTuber Academy by Elizabeth Filips, explaining why completely niching down isn't necessarily a hard and fast requirement.
Creativity is not linear, and there are no rules that are incontrovertible, so the reality probably lies somewhere in the middle. Because even when you find your niche, it will gradually change.
Nonetheless, when you’re trying to scale up your creative side hustle into a business, you need to think about what you’re making and who you’re making it for.
Ask yourself: Who am I serving?
So let’s take a look at three frameworks you can use to answer this question
1 - 🦔 The Hedgehog Concept
"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing" - Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox
A fox circles a hedgehog. The fox is cunning, nimble and crafty. The hedgehog is dowdy, slow and unassuming. On paper, the fox is the clear winner.
Yet when the fox attacks, the hedgehog simply curls up into a ball of spikes. Despite it’s swift feet and sharp fangs, the fox is powerless.
The hedgehog will always win, because it excels at a single skill. A single idea unifies everything it does.
This fable was popularised by Jim Collins. He suggests that, like a hedgehog, a business needs to excel at just one thing.
You can work this out for you and your business by asking these three questions:
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What could you be the best in the world at?
- What drives your economic engine?
Purpose x Authenticity x Value
Let’s break these down a little.
1 - What are you deeply passionate about?
This is your purpose.
- What gets you up in the morning and keeps you working late, voluntarily?
- What gets you excited when you’re teaching or telling someone else about it?
- What do you feel like sharing with other people?
- Is there a sub-category within that thing that you are particularly excited by? e.g. a chef who specifically enjoys making vegan recipes, or a painter who specifically loves watercolour.
2 - What do you do better than anyone else?
This is your authenticity.
- What are you (or do you have the potential to be) really good at?
- What do you wish you’d known three, five or ten years ago that could help people now? As Rory Vaden says, “you’re most powerfully positioned to serve the person you once were”
- What industries / audiences / groups are you familiar with or part of? e.g. amateur chess players, investors, high school students, teenagers struggling with their love life, etc.
- What would others say you’re good at?
- In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams argues that “leveraging multiple mediocre skills” can lead to extraordinary success—especially if that combination is rare.
3 - What drives your economic engine?
This is your value
- Think about what other people will pay you for. What aspects of your creative side hustle could earn you a sustainable income?
- Don’t use revenue as your primary motivator, but ask whether or not you could reasonably charge money for the service or value you’re providing to others.
So that’s the Hedgehog Concept.
2 - 🎯 Core Focus
This comes from Gino Wickman’s Traction, and can be simplified to this ‘equation’:
- Purpose + Niche = Core Focus
In this case, ‘niche’ can be derived by using the Hedgehog Concept. However, your business’s ‘purpose, cause or passion’ is distinct from its niche.
You can establish its purpose by asking… “why does my business exist?”
In Traction, Gino says that when your purpose, cause or passion is clear, it should meet the following criteria:
- It can be stated in three to seven words
- It’s written in simple language
- It’s big and bold
- It has an ‘aha’ effect
- It comes from the heart
- It involves everyone
- It’s not about money
- It’s bigger than a goal
In the case of Creatorpreneur, our aim is to ‘help turn your creative side hustle into a scalable and sustainable business’, but in theory it could be shortened to ‘help turn your passion into a business’, or something like that.
Gino describes your niche as ‘how you’re fulfilling your purpose’, rather than as a specific thing you make content about.
What is your business’s reason for existing, and what steps are you taking to achieve this purpose?
That’s Core Focus.
3 - 🏡 The House Model
The House Model is similar to Core Focus, but breaks it down one step further. Imagine your business like a house:
- Short of some sort of Wizard of Oz-esque mishap, the foundations of your house are unlikely to change over time.
- Meanwhile, the structure of the house may change (you could knock a wall down or extend your kitchen), but it’s unlikely this will happen more than once every few years.
- On the other hand, the furniture can be moved easily. You might bring some more chairs in when there’s guests over, or maybe you’ll rearrange the sofas once in a while.
In business terms, this can be simplified to:
Why → How → What
- Why - This is the core belief of the business. It's why the business exists.
- How - This is how the business fulfills that core belief.
- What - This is what the company does to fulfill that core belief.
For us at Creatorpreneur, it looks like this:
- Why - To help turn your passion into a business → this will probably never change
- How - By providing world class online content → this is how we will approach it for the foreseeable future, but with the potential that we could eventually branch into in-person events, etc.
- What - By releasing a free weekly newsletter, free insights on Twitter, and by chatting to interesting creators in our podcast. We will also provide optional paid content with our courses → these are the specific things we’re doing now, but we will inevitably be expanding into other areas (YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc) over time.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, has explained why people are so willing to throw their money at certain companies (e.g. Apple), while companies equivalently qualified to produce the same products (e.g. Dell) have struggled to maintain similar levels of brand loyalty.
As Simon says in this excellent talk:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it… If you don’t know why you do what you do…how will you ever get people to buy something from you?”
Start with why.
That’s The House Model.
🤔 What’s next?
These are the key questions from each of the three frameworks. There's some overlap, so you might prefer to choose the one which most resonates with you, or which can easily be applied to your business.
🦔 The Hedgehog Concept
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What can you potentially be the best world at?
- What drives your economic engine?
- What is the overlap between your answers to these three questions (i.e. your hedgehog concept)?
🎯 Core Focus
- Why does your creative business exist? What's its purpose, cause or passion?
- How are you achieving this purpose?
🏡 The House Model
- Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s the purpose?
- How are you broadly achieving this purpose?
- What specific steps are you taking to achieve this purpose today?
Have a great rest of your week,
Man at Typewriter
🐦 Creatorpreneur Twitter
We turn all our newsletters into tweet threads, so if you found this useful it’d be fab if you could show the thread some love ❤️ It really helps us reach new people :)
We tweet every day about Creatorpreneurs and the creator economy, and we’d love to keep the conversation going over there with fine folks such as yourself.
🚀 Part-Time Creatorpreneur
Our new course, ‘Part-Time Creatorpreneur’ is available now!
This self-paced course, presented by Ali Abdaal, distils all the lessons learned in his journey from casual YouTuber to ‘professional’ Creatorpreneur. After three years, dozens of business books, and tens of thousands spent on business coaches, Ali turned his creative hobby into a business which turned over nearly $5 million last year.
‘Part-Time Creatorpreneur’ gives you the principles, tools and resources to scale up your creative side hustle in the same way.
We’ll always offer tonnes of free content here, but for anyone who’s super serious about taking their creativity to the next level, scaling up efficiently without burning out, and driving revenue, this course will be incredibly valuable.