If you’re starting your online business, you’re probably studying the thought leaders in your industry. This is a great way to learn from the best and discover what works and what you shouldn’t waste your valuable time doing. However, you should beware that mimicking the gurus can be detrimental to your success.

Let’s take a look at how this backfired for an online entrepreneur, Shawn. He did his homework and studied the top five leaders in his field to discover what they were doing and just how they did it. He read their books, followed them on social media and attended their webinars.

With all this information in hand, Shawn decided he would model his business after the most successful thought leaders. He created all his systems and designed his programs like theirs, even going as far as to deliver the same services. As a result, Shawn’s business started to quickly climb the stairway to success but after 3 months there was a sharp decline.

What happened to Shawn’s rapid rise of a successful business that caused him to ultimately fail? The answer for Shawn and maybe you as well, lie on implementing these tactics:

One thing all businesses need to do is stand out from the crowd. Thankfully, it’s not that hard.

You know how often mechanics seem to have broken down cars? Well, entrepreneurs often don’t ‘practice what they preach.’ Why? They’re busy. But, this is no excuse. You can stand out by treating yourself as your own client first.

For example, if you are a content marketer, build the best social media marketing networks, and the best content marketing examples for your very own business. Do for yourself what you propose to do for other businesses as you seek clients. The easier you are for your clients to find, the more they’re going to trust that you know what you’re doing and can do for them what you are doing for yourself. As you work to be the best ask yourself these questions:

Who is Your Competition?

Once you’ve studied the thought leaders, as Shawn did, identified your exact audience and what you’ll do for them, you need to find out who your competition is. When you locate them, don’t be discouraged. Many people shy away from competitors and think they should pick a different niche, but this isn’t true, even if your competitors are the gurus you have studied.

Actually, if no one is doing it, it might not need to be done. If someone is doing it, and especially if they’re having some success, then you know it’s a needed service.

How Can You Do It Differently?

One you locate your competitors, join their lists, and start observing what they do. Don’t emulate them, fill in the gaps in the market that they are missing. For example, if you feel they are great with social media marketing but come up short on email marketing, you can improve email marketing for your clients. Figure out ways to add that something extra to your offerings that help you stand out.

Remember – don’t be afraid of competition. Competition is a good thing. Let them do all your research. Don’t copy them exactly, but start with their ideas and improve upon them. The result will capture customers because you’re doing it just a little better.

How to Price Your Services for Profitability Yet Remain Competitive

One of the most important aspects of becoming profitable is learning to price your services well. For every customer there’s a sweet spot in pricing that lets you become very profitable but still makes the client feel like they got a great deal. It will take time and research to figure out what that price is. Start with answering these questions:

What’s Your Time Worth?

Many people think this is a pie in the sky question because of course, everyone will come up with a different number. But, it’s a good number to start with. When you consider the lifestyle you desire, how much would you have to earn to live it? If you want to be a millionaire, have you picked the right path?

Who Is Your Client?

Not only do you need to understand what your client can afford, but you need to understand what they’re willing to pay and that all starts by knowing exactly who your client is. You need to know what they value in life, what they’re willing to do to get what they desire, and how they view money.

What Value Do My Services Provide?

A really good way to determine how much you’ll charge is to place a value on your services. For example, if your work will generate six figures a year for your client, how much should you get of this amount? If your client knew they’d earn six figures, how much would they be willing to pay you of that amount?

What Are My Competitors Charging?

This is a good way to go in some ways, but in a global market this can be dangerous, too. A perfect example of this is virtual assistants who live in the United States. Many of their competitors currently live in an area that has a very low cost of living, so they may be charging a tenth of what a virtual assistant living in the U.S. needs to just break even.

Don’t let this scare you. Find competitors who are doing what you do in your market and compare their prices instead. Yes, sometimes your clients will go to that super low priced place, but often times they’ll be back to you due to language, reliability and other issues that may arise while working with these low-cost providers.

What Is My Break Even Point?

This is a very important bit of information to have. Even if you work from home, you have expenses. You’ll need to pay self-employment taxes, a portion of your rent or mortgage, communication costs, research costs, software costs, licensing and more. Figure out what that cost is, and multiply it by 1.5 so you have a buffer. Use that number as your breakeven point so that anything you make over that is considered profit for purposes of pricing.

If you are just starting your business or trying to regroup and revamp a not-to-successful one, use the questions here to learn how to stand out in the crowd, get noticed, and reach success.