This is Part 2 of the 12 biggest lessons from my first year in business. Read Part 1 here. (Half this list–#7, 8 & 9–are pretty much the direct result of the investment I talked about in lesson #6 so you might want to start there first!)
7) Start small and specific (Tweet that!)
Once I’d worked with enough people for free (see lesson #2) and I had a clearer idea how I could help people, it was time to think about packages for paying clients. But I didn’t come up with something that I loved (and sold well) until Jenny Shih advised me focus on one small transformation I could deliver for my clients and make a “bite-sized” offer. (This cornerstone of her Make it Work Online program is a game-changer!)
My Rock-Solid Strategy Sessions were born. A small, specific focus with a concrete outcome I knew my clients wanted: a month’s worth of rock-solid content and the tools to do it again yourself. I knew this service would really help my ideal clients and I was 100% confident I could deliver: this “bite-sized” offer was the key to my very first full client load (and waiting list!). So start small, think of one concrete transformation you can deliver and design a “bite-sized” offering.
8) Recognize fear & resistance (Tweet that!)
Turns out starting a business is scary. (And I’m not talking about financial risk because I was lucky enough to have my husband’s steady monthly income to fall back on.) For me it’s primarily the fear of failure, of not being good enough. (But there are lots of other fears too!) And this fear shows up as a resistance that makes me professional procrastinator. (Sometimes that looks like so-called ‘productive’ procrastination: errands, chores or ‘busy’-work. Sometimes that looks like binging on TV shows on Netflix…)
But now I’m getting good at spotting this fear. Bev Barnes (super-talented life coach) taught a workshop about fear as part of Make it Work that really opened my eyes. I’m what Bev calls a “Freezer” : I try to hide from fear by standing still like a deer in headlights (ie procrastinating and worrying rather than taking action). This piece of knowledge lets me see my “freezer” behaviour and deal with it. (Plus I now have a sign above my desk that says, “I’m DOING it” to remind me!)
No one tells us that going into business is going to be a source of powerful personal development but I've learned way more about myself this year than I did in all the years when I worked “jobs” combined. Figure out how your fear & resistance shows up so you can handle it (your business is going nowhere fast without some self-awareness).
9) Have 7 backup plans (Tweet that!)
So that “bite-sized” offer from lesson #7? The one that filled my client roster and earned me my first waiting list? When I first released it, it didn't sell. Not even one spot. I knew it was a great service. I’d had help and feedback on the copy. I had a beta-tester with AWESOME results. It was ready for the world! And all I heard was crickets… I felt deflated. But thanks to Jenny, I didn't let it fizzle out. During Make it Work she encouraged me to come up with a list of at least 7 backup plans to get the word out about my new offer. It was the 8th tactic on that list that worked (hold a free webinar). This was a super valuable lesson. If I had just given up after trying one or two things, I’d never have filled my client list or held what has been my most popular webinar ever (and helped me double my list). Make a plan, then make 7 backup plans–you never know what is going to be the key to success.
10) Work the plan (Tweet that!)
Like every busy solopreneur, my to-do list is a mile long and I’m starting to accept it’ll never get any shorter. Especially as my client roster got full and I had less time to work “on” my business, I had many weeks in the last two months where no matter how many hours I worked, I felt like I was chasing my tail and not making any real PROGRESS. Until I took a step back and got some SYSTEMS in place. Systems to streamline my client process, to manage my to-do list and my time. Systems to keep me on track and focused on the real priorities. Every single new system that streamlines a process for me and allows me to be more productive makes me feel lighter. If you feel like you are spinning your wheels, take a step back and get some systems. In the wise words of Chris Brogan: “Work the plan. (And if there is no plan, make one.)”
11) Connect with other business owners (Tweet that!)
Every single successful online business owner I've heard interviewed has said “you can’t do this alone” or some variation on that theme. It seems counter-intuitive at first since by the very definition of “solopreneur”, I’m a one-woman-show. But I've learned that precisely because I’m on my own without a team, it’s even more important to have supportive relationships with other entrepreneurs. To get feedback on ideas, encouragement when I’m in a slump, to celebrate our successes together and just generally to talk to people who really UNDERSTAND this crazy journey we are on. (My scientist husband is wonderfully supportive but he understands about as much about this online biz thing as I do about his cold-atom physics experiment.) This doesn't have to feel forced or like deliberate “networking” but if you bump into someone online and love their stuff, send them a tweet or an email or reach out for mastermind buddies in an online group like The Uncaged Lifers or the Freelance to Freedom Project Community.
12) Make your own luck (Tweet that!)
Probably the biggest lesson I've learned is the ‘make your own luck', or ‘good things come to those who hustle’ mindset could not be more true. Months in France went by without any forward motion after we first moved here. Until I signed up for BSchool and committed to becoming an entrepreneur. Then, everything changed. Because I started taking ACTION. I put my website up, I let people know I was starting my own business and I began blogging weekly. And the world came knocking! Clients, interview requests, telesummit invitations and guest posting opportunities all started to show up. Sure it didn't all happen within the first few months, but I can’t believe how far I've come in a year, just by putting in the work and making my own luck. Get moving, put one foot in front of the other and watch the magic happen.
I’d love to hear from you
What's the biggest lesson you've learned from being in business? Please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other! And if you've found these lessons helpful, please use the Facebook, Twitter and Google+ buttons right below to share it with other new business owners.