As this is my fifth year in creative online business, I think these are the best biggest small business lessons I’ve ever shared! 🙂 Here’s what I’ve learned in 2015 …
#1 Invest in Your Career
Open yourself to it, and trust that expenses for training, tools and business growth never stop. I regularly invest big money for training on subjects I’m already considered an expert in because I know there’s always more to learn.
For example, I know how to write a sales page that sells $20K worth of products (and I even taught copywriting on CreativeLive!), but I’ve recently invested over $1,000 for training from a professional whose sales copy routinely earns 7 figures – see? More to learn!
I feel so discouraged when creatives write to me, hesitating and him-hawing over the purchase of my best-selling workbook, Your Best Year 2016. It is, without a doubt, the best creative business planning tool on the market, and no matter which version you order, it’s less than a $20 investment! Are they kidding?
If you’re not willing to invest in your business, how in the world can you expect customers to? This leads me to my next point …
#2 You are 100% deserving
This point is highly intangible, but very true. You have to know, on a cellular level, that you deserve to be successful in business.
If your confidence wanes, so will your determination.
For me, this was the difference between an attitude that reflects I’m “grateful for my opportunities” versus one that reflects I’m “lucky to be here”, and it was a professional shift that’s important to make.
Willie Wonka [to Charlie Bucket]:
And you, well you’re just lucky to be here, aren’t you?
– From the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
In this industry, we’re surrounded by fluff information and advice. It all gives me such a headache, especially when I have to waste my paying clients’ time cleaning up all the nonsense they’ve been bombarded with online.
Moreover, I’ve personally met some of the fluff-makers, and they are the most confident jokers you’ve ever seen. While I’ve been showing up to the arena feeling ever so lucky to be here, they’re taking center stage as experts on a subject they know nothing about!
This is the lesson I struggled most with this year. Those jokers got under my skin. And if you’ve been in online business for any time at all, I’m sure you can relate. It’s all part of the comparison game, and not only is it a complete waste of time, it’s a direct route to misery.
So I started to ask myself, Why does she/he/this other business bother me? Moreover, what do they have that I want? And in some cases where the feeling was mutual, Why do I bother them? What do I have that they want?
Because what bothers me about them = my weak point: an area I could definitely strengthen (in this case, their confidence and presentation). What bothers them about me = my strong points: an area I can enhance and show off a bit more (in this case, my industry knowledge and subject matter expertise).
Don’t you love it?! I just made the comparison game an empowering tool!
#3 Know your ideal customer
And I’m not saying this for the marketing reasons I usually give. I want you to know your ideal customer so you can recognize the wrong customers as quickly as possible.
I’ve never shared this story publicly before, but the more reach I have, the greater the potential for the wrong customers becomes. I’ve had a few gigs this year that have attracted thousands of glorious ideal customers, but with that exposure also came a handful of clients that aren’t a good match.
A few months ago, one particularly prickly pear (read: the wrong type of client for me) joined The Luminaries Club. The Luminaries Club is full of my dream clients, and by nature of the membership, most of them join knowing my approach to business very well.
I love and appreciate the Luminaries, but to be completely honest with you, I didn’t realize how good I had it there until the wrong person joined …
Because she’d signed up in my system multiple times, it caused a glitch that typically only takes me a few minutes to respond to. I wrote to tell her that I was on it, but I couldn’t keep up with the stream of replies she was emailing, all of them frantic. Within minutes, she’d come to several false conclusions faster than I could respond, and then she started creating more accounts in my system and soon had a duplicate membership.
When I asked her to please hold tight, gave her instructions to undo her second membership, and asked that she let me handle the rest on my end, she sent a long and hostile reply, berating me for speaking to her in such a tone.
She was using a coupon for a free month that she’d received from a one-off class I’d taught, and I considered telling her then and there: I don’t think we’re a good professional fit. But instead, I ignored my instincts. I unapologetically explained that I needed to take control of the situation and hoped we might get past the rocky start.
A few days after joining The Luminaries Club and having a look around, an email invites new members to our private Facebook group. The day I added her on Facebook, I realized working with the wrong clients not only affects me, it affects the entire membership community.
She left comments saying she hated the topic we were focusing on, she tagged me in every question, comment and reply she wrote (as if I were “on call” for her every whim), and she rattled the discussions in progress between other members.
There was already so much tension between us; I started to feel hostage to this one wrong client, and no payment had even been exchanged! All of this was going down on a free trial.
This situation reminded me of a policy I made at the start of 2015: I refuse to cater to difficult people who don’t respect my time and energy. Because I was bothered, I decided to ignore the difficulty and demands I could feel around the situation and be as open and upfront as possible. Therefore, the next time she tagged me on Facebook, I simply said: “I’ve already shared my thoughts and responded to your question. I’m moving on from this discussion now.”
Upon reading that, my wrong client immediately left the private group, blocked me on Facebook, and cancelled her free trial. Never to be heard from again! Problem solved. 😉
Which leads me to my next lesson …
#4 Be unapologetically true to your dreams + policies
I think this is my greatest lesson of 2015, and one I will thank myself for (and my children will thank me for learning) for many years to come.
I became unapologetically true to myself this year. I just said “no” to unsupportive, inconsiderate, passive-aggressive relationships, like the client I told you about above. These kind of people don’t like to take no for an answer. Oh well!
This year, I said “no” to my family of origin who refused to work on building healthy + clean relationships. I said “no” and unfriended a mouthy neighbor who wasted my time and undermined my community efforts. I said “no” to unsupportive lifelong friends; if asking them to root for my success feels more like pulling teeth, who needs ’em? I said “no” to multiple business collaborations that didn’t sit well. I said “no” to the countless people who wanted me to work on their business for free.
In response to my unapologetically true behavior, I’ve been called childish and rude (and a lot of other unmentionable names).
Funny thing though, I’ve never felt more grown up. I’ve never been so true to myself. Frankly, I’ve never known such happiness and worthiness as I do right now! If clean, authentic energy is wrong, I don’t care to be right.
#5 Do That Thing That Scares You
Creating your own business is not easy. You have to do A LOT of things that you’ve never done before. And for many, as soon as the paved road ends, they stop traveling toward the destination. You have to want your destination SO HARD that you’re willing to carve your own path.
And that can be very scary sometimes.
The biggest hurdle I had to jump this year was around financially investing in this business I’ve created. There are two things, in particular, that used to cause me great anxiety: (1) Investing any amount over $500, and (2) Committing to recurring payments. And those two things are exactly what were required of me this year.
I got to the point where my fears were, not only bottlenecking my business, but also stunting my growth. For every day that I didn’t do those things that were scaring me, it was as if I was stubbornly keeping the faucet closed on an income that was ready to flow!
This year, I invested in the best customer relationship management system money can buy, I hired my first part-time employee, and I more than tripled my income in the process!
#6 Steer your own ship
Don’t just get on the boat and hope it arrives at a destination you’ll enjoy.
Imagine building your dream house without blueprints – you show up every day and let the bricks fall where they may. Do you think you would be perfectly content with the end-result after years of free-form building? No way!
This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality has got to go. You must have a clear set of desired results in mind when you show up to do work everyday. Stay focused and on task while constantly challenging yourself to grow.
I highly recommend my best-selling workbook, Your Best Year, to help you map your course. The fact of the matter is, goal-setting works + it can take months, if not years to get to your desired destination without guidelines and route markers to follow on your path. At the same time, your path is going to be creative. That is the nature of you! Because you are creative, traditional career trajectories and goal-setting formulas simply don’t work. Your journey is fluid, as your planner should be!
Here’s wishing you all the best in 2016! Until next time,