Here are my biggest small business lessons of 2014 …
#1 Persistence is key.
We often look at the online empires of others and marvel at the success they’ve found: hundreds of thousands of followers, tens of thousands of sales and a steady flurry of sharing and support. It’s very easy to get caught in the comparison game right then and there and think: I don’t have anywhere near that reach! I’ll never make it in this business. In other words, we tell ourselves that the successful people around us have something we don’t, as if the deck’s been stacked in their favor.
Oftentimes, when you stumble upon a seemingly overnight success in the form of a best-selling shop or popular blogger, it’s easy to be blinded by their fame.
I’ve cracked the code on this. If another business seemingly finds instant success, it’s possible this is their fifth try in business (as the Energy Shop was mine). It’s possible that they bought an email list or an already-established brand. It’s possible that a few Etsy top-sellers are buying their own sales (where you see pages and pages of “anonymous” reviews, covered by one or two buyers’ feedback on top). The bloggers that appear to be big stars overnight most likely bought an already-existing domain or redirected traffic from another well-established blog they’d been working on for years.
Don’t compare yourself to them! The rest of us start with our very first customer or our very first reader. And from there, we just. keep. building. Persistence is the main ingredient in the recipe for a creative business’ success. I am constantly forcing myself to keep going when it seems like nobody’s …
- supporting or
And it happens ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, even when my business is thriving on paper, to me it still feels like nobody’s out there. So, I persist. I continue to create. I dissolve my attachments to the outcome and just focus on adding value.
#2 Partnerships are powerful
Without partnerships + creative collaborations, The Movers & Makers Summit would not exist!
I love working with others; I’ve always enjoyed collaboration. However, in developing the upcoming retreat in South Carolina, I learned more than ever before about the give and take of a true partnership while working with Bonnie of Going Home to Roost.
In my previous partnerships, I’ve typically provided most of the momentum to the project – at times it felt more like I was working for someone else rather than with them. On more than one project, I’ve overvalued + overestimated the other player. And this is not intended to put them down, but to remind myself to heed this advice:
Don’t give more than you’re comfortable with, only to resent it when you don’t collect the anticipated return. – Sonia Choquette
Bonnie taught me what it was like to be on a real team. She designed our gorgeous website and encouraged me when I was scared and in resistance. I’m usually the one doing the encouraging! Despite her own full schedule, she frequently asked, “How else can I help?” throughout development. I pride myself on being pretty cooperative on a project, and this was the first time I worked with someone who matched or exceeded that same spirit.
Building The Movers and Makers Summit has been an amazing experience, and I am eternally grateful for what Bonnie’s taught me about working partnerships. I’ll never look at them the same again.
#3 Editorial (and/or marketing) calendars are crucial.
I’ve always enjoyed keeping an editorial calendar, but this year I separated all of my plans into different places. In the next few days, I’m going to take you behind the scenes of one of my planning and review sessions to show exactly how I’ve organized my business.
Earlier this year, I showed you one simple way to declutter your operation: the admin day. It’s a simple, yet powerful practice. In creative business, it’s important to remember and respect all the different hats you need to wear. Your CEO hat (planning, review, decision-making) is as important as your secretary hat (admin, organization and scheduling) and vice versa. In order to run an efficient operation, be sure to take time for these things every month.
I’ve gotten more done this year than ever before, and I credit that progress to the work I’ve done while wearing my CEO hat. I love my CEO days! Read the upcoming post, Prepping for Your End-Year Review where I’ll offer some tips on how to perform your own.
#4 Tasks must be prioritized.
This article isn’t about household chores, but this topic always reminds me of cleaning the kitchen. If I have an hour to clean house, and I start in the kitchen (which gets cleaned everyday) when the bathrooms need done, I spend my hour in the kitchen and neglect the bathrooms, every time.
In other words, when the bathrooms are due for a cleaning, I need to do them first. The kitchen’s going to get cleaned whether I spend that hour there or not, but the bathrooms (the least fun chore) are sure to be put off time and time again.
If I start my working day by drifting around on email and social media, I’m not focused on what’s important and I’m essentially losing time. Oh, that email and social media will get checked! There’s no way I’d go a working day without seeking feedback, updates and notifications. But, that really doesn’t count as work, and it doesn’t add to my bottom line.
#5 The work you don’t like to do still needs doing.
What an eye-opener this one was for me! My year of income reports showed exactly how much time I spent on projects and how much I made from each one. Because I knew I was going to reveal my income each month, I wanted to get those projects finished in time to record the revenue.
I loved sharing a good income generated from work that I love to do; it validated my efforts. Therefore, I found myself more willing to do the work I don’t like. I set a 50-minute timer and thought,
It’s alright to not like this part of the job, but it’s still your job to get it done.
In all honesty and after four years of business, I still need that accountability. When you’re entirely self-employed, it’s easy to procrastinate and spend countless hours checking social media and stats. Technically, you can even categorize that time wasted under “work.” But unless progress has been made toward clear and measurable goals, I don’t consider any work done that day.
#6 Invest in yourself.
If someone you love dearly had the exact same big dream + lofty goals that you do, what would you say to them? Imagine the love and support you’d feel for their endeavors, and then turn those feelings around on yourself. Give yourself that same level of love and support.
You deserve it.
I want to thank you so much for sharing your creative energy with me in 2014. I can hardly wait to see what’s in store for the coming year. I wish you the best,