Biggest Small Business Lessons of 2015

As this is my fifth year in creative online business, I think these are the best biggest small business lessons¬†I’ve ever shared! ūüôā Here’s what I’ve learned in 2015 …

6 biggest small business lessons of 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. ūüėČ

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 ‚Äď 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,

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  • Thanks so much for sharing this! I definitely need to learn to be true to myself and my dreams. I often find myself wishing I had more support from close friends but I guess I’m too afraid to ask. And saying “no” is also very much on my list of things to do more often… Again thanks for the advice and inspiration!


  • You, my dear, are one of the good ones. #2 up there? I’ve struggled with that quite a bit recently. My home decor/DIY blog of 5 years expanded this year into an LLC and email marketing biz. As I was designing my new website, crafting content, preparing courses, and getting excited…that nasty little bugger of a mean voice started popping up in the back of my mind. “You’re not good enough.” “No one will listen to you.” “It’s been done before.”

    I realized I was comparing myself to other business bloggers who were not only taking totally different paths than I intend to take, but also have very different walks of life. And nobody has my unique voice.

    I love your passion and your honestly, and love watching you grow! Cheers to a successful 2015, and best wishes for an even better 2016!

    • Yes! Isn’t that funny how we usually play comparison games with people no one would ever suspect us being in competition with?!

      So true, Kirsten. Thanks for adding & cheers to you! xx

  • Such a great blog post! I love your honesty! I said no to a big opportunity last week and it was so empowering. Im done with others determjning my path!

    • That’s fabulous, Linda! I know what you mean about how empowering it is; it seems like *such* a hard decision until it’s made, and then it’s like “aaaaaahhhhhhh ….”

      ūüôā Thanks so much for adding xx

  • Thankyou so much for this post Lisa! Your honesty is so refreshing. You make some very valid points that I could totally relate to in my business.

    Thank you also for Your Best Year 2016. I bought the book last year but didn’t follow through on my plans. This time around, I love how the goals are broken down into steps, especially the power of 3’s. It’s enabled me to get a head start on next year and really make things happen instead of just dreaming about them.

  • Lisa,

    Everything in the above post resonates with me so fully. I purchased Best Life 2016 and have worked through the first two sections. Fantastic insights, motivation and goal setting. I’m launching a creative blog in January 2016 and feel like this is the best (and scariest) decision of my life. I’m also trying to eliminate the negative elements from my life. Thanks for all your input and organizational tools. Its going to be a GREAT year!

  • This single post made me feel so confident that if/when I get to this point, I will not waste the energy (like I normally would trying to appease, a natural peacekeeper) and simple be firm, and value my time. You GO girl, many blessings to you and Merry Christmas

  • So glad I made myself read this. So tired of reading & listening to social media marketers who pitch to B2B & say it will work the same way for me. Confession time- the only reason I haven’t purchased the workbook is I’m afraid, that like all the other programs, templates, services I’ve purchased in the past, it will just lay there. I won’t implement. Underlying my inability or lack of focus is my belief I’m not really that creative (my partner/daughter is the one- comparison is deadly). Chances are we will not move very far forward this year despite having a wonderful webmaster/SEO/coach/mediator.
    Need to think on this insight some more. It’s rough at age 76 to feel like a toddler again & take on huge challenges. On the other hand, I always have. No doubt you will have a great year ahead.

    • Thanks for sharing your insight, Rosyln! A lot of people probably feel the same way, and you are ever *so* creative. Best of luck in every endeavor & here’s to your greatest year ahead ūüėČ

  • Thank you Lisa for this post and your honesty. I really admire your knowledge and the willingness to share your experience. Thanks to your The Luminaries Club and Your Best Year 2016, I finally feel like I’m in control on my destiny and I know what I will be doing this year. In the past few weeks I did so much. I didn’t even know that’s possible.
    Thank you once more for your help and I wish you all the best this year.

  • I love the innovative and positive thinking you have! I agree that it is right to stop wasting your time on people who are not supportive and start believing more in yourself and make clean and healthy relationships with people who help. I think that your book is a great investment! I also learn a lot from Creative Live! They have amazing classes about so many interesting subjects! Thanks for sharing! Best of luck in the new 2016!

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