Happy Monday! We hope you had a great weekend and are refreshed and ready for a great week ahead. Our intention with these Monday posts is not only to share with you what’s going on in our world…but to expose you to a new perspective and some inspiration for you to carry for your week.
This week’s Musical Musing is inspired by Lesson 11 of our Avoid a Cruel Summer eCourse and will hopefully inspire you to try something new this week….
Lesson 11: Learn. Interesting. Stuff. (A Sneak Peek)
Okay, so do you really make an effort to learn new things? Do you have a favorite source that actually teaches you something new on a regular basis? This is especially important if you are unemployed, underemployed, or planning out your attack for making your dream career come true. Or… if you are in the first or second year of owning your own business… (you get the idea).
Part of what keeps us motivated to Do More Great Work (a fantastic book, by the way) is the stimulation of learning new things. How do you respond to these new ideas? Do you agree or disagree? Can exploring these new and interesting things enrich your social network or your world in general somehow? This truly has the potential to be your secret sauce. (Tracy and I speak from experience on this one!)
We’re not just talking about your career and learning things that will help you with your economic game. We’re talking about the happiness factor, too.
And the eCourse Lesson doesn’t stop there.
When was the last time you challenged yourself to learn something new?
Let us know your favorite sources to learn something new in the comments!
Quick note: There is EXACTLY one week left to apply for our Scholarship Contest. We have FIVE scholarships to give away, and we can’t wait to see who we’re going to get to work with this year, so don’t pass up this opportunity to explore your greatest self!
Not only was I excited to be contacted by a major brand, but yesterday, August 23, 2012, was my second anniversary of being a fully self-employed person without a W-2 to fall-back on. Woo hoo! I still freak out daily, but not for as long because I simply don’t have time! I have contractors and clients and creative work to worry about, as well as enjoy the rewards of a wonderful life in Savannah that being a business owner has allowed me to have.
As part of #PowerTomorrow, I have been asked to share my favorite infographics that American Express OPEN created to celebrate the success of women entrepreneurs. Here are three I chose that resonated with me. It’s tough to take a risk to do something you love because there is a high potential for failure. But failing to take a risk to use your power to help others is it’s own failure, right?
I’ve been busy reflecting on the fact that my next birthday is just a few days away, and only just realized that yesterday was the two year anniversary of my blog and website! I spent much of yesterday working at our co-working space at ThincSavannah, strategic planning with our executive assistant Sera Bishop and conducting a pitch for new business in California. In between meetings, a colleague and friend from the Department of Education called to tell me that she still missed me (thanks, girl) and I realized that yes, it’s been two years. Two. Freaking. Years. As much as I talk about the deliberate decision-making and planning that went into launching a successful business, it always truly felt like a leap of faith. Where I am right now is never where I imagined it would be. Luckily, it’s been much better .
Last year, I wrote about 7 lessons in entrepreneurship that I learned from my first year. My biggest takeaway on the second year… where has it gone? Much of the past year has been a whirlwind of serving clients, hiring up, and travel. These days, I am more interested in getting my business to be super galactic efficient so I can stay in the present and enjoy the life changes I made in 2012.
Let me take a break from hacking my own life and share 7 tools I’ve used in the last year that have helped me to live the life I’m inventing for myself.
1. Stuck by Anneli Rufus. I first read this book in 2009 after my maternal grandmother passed away, and it changed my life. Full stop. I realized all the simple ways I abdicated responsibility for my path and have picked it up many times to remind myself. The book is a hell of a lot of tough love and you can see that in the Amazon reviewers who hate on it. Someday, I will write the book review it deserves, but in the meantime, if you feel like you’re always making excuses for outcomes in your life, I can’t recommend this book enough.
2. Accompl.sh. This goal management and declaration site was created by one of my favorite scrappy female entrepreneurs, Jenn Vargas. I use the site to manage my yearly SMART goals and make them public to add a further push for accountability. So far, I have completed two (including paying off my undergraduate loans!) and made significant progress on a number of others. Some that I had scheduled for April or May just have less importance for me and I need to go in and edit and adjust so I do what’s right by me and not just because it’s on a “list.” That is the ultimate life hack.
3. Audacity. A few times a year, I write out the “vision” for my life (my entire life, not just my business), record it on a happy day using Audacity, and import it into my iTunes library to listen and affirm to myself where I am going at least once a week. Not to go all The Secret and Self Help Guru on you, but this big picture reminder keeps me grounded. Audacity is super simple to use.
4. MorningCoach. One thing that can be hard when you start something new is maintaining routines and practice. Morning Coach is a daily 15 minute podcast produced by JB Glossinger that provides that for me. I’ve been subscribing for 18 months and his 15 minutes of daily talk on different aspects of life design keeps me motivated and like I’m not alone in this idea that if I am strategic, I can actually achieve what I want. Morning Coach is about $20 a month, but it’s worth the cost to keep me on the inspiration track in a left-brained way that I appreciate.
5. grateful160. This is a new tool for me but it’s making a huge impact. grateful160 sends you a daily email that asks you list one thing you’re grateful for, something you could summarize in 160 characters or less. I have talked about the importance of journaling and using the tool OhLife.com so I was reluctant to add a smilar tool, but I felt the focus on gratitude was too critical for me. I know I struggle with expressing simple gratitude in the face of difficulty and can turn negative too quickly. For example, I have a number of clients who like to email in the middle of the night and weekend and waking up to a full box often makes me overwhelmed and behind before the day starts, no matter what morning routines I have to make me feel calmer. I am hoping this singular focus on gratitude helps me hack my emotions so I can focus on what matters. For example, it’s better to have lots of client emails than none, right? Today, my gratitude will be that I made the decision to shut off my phone and email and write because I enjoy it. I need to remember the rest (returning to a full inbox) doesn’t impact the joy I get when I write.
I am not including OhLife as a tool here since I’ve already talked about it obsessively, but I can’t express how awesome that has been to my personal and professional development. I recently had my entry for May 20, 2011 come back and I had no idea what a momentous day that was for me. I don’t know how I would have otherwise. On that one day, I was featured on Mashable.com for the first time (which I didn’t know was going to bring me tons of clients for over a year), I found out I had been awarded the Teach Newark contract, and I went to see Midnight in Paris with a childhood friend where after listening to Owen Wilson whine for two hours about how he wished he could up and move out of the big city of LA, the first possibility of spending more time in Savannah first popped in my head. In retrospect, those all seem like disparate events, but OhLife showed me it was all on one life altering day and gives me daily perspective now that I know.
6. SaneBox. SaneBox has helped me manage the influx of email like no tool has, making me a nicer person (I think). Think of it as intelligent Gmail filters that don’t require as much work. Any email from someone who is not already in my contacts or sent items goes to a folder called @SaneLater, allowing me to focus on the people I already know. I can also move an email to @SaneBlackHole which then assures that senders who abuse my mailbox don’t get access to my eyeballs any longer. They also have some handy tools for sending you reminders when someone needs to get back to you. This saves me 2-3 hours a week on email, very good for $5 a month!
7. Pinterest. I was one of the first people on Pinterest, but I don’t have that many Pins because I am more of an auditory learner- that’s why Morning Coach and Audacity are such great tools for me. However, I’ve begun using Pinterest to be more playful about some goals I really want to achieve, but have conflicting emotions about. For example, I have a lot of anxiety about driving and owning my first car in my late 30s, after 15 years in NYC. I’ve been managing some of my anxiety by creating a fun Vroom, Vroom board of car pictures that appeal to me, as well as local places I want to go in with the car. My coach, the awesome Thekla Richter, put the idea in my head and it’s really helped. Definitely try it if there is something you’ve always wanted to do but is hard to think of as enjoyable.
Hope you find these tips helpful! Before you share your favorite lifehacking tools in the comments (which I really hope you do), I have two other announcements. One, I’ll be doing some work on the website design and it will be a slow project so things will be looking weird for a bit. Second, I am doing a special offer for my birthday to my newsletter subscribers so if you’re not on the list, get on ASAP.
1.I’ve been making money on my own terms and making an impact with clients. This is the number one reason I went out on my own- because I believed that I could make a difference in the world and be self-sufficient doing it. I just finished my 2011 financials and revenue-wise, I brought more money in the door in 2011 than any previous year in my life and 2012 looks to be on par. Of course, the expenses of a start-up cuts my personal take significantly, but it’s still a milestone and I’m proud of it. I’ve been busy driving the economy, thorough the The Opportunities Project’s recruiting work, and supporting others in making good career decisions, and am pretty damn happy about it!
2. Oh yeah… I wrote and published a book. In December 2011, I published my first eBook, Create Your Own Opportunities, featuring my most critical insights on how to rock your career and the professional sphere. It’s a short, 25-page eBook available for the awesome price of $3.99 and you can pick it up for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble nook, or in PDF format via our store. It will benefit anyone who is thinking about changing his/her perspective on work and make some changes in 2012.
I was grateful to work with Edward Antrobus of SEAM Publishing on this book and I can’t recommend him enough if you are thinking of publishing an eBook of your own. Check him out.
3. I’ve (we’ve) grown. A year ago, The Opportunities Project was me, a consultant who worked a few hours a week to help me with my marketing, and an intern. Today, we are a seven person team (!), working on coaching and recruitment consulting projects across the country… and I’m looking for more people (check the Team page for updates very soon). I’ve made the leap from self-employed freelancer to small business owner… and now have my sights on becoming a true entrepreneur focused on high-growth and scalability and was accepted as a Startup America Rampup firm last month to help me do that. So far, my effort to develop a technology solution around this has been an adventure in standing still, but I’m working on it.
4. I’ve been making some personal changes. A major reason I decided to venture into self-employment is to create space for the things I seemed unable to do when I was beholden to an employer- focus on relationships, family, and personal health. It’s been a long-term wish to explore and expand and after 15 years in NYC, I made that leap in January, renting a beautiful Victorian apartment in Savannah, GA. I’m spending about 60% of my time here so far, with the rest in NYC and with clients nationally (2012 has seen me in MI, OH, IN and PA). Why Savannah? There are lots of reasons, but number one is my niece and nephew live here and I can’t describe the joy they bring to my life. This morning, I woke up to one sitting on my head and the other dancing on my feet and I haven’t laughed that exuberantly in forever.
While it’s a work in progress, I’ve been working toward slowing down, watching what I eat, exercising, and integrating my mind with my body… and becoming more playful, with my time and others. Let’s see how it goes.
Where I’m Going
While my journey has been intentional, it’s time to move it forward and focus on some areas I’ve been neglecting.
1. Creating. While a definite goal was to support myself and deliver services at a specific scale, I also started my journey so I could develop and publish my own ideas and share with others in the social space. I’ve been consuming regularly, but not producing. While it took me some time to feel comfortable with blogging, it’s something that I found I enjoy and miss. So I’ve spent the last week clearing out my notes of all the things I’ve wanted to talk about since I took a break and getting it into an editorial calendar. While I’m not ready to commit to a regular publishing schedule quite yet, look to see new content here more regularly, as well as my next book.
Just a reminder if you are someone who cares about education, career trends, and/or the economy and can tolerate the occasional pop culture post (my review on The Hunger Games is coming…), you can also follow me on my Education Rebel at Work Tumblr where I have kept up with posting.
2. Transitioning my services. After a year of coaching individual clients, I know who I do my best work with now. I can’t help everyone create opportunities in their lives and for me to deliver good services, I need to turn down clients who I know I can’t really serve and even walk away slightly from my original mission of focusing on jobseekers and specifically those just starting out in life. Over the next two months, you’ll see more on the relaunch of my coaching services targeted toward the audience it turns out I work with the best: high-achieving women who want to command their economic game. I’ll also do more group coaching, which I’ve found I’m really, really good at through a contract I had with a private organization.
This transition will also involve a website redesign. We transitioned website support in January, experienced some big-time fails from that. I’m fully aware that we have some functional issues with speed and navigation and we’re in the process of getting the site back on track.
3. New programs and initiatives. We’re starting this month with The Graduation Project, a free, three-part video conference series hosted by me and Lauren Wannermeyer, our social media intern for the last year. We’ll be discussing things new grads should be thinking about as they join the real world- job search skills, workplace etiquette, and making good decisions. We’ll be also launching our second annual scholarship contest (applications will be due May 15), and launching our new group coaching program with our partner, Tanisha Christie soon. And with summer right around the corner, we’ll be doing a new and improved version of our free Avoid a Cruel Summer eCourse again.
I look forward to chatting more.. and drop a comment and let me know how you’ve been!
I’m back from DC and still catching up on emails, clients, etc. I recapped my lessons on DC Education Startup Weekend on Tumblr. I spent Monday in DC taking meetings, but the most important part of my day was the three hours I spent walking around the memorials. A kind friend let me store my luggage- and my computer- with him so I could walk around without a heavy bag. I could not remember the last time I had the luxury of three hours doing something physical and that allowed me to be completely present and thoughtful. I left DC feeling energized and inspired, but not chaotic.
I’ve seen all the monuments previously, with the exception of the MLK memorial. I could see them over and over again. Here are a few pics of quotes that touched me, especially right now.
The awe-inspiring MLK memorial.
What do you have the audacity to believe?
A great shout-out to teachers, including those of us who work with adults.
From the FDR memorial which is still my favorite (Lincoln is a close 2nd). Extremely timely as Occupy Wall Street enters its second month.
The tree was in the way of getting a real good shot of this quote. It’s something we need to remember every day as we go after what we want: “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”
From the Korean War Memorial. Absolutely true on a personal scale, too. You can’t build your own freedom without risk. Don’t try to pretend you can’t.
This quote from Jefferson reminded me of what we were trying to do at Startup Weekend, advancing education with new ideas.
– entrepreneurs, and those aspiring to be entrepreneurs, can do 60-minute pitches for new start-ups at a Friday evening event at the beginning of the 54 hour weekend
– pitches are selected based on votes and teams then form
– teams build products the rest of the weekend with access to awesome mentors
– the teams present to a judging panel and finalists and a winner are named
The reason why I registered in the first place? It’s a fantastic opportunity to hone an entire skillset and network with education greats. However, as the event got closer, I became more entrenched with an idea I’ve had for years and am pitching it tonight: OneTeacher.me, a social network focused on helping teachers “get good” at what schools want, and then helping them tell the world about it. The first part happens when you earn badges by developing and demonstrating the teacher skills research shows our students need (think Foursquare). The second part is about using the badges to create a profile that’s searchable by hiring managers and peers, and join communities (think LinkedIn). Badges might be earned if you’re certified in a high-need subject area, are certified in multiple states, or participated in certain professional development programs. They may also be earned if you attach a lesson plan to your profile, or can demonstrate that you meet soft skills that research shows matter, like leadership, resilience and time management, through assessments or evidence. Content may be provided to help teachers get higher-order badges.
Readers of my blog know that my background is in teacher recruitment, hiring and quality– I was TFA, I helped implement the NYC Teaching Fellows from the first summer, served as the Director of Teacher Recruitment for the world’s largest school district of 1,600 schools, and researched and wrote about teacher hiring from an economic perspective in my academic career. I still blog about all this on Tumblr. But when I made the decision to go out on my own as a coach and consultant, I tried to run away as far as I could from teachers- only because I felt that was what I needed to make a clean break and put MY stake in the ground. But over the last 13 months, teachers keep calling me back- the webinar I did with SchoolSpring in May that sold out in 20 minutes, and then of course, the Teach Newark project we’ve managed since June.
Like many inspirations, it comes to one moment and mine happened this summer at an event when I found myself unexpectedly rushed by 200ish teachers trying to find a job. I unconsciously started giving out advice, pep talks, and pats on the back and I felt at peace in away I haven’t always felt as a coach. I felt at peace because even though I give them tough love, I truly love teachers and I’m good with them… and what could I happen if I could scale that? And that’s where Startup Weekend comes in.
Last week, while walking home in Brooklyn after meeting some friends, the heel of my boot got stuck in a hole in the sidewalk, breaking my shoe and sending me flying into the air. I eventually landed on both my knees on cobblestone and then fell on my right side in pain. I couldn’t get up for 20 minutes and somehow picked the one street in New York City to fall on that no one else uses. I could have at least used someone to take a picture in case I could have sued!
Until I got up, shook it off, and limped home shaken, I sat on the street wondering what would happen if I couldn’t get up on my own. I should have worried about physical pain, but I was more worried in that instance about what would happen if I had really injured myself with a crappy health insurance situation as a single woman who owns a solopreneur business. The Opportunities Project has made it through its first year, but just barely, and if I had broken something, what would I do to pay for that care… and how would it impact my ability to serve clients… and what would happen to everything I’d taken a risk to try to build for myself and others over 80+ hour weeks since I first had my idea for my business in late 2009. Just because of a damn dark hole in the sidewalk.
It turned out that I had banged myself up pretty bad, but self-treatable- I spent almost 4 days flat on my back with a heating pad on my bruised side and lots of Alieve. So yeah, I’ve been dealing with increased anxiety the last week or so exacerbated by staring at the ceiling (I also made some poor book choices. Sorry, Tina Fey). While I’m not 100% ready to formally announce things yet, I am on the verge of some business and personal changes. Decisions have been made, plans sketched out, but been difficult to physically put into action just now, even though I’m psychologically ready. But no matter how much clarity I have, I’m also worried about the uncertainty my choices will bring and the stability of the market… and how I went from being someone with an MPA in economics and finance to someone who is passionate about and really good at career coaching, social media, teaching and recruiting… things that just go with recessions like peanut butter and jelly? Breathe. But then there were also these things I heard or read the last week:
– “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”- Herman Cain
– “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”- Steve Jobs
– “I don’t want anyone listening today to think that once you’re done with high school, you’re done learning, or that college isn’t for you… You have to start expecting big things for yourself, right now… Take some risks once in a while..” -President Obama
– Someone who seems to have taken both President Obama’s advice (get your college degree, become a teacher) and counsel from Steve Jobs (follow your heart and intuition) from We Are the 99%.
The number of BFAs under 30 on the We Are the 99% blog with $85K+ in student loan debt has made my heart feel like it’s going to jump out of my chest. All around, the housing and medical debt are making my shoulders hunch permanently.
The problem is everything Cain, Jobs, Obama and Occupy Wall Street say are true, at last in part. Over the last year, I’ve met some amazing job seekers… and a lot who like to play the victim and/or don’t understand that creating success requires a disciplined plan and patience, among other things. But the majority of unemployed young professionals I’ve met are good people who did everything they were told to do by their parents, civic leaders and institutions to launch a career… study hard, go to a good school, pick something you like to do and are good at, get internships… and are stuck in place with few opportunities. Even for those of us who are taking risks, it is almost impossible without family wealth or the institutions previous generations could count on, like your local bank, to be there in your corner.
The rules have changed and the institutions we’re forced to work with- education, banks, and health care- won’t admit it and don’t have to change, and our political leaders are playing naive. I read some posts in my Facebook feed that the Occupy Wall Street protestors should watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford speech and understand personal responsibility instead of blaming companies, but Jobs believed our institutions should be focused on serving customers and users more than anything else. Harvard Business Review agrees. So everyone is right and everyone is wrong. And we all continue to suffer and wonder when and if anything will change other than bring more and different anxiety.
I spent yesterday upright, told my fear to go f’off for the day, and then followed up with as many clients as possible who are dealing with their own transitions, sent the final version of The Opportunities Project’s Quarter 4 plan to my team, and prepared for a group coaching session I led last night. To cure my anxiety, I can take responsibility for my future as much as I can and use my passions and talents to to serve others, and hope that no more hidden sidewalk holes creep up until the health care system can better serve someone like me. To make change, I can talk about the issues and challenge people to get real about what problems we’re actually facing. But is that enough?
We’re super excited to have Lauren Wannermeyer helping The Opportunities Project with social media! Until this point, if you were interacting with The Opportunities Project on Facebook or Twitter, you knew you were talking with Tracy 24/7. Now Lauren will also be manning the accounts and we’re pretty sure rather than get confused, you’ll value having the fresh perspective.
Now here’s some Q&A with Lauren!
Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve received as a college student?
A: The best career advice I’ve received as a college student was to make my experience. College students are constantly foiled in the search for internships with that old fall back recruiters use. They tell you that you don’t have enough experience. Well obviously! I’m a junior in college and I can’t get any opportunities because everything today requires experience. And how are you supposed to get experience when no one will take a chance on someone without any? So my career advisor told me to make my own. Reach out to local businesses and volunteer to help them. That’s how I ended up doing Faegan’s and I had no idea that it would end up being so big!
Q: Tell me about how you used Twitter or LinkedIn to meet someone cool.
A: I follow a lot of people on Twitter and I’m not shy about responding to people, even if I don’t know them! People on Twitter like to be @mentioned, the love to answer questions and read comments. LinkedIn is a little different. I didn’t know how to use it to begin with. I kept getting stopped by a message telling me to buy the “pro” version. Then I realized that if there was only 3 degrees of separation or if I had a shared group I could talk to anyone. I used that knowledge to reach out to SU alums who worked for the Food Network. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten any job opportunities there yet but it’s still good to have those connections.
Q: You’re on Foursquare a lot- what’s your favorite things about that tool?
A: Mayorships! I guess that’s the incentive to using Foursquare. It’s just a kind of nerdy brag rights kind of thing. For example I was the mayor of the Schine Student Center at Syracuse for a while. It took me forever to get it! It’s also fun snatching mayorships from friends.
Q: Twitter has taught me that we have a lot of similar pop culture interests- Glee and The Hunger Games, for example. What’s your favorite summer movie ever and what are you looking forward to this summer (TV or movies)?
A: It’s hard to pick just one favorite summer movie! But this summer I’m excited for the new Harry Potter movie and I’m always huge into So You Think You Can Dance. I also love Pretty Little Liars. It’s not strictly a summer series but it’s so good right now!
We were excited to welcome another team member recently, virtual intern Salena Moore. Salena is a student at Syracuse University and is helping us this summer with updating the systems we use to manage our database for clients and partners where we store contact information and communications.This also includes helping to improve the performance of our email marketing systems, which then helps our sales cycle. We grew so fast in 2011, we’ve had a hard time keeping it together and are grateful for another insightful perspective. Here is Salena’s Q&A.
Q: What interests you about working in education?
A: I would have to attribute my initial interest in education to my mother’s involvement within the field. She has been an educator in the Milwaukee education system for over 25 years. In fact, she opened up a school when my brother and I were young because she felt that we were not receiving a proper education. Because of this, I grew up understanding the importance of good schools and how there was a lack of a quality education where I lived and in the entire nation. Education is important and given the fact that the job market is even more competitive, children need to be more prepared for that environment. Making sure everyone has the proper education for succeeding is what most interests me.
Q: What are the worst and best things about college?
A: That is a good question! I think that best thing about college is that I am able to explore a number of interests through different majors/minors and I am also able to meet people from different places around the world. It is a good place to “find yourself.” One of the worst things in college is going there and getting lost in the hype of it all. Many kids go to college and forget what they came for. College is what you make it; you just have to make sure you use it to your advantage.
Q: What do you think is going to be the be the most important education issue in the next decade?
A: I believe the most important issue in education in the next decade will be the financial challenges placed on schools. As we all have seen, America has experienced big budget cuts and there might even be more threats to cutting funds in the future.
Q: What is the most important thing you hope to learn from interning with The Opportunities Project?
A: I hope to improve my data analysis skills and to improve my understanding of exactly what career path I should pursue! Being that I am still in college, I believe that working with The Opportunities Project will allow me to explore more of my interests and it will open up a world of opportunities for me in the future.
Like other entrepreneurs, I launched my business in stages so I have multiple anniversary dates. It’s hard to believe, but I posted my first blog post a year ago. This anniversary is special because it’s also a few days before my birthday which is a natural point for reflection. It inspired me to think about the little things I wish someone would have told me a year ago about entrepreneurship, that having a great idea, business plan, and nine months of savings is not all you need. Here are seven pieces of advice for budding entrepreneurs based on my experience.
1. Content is really king and you should bank it like cash. I belong to a mastermind group with other NYC coaches and when we talk about things that are working for us, everyone can cite examples where our blog has directly landed us a client. I’ve received business from the stodgiest of corporate clients through some very specific blog posts. Like you wouldn’t quit your job without a certain amount of money in the bank, I’d recommend having at least 20 blog posts ready to go before you set up shop. Writing is a process and as you blog more, you’ll get better, you’ll find your voice and discover what structure works for you- just start where you are.
When you get clients, you’ll get busy- I haven’t put anything up in the last two weeks and I’m annoyed at myself because I know better! That content bank will be essential if you want to achieve success faster.
(Image Source: DGDW Blog)
2. If you want to change the world, it’s happening online. When I started building my business plan, I met with all sorts of people across New York City. Many of them told me that social media was a slow climb- after all, did I think because I tweeted something that everyone was suddenly going to start following me or that I was going to become the next YouTube star? People advised me to start doing in-person events to get my name out. I would have been better off spending that time online in Twitter chats and doing research on who to engage with and follow. I am not sure why, but the relationships with people I have met online have been more valuable than those I’ve met at NYC events. I think if you’re a grown-up and you decide to spend precious time online, you’re intentional and strategic and those people are worth knowing.
I also received bad advice about my website. It’s important to have it ready to go on Day One and have a call to action on the first page.
3. Your business plan needs a section on building capital. When you get going, you’re focused on earning money and marketing, but you also need to focus on building capital and worth. Some of that will come through your blog, but if someone was going to buy your business tomorrow, what else would they get besides the cash you have in the bank? I constantly mind-map this. If someone would buy my business, they’d get engaged fans and enough free and private content to publish a book, a recognized leader with national press appearances, and innovative ideas that haven’t even seen the light of day… yet. This type of capital won’t immediately pay the rent, but building it up brings a steadier cash flow over time. If you’re in this for the long-haul, you have to pay attention to this.
4. Don’t stress about pricing. It’s your business and when you first start out, you can do what you want with pricing and no matter what anyone tells you, yes, you can change it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t completely ignore the market- make sure your prices are not too different from what other people charge. But if you think a price drop would bring more clients, have a sale and then decide to make it permanent because you love your audience. If you have too many clients and want to raise your prices, explain it to your customer base and give them a date for when it’s increasing. The average person understands market changes.
Also, don’t believe what people tell you about hiding the price, etc. When I put my PayPal buttons on my services page, my sales tripled. It depends on you, what you feel comfortable with and who you attract. My tribe likes transparency.
5. You’ll need new friends. When I told my friends I was going to leave my high paying job and start my business, I couldn’t believe how ecstatic they were. Hugs, cheers and free dinners all around! That being said, as I’ve traveled deeper into entrepreneurship, the support they’ve offered me has been limiting. They mean well, but most have 9-5 jobs and work with an office of other people and can’t relate to what I am going through and the utter loneliness I feel at times. That’s not their fault, so you’ll have to make new friends who can relate to that aspect of your life. I wrote a blog post for Brett Kunsch and Reverb about how to build these types of communities. This support system has made all the difference in what I can get done.
That being said, I have done a piss-poor job of engaging my friends so they know exactly what they could do to be supportive of The Opportunities Project. This anniversary is a good time to change that so if you consider yourself a friend of mine, expect to get a list of 8-10 very easy things you could do to help me make things happen. A point will come when you’ll have to explicitly train your friends that instead of replying to your latest newsletter telling you how proud they are of you, they know that pressing the Share buttons will make you feel 100% more supported.
6. You can’t do it alone. If you want to run a business, you need to get help. That might come through consultants, virtual assistants, or interns. Be smart about who you hire and invest your money so these people are working on things that you can use after they move on to bigger and better clients. Give those people referrals and they’ll help you over and over. It occurs to me I should write a post with the names of all the vendors and team members who’ve contributed to taking this company to where it is in its first year. I hope you’ll give them your business if you need that type of service.
7. You need a real sales cycle. When you start building your website, you’ll tell yourself that you have really great products and services, and a winning personality so you’ll NEVER need to be spammy and capture people’s email addresses, etc. Get over yourself- you will. And no one is going to give you a dime unless they have about seven interactions with you and you need to plan what those interactions are. One of those interactions may be a newsletter or a personal tweet, but they still need to learn to like and trust you. One of the best resources I’ve used as an entrepreneur is Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. I read it six times before I got the sales cycle chapter. Now I have a defined process where I convert someone from a website visitor to a prospect to a customer. It’s still a work in progress and I have a lot to improve on follow-through, but it’s more than I had when I started. What will your cycle look like?
If you’re an entrepreneur, I’d love your advice in the comments. Likewise, if you’re a budding entrepreneur, what questions do you have?