An unexpected family emergency brought me to Massachusetts for five days during the second week of December and left me behind in my work, among other things. I am finally resuming Reverb12. Lots of prompts to post, and most out of order. But let’s get restarted!
How are you going to celebrate your self this festive season?
I’ve been fortunate to hit a lot of personal and professional milestones this year and celebrate each one. In Prompt 1, I summarized some of my big personal wins. On the business side, I exceeded my revenue goal, am publishing a new career guide this month, and finished a complete draft on my labor of love project, The Professional Badass Playbook, a guide on how to establish new career habits and meet your business goals for 2013 (coming out soon!).
I’ve recognized my milestones by recording them in my OhLife and Grateful160 journals, having wine with a friend, and in some cases, even going to the spa and getting a massage. This has been huge because celebrating for me has always been tough. First, I have high expectations for myself so I always think I should be doing more and question what is worth a celebration. Second, things that feel like a true reward, like giant cupcakes and mac and cheese, have negative consequences, or in the case of massages, cost some serious dollars. I wish I could be one of those people who feel rewarded by long walks in the park, but alas I am not one. Yet.
I do realize that I get enjoyment when I share my wins with people who make me smile. So during December, I plan to celebrate myself by spending time with people who do that, including my niece and nephew as much as possible.
It’s time for Reverb12! While I don’t get to blog as much anymore as I manage my business growth, I must make an exception for Reverb.
Reverb happens every December when bloggers reflect on the year that has passed and start to manifest their dreams for the new year. If you’ve been around since the start of my journey into self-employment and small business ownership, you may have read my entries for Reverb10. My job is to help people reach their goals and maximize their personal and professional development. Not all coaches or “experts” agree, but I believe I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my own challenges and triumphs from my experiments with pursuing my own dreams.
I missed Reverb11 because I was in the midst of moving myself 900 miles from New York City to Savannah, GA, last December. Inspiration to move first came to me through the understandings about myself and my goals that I gained through Reverb10.
I can literally confirm that participating in Reverb changed my entire life.
Take a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself the question: how do you feel…
… in your body? in your mind? in your day job? in your creative life? in your heart?
One of my favorite songs in the world is As Is by Ani DiFranco and today I found myself singing one the lyrics at the top of my lungs: “…cause when I look down, I just miss all the good stuff. When I look up, I just trip over things.”
I feel that way and that is why I am starting December present in my life.
2012 has been a year of personal growth and change that started with relocating to Savannah on January 2nd after 15 years as a neurotic, overstretched and dissatisfied New Yorker. Today, December 2nd, I took a road trip to Tybee Island in the first car I have ever owned with my boyfriend who I met this summer, and a friend I met in an entrepreneurship incubator who happened to find herself in this corner of the country. I stood at the edge of the water in my sundress on a 76 degree day in December and breathed in deep and thought of the person I was three years ago. I wondered what her reaction would be to me right now.
Honestly? Probably “Who the f*ck are you?”
I have decided I am okay with that.
Being present also gives you a chance to recognize what’s NOT working in your life. That would be my health. Since August, I have not felt in control of my body- it has been throwing me unexpected and unwelcome surprises. Some of what I feel is a physical cost of having reached what I wanted in my professional life so quickly, some of it is my denial of changes that come with age, and some of it is “just because.” I don’t have any immediate solutions, but I know that this is something I need to focus on in 2013.
I am enjoying my present because I set big audacious goals for myself in 2010 and I met almost all of them. Enjoying my present so much has made it difficult to figure out what other big and audacious goals I want to pursue in 2013 beyond more of the same. “The same” is a temporary place and I can’t wait for the Reverb12 to steer me in the right direction.
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?
In this week’s newsletter, I used the Secret Sessions with Tracy column to discuss success, and how you can feel safe and confident with what you already have. About a month ago, I saw my female Generation Y Facebook friends rapidly posting Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in The Atlanticon how she discovered through her personal journey working for Secretary Clinton and balancing her desires to be a better mom to her teenage son that women couldn’t have it all. The online dialogue about this hasn’t stopped and I decided to throw my own two cents in and would love your comments.
I had never heard of Professor Slaughter before I read her piece and it sounded like she has an amazing and intense career with crazy impressive credentials, all earned while growing a family. I admire her for that and my intent is not to bring down another woman, but she published her piece in the public domain opening it up for discussion. And when I read her article, I hate to say that I cringed over and over again. I wondered if The Atlantic was afraid of editing such a distinguished academic, but it seemed rambling at times and more importantly, I just didn’t get her point.
I know women are responding to this article because they really want to have it all. My take is that is just not possible. We have limited resources, including time, energy, emotions, and money and there are just too much in today’s world to experience it “all” at high levels. Really, for an effective life, the focus must be on enough, and you can have enough of what you want with clarity and strategy.
Here are three coaching tips for folks who are feeling unfulfilled with the current status of their lives.
Do you know what “all” is?
When I read the piece, I had no idea what “all” was for Slaughter (I’m not going to recap the article so if you haven’t read it, please visit the link above for context). Was “all” really working 18-hour days for someone else doing bureaucratic work? Because the work that she described she was doing at the state department didn’t sound fulfilling and she hinted it was a pain the ass. So was it the title, power, and access? If it was the second that she truly wanted, there are lots of different ways to achieve that with different time constructs and relationships.
Second, did Slaughter want to spend more time with her son or did she just feel guilty about the decisions she had made? It was unclear to me. I wouldn’t judge any parent for making decisions about her life balance- after all, earning a good living and taking care of your life is important to being a good caretaker. But you have to know and then act accordingly.
The “all” you almost everyone is aiming for is experienced through emotional satisfaction and flow, not a collection of achievements and experiences. We have a hard time with this because job titles are so tangible and feelings are amorphous, but it’s the path to contentment.
No one gets unlimited time so get comfortable making choices and determining priorities.
Maybe it was just clear to me, but Slaughter seemed to want to do 48 hours of activity in every day, which limited her credibility on the topic for me. Time management is not a mother or gender issue. You must make choices about your time and energy. No one gets to avoid prioritizing.
When I chose to start a company, I knew that for a specific period of time I would work monster hours, be stressed about money, and potentially strain my relationships, as well as put a temporary halt on my quest to start a family. This was a choice I made because the urge to start my company was so strong. Logically, you cannot starts something without initial sacrifices and I talked about this when I was a guest on the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast. I made a commitment to limit the period of my sacrifice as I gained more resources and understanding of strategy that worked for me. Again, make timebound choices that make you feel empowered.
Finally, You can do more things if you accept you can’t be perfect at everything. Sometimes your work won’t be as great as you want it to be, but you’ll probably be the only one who notices. And yes, daycare is essential, but your guilt is not. So ask yourself what can I delegate? What can I ask for help with? What can you say no to? This piece from Fast Company on the myth of “work life balance” has more specific tips I highly recommend.
Your story is not only about you.
The part that left me with the most discomfort after reading Slaughter’s piece is how she treated the role of her husband and son in her journey. Her marriage may be fantastic, but her choices in writing on how she recognized their role in her journey was troubling to me. You can’t tell your story without the inclusion of critical characters.
What we do has an impact on our friends, family, and others. Life is about enjoyment and sharing experiences and you can’t hole yourself on a solo path without including people. All or enough is no fun on your own. Your relationships should not be an end destiny or about is not about ownership and collection. How can you plan to be present others while pursuing your goals and not have them as part of your collateral damage.
So what do you think? And if you want to read more about it, Harvard Business Review had a great series on Slaughter’s piece. Here are three posts from that series I highly recommend reading.
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.
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.
I am so pleased to feature a guest post from our team member Tanisha Christie on what it really takes to work virtually. So many clients and people I meet want to pursue virtual and independent work, but don’t always understand that to be successful in these positions, you ironically have to be fantastic at teaming. Even the traditional 9-5 worker can learn a lot from her post.
While Tanisha’s post is on some of her learnings from working directly on Teach Newark, she is also a critical member of The Opportunities Project’s team and you’ll be hearing more from her in the coming months as we launch more services and products for organizations.
Now this post isn’t so much about time management. No. I’ve taken many a skype meeting while doing laundry and having eggs boiling for the breakfast I’ve yet to eat because I got an email from a principal at 6:45 am because she chose to go to the office early, and I chose to respond because I needed her answer on a few questions so that I can get to my tasks for the day that were predicated on that answer. No. Not about time management but from working with the Teach Newark team, I wanted to share a few things that I’ve considered while working independently, yet collectively, and almost all while virtually.
1) Know how you work, e.g. understand your working style. Are you detailed oriented? Do you need to understand every part of the process to do your share effectively? Are you a ‘lone wolf’? I’m a whirling dervish, but I like tasks that have a beginning, middle and end. I’m also deft at the soft skills, strategy, brainstorming and assessment. Ask me to set up an eventbrite url…I’m not so good. Knowing how you work best and communicating that to your team leader will not only help the relationship prosper but gives you more control over your work product.
2) While there is no “I” in Team, you have to remember that you are on one. We often worked in silos, handling various areas of the project. Deadlines became important but sometimes pieces of a particular project may or may not be connected to the work I was doing. So I made sure to keep deadlines. Or if there was difficulty, I asked questions. It may not be necessary to know what people are doing, but chances are your work affects someone else’s.
3) More often than not, it’s better to pick up the phone or Gchat or Skype. One of the benefits of working virtually is that you get to avoid meetings, which can be a time suck, however once you’re getting into a high number count on an email exchange over one issue, context does gets lost. At times I would stop the madness and call. Schedule a time to talk or just call the person. Partial comments, fishing through long emails can be tedious and take more effort than necessary.
4) And speaking of emails put proper subject headings on all correspondence. This may seem trivial but this is an easy way to manage your emails, and others on the team will appreciate it. This aiding my time management needs and gave me a way to organize my work.
5) Participate in the corporate “culture.” This might sound crazy but even if you are working alone in your pajamas, it is a good idea to pass along interesting articles to the team based on your work, connect to others on Linkedin, or follow the team on Twitter or Facebook (if you use your profile for professional purposes.) I’ve written a recommendation for one of my colleagues on this project; linked, ‘friended’ and followed where appropriate. If you are local to the project, go to events or at least ask how things went. It’s important to show that you have some interest in the success of the project/organization. It engenders good will and initiativecould lead to more work for you.
One of my favorite books these days is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins where rocking teenage heroine Katniss Everdeen is forced to fight to the death with 23 other kids in an annual event organized by a post-apocalyptic government. After the event, privileged citizens who saw the event on television talk about where they were and who they were with during the games and not about the death and destruction they saw. That scene reminds me of how some of us are reacting to the upcoming anniversary of September 11, 2001 as I see more articles and blog posts that ask “Where were you when you found out that the planes crashed the World Trade Center?” It’s an understandable way to deal with complex emotions about something so horrific that we could never have imagined it before it happened. But it also allows us to escape truly reflecting on a terrible tragedy where thousands of people lost their lives that day and even more were changed irrevocably.
I have definitely been one of those people who have been trying to avoid the upcoming anniversary but have realized this week that I can’t escape it and shouldn’t. On 9/11/01, I was stuck underground at the World Trade Center on the 3 train for almost 30 minutes and had no idea that the planes were crashing into the buildings above me. Later that day, I watched part of WTC 7 collapse from a spot in front of St. Vincent’s Hospital with hundreds of people who were waiting for survivors that never came and made a decision while I was standing there that has haunted me for the past decade.
In August 2001, I had begun work on my plan to leave New York. I had moved to NYC after college because of an opportunity and a boy, but my dream since I was a little girl obsessed with politics was to live in Washington, DC. While I loved the friends I’d made and the work I’d been a part of in New York, it has always felt like owning a fantastic pair of shoes that never fit quite right, become irritable and even painful after walking in them for long periods of time, but you never throw away because they look so great on the shoe rack. After some networking and lots of job applications, I’d been invited to a high level interview for a federal agency in DC on September 13, 2001. Standing with all those people on that corner, I just felt that I could not leave NYC and cancelled my interview the next day. For various reasons, I never pursued employment in DC again even though the desire to live somewhere outside NYC constantly returns. While I try not to have regrets in my life, it’s sometimes hard not to think about all the missed opportunities of a decade based on that emotional decision.
This summer, I traveled to Newark, NJ a few times a week to work on our Teach Newark project through the PATH station next to the World Trade Center site and watched tourists take pictures there as if they were at a theme park, contributing to an increasing level of sadness and anger about that day. I’ve been thinking about all the people who woke up that morning thinking they had a lifetime in front of them and didn’t, and all the people who did make life-changing decisions inspired by the day, whether they are grateful or now regret their impulsive moves. As we approach the anniversary in a few days, I encourage you to make it a day of personal reflection and think about your own life and whether you’re honoring time the way it deserves- personally and professionally- and what you can do to change that in the next year and decade if you’re not. Truly never forget.
I moved to NYC almost 15 years ago because of love. He ended up falling short, but one of the best things that ever happened to me came from that relationship. On one Valentines Day, he gave me something I had always wanted since I was little girl, a pet. In February 1998, I met 2-year-old Sabrina at the Bideawee Shelter in Manhattan when she jumped in my lap, pranced around, and nuzzled her black nose against my head. She had been abandoned with a dog in a cleared out penthouse apartment in Battery Park and had been found starved. For the rest of her life, Sabrina would eat her food like it was the last meal of her life, sticking her entire head in the bowl of food and then shaking the food off her face everywhere she went when she was done.
Yesterday, Sabrina sadly and unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. One moment, I was arguing with someone over email and the second, I was running the 6 blocks to the emergency vet here in Cobble Hill. For the last 13 years, she was with me through every NYC adventure, man, friend, job, triumph, and heartache. Sabrina was ABSOLUTELY everything you would want a pet to be- loyal, affectionate, friendly. You name what you want in a pet, and she was it. Lots of stories come to mind.
– When she watched over me obsessively when I was sick for a week and I pretended it wasn’t just because she was really worried about her food source.
– When she jumped into an open wall during construction in my apartment and got stuck. My ex made a call and 5 NYC firemen crowded in my closet-size bathroom (he had clout, not Klout) and talked with her through the wall.
– When she hissed at a boyfriend that everyone told me I should like more than I did- one of two times she ever hissed at anyone.
There are lots of great things about NYC, but a flip side of all its fun is that it’s hard to remember you’re a grown-up woman and when hard things happen, it hits you like a rock. It’s easy to do the minimum here, like eating at one of 5,000 nice restaurants, drinking with friends and surrounding yourself with little girl problems like a relationship that isn’t going anywhere with a man you don’t even care for that much. Now that I own my business, I primarily deal with woman problems, but it’s still hard not to keep yourself in the comfort zone of girlhood. When I adopted Sabrina at 22, the shelter representative asked, “Cats live for about 15 years. Taking care of this cat and managing her health requires you to be an adult. Are you sure you’re ready to make the commitment?” I thought about myself at 36, and signed the papers. Now that I’m really 36, I realize I had no idea what the representative truly meant, but it was still one of the best decisions I ever made.
I know it will be hard adjusting to not having her greet me at the door like the dog friend I never met taught her to do. Give your pet an extra hug today. S/he will love you for it and so will I.
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?