Today’s blog topic is one that is especially fresh in my thoughts as I have been writing, brainstorming, visualizing and designing (phew, I’m tired!) my first creative guide these past few weeks.
It is a topic that I struggle with more than I care to admit and something I have only recently begun to confront head on. I’m also betting that, if you are a passionate creative, it is something you have struggled with on some scale in the past too.
Perfectionism. Oh it can be a dirty little word, can’t it? For the longest time I was in denial about my own perfectionism. Me? Type A? I thought. There is no freaking way. My desk is usually messy, I am eternally scatterbrained and I can sometimes be happier when surrounded by chaos, not order. How can I be a perfectionist? (As if perfectionism and OCD are somehow correlated. Flawed logic, I am aware.)
But then I took a long hard look at my relationship with my work. Truthfully, I obsess. I over-think. I try to plan and prepare for every aspect of my business and after all the hours I pour in, I still never feel that my work fully lives up to the vision I have in my head. And, as it turns out, that kind of pressure is a creativity buzz-kill, let me tell you.
For instance, with the guide I am working on, I KNOW what my vision is for this thing. I believe in it with my whole heart, and with every word that I type, I am constantly thinking about YOU. How can I make it more helpful for you. More interesting. More engaging. More beautiful.
Honestly it was a struggle to get the first draft even written because I was constantly deleting and rewriting everything. It felt uncomfortable for me to put something down on paper that didn’t feel perfect. That is when a friend of mine pointed out something important to me. She said, “You could spend every hour of the rest of your life working on this guide and you would still find something to improve. Maybe it would come close to your perfect vision, but just think of all you would have sacrificed. Granted, her example was a bit dramatic, but it really put things into perspective for me. It made me realize that there is a threshold when we create an invisible line of diminishing returns. We need to stop trying to be perfect, yes? More effort might produce incremental improvements, but what do we sacrifice for those improvements? For many of us, we sacrifice just getting our work out into the world because we are so terrified it won’t be perfect.
Yesterday I visited the new location opening of one our favorite local coffee brewers. This company is incredibly conscientious about everything: their brewing process, the beautiful decor of the shop, the impeccably delicious baked goods that they serve. They strive for quality in every way. But, as I was waiting for my coffee (read: Iced Vanilla Latte), I noticed that two of the baristas were furiously looking for the Truvia which seemed to be MIA. Customers were asking for it but, given the unfamiliar environment of the new location, it was nowhere to be found.
As I watched the whole scene go down, I thought to myself, Do I think any less of this place? Does this tiny hiccup make me see the business any differently? No way. It is the first day and there are bound to be tiny flaws. Which made me realize: We are far more forgiving of the imperfections of others than we are of ourselves, as people and as businesses. What if at the start of the day, after realizing they couldn’t find the Truvia, they had decided to delay the opening? I would have missed out on my delicious latte. There is a difference between striving for quality and striving for perfection. As my friend Colin Wright says, “Perfection is like the horizon. We can aim for it, but we will never quite get there.
So now the question is: Is your standard of perfection holding you back from making progress? This week I want you to think about one way you have been holding yourself back because of perfection. Perhaps it is that Etsy shop you have been meaning to open, or your blog you have been designing and re-designing for ages, or that client proposal you have spent hours and hours working on. Are you waiting to launch your creative business because you want the perfect website or the perfect name?
Now is the time to ditch the perfection and just aim for quality. Figure out where that line of diminishing returns is for you and, once you hit it, let go of the rest.
My first creative guide will not be perfect — just like my business, my emails, my brand, my everything isn’t perfect. But I am confident that it will be quality. And hey, if the Truvia goes missing, so what. Everyone will still get to enjoy my deliciously brewed latte, right? Right!
It took me a few years but I finally learned some truths about being an artist. What? Are you asking yourself what does this have to do with you? If you are like I once was, you may be thinking, “I am not an artist. I am a coach, or I am a personal trainer, or I am a doctor.”
In the foreword of the brilliant book, The War of Art, it says:
The enemy of creativity is Resistance, the all-encompassing term for what Freud called the Death Wish.
That destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that’s actually good.
Our lives are made up of a series of choices between leaping into the unknown in the direction of our dreams and shrinking back into the familiar, ho-hummery of our comfort zones.
So many of us resist going for our dreams while meandering our way through something else that is far less important to us instead – ugh. No wonder it can be difficult to see yourself as being an artist.
Whether it is starting your own business, writing a book, recording an album, getting over your lousy relationship with money, moving out of a place you hate into one you love…..If you want to make this the year you knock it out of the park, here is what to do when resistance rears its ugly head (and it will): Take. Action. Anyway.
This means that you will:
- Sit down and begin writing.
- Take steps to start your own business.
- Sit on your piano bench and start playing.
- Hire a coach.
- Buy the plane ticket.
Show up for yourself every day. Before you know it, your life will be a work of art.
Want some help? Schedule a business tete-a-tete today.
You have that great idea that you are certain will bring in money.
Or, perhaps you have a passion and you want to make a living while pursuing it.
You might be an expert in some area and you want to roll that into a money-making project.
You have your dream, created your vision board, developed the skills/products necessary to seduce clients, and you even have the positive mindset to stay the course through the long hours it takes to fulfill your dream. Your new website has launched , business cards and brochures printed, and you are heavily engaged in networking and posted on all of your social media platforms.
You are doing all of these actions; however, there is still only a small amount of money flowing into your wallet. What are you doing incorrectly? The answer is sometimes simple. You need a business plan however, you failed to one that lists all of the steps you may need to take to overcome all of those pesky obstacles you might have to confront.
I have a client who was a flourishing potter, a successful professor, and a successful therapist. She sold book proposals to New York publishers and I gave dozens of exciting talks and workshops internally; however, she had never been able to break through her financial glass ceiling until we sat down for six hours while I forced her to write out her first business plan for the following year. It was simplistic. She created a three-column list which included her activities, the amount of time she spent on each one of them, and money earned from each activity.
Once we had it written on paper, we saw that some of her projects took hundreds of hours but only netted a few thousand dollars, while others took far less time and earned more. With everything on paper, we could prioritize. She began to work less on the $25/hr projects (total yearly revenue divided by total hours spent) and more on the $100/hr projects.
But she had to be very detailed. For example, she can write a book proposal in a hundred hours that would earn $100,000. That is $1000/hr, right? Wrong, because she still has to write the darn book and she claims to be a slow writer! With research and rewrites, a 1000 hours are involved before she hands in the manuscript. Now she is making $100/hr; however, there are three rounds of editorial changes and sales copy to write, webinars to be created to promote the book, marketing strategies and interviews.
When we totaled all this up, she understood that writing books earns her approximately $25/hr, even with a six-figure advance! She revised her two-page business plan we figured out how to invest her time more wisely in areas that could double or triple her income. Now we could begin to project what expenses she would have and what risks she had to take, and then she can share her plan with experts who could show her how to optimize her vision.
This is Business 101, taught to every MBA student in their first week of class. This is the keynote chapter in all entrepreneurial textbooks. To make money with a new idea/direction or increase your current income, you need to create a business plan. Don’t skimp–it may take 10 to 15 pages (big businesses create 40 to 100 page plans).
Your business plan is a narrative describing what you intend to achieve and how you intend to achieve your goals. It is designed to share with others to get the advice and assistance necessary to realize your vision.
Following are some primary things to include (read a business textbook to expand on the key points):
- Briefly divulge your product or service.
- Describe the problem needing to be solved, or the need people want to have filled.
- Illustrate how your service/product will solve that problem or fill that need.
- Pinpoint your target market or the niche you will be focusing on. Don’t make the blunder of thinking that your product/service is for everyone. At least in the beginning, you will be more successful filling a small niche rather than providing something that everyone allegedly wants or needs.
- Research your competitors completely. Study what makes them a success and unique, then define how your product/service will compete by offering something distinctive, better, etc.
- Create a detailed 10 to 20 point detailed marketing strategy. How will you locate potential customers? What will your sales process be?
- How will you put your product/service to test before delivering it? Before investing large amounts of time or money, you should discover if people want what you have to offer.
- How will you assess customer satisfaction (surveys, follow-up calls)? How will you manage customer complaints? How will you service customers after their first purchase (upselling)?
- Who will you need to employ or subcontract with to fulfill your marketing and sales plan? Who will manage the infrastructure–your websites, artwork, money laundering (just joking around to make sure you are paying attention!)?
- Make a financial projection plan. How long will you take to earn X amount of money using the strategies you outlined above? Be realistic and moderate and also consult other experts in your field to see how many weeks/months/years it can take to reach individual goals. Identify how you will fund your start-up expenses and make a detailed list of those costs.
- Talk your business plan over with at least three experts and determine how much you will need to invest in consulting fees. Clear, succinct communication, without any hype, is critical at this stage of development before launching your product/service.
Not having a written, detailed business plan is one of the major reasons that so many businesses fail in the first two to five years. Other reasons for failure:
- lack of persistence
- ambiguity in communicating to others
- failure to delegate work to people possessing more expertise than you have
- potential customer base is too small
- the cost of attaining a customer is too expensive to reach your expected income
- poor advice from others
- running out of cash
- poor service skills
- poor product development
- being inflexible or too idealistic
- and a 100 other unexpected events.
I hope that you now understand why you need a business plan. If this seems overwhelming, just keep building and expanding. Most successful entrepreneurs learn how to do this in their 20s or 30s; however, it is never too late to begin.
Speaking of surveys, I am in the trenches right now creating a new course. Can you please take approximately three minutes to share your opinion and to let me know exactly how I can best help you grow your income and impact?
Spring is here and this is a great time for solopreneurs to take advantage of this change of seasons to do some business spring planning. I think of spring as a time of resurrection, rejuvenation, renewal, and rebirth. It brings amazing bursts of color, warm breezes, and sunshine. Spring brings with it a unique hope and energy that invigorates, inspires, and changes attitudes, pulling us from the winter doldrums.
With spring comes the notion of spring cleaning. I spring clean my house annually. Admittedly, I have not always reached 100 percent completion. I do not especially enjoy cleaning and wish that I could twitch my nose like Samantha in Bewitched. Hey, is that a super power?
We discard stuff we no longer need/use/want, dust off those hard-to-reach dark corners, and scrub places we usually just pass over when we spring clean. Shouldn’t we jump on the spring cleaning bandwagon for our business also? We will soon be entering the fourth month of 2017, working toward those great goals we set back in January. Take some time this spring to critically look at the processes, procedures, and activities that make up your business: what is working well, what needs to be tweaked, what should be discarded?
Here are some “rooms” that might need to be cleaned in during your business spring cleaning time:
Networking. What groups are you participating in? Are you seeing a return on your investment of time and money? Is participation in these groups moving your business forward? Are you building speed of trust with other business owners? Have you established some referral partners with those sharing your same target demographic?
If you answered NO to any of these questions, it may be time to look for new groups. I especially like focused groups of entrepreneurs, building each of our businesses. I am choosing less general networking for more intentional networking. Clean out the junk, dust off your elevator speech, and find a group and system that works for you.
Your Email InBox. Are your unread emails piling up? I know a lot of us receive a ton of email that simply is no longer relevant to us (if it ever was). We’ve either changed direction in our business or the newsletter we signed up for has switched focus. Either way, it clogs up our inbox and just gets in the way.It is time to get rid of the irrelevant junk in your email InBox. Delete those messages a bit each day but also take 10 minutes to go through your InBox and unsubscribe to any email lists that are no longer relevant to your business. Most email marketing messages make this really easy for you with an “unsubscribe” button at the end of each message.
Advertising/Marketing. Are you spending thousands of dollars on ineffective advertising, because you believe that is the only option you have? With online capability today, entrepreneurs can find free or inexpensive advertising opportunities. Consider “new” ideas. Television, print and radio advertising are very expensive and do not necessarily yield the results you are seeking. Check out innovative programs to capitalize on the group purchasing power of millions of people worldwide.
Again, dump what does not work. I once participated in many vendor shows that were a complete waste of time and money (when I was an Interior Decorator). After each disappointing day, I’ would vow to never do another one; however, the next application would arrive and I would think, “maybe this one is THE one–maybe will meet that one person who will light my business on fire”. Guess what? I’ would finish the event, vowing to never participate in another one again 🙂
Do not be afraid to ask tough questions of your potential advertising partners. They are looking to sell advertising–not your product or service. Do not be afraid to “fire” your advertising partners. Remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
After all, it is business…nothing personal.
Time Management. Are you setting a schedule and sticking to it? Are you grouping appointments by type and location? Are you batching orders, setting specific time aside for email and Facebook follow-up, and scheduling time to make telephone calls? Eliminate inefficient use of time by consolidating when you can, being firm about your schedule, and taking control of your time!
Record-keeping. It is nearing tax time, which glaringly points out how great or horrible our record keeping systems are. If you have a good system, what can you tweak to make it better or more efficient? Does your credit card swipe mechanism tie into your QuickBooks account? Did your accountant have helpful advice to make next year’s tax time smoother?
If it is not so good (my hand is raised), what simple steps can you take to improve the process? I am one of those people who would stuff all their receipts into a folder for 12 months, then spend a month sorting through everything during tax time. I know that I miss out on deductions every year because of my poor record keeping. My 2016 tax resolution was to enter all expenses, sales, profits – anything related to money- into QuickBooks quarterly. I’m doing a little bit better. A little advance planning will save lots of headaches next spring. I would love to be able to skip this “room” during next year’s business spring cleaning period.
You may have other “rooms” that need the once over as well during your business spring cleaning. Use your critical evaluation skills to rejuvenate your business with bursts of customers, sunny clients, and a hot climate of growth!
What other business spring cleaning tasks can you complete that will help you to organize the day-to-day? Please leave a comment 😉
Empathy is the most important word in marketing and business. But this word isn’t usually mentioned. Empathy is the ability to stand in the shoes of another. In blogging terms, empathy means that we can get a sense of what your readers’ needs and wants are. And that’s important because if what we offer fulfills their needs, they become fans. By deeply understanding the thoughts, needs and challenges of your audience, you maximize the impact and value that you deliver.
Which is why I would like to hear from you today. Can you please take approximately three minutes to share your opinion and to let me know exactly how I can best help you grow your income and impact?
I will be reading every response. Your input will directly impact the content and courses that I create for you in the coming months.
I cannot wait to hear from you!
I think women are amazing! Happy International Women’s Day! Think about it for a moment. If you are like me, you know many insanely gifted, talented, and creative women who care deeply about the well-being and thriving of all life. There are many women fitting that description so I celebrate women all over the world.
International Women’s Day acknowledges and honors women for our accomplishments and contributions on all levels and raises awareness about women’s lives and circumstances around the world. On this day, we look ahead to the opportunities that we are stepping into now and that await future generations of women.
This is our era.
There a good reason that the Dalai Lama proclaimed:
Western women will save the world.
A woman’s qualities of creativity, compassion, kindness, connection and care are not simply warm and fuzzy. They are powerful beyond measure. The woman who expresses these qualities actually hold the key to catalyzing the future of our world.
I feel so honored, inspired and grateful for the hundreds of amazing women who have crossed my path. While building my businesses, I remember so many times thinking, “Am I the only one who is going through this?” It was a woman (several women actually) who taught me how to find and trust my intuition. Several women gave me powerful messages and lessons on turning my sensitivities into strengths.
Because I am a business owner, I can appreciate how Inc Magazine reported six very important reasons women make better entrepreneurs than men:
- Women tend to be more honest about the business.
- Women are much more aware and emotionally intelligent about the human side of the business.
- Women are fairer negotiators.
- Women are better at getting to the point.
- Women appreciate the value of creativity.
- Women value relationships and well being more than the business.
Inc. also reported that these characteristics also make women better equipped for doing business in the lead to 2020. I always knew it: Women are amazing entrepreneurs 😉
On this day of global celebration, I support the elevation of women’s voices, leadership and impact across all sectors, as we work in partnership to determine our collective future and evolve our world.
GIVE ME OPPORTUNITY AND I WILL GROW WINGS
I know why the caged bird sings..
Give me opportunity and I will grow wings.
Soaring high upon my own horizon.
Expressing my spirit whenever it’s arising.
I am a Rising Woman in a Rising World.
I play my part as it turns.
Shaping and molding
Giving and holding.
I am a Rising Woman.
Still I Rise.
by Ozioma Egwuonwu
Woman, I have your back. I standing in front of you to pave the way for you. I am standing behind you because I have your back.
It has never been more important for our voice, values and vision to be fully expressed. I proclaim that I will no longer dim my light and commit like never before to fully show up and shine brightly. I will be a part of the women are amazing tribe. What about you?
Do you have a booming brand based upon strategy that gives your business a unique edge in today’s crowded market? Well, I should probably first ask if you really know what branding really is? I find a lot of definitions of it flying about. The branding term is always being thrown around, isn’t it?
For simplicity sake, let’s say that branding is what people say, think and feel about your business. Branding comes from every encounter your audience has with your business. It is about the way they comprehend your brand and how they feel about it. It is about looking at your business as a whole and building it in the strongest way possible in order to create connections with your audience.
There are three distinct ingredients in branding:
1. THE BRAND FOUNDATION
This has to do with your mission, values, what differentiates your business, understanding your target market, and what you are about.
2. THE BRAND IDENTITY
This is the visual part of your brand. Your visuals are your logo, colors, typography, your website designs and how your brand looks and feels.
3. THE BRAND EXPERIENCE
This is how your brand is presented in all touch points. Think of how you communicate and the experience you are building for your market in every aspect of the user experience.
The stronger your brand, the stronger your business. Period.
You should build your brand from the inside out, making sure it comes across consistently in every step of the way. Branding is pretty incredible in ever single sense of the word. Why? Because it gives, gives and gives to your business.
Branding gives you:
Probably one of the most important things about branding is having complete and total clarity on who your brand is and what it is all about. When you work on the brand behind the business, you understand the purpose behind what you do and the real value you are offering. It is not really about what you are selling. You are getting to know who your ideal customer is and what their needs are.
Not only does branding help you determine your purpose, but it also constantly guides you in making the day-to-day decisions about what you need to do in order to grow your business. Not only that, it helps you find the most effective ways to connect with your ideal audience and the strategies you need to put in place in order to make sure you are relevant to your prospects.
DIFFERENTIATION AND RECOGNITION
One of the most important things that branding does is help you differentiate your business. In other words, it helps define your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and determines why your audience chooses to buy from you instead of someone else. It is very rare for a business to be one-of-a-kind and completely 100 percent unique; however, each business and individual has characteristics that make them different from another and these differences are what will resonate with your target. An effective USP will help you find your space in a saturated market by finding ways people can connect with your brand. Every business or brand has traits that make them unique. When used smartly, they have the power to make you stand out from everyone else, making your business the absolute, no-brainer choice. It also helps in building your recognition as well.
CREDIBILITY AND TRUST
Let’s get real. You would not purchase from a business that looks a bit sketchy, right? The great thing about branding is that the more you work on it and develop it, the more credibility it gives you. A great brand, a beautifully designed logo and a website that makes you look legitimate are fundamental in helping your business grow. In other words, branding builds trust and trust = sales. Why? Because it takes people from knowing > liking > trusting and, ultimately, to buying from you.
The incredible thing about branding is that once your brand is established and has a system and strategy in place, you will never have to guess what need to do. First, you will have clarity on the best way to communicate with your audience and those day-to-day decisions I mentioned above. Then, thanks to your style guide, you will know exactly HOW your brand needs to look wherever you share it. Finally, it helps you in determining the optimum content you need to produce in order to build the best experience.
Branding is pretty amazing for business! That is why I love sharing so much about it and making sure to do all that I can in order to build my clients’ brands (and my OWN, of course) consistently. I get the power that a booming brand has.