Experience – that most brutal of teachers, but you learn, my god! do you learn!
~ C.S. Lewis
They say we learn best from our own mistakes, and there is some truth to that, yes, but if you could save time and effort and a few tears and avoid certain mistakes, would you not want to do it, especially if I promise that you could still make plenty of other mistakes on your own?
Today, I want to encourage you to take heed from the mistakes in my first-year of self-employment, especially coming into it from years of being a corporate employee. What shifts in mindset do you need to cultivate? What smart habits in working by yourself and for yourself do you need to develop? What things do you need to pay attention to and what should you avoid? What activities should you invest your time in? What tools and systems should you put in place? And more.
The world of self-employment can take on many shapes and it requires some patience. Mine comes to you from the perspective of running an online business mainly from home but also from the road traveling the world on a few lucky occasions. I mainly speak around the experience of, building relationships and connecting with customers, clients, peers and business partners mainly through the web, while combining that with in-person conferences and meet-ups. Your model may be different or similar, no matter, there are still common threads in our paths and here are my mistakes in high hopes of saving you time, money and those tears!
First and foremost, before you even come into this space of self-employment, I urge you to decide the answer to these questions in advance:
How are you going to think about what you can offer the world? You are the one that decides this. Is it big or small? Is it worthy or not? Is it going to make a difference or just a few bucks? Is this just a little hobby or a real business? Are you building just a website or a company? You decide this in your heart of hearts. Not your marketplace. Not your customers. Not your industry peers. Not your family. Certainly not your ego. Bless them all for being there but these decisions, you make on your own and then, you commit to them. You hold your answers sacred and move ahead with the act of pursuing that in which your heart now fully believes.
Now on to those mistakes I want you to avoid, because nothing is more invaluable to a self-employed superstar than the smart and efficient use of his or her time. And I’ll warn you -I have lots of recommendations here for you, including affiliate programs and my own products, all which I unconditionally love, use and trust.
1. Invest in yourself through a coach or a mentor: I did this in my corporate career but not at the beginning of my self-employment path. It is one of the main reasons I now offer my coaching program, because I believe in the value of working with someone who has been there and done that and can now impart that knowledge in such a way that you can find useful and applicable to your situation. This is an investment that you make back at least 2 if not 3 fold!
2. Educate yourself but don’t drown in learning: I love learning, especially when it’s something that I am passionately interested in, but you have got to strike the right balance between learning and doing. You do not want to become a learning junkie that never implements. You don’t need to read every ebook out there on success factors. You need to learn the ropes, understand the landscape and then APPLY your knowledge.
3. Don’t waste time on the small techie stuff: “Excuse me, God, but I want all those hours back, please!” Oh yes, the countless hours I spent tweaking a stupid plugin or a website theme. It was way too much of my time for too little reward. Focus on what matters when it comes to your website, your product design, your plugins and widgets and bells and whistles, and make sure to only invest enough time to make what matters work, and get the right aesthetics in place without becoming borderline obsessive!
4. Invest in good audio equipment: Audio quality matters! I don’t know about you but to me, crappy audio means unprofessional and uncaring and it speaks volumes about the creator. I don’t listen to podcasts with poor audio quality and I get very angry when someone’s product has seriously low audio quality. Don’t skimp on audio. Invest in good sound quality for all your audio work from interviews to products to podcasts to many more. Check out Richer Sounds for great equipment.
5. Start an email list on Day 1: This is advice that you hear from every internet marketer and I would listen. Most of us regret not having started our email lists for lead generation on Day 1. This goes for you in just about every model of business. I love Aweber and am a huge and loud advocate for them, and love to let you know how it works and save you time with quick killer tips if you want to sign up through me.
6. Don’t fool around with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Unless you are doing business on the moon, you will be using Google and you would like for Google to know about your existence so it can be a nice little player and tell all your customers and clients about your said existence. So please, don’t fool around with SEO. Sign up for the *BEST* tools. If you are running a blog, I am a huge advocate of Thesis and Scribe, and those are my affiliate links and I will get you started with my time-saving tips if you sign up with them through me.
7. Upgrade that internet service: I remember fighting about this one with my tech support guy, my brother, and he put his foot down on how we needed to have decent hosting service. These are the things that build your foundation and you should not skimp here. I’ve used several companies. Bluehost does an excellent job, and go for a decent service – not minimum connectivity – that is worthy of your website users.
8. Attend conferences and meet-ups with purpose: Everything should be done with purpose but especially when you are forking out money to go to a conference. You will see heaps of opportunities to attend conferences and meet-ups. Be selective and ask yourself why you want to attend a particular event, what do you get out of it, what intention drives you there and what does it do for your overall mission and business?
9. Stay vigilantly healthy and active: Self-care does not take time from you. It gives time back and you need your health on this journey. Please don’t become a lazy entrepreneur in the name of “too much work”! I have gone through both phases, and there are times when it’s nearly impossible to get the workout in with deadlines and launches but you can do something – you can eat well, you can reduce stress with meditation, you can do 10 minutes, right? I created my 10 Minute Invigorator to keep the self-employed spirit alive and breathing. Watch Day 1 with me for FREE here.
10. Position yourself right in your marketplace: This one was not easy for me. From the very beginning, ask yourself who is your target market and what does your ideal customer avatar look like? Imagine them. Picture them coming to you and serve them. Position your services and your gifts in such a way that it is perfect for them. And forget about people who fall outside your marketplace. You are not God. You are not serving every moving and breathing thing. So relax and save your best for your ideal clients and customers.
11. Don’t undercharge for your services: This is the hardest lesson for the first-time entrepreneur, to know how to package and price, and most of us under price just to be on the “safe” side. The problem is that the psychology of buying does not work that well and you are doing no one a service by under-charging. If you feel you can deliver the value and the ROI to your clients, then you need to be fairly compensated and they need to make an investment that they find worthy of their time. Find the right pricing for your offerings.
12. Spend your listening time wisely: There are many ways to continue your learning and education while away from the computer, and audio products are the best way to do that. Tap into the amazing resources of audio online, either free or paid programs, podcasts, interviews, and even take your favorite YouTube speeches and turn them into audio using a quick plugin and just listen while in the car, in workouts, or running errands. Keep your mind sharp and active!
13. Don’t seek out family or friends for business support: One of the worst advice you will hear is to go out and tell all your family and friends about your burgeoning business. Please refrain! This one I would avoid like the plague. Why would people who know you buy your stuff? The only reason is that they feel bad and awkward about not doing so, or they don’t and it hurts your feelings or they buy under pressure and it makes them feel uncomfortable. Please, leave them be! Let them stay family and friends and go out and find strangers who are your ideal clients and customers and then make new friends while doing real business.
14. Put smart and efficient systems in place: This includes everything from your back-end workflow to your website to your check-out process and your accounting and books. You need to be on top of your systems and you need to make it very easy for your customers to pay you and to do business with you. I love Freshbooks, advocate them highly, and can’t say enough about how much they have saved me time and money!
15. Don’t get upset about refunds or unsubscribes: In fact, every time I get them now, I celebrate. I feel so fortunate to have people who recognize that my stuff, brilliant as they may be to me and my fans, are not right for them, and so they politely opt out and I appreciate it greatly. We need to do business only with those with whom we are meant to engage and when you connect with someone well, it is a priceless experience, so focus your efforts on reaching out to your ideal clients.
16. Stand for something in your writing and fully express it: Whatever model your business, you will do some writing. You may do a lot in some cases. Writing is the basis of all wealth. Writing is essential to your success. When you write, stand for something, don’t be full of air and fluff, don’t agree with everyone for the sake of being liked or popular. And please use your best skills – check out my Writing Manifesto as a reference. Look into Stephen King’s On Writing for a killer resource. Be original, be authentic, be uniquely you in your expressions of ideas and opinions.
17. Don’t chase your every idea: This is a toughie. I know you will have many ideas and they will drive you crazy unless you chase them around right then and there but this will not be a smart way to process your idea or to use your time. I recognize the value in every idea and the potential it can have, so instead of chasing all your ideas as they come to you, I recommend that you create an Idea Locker – this can be a digital place you store ideas or a notebook – and write them down as they come to you but then develop a process to go through them. Here’s a 3-step process for Idea Recognition, Capture and Organization for more detail.
18. Join a Mastermind group: I believe in the power of a single human being and I know we can achieve great things on our own. More minds is not necessarily better at all. I am not naive about that one. However, more smart minds that can mingle and interact with yours and push yours, now that is the power of a great mastermind group and if you can become a part of the RIGHT one for you, then I highly recommend it.
19. Read voraciously: I don’t yet read a book a week but I read a lot. I read on business topics that interest me and are directly applicable. I read books on spirituality and positive thinking. I read novels. I read because it keeps my brain sharp and young, and it helps my writing tremendously. During the periods that I stopped reading, I know that both suffered. Integrate reading into your DNA!
20. Learn to say no and learn this one fast: I saved the best one for last. Learning to say no politely, professionally and sincerely to opportunities and invitations etc. will not only expedite your growth and success, it will give you true confidence about whom you are meant to serve and how you are meant to spend your time. It will give you the momentum to give a resounding yes to everything else that is right and true for you.
Alright, my darling readers, this post has run much longer than my intention and I still had to hold back many more mistakes for a future post. Care to share your thoughts or tell me your experience with us in running a business of your own?
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