It's been a year since I started Wood For The Trees Life Coaching, having been in training, teaching and coaching for nearly 20 years and it's been quite a year. There have definitely highs and, if I am honest, some lows, but I'm still here. I'm still excited, enthusiastic and making great progress. I'm still looking for wonderful women who want support to make positive changes and avoid overwhelm.
So, I thought I would share with you some pearls of wisdom if you are thinking of starting a business, have just started a business or if you are thinking of throwing in the towel. My lessons learnt could help you make progress quicker and enjoyably.
Grab a cuppa and a pen. Here goes.
1. Know Your Why.
Why do you want this business? You need to get really clear on this. It will influence all of your decision making and I believe you need to look at it from two angles.
First, why do you want it for you? Financial freedom? Flexibility around your childcare? A burning passion to do X,Y or Z daily? Why?
For example, if you want financial freedom but have a business that demands you working X number of hours with X amount of customers, before you start have you worked out if are you actually able to make the amount of money that would give you financial freedom? What cost would this have on you personally in terms of time with family/friends? Is this important to you? What happens if you are ill? How else is the business generating money?
I'm not suggesting you should ditch your ideas and give up here. On the contrary, I am saying get really clear at the beginning about your motivations for starting your business and why you want to do it. It will help you create a compelling vision and have a direction. It will help you find solutions to the barriers. So, it may be you do need to work with X number of clients but you have complementary 'passive' income streams that will help continue to generate income when you are off your feet or want to spend time with loved ones. Part of the reason I created an ON Line version of my Workshop The Clearing was for that very reason. If I am ever ill and can't run my workshops face to face I have an On Line version that can do the job for me. It gives me the freedom I want in my business. If I'm honest, I didn't have this clarity at the very beginning of the year but I've learnt how important it is, which is why I am telling you. Creating a definition of success that works for you will help you stay on track.
Second, what problem are you trying to solve for your potential customer? Get very clear on this, it will ultimately be linked to your skills or passions, but I have learnt that by stepping away from my part in it and making it all about the potential woman who is sat in her kitchen right now, feeling a bit foggy and lost. Not able to do what she wants to do because all of the juggling and all of the 'shoulds' in her life are weighing down on her. Not able to say no for fear of upsetting someone, even when she knows it will push her to the tipping point. Trying to give a perfect impression because everyone else is able to do it all and have it all without feeling like this, right?
By making it about that woman I can see clearly how I can bring calm and confidence back into her life. How I can teach her strategies and give her tools to manage the weight of expectation she is imposing on herself. I can produce books, and programmes, and periscopes, and Facebook posts that help her see she isn't alone, that she is perfectly normal in how she is feeling. I can help her find a way of gaining clarity, focus and a real enjoyment in her life again. I can see clearly how I will help her put herself higher on the priority list, whilst saying no without guilt. I've been down that road and through years of personal development, coaching and self awareness I can now lead women up a different path to allow them to see the wood for the trees.
Now I have a mission. Now, I am excited. Now, I have to make this business work in order to help as many women as possible break this crazy cycle that society has produced for us. Now I have a vision of what I want to do for these ladies and why.
So, what problem will you solve for your customer and why do you want to do it?
2. Focus, discipline and commitment.
You've got your why and your vision, now it's time to get this party started. It's quite simple you have to do the work. You have to do it daily and you have to be clear on what's important.
First, get focused. In an ideal world what would you like to happen this year? Get clear. Sell X widgets. Work with x number of clients. Produce X thingamebobs. (LOL) Deliver X workshops. Write X numbers of books. What do you want to happen and how does this translate into working hours, tasks, financial gain, number of customers benefiting from your business?
Second,I have found setting a 3 month plan to get you moving towards those goals to be the most effective because it allows for the flexibility needed to adapt to any changes in circumstances throughout the year.
Set clear targets with action steps. Then decide what action you'll need to take monthly and then weekly. I confess that last year I missed a whole load of workshop targets, because I didn't stay focused on that goal. In my defense, I moved the goalposts and created On Line programmes so I wasn't just sitting around, however, I learnt that financial targets set at the beginning of the year won't be achieved, if you don't commit to the action to achieve them!!
Being self employed means you have to be a self starter. You have to have drive and you have to have a commitment to YOU and to your Why. Why is it important to achieve these milestones in your business? Is it because it means you are solving the problems of more of your ideal customers? If you take nothing else from this blog than this, take consistent action daily towards your goals. Commit to you and your customer.
3. Learn and learn some more.
Oh my giddy. I had so much to learn last year. I had little to no technical knowledge so I've had to teach myself how to set up a newsletter, created 'opt ins', learnt a whole load of on line jargon, created the automation for my On Line Programmes and membership club, do Facebook posts and ads, join Twitter Hours, edit videos, present on Periscope, Blab and conference on Zoom. It's been a steep, and sometimes frustratingly slow learning curve. I've read books, watched webinars, worked with coaches on different aspects of my business, been to seminars and utterly absorbed as much information as I could to ensure I have the skills to progress my business with the resources I have available now. I've enjoyed a lot of it. However, I've got a lot of goals linked to outsourcing and upgrading the parts I don't, as my business moves forward. I've made mistakes, when my automation didn't work because of one box I didn't fill in, I've learnt from it. If you are setting up a business and you have limited finances or resources you will learn to be resourceful. You can find solutions to everything if you have the right mind set. Enjoy and embrace the learning.
4. Be present and be Solution Focused.
You've got your 3 month, 1 month, 1 week action plan. Great. Let's start putting it into action. Easier said then done at times, right?
The one thing I have realised this year is that being self employed takes a huge amount of emotional resilience and self discipline. For example, I created a free pdf opt in for my website earlier in the year. I was very excited about it. I thought I'd produced something that women would find useful and value. I put in on my website. I advertised it on my Facebook page and on Twitter. I mentioned it at my network meetings, got good feedback, and only 2 people signed up for it after a month of promotion.
A full days work to produce and many hours promoting it resulted in 2 sign ups. Disheartened doesn't cut it. However, this is where the Solution Focused thinking comes in. Mean Little Cow voice had already started with the, "Nobody is interested in your stuff. There are coaches out there who have been around for years, why would anyone want yours?" (Told you she is mean!) So, I got solution focused. I asked myself, What can I produce for the women who I know need support to manage the day to day challenges life throws at them? Where can I find out? Who can I ask? The truth was I'd created that pdf on an assumption and I hadn't asked my ideal customers whether they would want what I had created? These questions drew me to ask what women would want to support them on my Facebook page and other on line groups.
I also looked at the design. I'd created it before I'd discovered Canva.com I'm not a designer and completing this document in Word didn't make it very appealing. So I ask, What can I do to ensure the document appeals to my ideal customer so she enjoys the experience of reading it? Consequently, the next free E-book I produced was much more popular and was well received by my target audience. Boom.
If you get disheartened, angry, sad, lonely, frustrated, over excited (believe me I've experienced all of these this year) in your business get Solution Focused to deal with the issue at hand in a way that will help you learn, make progress and ultimately attract more custom. Be present, be flexible, be creative, find fun in what you do daily.
Part of this year has been enhanced and supported by the wonderful people I have met and worked with in real life, through Bizmums and other local networks, as well as on Line, particularly through Periscope, as well as links with colleagues from previous working environments. (Watch this space for news on that early this year)
I'm naturally an extrovert so I need energy and interaction with people. The client interaction offers this but too much time alone for me isn't good for my soul. I'm a natural team player and I love being part of a team. However, one thing this year has taught me is be careful, particularly on line, with who you align yourself to and how much you give BEFORE you have a true measure of the situation and the people involved. Create clear boundaries and communicate what you are able and not able to do in any collaboration you become a part of and don't be afraid to withdraw your support if the collaboration isn't respectful or appreciative of your time and your contribution. Value yourself.
That said, drawing like minded people around you with similar values and missions will help you and your business thrive and the benefits will also be passed on to your customers, as additional skills and knowledge come into your business through the power of those connections.
6. Self care.
You are your number one asset in your business. Yes. YOU. So look after yourself. Put yourself at the top of the list regularly. If you need a break. Take one. If you aren't well, find support to keep things ticking over. Whatever it takes. If you go down, the business goes down, so look after yourself. Also, remind yourself again here, why have you gone into your business? If it was for more Freedom and you are now a slave to the business, what are you doing it for?
Personally, I am learning to put better boundaries around this and listen to my body more closely when it needs an early night or more exercise. I also gave clear indication to clients and on line when I was taking holidays so that there wasn't an expectation I'd be available. Be mindful and Solution Focused in your needs as you start your business and make it a success.
7. Focus on the Customer.
One thing I have learnt is that the more I focus on what the customer needs the more success I have in my business. Again, how you define success is important. If it is purely monetary that is a clear measure, but you may find your emotional resilience is at jeopardy in months that aren't as abundant as others. Put your success definition into meeting your customer's needs in a way that works for you too and you can find evidence daily on how your services or products are making an impact.
Yesterday for example someone posted in my Solution Focused Sisterhood that thanks to my support she felt 'focused, more confident in my decision making and clear on how to manage any situations I face for the first time in years'. This knowledge fuels my business and spurs me to create more and more valuable, quality content to support clients like this one, but it also means I have to practice the self care I preach in the process.
There is so much more I could write, and I will write a blog on some of the technical things I've learnt in my first year as an On Line Business later. I hope you take away something that you can apply to your own situation in business, or life in general. I'd love to hear what you are planning.
As part of my first year On Line celebration I'd like to create a new freebie. In the spirit of collaboration, let me know in the comments what you would find useful and what you'd like me to offer?