Who runs your business? Like most business owners, you probably think you’re the one in the driving seat when it comes to making the important decisions about how you run your business.
Are you really?
Have you ever sat back and asked yourself “Is this how I really want to live and work?”
If the answer is a resounding “Yes!”, well done!
Or, maybe you’re doing what most start-ups, small businesses and self-employed are doing?
– following what others tell you you ‘have to’ do to be successful
– following what others tell you you ‘have to’ do to earn a certain ROI
– following trends that tell you what ‘success’ and ‘self-worth’ mean in business
If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of the above, read on.
How to own your business
There is another way to run your OWN business, you know!
You start by learning how to own your business.
That means YOU make the important decisions. To do that, you don’t start at the end point – the financial outcome (ROI)
You start at the beginning – with YOU.
– Start by defining the lifestyle YOU want to live, e.g. how much time you want to work, your lifestyle needs, what values determine your decisions, identify your strengths, talents, experience, etc. and focus on developing and strengthening them.
– Calculate how much you need to earn to live that life
– Then design & run your business around THAT
– Ignore the rest.
Setting your own business goals
More and more business owners are doing just that, particularly young start-ups and service-based professionals. They are setting the outcome according to their needs, values and lifestyle choices, not by what the market tells them and not according to the business commandment “that’s the way it’s always been done”.
And the difference?
You now work in your FLOW, not struggling and constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
You’ll be far more effective, i.e. successful, happier and truly running your OWN business in your OWN way.
You’ll be a role model for those looking for real alternatives to the conventional hustle and struggle model of running a business.
How are you actually running your business now?
Following the guidelines set by others, or working in your flow?
So, back to our initial question: Who runs your business?
I’ve been self-employed for 10 years after spending decades of my working life in permanent, pensionable jobs. My advice for the self-employed is based on real, on-the-ground experience.
When I made the decision to jump into the unknown, I got a lot of encouragement from some and a lot of criticism for others – about 40: 60 (criticism 60%).
There was no middle ground in the advice I received, even though none of those who gave me advice had ever been self-employed. It was either ‘go for it’ or ‘you must be mad’.
Advice as hidden agenda
I didn’t ask for advice, but advice poured in from both sides. And in those outpourings, I saw that my decision to become self-employed was touching people’s own buried dreams or their secret fears. Their advice masked their own hidden agenda.
I didn’t expect that my personal choice would make so many people uncomfortable – remind them of their unfulfilled lives, confront them with their insecurities, expose their deep unhappiness with their ‘success’, etc.
So, ten years later a lot of water has flown under that bridge.
I’m older, wiser and happier than I was back then.
And I’d do it all again – only sooner.
My advice for the self-employed
Recently I was asked by a group of younger self-employed consultants what advice would I give after my 10 years.
Here’s my top 3.
1. Your Well-being
Make your well-being your non-negotiable top priority. I worked in environments where ‘busyness’ was the mark of your worth and it led to enormous suffering, self-effacement & sickness.
2. Build Relationships.
You cannot run a business on clicks and numbers. Invest in the long-term, because that’s where the gold is. Create a mutual support group – you’ll need it in the lean times and in the good times. Ask for help when needed – and you’ll need it. Invest big in client relationships because the return is huge.
3. Know Thyself
Invest your energies in what flows for you and outsource what doesn’t flow. What that means on the ground is this. Don’t work with clients who don’t ‘get you’ and your service. Practice saying NO to what doesn’t float your boat and what drains your energies.
Is there a hidden agenda in my advice?
If there is then it’s this. The self-employed life is both challenging and rewarding. To keep a healthy balance you have to take care of yourself first. And to do that well, learn to identify the following:
– what devours your energies; what gives you energy
– what is aligned with your values; what compromises them
– what brings you the most joy, what creates the most struggle.
When you pay attention to those issues, the day-to-day decisions in your self-employed life fall into place.Learn More
I specialise in marketing for introverts. I help quiet, conscientious, sincere professionals, freelancers and small business owners be heard, seen & found in a loud and noisy world, without compromising who they are or their way of during business.
When Eugene, who fits the client-description above, asked my opinion on a new course he was about to purchase, I was actually stunned.
The glossy, sales page promised a template for all your business communication needs. It was written and packaged according to every cliché, gimmick and ‘hot’ tactic in the book. (One template is free, but to get the whole template package you had to buy the full, over-priced course!) Does this sound familiar?
Sacrificing your uniqueness for a one-size-fits-all template
– Why would Eugene, a quiet, honest professional, buy a product that promised to remove his own voice and replace it with a bland and hollow template?
– Why would he sacrifice his uniqueness to disappear into a sea of sameness?
Like so many self-employed & small business owners, Eugene offers a unique, personal service that he’s customised over the years for his niche. He’s truly one-of-a-kind, who cares deeply about his work and his clients.
And that’s precisely what makes him stand out.
However, Eugene doesn’t see it that way.
He doesn’t value his unique way of doing business because he is not even aware of it. Like so many conscientious, quiet business owners, Eugene struggles with marketing, especially with marketing on social media.
He explained to me why he thought this expensive offer would solve his marketing problems. It would allow him to get away from the pressure to be active ‘out there’! He doesn’t find social media ‘easy’. In fact, he finds it ‘exhausting and stressful’. Does this sound familiar?
The online world of communication was designed for extroverts – for people who love the excitement of being part of social activities. They feel energised ‘out there’ and thrive on pubic platforms. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But … between 25% and 45% of us are not energised participating in the public domain. We are actually exhausted by social activities. And Eugene is one of us.
As Susan Cain explains in her thought-provoking book on introverts, it’s not about how much or how little we like to socialise that defines whether or not we are introverted or extroverted. It’s about how socialising impacts on our energy levels.
Marketing for Introverts: Some Alternative Options
What are the options for introverts?
Erasing our uniqueness with a conventional template is NOT one of them.
I already talked about alternative approaches to marketing here beyond the conventional ‘pitch’-approach. Here’s some simple advice I give to my clients:
Don’t try to fit into a world that was not designed for you! Pay attention instead to what comes naturally and easily to you and develop that.
For example, a lot of quiet, sincere people like to write. If that’s you, then focus on developing your writing skills instead of spending time on what drains your energies. However, just writing posts and blogs alone is NOT an effective tactic. To ensure that the right audience finds your writing easily, you have to think strategically about how they will find you. Here are some options:
- Find publications in your area of expertise and submit your writing to an existing audience
- Depending on how often you write, spend time and energy on the SEO for about one in three/four of your posts
- Choose about two pages of your website and spend time on fully optimising the SEO for those pages
Develop Your Unique Voice
The golden rule for making it easy for the right audience to find is this. Focus on developing your unique voice and speak only to those who ‘get’ you, i.e. those who value your approach and your service.
And how do you do that on a practical level?
You can connect with those who value you on social media without creating a personality that is not aligned with who you are. Instead of trying to shout louder than everyone else and ‘go viral’, increase your presence instead by owning who you are and expressing that in an honest, transparent and meaningful way. Then, you can stop wasting your energies trying to ‘crunch the numbers’ and aim to connect on a human-to-human basis with fewer people. That allows you to build your credibility and connections slowly and more organically.
The same approach also applies when you attend a networking event. Stop trying to find clients and start building relationships. Connect at a personal level with one of two people. Listen to them. Ask questions. Respond to their answers and let the conversation develop organically. The best way to make an impression with someone is to let them know you’ve heard them, that you’re interested in them as a human being and not just as a number. Networking is about meeting people who will remember you and refer you on to those who need your services.
Successful Marketing is built on Long-Term Strategies
Communication begins with developing your own unique voice. It’s not something you can achieve in a week or a month. It’s a process that develops as you develop. You can get started on that important journey, by checking out my self-study course here.
It’s one of the best investments quiet, conscientious freelancers and business owners like you can make!