Be Unapologetically You
One of the toughest and most exhaustive times in my business occured shortly after I started to make ‘real’ money online. When I started my blog back in 2007 I had no idea it would turn into a fully-fledged international company with over 10 key websites coming under the company banner, over 50 different products creating income streams, an entire team of staff to run, and a gross turnover that nearly doubled each year after it first got off the ground.
I had no idea I would end up running an actual real business and in some ways I still don’t feel like I’m running a ‘real’ business! I feel like I’m just this personal trainer/writer/wannabe entrepreneur who somehow got lucky by pumping out a few (thousand!) blog posts and listening in to what people liked and wanted to know more of. In fact, very recently I attended a private Google Hangout with an entrepreneur friend whose business grosses in the multi-millions and who was generous enough to put on the hangout for a group of us who wanted to learn how she runs her systems and team so efficiently. As we listened to the nuggets she shared with us, one of the other ladies on the call (who also makes 7-figures in her business) commented exactly what I and I’m pretty sure most of us were thinking –
“It’s like we run REAL businesses!”
It might sound funny, or as though I’m looking for reassurance, but the truth is that for myself and many of my creatively-based entrepreneur friends we really did just kind of ‘end up’ where we are. That’s not to say we don’t actively focus on making money and being successful at what we do, ’cause we most certainly do! But we are still fast-thinking creatives first and foremost. We’re not Project Managers or Analysts and we don’t usually love systems (except in that we love the results they give us) and nor are we naturally inclined to be organised and on top of everything we ‘should’ be doing. So it makes sense that we often have this sense of ‘how on earth did this all happen and now what do I do to manage it’ when it comes to online business.
And that’s certainly how I felt when I had my first (largely unexpected) experience of making money online fast – 5k in 3 days at the time – and it’s really still how I feel a lot of time. I’m still trying to keep up and to work it all out! I think I do a pretty good job of that most of the time, and actively try to learn from and pay attention to other women who are successful online and who I admire. Of course this has its pros and cons, and one of the greatest cons – one of the greatest mistake in fact – for me has been trying to model my personal style and work ethic on what others are doing.
It’s one thing to learn from others about systems, about increasing conversions, about building traffic and even about ideas for content creation, it’s another thing entirely to base the way YOU are in your business on other people.
In late 2012 I reached a point in my business where the company was grossing over 30k per month, and most of that really had come about by accident. I just kept on creating and the money kept on coming in. But instead of recognising the success of this model and the reality of how I’d created that income I started looking for what I needed to do now to both manage and continue growing that income.
And that’s where I made my crucial mistake –
I assumed that the way forward had to be to model many successful entrepreneurs I’d seen whose ‘end game’ was to work less – as little as possible in fact – and make more all the while removing as much of their personal time and input from their business.
Don’t get me wrong – I definitely didn’t want to be doing 80 or even 50 hours a week online, and nor did I want to try and serve every single client one on one; it’s not possible! But I took the whole ‘work less and earn more’ concept so seriously that I tried to remove pretty much ALL of me from my business.
Long story short? It didn’t work as well as I’d planned.
My social media updates, blogs and newsletters no longer had the personal touch and were instead largely re-churned content, often posted by someone else who was just drawing on my old stuff and re-using it
My once-active forums became ghost towns because I wasn’t in there giving MY unique blend of inspiration and support.
New products had average responses rather than ‘going off’ as all my stuff had previously done, because I suppose people could ‘feel’ that there wasn’t the same heart and soul in it.
I stopped answering customer service emails personally, and lost touch with a lot of social media comments as well, so I wasn’t really tuned in to what people wanted and needed.
I told myself for a while that this is just how it had to be, that there was no way around it – I couldn’t be all things to all people and the goal here was to scale up, create automation and passive income, and eventually all but extricate myself from the day to day of running my business so that I could do more of what I loved to do – write. Besides, I was focusing my energy and time on a different side of my business now, and that was going really well. (You’d have thought I would have ‘clicked’ that the area that was going well was the one where I actually was putting in my personal time and effort!)
I couldn’t keep doing it all, surely? Wasn’t I supposed to be gradually removing myself my business so I could sit by the beach all day?
The funny thing was, even though it at first ‘sort of worked’ in that I freed up some time, I found myself having to constantly find ways to ‘hustle’ as sales processes that used to be easy and effortless were now clunky and slow-moving. I also found that I lost the emotional connection and joy from knowing I was making a difference in people’s lives, so even though maybe I had a little more time (which went into trying to hustle!) I wasn’t really benefiting from it.
And eventually I had to acknowledge – the end goal isn’t always about doing less. To an extent, yes. But not if you end up so far removed from what you LOVED about your own business – which was for me the thrill of getting sh*t done, of constantly finding new ways to serve my audience, of connecting and hearing from my clients all around the world – that it all just feels like ‘pure business’ and not FUN.
I have to be honest with you though – I truly think that if my efforts to remove myself from my biz and create high mostly-passive income had have worked the way I intended to I would perhaps never – or at least not for a long while – have realised that it was never going to work for ME; not on a soul level.
I spent most of last year pushing myself so damn hard to increase my already significant business income while at the same time putting systems into place that didn’t require me to do all of the front-line work, and I guess I just got used to feeling like business was exhausting, tough, and never quite as rewarding as I thought it should be. I fell into that terrible trap (one that I often teach about!) of assuming that happiness would come ‘when’. It’s the “i’ll be happy when I lose weight syndrome”, except for me I made it “I’ll be happy and can finally relax and have the time to do what I want when I have systems in place that don’t require me to have to do the direct client work or answer email inquiries, be super active on my social media forums, and can finally just focus my time and my energy on my writing, my mission, my passion and my purpose.
It truly never occurred to me that I might be able to find a way to MESH being active in my business with my writing and the stuff I feel called to do. And it never occurred to me that just because other successful women entrepreneurs who I love and admire have created success a certain way, or had a focus on being able to do less and less and have the money still come in, didn’t mean that I had to do the same.
I feel like this is a really really important story to share, not just because the path I travelled last year was unrewarding on a soul level and also nearly brought my business to a standstill as cashflow ground more and more down each month (more on that in a moment) but also because it speaks to the heart of what being in business should really be about, and that is this –
Unapologetically, unashamedly, and regardless of whether it goes against the grain even if the grain you are going against is one that you thought was a damn good grain!
I would hate for you to end up traveling a road to what I did over the past year or two, one in which you really do your very best to create success that is not actually on your terms simply because you ASSUME that if those you admire do it that way it must be the ideal way. Let’s make sure that as your business grows and you build your brand and your financial and lifestyle freedom it is done from a place of being 100% you, yes? And if that means complete or near-total automation and passive income and being able to create your 2 or 4 or 6 hour workweek where you don’t have to actively engage in your biz or with customers that is FINE. Many a good business model works that way. I’m not for a second implying that removing the ‘you’ from your programs means they won’t be high-value. The programs I took myself out of running still delivered many times the value of what clients paid for them. That’s not the point I’m making here; there are some truly transformational home-study programs out there in which you don’t have access to the actual trainer or coach, and many ‘big name’ business owners don’t answer their own emails or social media. It also really does make sense that as your business grows you can’t personally help everyone. One of my friends uses what she calls the Oprah test to determine if a job within her business is one she should do personally. If Oprah wouldn’t do that in her biz, then maybe we shouldn’t either. This is smart and makes total sense. But for me, I found that I took the whole idea too far. And there is one very simple reason for this here, and this is the main point I want to make –
I LIKE being involved personally with my customers. So regardless of whether or not it is the ‘smart’ or ‘scaleable’ thing to not answer my own emails, to outsource my social media, to have my forums moderated, to say ‘no’ to meeting an online customer in person for coffee … it just doesn’t work for me and for who I am.
You might wonder why I stopped doing all of that stuff then, why I deliberately made myself hard for people to access and followed a path set by many great business leaders including most of my coaches, in which if people wanted to access me they had to pay, and pay well. Again, it’s very simple, and I’ve pretty much already said the reason but I think it’s so important to understand that I want to mention it again –
I didn’t realise I was doing that.
It happened so gradually.
I didn’t notice and probably wouldn’t have believed it if you told me that the reason I was no longer excited about working on my biz each day, eagerly awaiting the next morning and feeling on fire with passion and the knowledge I was making a difference was because I was not connecting in the way I wanted to and also not pushing myself to create the way I wanted to. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even really notice that I wasn’t feeling those things! I guess it’s like the saying goes – if you’re living in darkness than you have no idea what light would feel like. I don’t mean to say my business was doom or gloom! But it was nowhere near the highly rewarding and soul-fulfilling (not to mention way more profitable!) business I run today.
I honestly thought that the answer to increasing my bottom line and getting to have the life I want was to stop trying to constantly come out with new products and ideas, leverage the ones I did have, and remove myself as much as possible so that the money rolled in with or without me.
Now that last part is still a goal, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely AM creating systems to upsell, cross sell, make sure new subscribers get to hear about my older products and the ‘all home-study’ items I have in my online stable of goodies. But that is no longer the sole focus, it’s just one piece of the pie.
Because here is what I have learned about me.
I love to create – even when I have ‘no time’ for creating.
I love the thrill and adrenalin rush of being ‘on’, of taking on way too much, of multi-tasking and pushing myself to meet ever tighter deadlines.
I love connecting, seeing the way that I inspire my audience and being inspired right back by their energy.
I love feeling that I’ve made a difference in one woman’s life, or a thousand. I love that lightbulb moment when someone just gets what I’m saying and realises the powerful impact it will have on their life.
I love the thrill of the race.
I love pushing past my limits, setting new ones, going again.
And if I’m going to be SERIOUSLY rich I really do want to sprint my way there, not meander along gently on the back of an automated business that doesn’t require me to show up and be there. Don’t get me wrong … I’m all for some mega passive income flow. I’m sure there will be times I need a break, or want a break, and it’s not like I plan for my money to stop! But you get what I’m saying.
So how about you gorgeous? What do you need? What makes you 100% YOU even though it might be breaking ‘the rules’ or mean you end up doing things the way you ‘shouldn’t’?
I want you to really think about this. Think about it in terms of how it affects every part of your business and life. It’s one thing to know that you don’t want to follow the ordinary rules of success, i.e. having a ‘good job’, living the normal life. That’s an easy one to pick. But what if you are different even to all of the other rule-breakers? That’s where it becomes trickier to keep to your own path, because it’s natural to assume that once you have found your tribe what works for them will work for you.
I guess a point you need to be aware of here is that ‘your tribe’ may not just be ‘women entrepreneurs’. There are tribes within tribes. And you – you’re not like most, who want a slower life and a calmer pace.
You want to go balls to the walls to create the life you want, and even though you at times bemoan how much you have to do and how it never stops the truth is you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?
So stop pretending.
Stop assuming that busy, under the pump, stressed, inundated are bad things.
Stop thinking that the fact that you procrastinate on deadlines and then do everything at the last minute is bad.
Stop thinking that because you keep changing directions or coming up with new ideas that there’s something wrong with you.
You are a driven, creative, fast-thinking and mega fast-action-taking woman who dreams REALLY big and then makes sh*t happen. And if you’re running 10x as fast as everyone else? It’s because that’s what you were born to do baby!
Remember this –
Life is Now! Press Play.