I'm taking this moment to reflect on what has been a big week and to celebrate virtually. And in the process, hopefully inspire you with the message that you can do anything if you simply start.
When you work in a big organisation and you roll out a major initiative, there are celebratory beers in the boardroom or at the least, a round of backslapping to say: we did it. When you work on your own, you don't have that. You can work your socks off and do something huge and you turn to high five someone and find yourself left hanging. So I'm going to share my week here to give myself a virtual high five.
Back in January 2017, I set up a Facebook group for women who like walking - Glamoraks. I had no idea what I wanted it to be, but I knew that walking made me happy, and perhaps I could help make other women happy through walking. I spent the last year doing a lot to turn that fledgling idea into a potential business. You can read about that here.
This week I took a major step. I moved my Facebook group into a new home - a community network exclusive to us. Doing this was a terrifying move. I had no idea whether people would move. I had spent a year growing my Facebook group to over a thousand members and now I was going to throw a hand grenade into the mix and say: We're off!
The other bit that was terrifying was how fast this happened once I just got started. In January 2018 I spoke to some app developers about creating an app for Glamoraks. I wanted to find a way to help women find other women to go walking, hiking and adventuring with.
After getting some eye-watering estimates, I started googling: how to create an app without being a coder. I found someone who wanted to charge 4 figures who would teach you how to do this. I didn't have four figures in spare cash lying around. But that person mentioned the name of a network in passing. I googled that network - Mighty Networks - and began to investigate it. On 1 February I created the Glamoraks network on Mighty Networks. At the same time, I gave a brief to a graphic designer to create a logo and branding so that it looked more professional. On 12 February I had an intro call with one of the Mighty Networks team to find out how I should be using it.
I created the rough framework of my network and invited 10 people from the Facebook group to try it. I then tried to figure out how to use the network myself. We all learned together.
That same week I attended a weekend-long business planning course to try get clarity on what this group could be. I left still not entirely clear as it was such an unusual business model but I put a potential launch date for my new network for the beginning of June.
I started to see how people were using the network, what worked and what didn't. I invited more people in to try it out. On 27 February I discovered an absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing course from Tara Gentile who runs a Mighty Network who explained how to create a community. I devoured all 32 modules of the course in less than a week, creating my plan as I worked through each module. Having done the course, I had my aha moment. I could see how I could take a free Facebook group and turn it into a paid membership group if I just used the right strategy. (Here's hoping it's the right one....the proof will be in the pudding in a few months time).
In between all of this, I took on new and serviced existing Campfire clients, including some pretty big web copy writing projects. And my husband has been abroad for most of this period, which meant the parenting and household duties were exclusively mine.
The week commencing 12 March, I realised that I could make this launch happen much faster if I just knuckled down and created all the onboarding materials. So that's what I did. In two days I had written every policy document and created a heap of How To guides for the group. I rebuilt my website, complete with new branding, and updated all of my social media content to reflect the new branding.
I set a date for the go live launch - Tuesday 20 March. I sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers and posted in the Facebook group. Then I had to try figure out how to create a Facebook live that let me share my screen (Belive.tv in case you're wondering) - I literally did this the day the event was due to happen. I created the content I needed to share, practiced and then did it.
I ran my live Facebook event explaining why we were moving off Facebook, where we were moving to and gave them a tour of the new network. I told them they had until 13 April to move and they would get free lifetime access. Thereafter the payment plans would kick in. My reason for this: I wanted to thank my original members for sticking with me as the group changed and grew. But I also need a critical mass of people to make the network effective. Equally I need to make money from it to cover costs and frankly, to pay myself for the time I've invested in creating this. So by making it free to start with, I would get the numbers in, which means once the paywall starts, people would see that there is an active group rather than tumbleweeds - and would be more willing to pay to join.
I shared the link on several relevant Facebook groups and used other social media to drive awareness.
In 48 hours the group has grown from the 140 initial users who had been dabbling with it, to 515 at last count (it's gone up by 3 in the time I've written this post). Given it took me a year to grow the Facebook group to 1000 and it's taken just 48 hours to get to half that, I am really happy. And the comments from the people in the group make me happier still. And the fact that they are coming from all over the world is even better.
I know that this is the easy bit. There is so much more work to do to retain them, engage them, to manage to grow that number and more importantly, manage to grow it once there is a monthly fee. I need to create branded merchandise and connect with outdoor brands to get sponsorship, advertising and discounts. I need to set up an entire calendar of member events and run member interviews. I need to create my marketing plan. And I still need to finalise my legal policies. It is a gargantuan amount of work and frankly it's terrifying. The little voice of fear keeps popping up to say: who are you to do this? It's going to fail. You went too fast. You weren't ready.
But if you wait until you are ready, you will never, ever start. Like ever. You need to learn as you go. It is the best way to learn. Evolve it and change it and adapt it if necessary, but just start.
If I think about the fact that it's been just over a year since I set up the free Facebook group with nothing more than an idea. And it's been not quite two months since I discovered this new platform, the fact that it is live and has over 500 members in it who are chatting and communicating.... well that looks like success to me. My inner critic wants to rain on my parade and without any team members to say: 'Hell yeah, we did it!' it can be easy to listen to it. But I'm not going to.
I am taking this moment, right here, right now, to say: Hell yeah, you did it!
What comes hereafter is a challenge for another day.
Thanks for listening and being my virtual high five. And if you are currently sitting with an idea but aren't sure how to make it happen. Just start. The rest will follow.
If you would like to see the fruits of my endeavours, go to www.glamoraks.com and if you are a women who likes walking, please join. I would love it if you could share the link with anyone you know so that I can rapidly grow the group before the 13 April deadline.
This is a post dedicated to women.
This is for you: Never underestimate all you do and all that you are. You are so much more powerful than you realise. Without you the world would genuinely be a less lovely place.
I support #MeToo and #TimesUp and #PressforProgress. But I'd like to add: #IamIncredible. Go on - say it out loud. Because you are.
Happy women's day 2018.
Right. Listen up. If you have returned from your summer break and are finding it very hard to relight your business fire, I am going to try to help. Now admittedly, if you are feeling super low, you probably won't be reading this because it will fall into the 'can't be arsed' category. And it will be YET ANOTHER person telling you what you should be doing, when really, all you want to do is lie in bed and binge watch Netflix or lie in the sun and attempt to recreate your holiday. Except, it's England and it's wet and cold.
I have been you. In fact, until yesterday, this was me. Like all self-employed people, I have been on this particular mojo rollercoaster before. Except this time, I couldn't even be bothered to get onto the sodding rollercoaster. It was like I had business mojo flatlined.
And the worst thing about losing your mojo, is that the longer you don't have it, the harder it is to find. Apathy breeds apathy. Then you feel bad about doing nothing, so you do even less. All around you, peppy people are raving about how awesome everything is and what they're achieving and trying to rev you up so that you can join in their energetic success ball. But frankly you just want to pull the blanket over your head and eat chocolate.
Then I watched a video by Mel Robbins on the micro-decisions that make our lives what they are. I'd seen it before but somehow it popped into my Facebook feed (while I was wasting time pretending to work but not). And it's like the universe was trying to give me a bitch slap. Obviously, my life isn't a movie where I suddenly transformed into an energiser bunny and changed the world five minutes after watching that clip. Nope. I stayed lying in bed binge watching Suits, wondering how come all the women in that show are so incredibly well put together and how many times they say 'Godammit!' in any episode.
But Mel's message stuck with me. This morning I woke up and decided that I wouldn't lie in bed reading angry tweets about Trump. And I wouldn't eat a big breakfast that would delay me from doing my workout. Before I gave my brain time to think, I got out of bed, got in gym kit and headed outside for a run. I decided that I would use the run to decide what I'd achieve that day.
I tried to do that. But every time I thought I had a game plan, little voices of doubt would creep in telling me that it was unrealistic or the wrong thing to focus on or not big enough. By the end of the run I still had no game plan for the day. And I knew that without a game plan, I would waste another day going around in circles achieving nothing. And my mojo would plummet further.
So here's what I did.
I asked myself, what is the ONE thing you really NEED to do? And what I really NEED to do is make money so that I can buy my husband a brilliant 50th birthday present. I had a clear goal. Make money.
I immediately thought of the billion different things I could do to attempt to market to clients to make money. My mind leapt to fanciful ideas and projects that would take time to get off the ground and I could feel that mojo slipping away. It was all too big and complicated. So I said to myself: If I had zero money and I HAD to make some by the end of the week, what would I do?
The answer was blindingly obvious. Ask people directly for business. I decided to do just that.
Buoyed by getting that done, I noticed two emails that came in about events taking place in the next few months featuring keynote speakers. I decided that I would email them and ask if they needed any other speakers. I didn't hesitate and ask 'Will I be good enough?', 'What if it's a waste of time?', 'Will they think I'm insane asking at this late stage?', 'Will be scary?' I just did it.
I didn't hear back from one. The other replied saying yes. There was a small cost involved. I weighed it up and thought, sod it. No hesitation. Just do it. I am now booked to be a speaker at an event with 100 women next month!
My learnings on how to kickstart your mojo:
If you my lovely reader are feeling mojo-less, take heart. Do not give up. Do not beat yourself up. Just start with one little thing. And then keep going. It will return.
If you'd like my help (now that I have my mojo back) please check out my services. I would absolutely love to help you develop your brand story.
Loss is not simply the sadness that radiates from the space someone leaves behind them when they're no longer there, it's the responsibility to keep on living deeply and joyfully in their absence. Because it is through living and celebrating each day, embracing every experience - the good, the bad, the mundane - that we do justice to the opportunity we have been given to be alive."
I wrote these words this morning after waking at 5am and remembering what day it was. 26 July. A day forever etched into my memory after an unimaginable family tragedy changed all of our lives forever 30 years ago.
I don't normally write about personal issues on this blog but I wanted to share these words here because I think they are so important to remember, regardless of whether you have suffered a loss or not.
Often when I work with clients we look at their values and beliefs. These often shape where they want to take their business. But I wonder how many of them know why they hold those values and beliefs. I've not really examined why I believe so strongly in freedom, honesty and adventure, for example. But on reading my own words back today, I realised that there is a part of me that wants to live fully to honour two people who can't. I want to be free to experience whatever comes my way, to say yes to new challenges and to live openly and honestly because I can.
It's the same reason I am self-critical and lack self-belief. Why I feel that I have never achieved enough. Because no matter how much I might try to do - even if I am unknowingly trying to do it to prove that I'm living a good life in their honour - nothing will ever be enough. Because I cannot make up for two missing lives. All I can do is live my own. And live it well.
Being successful or achieving great things so that you have a rich and fulfilling life is brilliant. But a more brilliant life is to be happy with the one you have. To accept every day, no matter what it brings, and be grateful for it.
The point of this post?
Simply to say that your life has made you who you are. You can't unmake it. You can simply continue the story. You have the ability to change the storyline anytime you like. You can make it as exciting or as mundane as you feel comfortable with. But whether you are writing an edge-of-your-seat blockbuster, or a repetitive, predictable plot, own it. It's your story. You are the author of your life.
I have just returned from climbing - and summiting - Mount Kilimanjaro, the world's highest freestanding mountain. I am not a mega fit, courageous adventurer. I'm a 40-something woman who enjoys walking, who should probably lose a stone and who far prefers a comfy bed and glass of wine to a tent and peeing in a bottle. But a friend asked me to climb it with her for charity and I said yes.
That was the sum total of my qualifications. I simply said yes. I didn't think about how I would do it or whether I could do it or how difficult would be. And that is the first learning you can apply to business:
Say yes first. Figure it out later. Don't overthink it. Don't read the fine print because it will scare you off. Just say yes.
But there are many other learnings that came out of my experience of climbing a mountain that are exactly like running a business:
Put the effort in before you start
Walking for miles in the cold while lugging a backpack, hitting the gym and spending hours researching what kit you need isn't a huge amount of fun. In fact, it's hard work. But the more effort you put into your training and preparation before you start, the easier the actual climb is. The same is true for business. If you are trying to launch something, the more effort and research you put in before you launch, the more successful you're likely to be. Don't confuse this with researching and training before saying yes. Say yes, then research and train!
Have a hard deadline to focus your mind
If I had decided to climb Kilimanjaro at some point, I wouldn't have had any pressure on me to really ramp up my fitness or get my gear together. I had a hard date I had to be ready for. Same goes for your business. Unless you set yourself a specific date you want to get something done by, you will let the deadline drift and you'll never get it done. Particularly if it's a difficult thing you have to do.
Get expert help
I paid for a personal trainer, a specialist boot fitter and spoke to numerous people who had climbed the mountain first to ensure I was prepared. I could have done it without their help, but perhaps I wouldn't have made it to the summit or perhaps I would have hated every minute of the experience, instead of enjoying it - like I did. In your business, you can probably do things for yourself without paying for an expert, but getting some guidance and expertise can make all the difference to your success and enjoyment.
A positive mindset will overcome any challenge
I was told that climbing Kilimanjaro is a physical challenge, but really it's the mental side of it that will affect you most. I was determined to maintain a positive mindset. That meant I refused to worry about what ifs. I didn't dwell on the tough bits. I stopped myself from complaining as much as possible. I tried to help others. I visualised being at the summit. I never doubted that I'd get there. I didn't compare myself to others climbing. I just remained focused and positive. Funnily, it was easier for me to do this climbing a mountain than it is running my business, where I am regularly knocked back by comparison-itis or self-doubt. I will be taking that focus and positive mental attitude from the mountain and will apply it to my business. You can too.
Being fastest doesn't always equal success. Slow and steady perseverance has a higher success rate.
On the mountain, you are told to go 'pole pole', which is Swahili for slowly slowly. People who charge ahead up the mountain are often the ones who don't reach the summit as they haven't given themselves a chance to acclimatise. In business, we see the small business superstars who seem to have overnight success and multi-million pound businesses in less than a year. It makes us feel like we should be going faster to be successful. But going pole pole can give you more sustained growth at a pace that you can manage. Perseverance really does have a higher success rate than those who strike out fast and collapse.
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will get there eventually
On summit night, you walk for 9 hours in the dark before you finally reach Uhuru Peak. There are many times during those nine hours in sub zero temperatures and little oxygen where you might want to turn back. But you simply have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you eventually get there. A business is exactly like that. There are times when it all just feels to difficult, you want to give up or stop and cry. Just keep going. The steps don't have to be big or fast. They just need to keep you going forward and eventually you will reach the top.
Enjoy the journey - even the tough bits and take time to appreciate the view
I am a firm believer that every journey - no matter how uncomfortable - is worth taking because you see so much and learn so much. You will find pockets of elation and utter beauty right alongside your darkest moments. The important thing is to look up and around you, appreciate the view from where you are right now and embrace all you see. It's very easy when you run a business to get bogged down in how tough it is or the busy-ness of it all, that we forget to enjoy it. Stop, breathe, look around, appreciate where you are and the journey you're on - and then keep going.
Just because a challenge seems daunting doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. You may just surprise yourself at your resilience, tenacity and ability to succeed
I wasn't looking to climb a mountain. The opportunity presented itself to me. I could have said no because it seemed too much of a scary challenge. But I said yes. And I now I can say that I've stood on the roof of Africa. If an opportunity comes your way, remember to say yes. You can figure it out later. You may just surprise yourself at how capable you really are.
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If I can help you get clarity in where you want to take your business or what your brand story should be, write your copy for you, coach you in how to communicate your story to your ideal clients or help you connect with other like minded small business owners at my Campfire Retreat, please get in touch.
Now go climb that mountain!
I want to tell you a story that may just help you if you are passionate about something but aren't sure how to make it a business. Or if your current job or business isn't inspiring you and you want to pursue something else.
In 2014, I read the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. If you're not familiar with it, it's about a woman who walked the PCT (The Pacific Crest Trail) on her own to help her work through some life issues. I had always enjoyed walking, but had never considered doing something as epic as that. But it planted a desire to do more walks.
One weekend, both my husband and children were away. I had a choice. I could spend the weekend working or I could do something on my own. Inspired by the book, I went to an outdoors shop, bought some walking boots and a waterproof jacket and decided to go walking. The radio issued amber weather warnings about gale force winds and torrential rain as I made my way to the North Yorkshire coast, but I was undeterred.
I set off from Whitby, walked to Ravenscar and then back to a hostel near Robin Hood's Bay, a total of 14 very wet miles, before returning the next day. I loved it. I had the path to myself, the wind and rain in my face and I felt free and happy. That weekend kickstarted my love of walking.
I began to invite friends to come walking with me, and we'd do day walks or two-day walks, taking just what we needed in our packs. I took it a whole lot further when I walked 192 miles over 14 days doing the Coast to Coast. I've since walked the circumference of the Isle of Wight, will walk the West Highland Way in April and will be climbing Kilimanjaro in February for charity..
My phone is full of photos of my daily walks. My cupboard is full of walking gear. I organise walks for friends and follow walking-related companies on social media. All the signs were there. I have a passion, a genuine love of something that makes me feel ridiculously happy without even trying.
Yet for years - as a business owner - I'd been trying to find my passion. And that's because I believed my passion had to be something that I was qualified in. I have certificates and diplomas and qualifications and years of experience in PR, Marketing and Small Business Management, but I have no such thing for walking. I have miles in my boots. That's it.
So I kept my walking as a hobby. Nothing more. I focused on my business. And while I am genuinely passionate about helping small business owners tell their stories and grow their businesses, it's a different kind of enthusiasm to the one I have for walking. It's a head-led experience, rather than a heart-felt passion.
Just before Christmas I saw a press opportunity for a magazine that wanted to talk to women who like walking. I responded and was interviewed. Being a PR person, I tried to shoehorn a mention of my business into the piece, but it wasn't a natural fit. And I realised that I was wasting a valuable PR opportunity. This was the kick up the backside I needed to take charge of my passion.
I'd had an idea brewing for ages but didn't know how to turn it into a business, so I ignored it. The idea was to formalise the name I'd given to the ladies I walk with and use it as some kind of walking related business. The name was Glamoraks (because we wore anoraks but were a little bit glamorous underneath the layers or Goretex). I realised that there was a gap in the market to reach out to women, probably in their 30s, 40s and 50s but could be any age, who don't see themselves as hard core hikers, but who don't want to be labelled as ramblers either.
I realised that I wanted to inspire women from around the world to get out and walk more. The benefits of walking are amazing - and so needed by women who juggle multiple stresses. I decided it was time to take my passion and turn it into something bigger that could truly make a difference in the world. Because walking makes women happy. And if women are happy, the world is a better place (ask my husband).
On Monday 9 January 2017, I set up the Glamoraks facebook group. By Tuesday I had created a website for it. Within a week the group had 220 members. They are sharing pictures of their walks, teaming up, finding walking buddies, inspiring others to get out there, getting information on kit and a whole bunch more.
I have no idea where this is going to go. I still have to figure out how to make this a business. I have a head full of ideas. And it's still a side gig to Campfire. But for now, I'm simply letting the community flourish. By embracing my passion, I know that the right ideas will present themselves to me. And one day it will become a business.
By the end of 2017 there were 800 members, the first Glamoraks weekend away held, the next scheduled and sold out in less than 24 hours, it's been featured in Top Sante, Healthy, Good Housekeeping, The Saturday Telegraph and BBC local radio. Big plans are in place for 2018.
So here are some tips if you want to run a business based on your passion:
If you are a women who loves walking, please join the group. If you want to turn your passion into a business and need help getting clarity, see my Clarity package.
This year I launched a course. I followed the instructions about how to launch this course to the letter. I read countless guides on how to create scarcity and encourage action and how to sell without selling. In short I was doing what all of the 'successful' internet gurus were advising.
Now some of what I read didn't sit well with me. It made sense logically, but in my gut it felt false. Or just not me. But then here I was with a little business that was doing ok, but wasn't making me millions or anything close to that. So I figured they must be right and I must be wrong.
Except ever since I started doing it the way you're 'supposed' to do things, I've felt less engaged with the people on my email list. I've started to see them as 'my list' rather than individuals. Funnily, my unsubscribe numbers have increased and my open rates have decreased. I thought perhaps it was because I switched to a different email automator but I think maybe it's because I've stopped being me.
Every time I see a well targeted Facebook ad, I can literally see the marketing funnel in action. I can see how they've got a really good advert that takes you to an enticing lead page, which leads you to an instant buy option, which leads you to a series of emails that encourages you to buy something bigger or become part of a membership club and all of it comes with a super appealing offer to get it now, now, now. And you know what? It works. It absolutely works.
But I hate it.
So now I am faced with this quandary. Do I follow the advice of people who obviously make a lot of money and know what works but hate myself for doing it, or do I keep doing things my way?
I posted this very frank and honest video (below) on my Facebook page this week and it's got plenty of comments. Those comments have reminded me that what people relate to is a person, not a sales funnel. That said, comments don't pay the bills. Sales do.
So I will be taking a bit of time over December to rethink my services and offerings and way of working to see if there is some kind of hybrid way. I know there will be plenty of people who already offer 'authentic selling' or 'heart-centred' business approaches. But that doesn't sit well with me either. It sounds like another marketing label for what is in effect still the same selling process.
There are soooooooo many posts and articles out there talking about being uniquely you, but at the same time there are a gazillion experts telling you how to follow their unique formula to make money. The two just don't marry up.
All I can do is keep helping my clients as best I can. I do want success for each and every one of them. I literally do coverage dances for them when they get in the press. And I smile from ear to ear when I hear how something I've done for them has helped their business grow. Comments like these below are what make me keep finding the motivation to keep going, even when it feels like I will never 'make it'.
'Just a gentle reminder you made me cry in my car when you delivered my copy ... you changed the course of my business ... well the way that I communicate about my business. It was transformative for me and I'm guessing others feel the same way ... thanks for all you do ... and the way that you do it ! hugs from across the pond!'
'First you are ace at what you are doing and keep going! I had a week like this a few weeks ago and felt like I was getting nowhere. All I can say is you are doing great - the progress you made this year and the retreat was amazing. Keep plugging away!'
'You are excellent at what you do and your website and postings do give the rest of us a lift and hope of success!'
So my advice to you if you are feeling much the same way, is to keep doing what you are doing. Do what feels right to you. Don't mistake fear of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone with the icky feeling of doing something that isn't comfortable to you. Take this time over the festive period to take stock, rethink and get clear about who you really are as a business.
And if I can help you get there, do let me know. Because I am a heck of a lot better at doing that for other people than I am at doing it for myself!
Thanks for reading/watching and thanks to those of you who have already helped me with your comments. Your support is hugely appreciated.
It's York Business Week and Global Entrepreneurship Week. To celebrate these initiatives, last night I got to speak at an event run by Everyday People, in which I shared my self-employment journey. And I thought - hang on - why only share it with the people at the event?
So I have recorded the video above (it is 16 minutes long) in which I run through how I came to be self-employed, how I switched sectors, how I found my first clients, some of the crazy stuff I've done along the way, and lessons I've learned throughout.
I hope you find it useful. I'd love to hear your comments and find out more about your self-employment journey. Share them below or pop over to my Facebook page and share it there.
PS - I will be running a FREE Webinar this Friday 18 November on How to get Publicity Easily - so click here to register. It could be the start of you sharing your story with the world.
A year ago I wrote this blog about the things I'd learned in my first year of business. Well this week heralds my second business anniversary. So I thought I'd share my learnings from year two. It could be summed up quite simply as -
Here are my learnings:
You have to be brave
In the last year I have launched a new service called Ignite, that took me into the world of design and website building, not my core skillset. I also launched an online course that dropped kicked me so far out of my comfort zone I could scarcely remember where I used to be. And I ran my first ever weekend-long retreat, something I had zero experience in doing. I spoke in front of 30 people. I raised my prices. I said no to clients I didn't want to work with.
All of these things took guts. But the old saying of you can't make an omelette unless you crack a few eggs is true. Doing new things is scary. Putting yourself out in front of others who may judge you is scary. Creating a product that you think will work but you won't really know until you try is scary. Raising your prices and saying no - both scary. In fact there is so much to be scared about it's a wonder any businesses ever thrive.
But I've learnt that you just have to try. If you fail, you've learnt something. And if you succeed, you've succeeded. So you can't ever really fail. You'll always get something out of it.
You have to believe in yourself
I have suffered from a lack of belief and low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. But this year, I decided to start off every day doing four things (as I wrote in this post). One day I literally sent myself a post card that said: I am enough. I stuck it on my office wall and every time one of those aforementioned scary things came up and the self doubt pixies starting pounding my brain, I'd say out loud: I am enough. And you know what? Gradually I started to believe it.
We all compare ourselves to others. It is exceptionally difficult not to. At my recent Campfire Retreat we all had to say one thing that was holding us back, and so many people around that campfire all said the same thing: We're not good enough.
Well sod that. We bloody well are. This has been a major turning point for me this year and while those pesky pixies still linger, I can ignore them more easily now.
You have to constantly learn
When you work in a big company, you get sent on all sorts of professional development courses. When you work on your own, you don't. It's up to you to keep on learning. Do you know what the best way to learn is? By doing.
This year I have learnt how to create a course from start to finish, including the complicated back end membership systems and payment thingies and building the website and how to market it using sales funnels and email automation. And that's just one new product of several I have created this year. To grow, you have to be willing to learn.
You have to outsource
Now I've just said you have to learn, but you also need to outsource. Sometimes other people are just better at stuff than you are. And if there is something that is going to take you weeks and weeks to do and not do well, then outsource it. This year I outsourced design, some website building, email automation & other tech bits to a VA, and my Facebook advertising. I can do all of these things - because I've learnt how. But I know that other people can do them better and I can learn from them as I go along, while freeing up my time.
You have to make connections
I don't really like networking, entering a room of people I don't know and trying to make conversation. But it is through networking that I met the person who helped me get my retreat off the ground. It helped me meet a designer who I could team up with on my Ignite package. And it's opened up a few speaking opportunities for me. I've also really worked hard at making connections with the press for my own business. As a result, I now have a lovely roster of press coverage and contacts I can turn to when I have a story.
Sure you can stay hiding away behind your screen, but I refer you to point one above. You have to be brave. Get yourself out there. Everyone else is feeling the same way. Just be yourself, be helpful rather than salesy and people will be drawn to you. You never know who you might meet and what direction it could take your business in.
You have to invest
When you first start out you try to spend as little money as possible a) because you don't have any and b) because what you're selling isn't proven yet so it's a bigger risk. But there will come a point where you need to invest, whether that's in outsourced help; paying for a course or training or coach of some kind; in a new website or Facebook advertising or whatever.
The old adage of 'you have to spend money to make money' is kinda true. You don't have to break the bank. But think carefully about the help you need and then invest in that. Keep an eye on your profitability but be prepared to make a loss or just break even at first. Remember, not everything you gain is monetary. Often it's the experience and learning that is where the real gain lies.
You have to keep refining your offer - but keep your brand story consistent
Two years in and I'm still reshaping what it is I actually offer. It is a work in progress. It probably always will be. But what has stayed true is my commitment to my brand story - the concept of the Campfire - the sense of adventure and freedom that comes with that. I'm getting clearer and clearer on my vision and purpose. It's evolving and stretching with me.
When Steve Jobs brought out the first iphone, do you think he decided not to because in the future there would be better versions? Nope. Same goes for your business. Just start. Refine and learn as you go. Tweak it. Sculpt it. Improve it. But do it.
You have to be true to you
It is so easy to get sucked into what everyone else is doing. In the online PR world, for example, almost all of my competitors are hugely feminine in their branding. Flat lay images and inspiring desk spaces with pretty flowers abound. But I'm not a pretty, pink, flowers and high heels person. I wear boots. And jeans and I like going outdoors and cutting to the chase. But the minute you try and copy someone else's style, you lose you. And YOU are what makes your business different and valuable. So figure out who you are and stick with that.
I'm sure there is a whole bunch more I have learnt this year but these are the things that came to mind first. All of them have stretched me. But the good thing about getting stretched (as my Yogabomb friend Lou will know), is you become more flexible, stronger, lean and supple. And that's the kind of business that succeeds.
Were these lessons helpful? What lessons have you learnt? Share them with me below or pop over to my Facebook page. And if you feel you need some help to get clear on where you want to take your business, do check out my new Clarity package, Copy & Canvas Package or try my new Campfire Marketing coach-sulting package.
Onwards! Here's to year 3.
This morning I watched Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan do something extraordinary. They set out a vision: to cure, prevent or manage all diseases by 2100.
To do this, they were giving $3 billion to fund medical research over the next decade. Their three-pronged plan aims to:
As I watched, I just kept thinking: 'Wow'.
Once upon a time there was a very bright chap who decided to create a website that connected university friends. And that went on to become Facebook which now connects 1.7 billion people across the planet. And then using the money he made from that he set up an initiative with his wife to invest in improved education. And when that wasn't enough, they set out to eradicate disease. He's 32.
There's achieving success. And then there's that. It can make you feel fairly paltry in comparison.
I took a lot of learnings away from watching their Facebook Live address - like how this is a seismic shift in corporate philanthropy, and how this interconnected generation has the possibility to become ever more humane while living in an increasingly technological world. It gave me an immense amount of optimism for the type of world my own children will inherit - and made me want to remind them to finish their science homework.
But it also gave me pause for thought in terms of my own vision. When I work with clients on their brand story, I ask them what their vision is. What do they bring to the world? How is the world a better place for their being here?
And those are really big questions. Because as much as we may like to, there are very few Zuckerbergs. Most of us will have far smaller visions, a far less significant impact on the world. But that doesn't make them any less important.
It can be hard to know what your vision is. It can feel forced, as though you ought to have a big vision, rather than just doing what you do because it's what you enjoy or what you're good at. It's easy to claim to have a vision, but if you don't back it up with tangible actions, is it more of a pipe dream rather than something achievable.
I seriously doubt that when Mark Zuckerberg started out with his original idea, he had aspirations to stop all diseases within a generation. But his vision has grown as his business has.
Yours can too. But you first need to identify what your current vision is. Do you have one? Here are some questions you can answer to help you figure out what your vision is:
If you still aren't sure what your vision is, start with your values. Your values are the things that you really, truly believe in. They are the things that you rant about. The rules you live by. The stuff you do every day without thinking about because it's just part of who you are. So think about that - what do you really value? Once you know that, you'll start to get a sense of what you could change in this world. And that will give you your vision.
Here's an example using my business:
I believe that you only have on life to live and that you should be able to live it on your terms. I believe everyone deserves work life balance. I believe in entrepreneurship for everyone who desires it. I believe in honesty, over delivering, having a relaxed approach to business, in freedom.
These are my values. Which have helped me shape my vision:
To help small business owners create a business that is perfect for them.
My vision is tiny when compared to the likes of Mark Zuckerberg. But that's ok. As long as I keep delivering on my vision - and as long as you deliver on yours - collectively, we can all work towards a better world. And that's a nice thought.
It you want help figuring out your brand story, get in touch. Or take a look at my Clarity package, in which I help you get clear on issues like this.
What's your vision? Leave me a comment and tell me.