If it wasn't obvious by now, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit about online business. As of late, my thoughts have kept circling around this nagging question:
What is causing us to feel so overwhelmed, pressured, and, if it goes on long enough, FED UP with the whole idea of making money online?
There’s something going on here.
I mean, I know (and you know) that growing and running a business is difficult NO MATTER WHAT kind it is. There’s always going to be those long days, sleepless nights, and obsessive periods where it seems everything is about “the biz.”
Whether you’re trying to grow in the virtual space or not, that reality is the same.
Yet as I talk to more and more online-focused entrepreneurs -- who have only been doing this for about 6 months to 3 years, mind you -- I hear things I DON’T hear from my friends who own locally-based, brick-and-mortar shops, studios, offices, etc.
“I honestly don’t know if I want to do this with my life anymore.”
“No one would guess it, but I’ve been seriously struggling for the last couple of months and am planning on shutting down most of my offerings soon.”
“I’m constantly feeling stressed, frustrated, and behind -- something needs to change or I can’t continue.”
As I’ve been thinking about this, I keep coming to back to one disturbing factor that I think has a lot to do with this level of unhappiness and burnout:
Author: Erika Madden
Most of the time, fail stories are humiliating to write.
That’s even more true if you’re an online business owner, and your failure is ABOUT your business. Who wants to hear about how tired, scared, and actually human you are, really? That’s not fun or sexy. It doesn’t promise people 6-figure incomes, 4-hour work weeks, or piña coladas in paradise.
I mean, eww.
Nevertheless, I have a fail story to share with you. One that I’m no longer the least bit upset by, and, in fact, one that now makes me happier to talk about.
Yeah, it sounds nuts.
But as you’ll see soon, nuts is how I like to roll. ;) #bam
Do you ever feel like you're getting very little done for your business during the day? Does trying to grow your brand feel overwhelming and exhausting? Do you read those Use This System To Be More Productive! blog posts and feel like crying because your creative brain can't manage to follow a "system" successfully for more than 1.73 days?
If so, hello. We should be friends.
For the first 2 years of my business, I lived in the world you find yourself in now. I know you're tired. I know you're frustrated. I know that you compare yourself to the insanely productive biz owners around you and think, "What the heck is WRONG with ME?!"
And I also know just how very unhappy it has started to make you.
I grew unhappy, too.
But through some trial, error, random good fortune, new choices, and -- okay, I'll say it -- wisdom that comes with age, I gradually found my way to a better approach. One that has helped me improve not just the running of my business, but also the living of my life. That's what I'm going to share with you today, in hopes that my experiences (messy failures included) will help you find YOUR way, too.
Before you go much further, note this: what you'll read below isn't a system, or a method, or any sort of strict, defined way to structure every minute of your day in order to be more productive, successful, and satisfied.
Those things are epic for those who think best that way, but I don't -- and thus I won't, and can't, preach something I don't practice.
What IS below can more accurately be described as a "Realistic Productivity Guide for Right-Brained (aka Intuitive + Creative) Business Owners."
It's for those of us who go weak in the knees over new calendars, fancy day planners, and the pretty pens + highlighters to accompany them, but have stopped using them all by mid-January.
It's for those of us who can't fathom planning out a year's worth of blog posts ahead of time because even if we tried, we'd decide to make a whole different schedule...
No matter what kind of business we run or blog we have, there is one universal truth among all of us: we all want more people to swoon over our brand.
Whether that means more social media followers or just more sales (though it's likely both!), we can spend a crazy number of hours searching for "the latest and greatest" way to market ourselves and make ourselves attractive to people. I've definitely done it, and I'm willing to hazard a guess that you have, too.
The problem is, "the latest and greatest" isn't always the best. And sometimes the info we get can be awfully flashy, skeazy, or downright ineffective.
Today I'd like to share with you 5 solid tips from my own experience in online business that will immediately have a positive impact on your brand for the upcoming year. These tips are simple, and yet will help you look more professional and be more likeable -- so that you can achieve more of your brand goals in 2017.
(For you maybe that means making more money, reducing customer churn, obtaining more speaking opportunities, winning more recognition, making more relationships, or _________. Whatever it is, doing all of the following can seriously, and perhaps surprisingly, impact what you achieve this year.)
I invite you to try them out!
Can you set boundaries in biz and still listen to your clients?
Or does being a small business owner mean you get to run things your way, all the time?
One of the biggest mistakes I some people make when they start their own business, especially online (where other people can seem far away and relationships less personal), is subscribing to the idea that they need to dominate over their clients.
"This is my business and I make all the rules. If you don't like them, don't hire me!"
Have you ever run into a business owner who made you feel that way? (I have, and it's an icky feeling.)
Boundaries ARE important -- particularly when it comes to essential biz operations like payment policies -- and it's not bad to have them.
But as in all things in life, when they are taken to the extreme, they can stop being healthy and start being used as an excuse to treat people badly.
And that doesn't just hurt clients or customers, it hurts our businesses, too. It's difficult to run a thriving brand when people feel as if their needs + wants come in third, fourth, or last place!
In this interview today, Fashiony Fab owner Maru Ramirez (a favorite classy boss lady of mine) talks about this very issue -- as well as shares her best practices when it comes to email replies to clients, how she helps recurring clients feel extra special, and what crucial (healthy) boundary she learned to implement early on in her biz.
Check it out below:
Making a personal connection in biz can improve your client + customer service -- and radically improve the impact you make as a brand.
That's because it helps you stop seeing your online business only in terms of straight numbers, and start seeing it for the fullness of what it TRULY is:
A help for living, breathing, struggling, aspiring human beings.
When you start seeing what you do in this way, you treat people -- well, you treat them differently.
In almost every way, you treat them better.
This not only makes you a great biz owner. It makes people like you. Listen to you. TRUST you.
If you've ever wondered how you get to be an "influential brand" -- that is, how you reach that level where people mention you on social media, often refer people to you, and faithfully rely on your advice or solution to their own problems -- this is the (plain and yet sometimes hard) answer.
You need to care about people and reach them in a place that matters before you can even think about reaching the heights that matter to you.
Happily, Kelly Wilson of Fit Fizz Studio gets that -- and that's why I'm eager to share her customer service wisdom on the blog today!
Read on to discover how she tries to make that authentic personal connection with her clients and customers (even when the things that come up in conversation are intimate and difficult):