Maxine’s been building her coaching practice now for nearly two years.
And she’s had it with all the same-old advice.
She swears that if she hears one more time that she needs to “focus on a niche” or “quit playing small,” she’s going to punch someone in the throat.
(Okay, probably not. Maxine wouldn’t hurt a fly. But she is tired of feeling berated by all the marketing experts who want her to create epic shit.)
It didn’t used to be this way.
When Maxine first started her business, she was full of creative energy and enthusiasm for the bright shiny future she just knew was right around the corner.
She had her beautiful new website. And her gorgeous business cards.
She was blogging. And sharing on social media. And showing up at all the right networking events.
She had a niche. (Sort of.)
Focused? Hell, yes she was focused.
Bright shiny objects weren’t really a distraction. She made sure she did what she said she would do — and she did those things with heart.
But as the weeks and months wore on (and her progress forward was measured only in spurts and inches), her original passion and excitement were soon replaced with feelings of…disenchantment.
The sparkle in her “Big Why” felt tarnished.
“I’m doing what the experts promise will make me successful, but it’s just not happening,” she complained.
And it’s not that Maxine didn’t understand that building a successful business takes time. She totally did.
But it’s been weeks since it felt like she was getting enough of a pay-off (financially and mentally) for all the work she’s been putting in.
And she’s beginning to think it would be SO much easier if she just got a regular J-O-B.
If you’ve hit a plateau and you just don’t have it in you to work that much harder on your marketing, you may need to reboot your approach.
Monotony is a thing. So is burnout. (And they can both kill your drive to succeed.)
If you’ve been giving it your all and/or marketing your biz the same way for longer than you can remember — and it doesn’t feel right anymore — it’s time to shake things up.
First, make sure you’ve got space to think. And to play.
Are you over-scheduled with client work? Constantly putting out the same fires?
If you’re someone who says, “I just don’t have time to add one more thing to my calendar,” the first thing you’ll want to do is create some boundaries.
We all have 24 hours in a day. Seven days in a week.
How you choose to spend yours IS up to you. Truly.
Make your choices and make them well.
Would you like to keep on doing what you’re doing and getting nowhere?
Or would you like things to change?
Get out your calendar and block off at least one full day just for you. Two if you want to really make a difference.
(I usually advise newish biz owners to save 50% of their work week for non-billable tasks. That ratio can go down as you fill up your client roster, but in the beginning, you’ll need at least that amount of time to work ON — vs. IN — your biz.)
Make time to wear your CEO and manager hats. The CEO plans, dreams, and analyzes how well your strategies play out. Your manager carries out those plans (e.g., the marketing!).
TRUTH: If you feel you can’t block that time out because you need those precious billable hours, then you’re probably not charging enough. Adjust accordingly. And if you need to delegate some tasks, do that, too.
Once you’ve made space in your week, look over your business and ask: “Where am I feeling the most blah?”
Most likely, you’ve lost track of your original Why. It may even feel like a deep-in-your-bones identity crisis.
Perhaps you get the sense that you’ve been chasing the wrong goals. Or the wrong type of clients. Or that your brand no longer fits the idea of what you wanted to build.
The thought of blowing things up and starting again from scratch sounds so…delicious.
I hear you. Your heart knows something is off.
But don’t let your brain rush to judgment about what that something is. At least not yet.
If your Big Why still holds true, make sure you’re not living someone else’s idea of what success looks like.
Be absolutely positive that you’re not trying to build your biz in a way that doesn’t jive with your own ideals and values. Slow marketing is definitely a good thing.
If it all feels A-OK, then take a closer look at some of these areas:
Are your profits lackluster? Maybe it’s time to experiment with a new way of pricing (think Gift Economy) or delivering your offer. Think in terms of iterating — i.e., tweak the components of your product or service gradually over time to suit your clients and customers. Remember less is the new more. Pare down first before you start piling on bonuses and extra goodies. Beta-test your offers and see how people respond. Take what you learn and tweak it again. Most products aren’t blockbusters right out of the gate.
Are you feeling uninspired or creatively blocked? Take a course in an area totally unrelated to your business. What have you been curious about? Learning something new (in an unrelated area) will often spark ideas for how to solve a biz problem. When I attended a conference on gamification, it inspired me to create Prosperity’s Kitchen. Which in turn, inspired me to create The Digital Dining Room. At the very least, it may give you a creative outlet and a new hobby.
How connected are you to your existing clients and peers? Maybe it’s time to deepen your connections and relationships. When we slow down enough to have meaningful conversations and express gratitude, all sorts of wonderful things happen. New partnerships form. New ideas are birthed. If you’d like some guidance with this, check out “30 Ways to Bloom Your Online Relationships.”
Do you have a sufficient support network? Trusted peers and colleagues you can bounce ideas off of? If you’re not already in one, join or form a mastermind group. Think of them as your “board of directors” and let them help you brainstorm new solutions to old problems. When you work solo in your business, it’s easy to get stuck on problems or feelings of dissatisfaction. Outside energy and brainpower can make a world of difference!
Do you feel like you’ve learned everything there is to learn? If you aren’t already working with a coach or mentor, it may be time to find one. Do your homework and research potential folks thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line. A seasoned business coach will often help you see things from a much higher or altogether different perspective. And they can also help you find (and fix) the pieces that are keeping you stuck. Not sure you can afford one? Here are some tips that might help.
Whatever you do, don’t lose hope. There are many ways over, under, or around the impulse to give up. And they don’t always involve proverbial sticks of dynamite.
What did Maxine do? A little bit of everything here — she starting working with me, which in turn connected her to a mastermind group. She made more time to be CEO. She got a life (outside her business). And over time, she was able to look at her work from a totally different perspective. It didn’t need to be blown up. It just needed some loving attention.
Have you ever found yourself in this situation? Did you turn things around? Share your thoughts in a comment below.
This post is part of the February Word Carnival. This month we’re all talking about the sticky business of getting bored with your business or niche and what to do with yourself once that happens. Read the rest of the genius stuff here.