We are in a very different landscape right now. Many businesses are struggling, some can’t DO business right now, others are watching their revenues decline. Let’ talk about the art of the pivot and how you can make changes to get your revenue and business back on track.
Networking events can be fabulous for your business, or a complete waste of time. And if you are an introvert, they can be torture. How to make it worth your while? Have a plan and a few tools under your belt.
Need some additional help? Download the Level Up Networking Guide here
I’ve shared before that I’m a serial entrepreneur, with 4 successful businesses under my belt. And in hindsight, when I retrace my steps, there are 7 strategies that helped me scale my current business faster than I ever thought possible. Don’t let these things get lost in the shuffle of the everyday!
There are a lot of little things to consider when you’re starting to build your business, from cash flow to marketing strategies; all of these moving pieces can be a bit overwhelming for entrepreneurs. But if you step back from the overwhelm and make sure you are hitting these 7 strategies, it can keep your business on track for growth.
#1: Take steps to effective cash flow management.
Lots of businesses face challenges when it comes to cash flow. But if you manage your money properly, you can avoid a lot of potential issues in the early years of running your business. I’m a big believer in the “Profit First” method of cash flow and accounting and have been using this in my business for the past year. Whether you have $100 dollars coming in monthly, or $100K, this technique will save you a lot of stress. Take a look at Mike Michalowicz’s site and learn more about the book and the method.
#2: Set goals for the first year of your business, and every year.
Goals are important no matter what type of business you’re starting. Set goals and start measuring from the get-go. Don’t just measure revenue and expenses, but measure how many cold calls you make, the size of your email list, how many connections you have on each of your social media platforms, how may networking events you attend. Set realistic goals in those categories, to keep you “out there” and visible, ultimately leading to more business.
#3. Technology is your friend. Use it well.
Technology can sometimes create distractions for small business owners. But if you choose the right tech, it can really make you more productive and enable you to accomplish yourself what it used to take an army of employees to do. We can’t all start out with every tool, but whatever you have, make sure you are using it optimally so you are getting all the business growth potential out of it.
I have created a list of the Ultimate Toolbox for every solopreneur and entrepreneur. Click below to download a copy.
#4: Always be list building.
I wish I had taken this more seriously in the very early stages of my business. Your email list will become your business lifeline as you use it to stay top of mind and engaged with both your customers and prospects. Make sure that most of the content you create is “sticky” with opportunities to register and download valuable content that you are providing for free. The earlier you can start an ongoing list-building strategy, the healthier your business will be.
#5. Consistency is your most important growth lever.
Keep showing up. Whether it’s your weekly podcast, email newsletter, Facebook Live, IGTV, or networking events, maintain a consistent and predictable schedule. Your tribe and prospects will start to expect it, will become more engaged, and will start sharing your content with others. Your credibility will grow; you will be creating a body of content that is “bingeable.” Prospects will build trust in you faster (and therefore be willing to buy from you) the more bingeable you are. Don’t wait for “the muse to strike,” or that magic moment when you feel in the mood to create. Just do it. Weekly.
#6. Utilize video in your social media.
I REALLY fought this. I didn’t like how I looked on camera; I didn’t see myself as a media queen. But the changing social media algorithms forced me to change my mind. I saw that any video that I posted had at least 3 times the reach and engagement than graphics or just text. Lesson learned. Social media changes by the day, it seems, but the emphasis on video content is only getting stronger. Don’t wait another day to start using this tactic.
#7. Reduce expenses for your small business.
New businesses don’t usually have a ton of cash to work with. That means you need to keep expenses as low as possible when you’re just starting out. Start with FREE. Most platforms, or apps, or coaches provide free trials or free content that you can learn from, or put into practice in our business. Try them out, and see if it is something your business can really use. Only if the answer is yes should you invest.
If you have been in business for a while, re-examing your expenses quarterly so you stay as profitable as you can.
One of the biggest fears of many solopreneurs is the whole idea of building a team and having to delegate work to others. Here is what I hear:
- I’m not good at delegating!
- I have had horrible results with people who work for me.
- I would feel out of control.
- No one will do the work as well or as fast as I can.
We have already talked about the necessity of building even a small team
if you are going to grow beyond your solopreneur status. So if growth is your plan, you will need to come to grips with whatever obstacles are in between you and building a team. Sooner, rather than later!
Some of my biggest mistakes in business have been around employees. In the early stages of my first business, I was anything but a stellar leader. One of my biggest hurdles early on was that I did not really understand what it meant to delegate. I either held on to the task, micromanaged, or cut the other person loose, assuming that all would go well. It never did.
As a leader, whenever you delegate a task, you need to make it clear what level of authority you are conferring to others to get the results you want. (I want to thank Michael Hyatt for this framework). I wish I had known all this early on and saved myself many mistakes. Here are the 5 levels of delegation:
Level 1: “Do exactly what I have asked you to do.” Don’t deviate from my instructions. I have already researched the options and determined what I want you to do.
Level 2: Research the topic and report back. We will discuss it, and then I will make the decision and tell you what I want you to do.
Level 3: Research the topic, outline the options and make a recommendation. Give me the pros and cons of each option, but tell me what you think we should do. If I agree with your decision, I will authorize you to move forward.
Level 4: Make a decision and then tell me what you did. I trust you to do the research, make the best decision you can, and then keep me in the loop. I don’t want to be surprised by someone else.
Level 5: Make whatever decision you think is best. No need to report back. I trust you completely. I know you will follow through. You have my full support.
My mistakes revolved around delegating level 3 or level 4 tasks to a staff member who was not equipped to exercise that level of responsibility. I learned over time to start an employee at the lower end of the levels until they have proved themselves and then move them up the ladder.
But many solopreneurs never get beyond level 1. They feel they have delegated a task, but haven’t really saved themselves much time OR taken themselves out of the equation. This is where the need to control or perfection paralysis is keeping them stuck.
It gets even worse. When you persistently micromanage staff at stage 1, you are harming your business. Why? The best team members actively seek opportunities to grow professionally. If you can’t provide it, they may decide to move on to another job where they have a chance to shine. Worse, the people that will stay are precisely the people that are never going to grow with your business or contribute to its success.
Take a moment to be honest with yourself about what stage you are on, and how you can start pushing yourself and your team to higher levels of delegation. It’s a process, but you will get better with practice!
Want to learn more about how to go from Solo2CEO? Learn more about my course here.
You have refined your product or services. You have built up your customer or client base. You’re past the “start-up” phase, and well beyond the “break-even” point. You did it all by yourself.
Congratulations, your an amazing Solopreneur!
Meanwhile, you’re working a 60 hour work week. There is always MORE work to do. You can’t scale your biz because you can’t take on any more work. You haven’t had a vacation in over a year. And yet, your afraid to do anything differently, after all, everything you’re doing got you this far.
If something got you this far, then continuing to do something the same way is playing it safe… right?
In practice, giving in to your fear often feels like “playing it safe” and avoiding risk, but really this isn’t true. There is risk in fear-based decision making – the very real risk that you end up staying a Worker Bee forever.
Here’s the thing – Playing it safe feels like it is protecting you from failure, but in reality, it can actually cause failure.
Too many entrepreneurs, women, in particular, are letting fear cost them, big time. I see it all the time. And, it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you want to go from Solopreneuring to becoming a true CEO, it’s time to take a good hard look to see if fear-based decision making is standing between you and your entrepreneurial dreams.
Here’s what to look for:
Fear of Judgement
When you look at others in your sector, you have a tendency to compare yourself to them, and always seem to come up short. You sometimes feel like a fraud, and worse, you’re convinced that is what everyone else sees too.
Here’s what it looks like:
You were invited to showcase your wares at a local art show, but felt that the work of the other artists was much better than yours, so you declined.
You got a hot lead for a consulting job with a Fortune 500 company through a close contact but decided not to follow up on it because you were intimidated by the prestige of the client.
You have been charging the same rates for your coaching services for the last 3 years. You have so many clients that your schedule is constantly overbooked. Yet, you refuse to raise your rates because you feel like you might be “ripping off” your clients.
Here’s what it’s costing you:
Fear of judgement, a.k.a. Imposter Syndrome keeps you from reaching your full potential. It creates a sense of “less than” which translates into missed opportunities, undervaluing your work, and ultimately, a business model that flatlines.
Fear of Letting Go
This fear often takes the form of “No one else can do it as well as I can.” If you experience anxiety when it comes to delegating, outsourcing, or hiring decisions, then be on the lookout for this one.
Here’s what it looks like:
Your work week has become a never-ending daily grind. Most of the tasks you do are repetitive and monotonous. You’re starting to wonder if entrepreneurship is really that much different than a job.
You tried hiring a freelancer once, but she didn’t do the tasks in the same order as you did. You decided that only you can really do the data entry for your weekly sales, so now that three hours of weekly work is back on your schedule.
You haven’t had a real vacation since you started your business. You dream about a week at the beach, and the money is in the bank for the trip. But you fear that if you walk away from the day to day operations your biz will fall apart.
Here’s what it’s costing you:
Fear of letting go, a.k.a. Worker Bee Syndrome keeps you from scaling your business. You get trapped working in your business, not on your business. As long as you assign yourself the menial labor involved in running your business, you won’t be able to put the energy into growing your business.
And, fear of letting go means you don’t make the needed time for yourself to rest. You will eventually lose the passion that you brought to your biz in the first place. Burn out is coming if you don’t learn to let go.
Fear of Failure
When you are afraid of failure, you miss so many opportunities to invest in your business – critical for growth.
Here’s what it looks like:
You have done some research on small business loans, but refuse to pull the trigger even though the numbers look good. Meanwhile, your biz lacks the capital to make the jump to the next level.
You’re introduced to a business coach at a local lunch n’ learn for female entrepreneurs. You definitely hit it off and felt that she had something to offer you in terms of growing your business. Yet, you fail to follow up with her because you’re convinced your business isn’t ready to grow yet. Maybe next year…
Here’s what it’s costing you:
When fear of failure is holding you back, it usually shows up as a lack of willingness to invest in your business. It also keeps you from taking the risks you need to scale. In the end, fear of failure might seem like it is keeping you safe, but what it is really doing is keeping you stuck.
The Root Cause: Fear of Change
I have spent decades building successful businesses and helping others do the same. Many of my clients come to me as successful Solopreneurs. They have great ideas, plenty of vision, and a ton of work to do.
But, they are often afraid of change. They got this far with hard work, determination, and plenty of missed vacations. It must be working right?
Um, no. Just because it got you off the ground doesn’t mean it will take your business to the next level.
In order to go from Solo to CEO, you have to be ready to identify fear-based decision making, and decide to make a change – even if you think you’re not ready. It’s a mindset thing.
Round and round and round and round. Every day is starting to look the same. There’s money coming in, but just enough to keep the train running. Meanwhile, you are doing, doing, doing and there is no end in sight.
Welcome to the Hamster Wheel.
In some ways, it’s a relief to know that your product is in demand, or that your services are attracting clients. It’s better than those start-up days when you weren’t even sure you had something of real value to offer….right?
Not really. You had a job that was a daily grind, remember? You took a big gamble to start your own business because you already decided that the Hamster Wheel wasn’t how you wanted to live your life.
So, what’s the secret to getting off the Hamster Wheel and becoming a true CEO? Systems.
What’s a System?
A system is nothing more than a set of procedures, methods, or processes that take the thinking out of the regular tasks that keep your business running. Systems make you more efficient by reducing redundancy, automating certain work, as well as allowing you to hand off those tasks to someone else.
You can’t get off the Hamster Wheel by just not doing the work that needs doing. Obviously, your biz can’t run on wishes. But you CAN get off that wheel by making some changes to your overall processes. In other words, you need to build systems.
First, Identify Repetitive Tasks
It is time to set aside some time to sit back and look at the repetitive work you are doing every day (or once a week) to keep your business running. These are the tasks that are going to be ripe for applying systems to make your work more efficient, or to get them off your plate altogether.
Take a moment to think through your day (week) and make a list. Here are a few examples of what these kinds of tasks might look like:
- Taking weekly inventory and ordering supplies
- Answering questions from customers, often the same queries over and over
- Posting a weekly blog and associated social media advertising
- Lead generation tasks such as approaching local businesses about your corporate training program
- Daily, weekly, and monthly bookkeeping
- Client scheduling
The list goes on (and on and on). What does your list look like?
Take a look over the list you have made. Are there tasks that you are simply doing out of habit that really are not adding value to your business?
For example, maybe you have been spending a few hours a week messing around on Pinterest without much luck generating leads. On the other hand, you get plenty of conversions from your Instagram marketing. Maybe it’s time to cut your losses on Pinterest and free up your schedule in the process.
Another way to potentially eliminate tasks is to find ways to do an action once and for all, instead of 5 times a day. For example, say your customers keep asking you the same question about your product. Instead of answering it over and over, take 5 minutes to include the answer prominently in your product description.
I get it. Technology can be intimidating. You may need to face some anxiety and fear here – but the benefits are worth it.
There are a myriad of apps and programs out there which can save you time with everything from lead generation to inventory management. Many of them are free or come at a very low cost. In addition, they tend to be designed to be easy to use.
A few examples:
Constant Contact. This is a tool that helps you streamline your marketing efforts by merging your email, social media, and other lead generation platforms. You can do the work once, and it will blast your effort across all of your platforms. Plus, it will track your conversions to help you craft more effective campaigns in the future.
Less work for more impact…now that’s efficiency!
Google Drive: These days, Google is much more than a search engine. In fact, Google offers cloud-based technology that allows you to easily work collaboratively with others and sync your work up across platforms. Oh, and it’s free.
You can store files on Google Drive and invite others to collaborate – great for content creation. You can easily create a calendar and assign tasks to your team – great for working with freelancers. And, that’s just scratching the surface.
Sure, there is a learning curve with anything new. But these days there’s a Youtube video on just about everything. You got this!
Another way to automate tasks? Templates.
Do you find that some of your emails and other correspondence involve typing most of the same content over and over? That’s where templates come in.
Stop reinventing the wheel every time you send a thank you note to a new client. Instead, develop the basic text with some wiggle room to customize each thank you for that personal touch. Then most of your work is done with a simple copy and paste.
Here are some examples where templates really come in handy:
- Your professional bio in short, medium and long forms
- Emails for repetitive tasks such as invoicing, thank yous, lead generation, etc.
- Infographics and other design elements, in your brand’s colors, for use in various types of online content
- Advertising campaigns – Trust me, your customers won’t remember if you used the same image in a post from 6 months ago
PRO TIP: Keep all of your templates clearly labeled and in the same folder so you can find them in a snap when you need them.
I have said it before, and I will say it again: You can’t scale your business without a team.
What’s left on your list? Let me guess: A bunch of repetitive tasks you are not ready to let go of. Maybe it’s because you think no one else can do it right, or maybe it’s because you think you can’t afford to hire someone.
Either way, refusing to delegate will keep you on the Hamster Wheel. Period.
Think about how much time it would take you to train someone to do a specific repetitive task in order to get it off your plate. That small investment of your time upfront will lead to huge time savings in the long run. With the extra time you can actually start getting more of the strategic decision making done…you know…that stuff a true CEO does?
Think you can’t afford it? When it comes to growing your biz, you can’t afford not to!
Is it Time for a Coach?
Since you can’t scale your biz while you’re stuck drowning in the day to day operations of your business, you absolutely must get off the Hamster Wheel.
If you can’t seem to do it on your own, it’s a sure sign that you need another set of eyes on your business.
We all develop blind spots. If you have been solopreneuring for a while, you may have even accidentally created systems that are working to keep you locked into the daily grind. It may be time to get someone to take an objective look at your biz and identify the best ways to streamline it.
Every day you waste in the grind is a day you could have been growing your biz. Consider booking a Mini-Intensive with me today.
Many people dream of working for themselves, being their own boss, and having the freedom to only take on clients they want to work with on projects they love. What they don’t realize, however, is that there is a huge difference between building a business and being self-employed.
If you want to build a business, you need to start acting like a true CEO, and that may mean abandoning some of the tactics that made you a great employee. There is a big difference between being a true CEO, and merely being “self-employed:”
- CEOs scale their income. Self-employed people trade hours for dollars.
- CEOs leverage the skills and talents of others. Self-employed people rely only on their own skills.
- CEOs have the vision and make the plan. Self-employed people do, then do some more, then do some more, then do some more…
Discouraged yet? Don’t be. Every business owner started out self-employed. Just don’t stay there. These tips will help you build a sustainable and successful company instead of just another job:
Don’t try to do it all yourself.
Building a sustainable business that you can scale requires that you leverage the talents and time of others. While it might seem cost-effective to simply do everything yourself—especially in the start-up phase when you likely have more time than money—it’s a path to burnout and stress.
Solorpreneuring might work when your biz is brand new, but it won’t work to grow your business.
Instead, separate your tasks into those that you love and are especially suited for and those you dislike or aren’t good at. Then make a solid plan to get those that you aren’t good at off your list of things to do. If you feel like you can’t afford to outsource it all right now, start with what you tend to procrastinate the most on, even if it’s just a few hours each month.
(Want to learn more? Check out How to Outsource on a Shoestring Budget.)
It’s fine to work from home, but don’t live at work.
If you work from home there’s no clear line in the sand between your work day and your home life. For some entrepreneurs, this creates a situation where they never really leave work. Since there’s always work to do, it’s easy to end up working every available moment—often to the detriment of your family relationships.
This only goes one place – burnout. Nip this disaster in the bud with these tips:
- Build your business around your life, not the other way around.
- Add time for self-care to your weekly schedule.
- Have a specific space where you work on your business, and keep it separate from your personal life.
- Adjust your expectations. You don’t have to be Superwoman every day. In fact, you can’t be – do what you can, let go of the rest, and outsource the busy work!
(If you are struggling with self-care, read Note to Self: You Matter!)
Vacations and downtime are important.
Don’t create a business that requires you to be “in the office” every day. At the start, you may need to be available more, but you should definitely be planning for the day when you can be “off the grid” for extended periods of time.
- Have trusted contractors who can handle things when you’re not available.
- Leverage automation tools such as autoresponders and auto-webinar systems.
- Create repeatable systems so you’re not always reinventing the wheel.
- Apply the KISS principle, Keep it Simple, Sweetie!
While you might not be able to hit the road with no internet access for weeks at a time, at the very least you should be able to reduce your workload to a daily check-in.
Sound impossible? It’s not. With some forethought and planning, you can create a team—and the systems they need—to successfully run your business without becoming overwhelmed and overworked. Now that’s acting like a true CEO!
Make time for the Big Picture.
One of the biggest differences between being a CEO and merely being self-employed has to do with being the keeper of the vision that made you quit your job in the first place. In order to hold on to that vision, and make sure it guides the development of your company, you must make time to grow and nurture it.
Block time in your weekly schedule for strategic planning. Otherwise, you will end up perpetually working in your business, instead of on it. It’s a trap! And it is one of the most common mistakes I see female entrepreneurs make as they try to transition from a start-up to a successful company.
Being self-employed isn’t the same thing as being a true CEO.
If any of these tips resonated with you, the sooner you get your head around the mindset shifts and strategies to make the change, the better!
Need a little help? Consider booking a mini-intensive with me and we will spend an hour talking about your business and identify where you can make a few changes today that will get you turned in the right direction and poised for growth.
When I first started my business I was a one-woman band and proud of it. I loved what I did and thought I could do it all myself. But after 12 months, I was exhausted, my passion was drained, and I could not take on one more client.
The only way I could grow my business was to work longer hours…and that was NOT going to happen. I was stuck and I needed a plan to get off of my hamster wheel.
After much trial and error, I have devised a simple but crucial 5 step system for shifting from Solopreneur to being the true CEO of your business and poised for growth. This is the method I give to my clients and they use it to jumpstart their growth almost immediately.
- Working night and day
- Feast or famine in your revenue
- Lack of work-life balance
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- My 5 step system for growing a profitable business
- How to get out of your own way and conquer the mindset issues that are keeping you stuck
- What you need to start and grow a team, WITHOUT breaking the bank!
- How to create a work-life balance that works for YOU
I’m running a Free Masterclass this week where I will reveal exactly how it all works.
P.S. There is no catch and no sales pitch. Just free education because I believe every solopreneur needs this info to succeed.
“I just can’t afford to hire! My budget is way too small.”
I never push back on the budget-size part of this argument; hundreds of solopreneurs run their amazing businesses on blood, sweat, tears, and absolutely minuscule amounts of money.
The part about not being able to afford outsourcing? That is a mindset issue, and one that needs to be challenged. Many entrepreneurs think that if they do everything themselves they are saving money. Frankly, this kind of thinking is short sighted.
When you get bogged down handling the day-to-day administrative work necessary to keep your business humming along, you never get to plan. In many cases, that is going to cost you more in the long term than delegating the busy work.
You’re so focused on staying afloat that you keep yourself from dreaming bigger, plotting your next steps, and putting your energy toward growing your business instead of treading water.
So when business owners tell me they can’t afford to hire help, I point out that it’s more likely they can’t afford NOT to!
Still wary and worried that your shoestring budget can’t handle the burden of outsourcing?
Here are 4 easy ways to make sure you can afford to delegate:
You might have a list as long as your arm filled with tasks you’re dying to assign out, but you’re better off easing into outsourcing. Try hiring someone for just a few hours each month to strategically get tasks off your plate that you either avoid, loathe, or both.
Pick work that can be done by anyone (like bookkeeping or invoicing) but which ties up your time and sucks up energy you could be putting toward important projects that will help grow your business.
It may not sound like much, but starting with just 4-5 hours per month is a manageable way to get a feel for outsourcing. Hire a virtual assistant on a trial basis for a few months to see if delegating that work impacts your overall stress level, and work your way up to hiring someone to handle more tasks.
It’s hard to let go of the money you work so hard to earn, but if you can do some simple return-on-investment calculations you’ll see it’s money well spent!
Think about what you could accomplish in the hours you’re now NOT spending in the weeds of your business.
For example, if you hire a VA for 10 hours per month, and use your now-empty 10 hours to create a product you sell for $200, you’ve just covered the cost of your virtual assistant (VA) with a single sale.
Here’s a quick summary for calculating your ROI:
- Start by picking a task set (such as publicizing your blog posts on social media)and total up how much time per month you spend doing it yourself right now.
- Multiply hours per month x your hourly rate, and the resulting figure will tell you how much it’s costing you to handle this task set yourself. Assume you can hire a VA for $50/hour or less. Would it be more cost-efficient to outsource?
- NOW analyze the task set to see if it actually, actively makes you money. (For instance, how many sales did you make last year that can be traced to blog posts?)
- Ideally, you want to outsource tasks that bring in revenue, but remember that assigning admin work to contractors means YOU are freed up to focus on money-centric work.
- Weigh the data, and decide if paying a VA to handle this task set is worth the investment.
Consider Hiring a Less-experienced Contractor
VAs with decades of experience can (and should!) charge more. Newer freelancers will have lower hourly rates, which makes them more affordable.
Naturally, the tradeoff will be that less-experienced VAs will need more training. But if you’re on a tiny budget and currently have more time than money, it can be a win-win for everyone.
And, being among the first to help a new freelancer get situated means you can shape his or her work habits and processes!
Assign a Portion of Your Income to Outsourcing
When you look at your income and budget, it can be tough to see any wiggle-room. A simple work-around is to dedicate a certain percentage of your business income to outsourcing.
For instance, use 20% of your website affiliate income to cover contractor costs or dedicate 50% of book sales each month. Parsing your incoming money in this way makes it feel less burdensome to add another line-item to your monthly budget! Remember, start small!
So why would you pay someone else to do work you can do yourself for free?
Because the work you do is NOT free! Your time is valuable, and should be put toward projects that will either bring in revenue or allow your business to expand. And even if your budget is painfully tight, you can find ways to make room for outsourcing!