Small Biz Smarts: Passion, Smassion! Smashing!
I hope you see what I’m doing with the title. A little play on words when it comes to passion and small business. LOL.
Before the negative commenting commences, I’m ABSOLUTELY not smashing passion as an important part of your business success. It IS important. But I would love to smash the myth that love for what you do is all you need to make a successful go of your product, service or other offering.
Follow Your Passion …
but put in the EFFORT!
I have a passion for tennis, but that alone hasn’t helped me rise to the challenge of playing against more skilled opponents. What has? I’m so glad you asked!
Practice might not make perfect, but it can certainly make you feel more powerful. The more you engage in an activity, the easier it becomes. I didn’t immediately have a strong overhead (although my backhand slice did come quite naturally, LOL). I put in the time and effort to build technique, racket speed and consistency.
I’m not talking about just hitting the courts and goofing off. I go to dedicated drills where I know I’m going to be put through my paces.
You have to do the business drills, too. Come up with systems, test them out, and tweak them until they work almost by rote. Habits, both good and bad, take a while to develop.
Practice really does make possible, if not perfect. Sure, you’ll swing and miss sometimes. But it’s practice that makes it possible for you to hit the sweet spot more often than not!
You’ve Gotta IGNITE and IMPLEMENT!
Passion can certainly warm up prospects, show your dedication to your craft, but it’s not enough to spark a sale. What have you got to light a match under anyone currently sitting on the fence?
How are you passing along or paying forward that passion? What makes you stand out within the crowd of loved up on their business solopreneurs?
The feels are great, but prospects and peers looking to collaborate want you to share the “reals,” the realities of what will happen if they choose to work with you.
Love for business and awesome ideas aren’t going to get you anywhere without implementation. And that means putting in the work, dealing with the breaks and bust-ups (because no launch is hitch free), and delivering on what it is you love.
Reality Rocks When It Comes To Small Business!
[clickToTweet tweet=”Isn’t it time we stopped pandering to the pinkly perfect notion of the solopreneur gig?” quote=”Isn’t it about time we stopped pandering to the pinkly perfect notion of the solopreneur or small business gig?”]
The fabrication that it’s all superstar red carpet premiers, gold thumbtacks and glitter strewn artfully across our desks, unicorn kisses and pots of gold at the end of a rainbow?
You bet your sweet bippy it’s THAT time!
How about we share the joys of coffee spilled across keyboards, the frantic blotting with paper towels followed by blasts from our hair dryer?
Isn’t it time to share the fact that we often stare at the window beside our desks and ponder the resounding crash of glass as our computer sails to the ground below?
Glamourous? Right! Did you get in the shower today? Comb your hair? Brush your teeth?
Running your business isn’t a ride on a soft, puffy cloud dancing across endlessly sunny skies. It’s more like a ride on a careening roller coaster, sans safety harness, hanging on tight as you never know which way it’s going to twist, turn and toss you about at any given moment.
And, really, that roller coaster ride, while often unnerving, is what makes it all worthwhile in the end!
Embrace The Idea Of “I Can’t”
If I see one more passionista posit that we need to remove can’t from our vocabulary, I’m going to punch her passionately in her perky little nose!
Guess what? You can’t do everything. And guess again! If you pretend you can you’re going to let a client down when you fail to deliver.
The necessary no is part of doing business. Nodding your head and numbly agreeing to take on tasks you have no time and/or talent for is a surefire way to set your small business on the road to crash and burn.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Isn’t it better to delegate than to disillusion your client? #realyourealbiz” quote=”Isn’t it better to delegate than to disillusion your client?”]
Passion, Smassion …
Yeah, loving what you do can certainly make the solopreneur gig great. But the skills that pay the bills have little to do with love, and a whole lot to do with education, practice, willingness to work hard and the perseverance to push through the rough patches.
So, Solopreneur … Sadly, Sometimes Nice Sucks!
Just be nice. It’s a phrase that regularly graces many a social media article, Facebook wall and Twitter stream. There’s a movement, if you will, backed by many a pretty big name in the digital marketing biz, including a man I admire and infrequently engage with in short bursts of sock strewn banter.
That’s right, I’m talking about the terrific Ted Rubin and his take on “just be nice.”
I’m about to share something that might not be common knowledge!
SHOCKER: I’m actually a pretty ding-danged nice person.
I know, I know. I’ll probably have to prove it to you, over time, but you could ask most of my circle of social peers, and they’d tell you I’m a pretty stand-up gal who’s always willing to tackle a dilemma.
That being said …
Nice Isn’t My First Choice When It Comes To Business!
While nice is, well … nice enough when used to describe a guy or gal – it’s not how I strive to be seen by my peer group or my client base.
Instead of nice, I prefer to be seen as:
- and a slew of other words … all more important to me than “nice.”
Being Good To People Goes Beyond Nice!
Though I don’t embrace “nice” as the end all, be all attribute that many in my social circles, do, it doesn’t mean I fail to see the importance of being good to others. To my husband, my family, my friends, as well as my peers and clients.
Sometimes a little constructive criticism is necessary in order to be good to those with whom you work.
We don’t generally think of the word “NO” as nice. But what I call the “necessary N-O” is often required when it comes to project management and actually meeting the needs of your clients.
Here’s a simple example. It’s certainly NOT nice to turn down a slice of pie when you’re at a family or business dinner. But, say you’ve been working hard to embrace a healthier lifestyle and you’ve chosen to indulge on the entree rather than dessert. Do you HAVE TO be nice and take the slice of pie?
Sometimes being good to people means telling them something they might not want to hear at the moment.
If successful relationships are built on trust, then nice needs to be taken out of the equation.
[clickToTweet tweet=”How much can you really trust someone who sugarcoats every response in a bid to be nice?” quote=”How much can you really trust someone who sugarcoats every response in a bid to be nice?”]
When Nice Simply Sucks!
Let’s be honest. Our attempts to be nice often land us in some serious deep doodoo!
Have you decided to be nice to the client who keeps making change requests and pushing back delivery dates? Guess what? Doing so means the project won’t be completed on time as you slide ever deeper into scope creep.
Have you decided to be nice and not raise your prices for long-term, grandfathered-in, clients? Only to have them nitpick and question everything you’re doing, even though they’re paying almost half the fees you’re charging your newer clients?
Ever thought it would be nice to trade your services for complimentary services? Barter isn’t a bad thing. Until that complimentary service provider disappears without a trace, having taken delivery on your end of the arrangement, while sending you absolutely nothing in return!
I could go on and on with the “be nice” moments that leave you looking and feeling like a sap. But I think I’ve made my point.
Just Be Professional!
Instead of nice, I prefer to make professionalism my intent and purpose.
Professional is often equated with polite, but there’s nuance to the idea of professionalism, just as their is nuance and shades of gray when it comes to being nice.
There’s no single, one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to being good to your brand, your business and your clients. You have to find the level of “being good” that best fits. I deliver my good with a more firm hand than you might. Does that mean I’m not a nice person? Maybe. Maybe not.
But, my bills get paid on time, my clients respect me, and my word of mouth referrals keep going strong. So, I’m pretty happy with the good I’m delivering.
Has Being Nice Ever Bitten You In The Butt?
I’d love to hear about your experiences with being nice, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Drop me a note in the comments section or chat me up on one of the social channels where I share this publish!
When Limits Are Freeing, Rather Than Limiting!
If you spend time in Facebook groups as you go about your digital marketing day, you probably see various variations on this idea:
Never set limits, go after your dreams, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. And laugh a lot – it’s good for you!
~ Paula Radcliffe
In our society, the women who break down barriers are those who ignore limits.
~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
But I have a different view of limits. I see them as a powerful part of making the most of what you do, especially what you do well! I side strongly with these two quotes from an individual most would deem an expert in his field.
Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.
~ Albert Einstein
The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
~ Albert Einstein
Limits Are Legitimate!
Have you seen any of the Holiday Inn Express ads? They’ve been running for years now, so I’m guessing you’ve seen one at some point. This is one of my favorites …
Why am I sharing this? Because, as ridiculous as the concept is, if you stop and think about it, you know you’ve come across brands and individuals offering products or services and wondered if they really had the expertise and experience to back their claims.
Would you accept any schmuck off the street as your helicopter pilot? Your surgeon? Your mechanic? Hell no!
So, why do we allow social marketing schmucks and big-talking braggarts into our small business circles? Why do we consort with gurus, ninjas, evangelists and mavens?
Limits Don’t Losers Make!
We all must set limits in order to manage, maintain and grow our businesses. We must also set limits which allow us to step away from our business in order to maintain other aspects of our life, including relationships with family members and creating time for hobbies and activities outside of our business scope.
If we don’t set limits when we’re managing a project, we’re likely to fall prey to scope creep.
If we aren’t deliberate and honest about what we can actually accomplish, we may find ourselves accomplishing little, or worse – nothing.
If we don’t set limits on the length and breadth of our to-do lists, we can become a slave to the list and lose out on anything we haven’t written down.
Limits let us get back to doing what we do well. That’s a good thing, right?
Limits Can Actually Lift Your Business!
When we set smart limits we allow ourselves the room to seek out and seize opportunity.
When I hired a virtual assistant to help with some of the daily tasks that were taking up too much of my time, I then had the time to explore new service offerings and a side project that I quietly “whisper-launched” last week.
Can you do your own taxes? More than likely you could muddle through them on your own. But is it worth it? Is it worth the worry, the time invested and the time taken away from something that actually showcases your expertise? Probably not.
[clickToTweet tweet=”There’s something fabulously freeing about honestly admitting we cannot do something! ” quote=”There’s something fabulously freeing about honestly admitting we cannot do something! “]
We are constantly seeing/hearing that we need to work smarter, not harder.
Legitimate limits are a smart part of working smarter. Limits, boundaries, realism … they’ve all been given a bad name by those I call the positivity pushers.
You can absolutely set smart and valuable limits while still remaining positive about your business and the solopreneur lifestyle. And those limits will let loose the time and opportunity to expand your expertise and increase your reach amidst the types of clients and peers with whom you REALLY want to do business!
Dear Email Marketer: More Than One Send A Day? Unsubscribe!
Today I unsubscribed from the email list of a pretty big name in the digital marketing space.
It wasn’t that his content isn’t good. I like his writing style. It’s got a little edge to it, a little bite.
It wasn’t that I don’t value his expertise and clout in the digital marketing field. For the most part, I think he walks the talk. He’s fessed up in the past to his own failings and foibles on his way to big name success.
So, what was it?
He didn’t value my time and productivity.
My Inbox Is Busy Enough, Thank You
I don’t care how awesome you believe your launch, product, service or special offer to be, you’re not quite as important to my inbox as you’re telling yourself in the mirror each morning!
My time is just as valuable as yours. My clients expect me to produce, as I’m sure yours expect the same from you.
That being said, I don’t have time to wade through your multiple emails, all touting the terrific and testimony around your latest product or service launch.
You’ve really only got one chance to sell me, though I understand the need for need to send follow-ups, last chance messages and reminders.
Send Smarter, Not Harder (Or More Frequently)
When you send me more than one email in a given day, you prove to me that we have no relationship whatsoever, no matter how tiny and tenuous.
You see me only as potential dollar signs, another sale to mark in your books.
I don’t need a minute-by-minute blow by blow account of the sales progress of your new product. I don’t need multiple messages reminding me that the sale is “almost” over. Nor do I appreciate your efforts to guilt me into giving up my hard earned dollars.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Send smarter emails! You’ll stand a better chance of wooing my wallet.” quote=”Send smarter emails and you stand a better chance of wooing me to open my wallet.”]
Frequency is easy, especially with automation. Consider, instead, carefully crafting a message that actually sways me, rather than sending meaningless missives that clog my inbox. That hard sell hullaballoo is only causing me to staunchly submit my unsubscribe request.
Email Access Is A Privilege, Not A Right!
Access to my inbox is pretty sacred. I don’t allow just anyone access.
I’m quick to unsubscribe if you don’t take my time seriously. There are plenty of worthy and worthwhile lists to which I can subscribe. You’re not the only fish in the pond. So you’ve got to swim on the side of right or there’s the potential you’ll soon find yourself belly up, at least in my eyes!
[clickToTweet tweet=”Silly marketer … access to my inbox is a privilege, not a right! #emailmarketing” quote=”Silly marketer … access to my inbox is a privilege, not a right!”]
Treat your time in my inbox as a privilege and you stand a good chance of staying on the nice list!
You’re A Business Owner AND A Human Being …
The last time I checked, running a business didn’t come with a certain tool allowing us to switch off every bit of human feeling and emotion.
While, on occasion, that might be a nice thing, it would make us robots. We’re told pretty often, by experts in marketing and customer experience fields, that consumers don’t want to do business with robots.
So, suffice to say, I think we have to allow ourselves to be human, along with all of our human failings, when we’re building, managing and maintaining our business.
You’re Going To Feel The Real!
Guess what? Real people feel real emotions. We don’t live on fluffy pink positivity clouds that allow us to ignore the fact that bad shizz happens to good business owners.
Bad shizz is relative, depending on the day and the state of your business. The bad juju can come from things big or small. But it’s ridiculous to pretend that we can ignore the fact that there are times when doing business just ain’t fun.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to ride the solopreneur unicorn when I’m dealing with:
- late payments
- scope creep
- disappearing clients
- the continued attempts at “democratization” of my skill set and expertise
Guess what party peeps? We’re all going to face one of these battles at some point during our career.
Guess what else? That means it’s absolutely A-OK hunky dory to exhibit some real and human emotion from time to time, even when you’re doing business.
It’s Okay To Exhibit Underwhelm
You do not to have jet out of your chair and do a jig every time you client comes up with another “super” idea. Chances are the idea isn’t all that super, has been tried by others to little success, and just won’t be worth the time and effort you’d have to put into launching it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”You do yourself and your client a disservice if you sugarcoat bad ideas …” quote=”You do yourself and your client a disservice if you sugarcoat bad ideas with, ‘that’s a great idea, but …'” theme=”style4″]
Because it’s NOT a great idea. You’re giving them false hope that they can get around the “but” in order to implement the idea you acknowledged as great with a small glitch.
You don’t have to get excited and pass out pink positivity parfaits every time your client opens his/her mouth. While you shouldn’t dismiss or disdain their ideas, thus making your clients feel small or insignificant, it’s absolutely allowed to exhibit a little underwhelm. Especially if you explain the why of that lack of whelm.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Expertise doesn’t mean you’re always ecstatic about client’s big ideas …” quote=”You were hired for your expertise. Expertise doesn’t mean you’re always ecstatic about the ‘big idea’ you’re asked to implement.” theme=”style4″]
It’s Okay To Feel Sad
There will come a time, especially if you’re a creative entrepreneur, when your client takes all that’s lovely about your creation and somehow manages to turn it into an absolute mess.
You’ve designed a glorious website. It’s got form and function in perfect balance. It’s as easy to navigate as it’s easy on the eye. You know that there’s no such thing as a fully completed website, but you’ve come pretty ding-danged close. You’re proud to have this site link back to your own.
And then it happens. The client decides you’re too expensive to maintain the site, which is fairly common. They decide they’ll hire someone cheaper or maintain it themselves. And you notice that the glorious is now looking pretty god-awful.
It’s okay to feel a sad, even to despair a bit, over the destruction of your good work. When your carefully crafted copy is edited to the point that carefully crafted becomes craptastic. When your lovely social media image template is savaged with a terrible typeface change. When your website wonderful becomes website woe is me.
Feel sad, disappointed, even a little dejected. Then immediately remove any links to/from that now craptastic creation so that no one thinks it’s your work!
It’s Okay To Get Angry And Engage In Stern Discussion
The other day there was a discussion about copy theft in a Facebook group to which I belong. The gist of the article generating the discussion was this: don’t get upset when someone steals your content, as it will mess with your mojo going forward.
What a pile of crap!!!
I’ve had my content stolen, on more than one occasion. I’ve had my graphics lifted, altered and re-posted without a single nod of acknowledgement and absolutely no permission. I’ve had clients decide I was too expensive to maintain their site, so they turned it over to another “designer,” who then promptly added their company name and site link to the footer taking credit for the design.
Guess what happened in each instance. I got mad. Not pinkly, prettily peeved. Flat out pissed off. And while I certainly tempered my anger a bit, I didn’t take it easy on the thieves.
I didn’t tell the thieving asshats that I was disappointed by their actions in a bid to “guilt them” gently into doing what was right. I flat out told them they’d better make it right, RIGHT NOW!
Guess what? They all made it right, RIGHT then!
If you don’t stand up for yourself as you engage in the running of your business, you’re eventually going to get stepped on. Standing strong and holding tight to our convictions is part of who we are as human beings.
Part of doing business is knowing when to allow your emotions to express themselves. You’re not a robot. Logic and programming aren’t going to see you through times good or bad. Emotions are part of what makes your brand unique. So, while you sometimes need to suppress those emotions, or let them simmer down a bit before your strike back, there’s no need to void them in their entirety from your business persona.
Dear Designer: Are You A Scope Creep Sucker?
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a design project that seems to go on AND on, with no real milestones met and deadlines constantly extended?
Have you ever found yourself in a revising loop, tweaking and altering the tiniest details over and over again before you get the seal of approval from a client?
If you answered either of those questions with an affirmative nod of your head, you’ve dealt with some level of scope creep.
What Is Scope Creep?
According to Wikipedia:
“Scope creep (also called requirement creep, function creep and feature creep) in project management refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered harmful.
If budget, resources, and schedule are increased along with the scope, the change is usually considered an acceptable addition to the project, and the term “scope creep” is not used.”
Scope Creep Is Subversive
When scope creep begins its advance, it is often subtle, something you can easily choose to ignore.
Your client asks if you can add a little extra functionality to their website, or asks you to throw in a quick letterhead design to go along with their new logo. It won’t take much time and it will add a little extra something significant to your portfolio or case study right?
It’s right and it’s wrong. And here’s why. While any design project is a collaboration with your client, when it comes to meeting your design brief and project deadline you’re the foreman, the manager, the boss on board. And if you allow yourself to be manipulated into tacking on additional work, you run the risk of losing your position of authority and becoming a do-boy or girl.
Eventually, unchecked, scope creep can derail design projects and erodes your standing as the expert in charge.
You don’t want your client pulling your strings like you’re a marionette, do you?
But, It’s Just A Little Change!
Sure, the little extra something the client wants might not seem like a big deal. It won’t take long. It’s well within your skill-set and area of expertise. But, was it factored into the scope of the project, the design brief, the contract your delivered and your client signed?
But when you say yes to that one little change, without mentioning that it actually changes and broadens the scope of the project, you let the client know you’re not going to stand firm on the design brief upon with you both agreed.
So it becomes all the easier for your client to request further tweaks, revisions and redesigns. Any of which can delay the project and decrease your bottom line.
Why Are You Charging Me For These Changes?
If you allow scope creep to enter into your agreement, it’s going to be all the harder to request additional fees when you finally realize you can’t continue to work for free.
If you’ve made five revisions, even though the contract stipulated you’d only make three, your client isn’t going to understand why you’re trying to charge for the sixth.
Stand Your Ground & Keep Clients Happy?
It can be done. A signed contract or a delivered design brief don’t mean you can’t compromise. Scope creep isn’t a foregone conclusion.
The key is to keep detailed records of each revision, each change request and each compromise. Be detailed and thorough. Let them know when you’ve padded the agreement in their favor. You don’t have to be supercilious or smarmy about it, just make sure it’s documented and understood.
I don’t think the majority of design clients are out to get you, let me make that clear.
That being said, it’s no one’s fault but your own if you don’t set standards for how and when the work will get done, how and when you’ll make revisions, and the proper procedure for any additions.
Otherwise you just might find yourself strung up like a sucker. Remember, either you control the project or the project will control you.
Family First, Followed By Clients, Then My Social Presence
You may have noticed it was quite quiet across my social media accounts last week. And the week prior. While the week of August 10-16th was a vacation of sorts, I called it a staycation, and I worked only on my own business initiatives during those seven days, the past week was unplanned and quite difficult.
I spent Monday, August 17th playing catch-up. The usual bustle surrounding hustle as I caught up after a week “off.”
Tuesday, August 18th was busy, with appointments throughout the day, finishing off the hustle with a birthday party for my niece, turning five that day. The day started at 5 AM and by the time Derek and I got stuck in rainy weather traffic on the way to the restaurant I was fighting exhaustion and a headache. The traffic turned out the be the least of my worries.
When we arrived at the restaurant I noticed my sister’s smeared mascara and forced smile as she took me aside to let me know my dad had suffered an episode and was on his way to the hospital. The initial diagnosis was a mini-stroke. We did our best to keep things happy and festive as we waited for news.
My dad started undergoing tests Tuesday night as my sister and I waited for news so that we could sort out our schedules for the rest of the week.
On Wednesday, August 19th we were informed that it was not a mini-stroke, it was likely a seizure caused by a one inch brain tumor scans had found. Specialists were called to consult and my sister and I began the shuffle to clear all items off our calendars in order to spend time with our father.
And this is where the title and focus of this article come in. My dad, absolutely, came first, as well as my sister, my stepmother, my niece and nephew, and to a lesser extent my husband and brother-in-law, as well as all the friends chiming in with prayers and good thoughts.
But, I also have signed contracts with clients for social media management and monitoring. I didn’t leave them in the lurch. I contacted them all, shared a brief summary of what was going on and let them know I would be watching their accounts, but would be providing the minimal end of our contracted spectrum of services over the remainder of the week.
Not a single client raised an eyebrow or voiced a concern. Their accounts were populated with content and watched for mentions while my sister and I visited with my father and awaited more news. This ties in with working with only great clients.
What suffered while life was in limbo last week? My own digital presence. Tweets were few, updates far between. No new articles were published. Only the most pressing emails were answered. Inbox zero was not on my radar.
We got the best news possible, bearing in mind that it is a brain tumor, on Friday. The weekend was spent trying to get some rest, as sleep eluded me during the fraught week, and catching up on my volunteer duties as a committee member and attendee of a charity pro-am event this weekend.
Today I’m getting my clients back on track with more than their minimum contractual needs, and going a little beyond to show my appreciation for their understanding. I sent out a proposal to a prospect and I’ll be catching up on both client and prospect tasks, as well as my volunteer duties this week.
I’m publishing this article, but it might be another slow week for my own digital presence and publishing efforts. Because I have to set priorities and have to focus my time and energies the best way I can. Family first, clients and prospects second. My own tweeting, posting and publishing will have to remain on the back burner until I’m caught up and things normalize again.
And I won’t feel guilty about it.