This week I wanted to take some time out to discuss a topic I absolutely love: entrepreneurship.
Life as a female entrepreneur can be tough.
We pour our hearts and souls into our businesses, work long hours, and often (at least initially) have little tangible to show for it. Our To Do Lists are unending. Our friends rarely see us. We have no time for our hobbies, and even less time for self-care. The learning curve is incredibly steep, and seemingly unending.
On top of that, many of us are juggling families, children, and other commitments.
It all takes time, energy, and mental bandwidth.
So how do we cope? How do we build the business we constantly dream of, and create the products and services we know, right down to our very core, we were born to bring into the world?
I’ve been at this a while now, and along the way I’ve put in place eight rules to ensure my life as an entrepreneur is utterly awesome…
Rule #1: Be True To You…
You will find me saying this in a lot of different posts for a lot of different topics, and that’s why it is my rule number one.
Be true to you.
I’ve used this quote before and I’m going to use it again. It’s my favourite quote from Dr Seuss… “Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive who is youer than you.”
When it comes to business and being an entrepreneur that is so important thing to remember.
The most successful entrepreneurs are the people who threw themselves into their work, whole heartedly, as their own true (usually slightly demented) selves. They were consistently true to themselves and their vision of what they wanted to do.
And it pays off.
Why It Works…
People get behind authenticity. They get behind that someone they sense is being authentic, being genuine, being true to themselves. They can relate to people better when they believe that they are relating to a real person. You will find that they like you a lot more, and a lot more easily, if you are just being yourself.
That doesn’t mean everybody will like you, I’ve done a whole post on that; not everybody will like you and that is a good thing.
The thing you really have to remember is that you started your business. You do things your way. That is your vision. There is literally nobody else alive who could have thought to do things the way you’re doing them, who could have built the business that you are building.
And that’s so important because it’s that unique quality, it’s that total bespoke approach to the world that is going to build you a tribe, build you a business, and make you successful.
So this is rule number one, and it is unbreakable. Unbreakable.
Be true to you.
Rule #2: Don’t Allow Yourself To Be Limited By The Limited Imaginations Of Others…
This is related to rule number one: don’t allow yourself to be limited by the limited imagination of others. By that, I mean you will often have a vision of what you want to do, an idea of where you’re going with your business, of services that you want to provide, and products you want to create. You will have a dream. You will be absolutely adamant that you can do it, and it will be your obsession. You will be following it and chasing it…
And then somebody will say to you, “That’ll never work. Nobody’s gonna want that. Why would you even bother? Is that even a thing? What, are you a con man? Are you conning people? Is that real? You can’t have an online business….you can’t have a blog…what’s a blog? A blog’s not a business. That’s just you talking to yourself, that’s just narcissism. That’s what a blog is, a blog is narcissism, you’re just a narcissist.”
Their Issues, Not Yours…
This is not an issue with you!
You are running into trouble because other people have limited imaginations. They don’t have your vision. They can’t see things the way that you’re seeing them. They can’t envision the world the way you’re envisioning it. And that’s a failure on their part not on your part.
The fact that other people can’t get behind your vision, and can’t believe in what you’re seeing, is not really their fault either.
It’s just that they don’t see it, for whatever reason. It might be because their areas of interest are elsewhere, it might be because their expertise is elsewhere, it might be because they have no frame of reference to understand what you’re doing. But for whatever reason they’re just not getting it. And that’s because their imaginations are limited to the expanse of their own world, their own vision.
That should not limit you.
Don’t ever curtail your vision, don’t ever curtail your dream. Don’t ever stop and say, “Oh god, maybe I shouldn’t go down that road. Maybe I shouldn’t do that. Maybe I shouldn’t do it that way because they don’t get it. They don’t see it.”
“So and so says it’s not going to work!”
Rule #3: Stop Seeking Permission and Looking for Validation from Other People…
That’s not to say you shouldn’t surround yourself with people who are totally on board with what you’re doing; who are at the same place as you in life; who can encourage you.
But you need to stop looking for that kind of support in people who aren’t able to give it you.
The Problem With My Mum…
God love her. I adore her. My mum’s incredibly supportive of me, and my business. But a lot of the time I try and explain what I’m doing and she gets confused. Not because I’m talking nonsense, but because she has no frame of reference: she’s not got a background in business, she doesn’t understand marketing, she’s got no idea what content marketing is.
The other day I was really excited because I’d just signed a new client. I was telling her all about them and what I was going to do for them: content marketing. I said, “I’m going to be writing their blog, to build a tribe, and help them find new clients.”
And she was like, “Oh…isn’t that what you just paid Simon to do for you?”
She was referring to was the fact that I’ve recently started doing an AdWords campaign. When I decided to do that, I hired somebody that knew what they were doing with AdWords, and got him to run it for me.
To her mind, those two things were the same. She then couldn’t understand how I was paying somebody to do something that other people were paying me to do.
When you have people in your life who are (in the nicest possible sense) ‘challenged’ in that way, in that they don’t understand what you’re doing, you can’t look to them for validation.
They’re Not There For Support…
Look to them for encouragement, but you shouldn’t rely on them for the support that you need.
For one thing, you will spend half your life trying to explain what you’re doing and hitting a brick wall. For another, their lack of understanding of what you’re doing, where you’re going, and what you’re trying to achieve, will come out in quite negative ways.
They might not mean to, but they will often be a bit, “Oh, well that’s not going to work because…”
And it’s not that it’s ‘not going to work’, it’s just that they can’t understand how it can work, because they don’t understand it.
That really ties back to asking for permission. And this is a huge problem for female entrepreneurs.
Female Entrepreneurs: Looking for Permission in All The Wrong Places…
How many female entrepreneurs have husbands, partners, wives, parents, even children, who make us feel like we can’t act unless we have their permission. We can’t do anything big with our lives without their permission. We have to run it past them first, and make sure they think it’s okay.
Especially if there’s a financial element to it.
I know a lot of female entrepreneurs who are just starting out building their businesses, many of them after they’ve taken time off to have children. Their husbands/partners are normally the breadwinner. They are normally the person in charge of the finances. They usually have a say in everything related to money. When these women started their business, they often found they needed money from their Other Half to help get their business going, and support them. Because of that, even after they’ve reached a point where they’re making money on their own, they still find themselves constantly checking with their Other Half. Asking if it’s okay for them to do this.
Especially if it involves spending money. They won’t take a course unless the Other Half has signed off on it. They won’t invest in advertising unless the Other Half thinks it’s going to work.
And that’s fine, if the person you’re asking permission from understands what you’re doing and has a really good idea of what will and won’t work. But if they are, for example, like my mother and have absolutely no clue, asking them for permission is counterproductive, because they will often be quite cautious on your behalf. They don’t want to see you make mistakes, they don’t want to see you go wrong.
If they can’t understand how something can work, they will caution you against it, they will withhold that permission, they will tell you not to do it, and they won’t support you in it. Not because they’re being unsupportive, but because they’re trying to protect you, and they don’t have enough understanding to comprehend they’ve made the wrong call, and what they should be doing is telling you to go for it full throttle.
You need to seek permission from people who are in a position to give an informed opinion. That’s so important. This is why having mastermind groups and surrounding yourself by people who are in the same boat you’re in is so important. They might be in a slightly different business, it might be a slightly different niche, but they’re in a similar position. They know what you’re going through. They understand the things you need to make decisions about.
Rule #4: Make Your Passion Your Paycheck
I love this one. It’s so important. It’s a simple concept but so many people get it wrong.
If you’re building your own business, starting something from scratch, pouring your heart, soul, and so much time, and often money and resources into something, you really need to make sure it’s something you love.
You will go completely stir crazy if you put all of that into something that you don’t absolutely love. When you really love something, when you’re working on your passion, it’s not really like work because you’re loving doing it. Even the difficult bits. Even the tedious bits. You know it’s for a greater good. If your business is based on something you don’t love (I don’t mean it’s something that you hate, just something you don’t love. You don’t live and breathe it) you’re in trouble. If it’s not something that you wake up in the morning and immediately want to get started doing, you’re going to flounder, you’re going to quickly fall down.
Make sure you are using your passion for your paycheck.
Even if what you love doesn’t sound like a real thing. Even if you’re sitting there thinking, “But I can’t make money doing that. That’s not something people pay you to do. That’s something I love doing.”
You can always find a way of turning the thing you love into a business, if you get really creative with it. Make sure your business is based on your passion.
#Rule 5: Find Your Niche…
Your niche is the one thing you can spend all day doing and be perfectly happy.
Because you are going to have to spend all day doing it, at least initially.
You need to keep niche-ing down. You’ll think “Yes, I’ve found my niche! I’m going to be a writer.”
And then you think about it for a bit longer and you realise that there are millions of different kinds of writers, and that’s not niche-ing enough.
That’s not even a niche, that’s an industry.
Make sure your niche is actually a niche and not an industry or a big sector masquerading as a niche.
Rule #6: Don’t Skimp on Your Planning…
This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours planning things in immaculate detail. It just means that you need to have a plan. It can take lots of different forms. But certainly where content marketing is concerned, planning is the thing that lets people down more than anything else.
They don’t plan. They spit out blog post after blog post, but they have no method to it, they have no design, they have no plan.
And they sort of get it to work for them, but it’s never as powerful as it could have been if they planned it properly.
I use that as a metaphor for business as a whole. You can muddle through without a plan, but when you have a plan, and plan properly, everything will work a lot better and you’ll be a lot more successful than you would have been without the plan.
How I Plan…
Every December I get my Leonie Dawson planner. I go through it and look at the year that’s just gone, and I plan the year that’s to come. I often write notes and things to do, even further ahead than that. But I always make sure that I’ve spent some time planning.
I haven’t actually filled all of my planner in. It’s April now, and I really haven’t filled in all of it.
I’ve used the parts I needed, the parts that were helpful, and I left the other parts there.
I’m sure they’ll be very helpful to other people, and I’m sure I did fill the whole thing in from start to finish it would be helpful. But you don’t have to spend massive amounts of time planning
You just have to make sure you plan.
Rule #7: Invest Wisely in Yourself and Your Business….
This sounds like a bit of a no brainer, but I think there is a tendency when you’re first starting out in business to want to try everything.
You throw everything and the kitchen sink at the problem, and hope that something sticks.
In doing so you end up wasting a lot of money on things that really don’t work, and if you’d stopped and thought about it a little bit more, you’d probably have realised they were never going to work.
My Biggest Investment Mistake…
When I first published my novel, Chasing Azrael, I did lots of work on my ideal client and determined that my ideal clients for my novel read, amongst other things, Gothic Beauty Magazine. I valiantly purchased advertising space in four issues of Gothic Beauty Magazine. It cost me… I don’t even want to tell you how much it cost me. It’s terrifying. it cost me hundreds and hundreds of pounds, and I did not get a single sale.
I did not get one single book sale from hundreds of pounds worth of advertising.
And that’s not because it’s a bad magazine, or my ideal clients aren’t reading the magazine, it is just because, for one thing, print marketing for books that aren’t already well known is never particularly successful. Somewhere in my head, I actually knew that, I just didn’t think about it. But also, the reasons that people read Gothic Beauty Magazine have absolutely nothing to do with fiction.
They’re not used to seeing adverts for fiction books. They’re used to seeing clothes, jewellery, and makeup.
Technically, I was right in terms of my target market, my ideal client, and my demographics etc. But if I’d actually stopped and thought about it I would have realised very quickly that it just wasn’t going to work and saved myself a lot of money.
The Importance of Realising Your Mistakes…
After, I might have thought that the problem was the magazine rather than the medium. So I might have gone and spent a load more money on print advertising in a different magazine, thinking it would have a different effect, and wasting a load more money.
Fortunately I realised what the problem was (wrong medium), and switched to online advertising.
Other things I’ve invested in I really wish I hadn’t… There are some courses I’ve done that I had niggling doubts about before I paid for them. I was second guessing myself and thinking, “Should I? Shouldn’t I? I don’t know whether it’s going to be worth it. I’m worried about this aspect… I’m not sure it’s going to cover exactly what want. But I just need to invest in myself, I need to invest in my business, I need to invest in something.”
It’s that initial fear, I suppose, that you don’t know enough, that you need more knowledge and you need to get knowledge from everywhere. It makes you impulsively invest in things that aren’t really the best fit for you.
Some of the courses I’ve bought have been absolutely wonderful, really worth every single penny.
Some of them have been okay, but I probably could have found something that was a better fit for me specifically.
Some of them have just been a total unmitigated waste of an awful lot of money.
Your investments might not be advertising or courses. It might something like your website…
I know loads of people who have invested an absolutely massive amount of money in their website, at a point in their business when they weren’t quite sure who they were or what they were doing yet.
They’ve reach a stage and realised they’ve got a phenomenally good website that looks great, it’s got all the bells and whistles, but it doesn’t do what they need it to, or it’s targeted at the wrong ideal client.
How To Invest Wisely…
You don’t need everything to be perfect right out of the gate. In order to invest wisely, I would suggest that you always think, “How much do I need right now to get me, or my business, to the point that it absolutely has to be at in order to function?”
Rule #8: Practice Gratitude…
The last rule, but it is by no means the least, is to practise gratitude.
I’m going to be completely honest, this is something that I learnt in therapy. You may or may not know that I have bipolar disorder. So I spend an awful lot of time keeping myself on a nice even keel and making sure that I’m fine. One of the ways I do keeping a Gratitude Journal.
Every day I write down something that I’m grateful for.
Some days these turn into essay-long rants about the wonderful people in my life, or a dog I met in the park, or the fact that I saw a rainbow. Things like that.
Sometimes it’s just a one liner that says “I’m not dead.”
I’m not joking. Some days I’m simply grateful for is the fact that I’m still alive.
The Bipolarity of Business…
The way I look at business is that it is a lot like (if you’ll bear with me) being bipolar…
When you’re bipolar you have big ups, you have big downs, and you have lots of days in between when you’re kind of a little up or a little down. And it’s really easy, especially when you’re on the ‘down days’, to get stuck in this, “Oh my god, it’s all going wrong, it’s all too hard, I’m so tired, I haven’t got any time, I’m so stressed, I’ve got so much to do!” mentality. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed.
And if you get overwhelmed, the overwhelm snowballs and very quickly becomes worse. So those little dips can quickly turn into great big dips that leave you incapable of doing anything for days, and even weeks.
You really need to kind of keep a handle on that.
Similarly, there are the ‘up days’, where everything’s going absolutely perfectly, everything’s working exactly as you want it to, and you’re on top of the world.
The Ups and Downs…
You can get a bit carried away. You think, “Oh, I’ve just got this new client, so I’m going to have loads of new money coming in, and I’ll have loads more clients, so I can afford to do this, that and the other…”
You get ahead of yourself a little bit. And you can over-commit, in terms of time, or finances, or just energy, the amount of energy you have to put into something.
You can over commit.
You’re so excited, you’re in such a great place, and everything is going so well…you just get lost in it.
Practicing gratitude every day is really just checking in with yourself, where you’re at in your business. It doesn’t have to take long, it can be one line, or it can be an essay. If you prefer to do it in your head, you can; you don’t need to write it down. But try and think of everything in your business that you’re grateful for on a daily basis.
The thing that I am grateful for every single day in my business are my clients, because without my clients I would not have a business, and I do not delude myself into thinking that there is any plausible way that I would be here without them.
So you can grateful for your clients, for a particular piece of software that makes our life easier, a coach that’s helping you, a community that’s supporting you, a bank loan that came at the exact right time, it really doesn’t matter…it’s as varied in business as it is in life.
The important thing is to focus on the good and to make sure that you have something that keeps you tethered. You need to avoid getting over-excited, or sinking into overwhelm. It’s important you find ways to avoid losing yourself in thoughts like,“Oh my God, it’s so hard!”
Because it is hard. Running a business is hard and there are going to be days where you’re like that.
You need to manage the ups and downs in your business the same way that I need to manage the ups and downs in my mood. Because if you don’t keep on top of it, it gets away from you. You can either end up on top of the world, or in a really deep hole. And when you’re in those states, things go very wrong very quickly…
Until Next Week…
That’s it from me for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed my rules and they are helpful to you. If you have any comments or questions do please pop them below, otherwise like this post, share this post, and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you never miss fabulous videos from me and Dexter…