This month marks nine years in business for me. And while it feels like I am on a roll now, I think back to the first couple of years and I could not have imagined being here nine years later. At the very beginning, I was just focused on paying my bills, not eating ramen for every meal, and not having to go back to my corporate job.
And so I want to share this episode for two reasons: 1 – To give you some insight into the things that I’ve learned in the past nine years, and 2 – for all of you that are in the first couple of years in your business, wondering if it’s actually gonna work, I want to give you a little reassurance that if you want to stay in business for years and years and years you absolutely can.
Resources + Links
– The Solopreneur Success Journal (100 journal prompts): xosarah.com/ssjournal
– The Essentials Membership: xosarah.com/essentials
Lesson 1 ➜ Mindset is not something you check off, it’s a daily practice that helps you show up and do the work day after day
Mindset feels like a buzzword lately but it’s not just about conquering your imposter syndrome so you feel more confident. It’s about putting habits in place so that when you sit down to work you feel purposeful and focused on your mission without getting thrown off by comparison, procrastination, negative thinking every other day.
One of my favorite things to do lately is to find TV shows, YouTube videos, or podcasts episodes from women who are kicking ass in business. For example, I just finished watching The Big Shot with Bethenny about Bethenny Frankel hiring a new VP of operations and watching those women rock each challenge made me want to uplevel every inch of my business. (And maybe buy a powersuit.)
I found that doing EFT tapping every morning and taking a walk every evening while listening to a podcast makes me feel more positive and motivates me to get my work done and think bigger about what I can accomplish in my business.
Working on your mindset doesn’t have to be a complicated process or a magical quick fix. There are new challenges that come up at every level, so it’s important to instill habits into your daily life to keep you feeling confident through the ups and downs that come as you grow.
I’m keeping my body and my brain functioning at a certain level by adding in habits or rituals every day that keep me focused, excited, creative. And that shows up as results in my business. I can actually see the months that I stuck to my habits because my engagement and my revenue go up.
Lesson 2 ➜ Find / create your community
Even an introvert like me has to admit that having business friends, collaborators, or a Facebook community helps to make the journey easier. In any business, you’ll come upon decisions that have the potential to stall you, especially with online business. There are a million options for everything from landing pages to email lists to bookkeeping and having a Facebook group, a mastermind, or a coach you can ask for advice will keep you moving faster.
I was hesitant at the beginning because I like to be in my own little bubble doing my own thing. But even paying to have access to other people just once a month makes a big difference. Yes, you can Google everything, find YouTube videos, or podcast episodes but you’ll waste a lot less time asking someone who has already done it first.
For example – I’ve had two people in my mastermind and two more in The Essentials talk about starting a podcast. So I sent over my startup guide (which is just a quick doc I made of all the resources I used to start mine). Nothing fancy and not for sale, but paying to be in those spaces gave them access to ask for and get the resources they needed immediately.
Being in a business community is also great for mindset stuff – when you panic before sending a proposal to a client, can’t stop offering discounts to get more customers, or worry about what someone else in your niche just launched. Having business buddies, a coach, or a community to turn to is so stress-relieving even if it’s just to hear people say “I’ve been there too” or “Dude…you can totally do it!”
You can hop on Facebook or scroll through Instagram and find a free community to start, but I have noticed that when people pay to be in a community they are more committed to showing up and helping each other and not just asking questions once or twice a year. They are invested monetarily and so they become invested mentally.
Lesson 3 ➜ Hire some freaking help!
This is such a hard one because often you need to hire help before you will feel financially able to afford it. So you’re likely to end up with a lot of work, a lot of clients, and an overflowing inbox that you need help with before that turns into revenue that would support an employee.
Once your business starts to gain momentum you don’t want to be doing all of those tasks yourself because you will spend days or your entire week doing admin, scheduling, data tasks that are not in your zone of genius. And trying to cram them around client work, content creation, showing up for your community and hopefully having a life in there as well.
Think of it like this – if you hire someone to do some of the admin work you’re probably going to pay them $20-$40 an hour. If you do that work yourself when your hourly rate is $100/hour then you are totally overpaying yourself to do that task. Doing something like cleaning out your inbox is costing you $100 an hour instead of $20. So often you’re actually saving yourself money by hiring help because then you can spend that hundred dollar hour doing a podcast interview, creating stuff for your clients, or any other task that falls in your zone of genius that only you can do.
One of the things I realized from hiring my first virtual assistant was that it helped keep me on schedule because I had explained my goals and my mission and so when I said I was going to do something she would help to hold me accountable. It forced me to level up because there was someone else to keep me on track.
And you don’t need to hire a full-time employee right away, you don’t even need to hire a part-time employee. Hire someone as a contractor and they could work for you three hours to five hours a week just to take a little pressure off. Then once you are able to spend more time on the stuff in your zone of genius you will find that you get better output from that work. You’re going to see growth in your audience, in your email list, and in your revenue. And also it will probably allow you to take your nights and weekends off and work a little less. Which will make your output even better!
Lesson 4 ➜ You business will evolve
This is one that I have had some negative feelings about because I felt like I was jumping around too much. I started as a web designer, then did some e-books and online courses, then I did group coaching, that I went back to more courses. But I was shifting because of two things, 1 – to find what felt comfy for me in terms of how I was delivering content and services and 2 – finding what would best serve my audience.
Those shifts came from talking to my audience on social media and sending a yearly survey. For years my audience didn’t have websites and weren’t creating content consistently, so I created a program to help them with that.
A couple of years later I did another survey and everyone had blogs and were now interested in creating digital products. All of my products and services have always been under the umbrella of growing an online presence and an online business. But at different times I needed to focus on different things.
So change is not a bad thing, you’re evolving as you learn and getting better at what you do. Even if I had stuck with web design, I would have shifted how I work with clients, the type of websites I’m creating, and the types of clients I take on.
Don’t be afraid of trying something new even if it’s outside of what you’ve previously been doing because in the end YOU have to enjoy your business, you have to enjoy showing up, you have to enjoy doing the work. And you are not gonna have that figured out on day one – I definitely did not. I was just trying to make something work.
As my business has grown and changed what I offer has changed, my role has changed, and the results I can provide clients and students has changed and that is a product of me continuously learning and shifting to make things better and easier for myself and for my audience.
Lesson 5 ➜ Do things before you feel ready
There’s a statistic that says men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria, but most women won’t apply unless they feel 100% qualified. (source) And we women, me included, need to smash that statistic ASAP.
You are never going to get to a point where you feel 100% ready. At every level, every new goal, your brain is going to come up with some reason that you’re not ready, you’re not qualified, you shouldn’t do it, or it’s out of your comfort. The list goes on and on. You have to get comfortable having doubts, worries, and feeling like it’s not quite perfect, and still doing it anyway.
The first time I got asked to speak on stage at a conference I said yes before I could even think about it. Because I knew it would be a cool experience, I wanted to go to that conference, I wanted to connect and collaborate with those people. And so I said yes before my brain could be like, “Holy shit that sounds really scary” And then come up with all the reasons I’m not ready, I’m not a good enough speaker, I’ll be super sweaty and awkward, or what would I even talk about???
I said yes because I knew it wouldn’t kill me, the conference organizers were super cool, and I knew they would make the experience as comfortable and easy for me as possible.
I had the expertise, I knew I could come up with the information – the question was how awkward was it going to be on stage with the microphone and PowerPoint presentation and 100 people watching me?? The only way to figure out if I could do it was to say yes and get up there. And it turned out that I could do it! I did a great job and I got asked to speak at two more conferences, which were much easier to say yes to!
So say yes to the speaking gig, reach out for the collaboration, raise your prices, hire help, launch the course, write the book. Start practicing saying yes to little scary things, because the longer you’re in business and the bigger you grow the more scary (and awesome) opportunities will come your way.
Lesson 6 ➜ (the easiest and most important) Just keep going
I talked about this a little bit on Instagram last week but this is the key to having longevity in your business. All you have to do is keep going. That’s it – keep waking up the next day, figuring out what needs to happen, do the work, and then do it again the next day and the next day and the next day.
If you don’t stop you will be successful. Period.
Because all of the strategies work – if someone has done it before and it worked for them then there’s a good chance it will work for you. There’s no specific path, there are no specific milestones, it’s just showing up every day doing the work. Keeping yourself pointed toward a goal and then once you hit that goal picking another one and keep going.
Successful business owners are continuously shifting and changing and moving. Even when they wake up on the wrong side of the bed, even when they’re unsure, even when their grand plan goes sideways. They make adjustments, they figure it out, and they keep going.
Here’s something you might have noticed – we’re not talking about strategies at all in this episode because pretty much all the strategies work. There are a million ways you can do every piece of this online business stuff. A million ways to create a podcast, grow an email list, show up on Instagram, create products, and sell your services. And none of them is better or more right than another.
Some people want to get on podcast episodes to promote their business and some people want to get on live TV. Some people prefer writing, some people prefer audio. So experiment, listen to your gut, communicate with your audience, try things just to see if it will work and if it doesn’t work try something else. Eventually, you’ll find the stuff that feels good AND works to grow your audience, create results, and generate revenue.
I’m telling you, there is nothing special about me that has kept me in business for 9 years. I just kept going. And you can absolutely do it too!
Okay, thank you for hanging out with me today (and for some of you for the past 9 years) I appreciate every moment you spend with me. Get back to work and hopefully we’ll be celebrating your business anniversaries sometime soon too!