Have you ever been in the space where you just don’t know what to do with your work and your life and you’re finding it a super tough decision?
Boy do I feel you and I am so happy that you’re here today.
There are a lot of times in life when this issue comes up, in my experience it is incredibly common when you have small children though I know that I experienced it (and will continue to do so throughout my life).
Getting a bit morbid maybe, but when I get the collywobbles about being in business for myself I often think about what I will be looking back on at the end of my life.
I wonder whether I will regret going for it, giving it my best shot and I am of the deep seated belief that whilst it may not always look how I imagined, and yes I suspect that the path will have some bumps in it – I would almost certainly regret not trying more than giving it my all.
I can only speak as a woman and as someone who was a single mother for a long time but life has hurdles, for each and every one of us. Sometimes they can bite you in the arse so hard you feel it for decades but it doesn’t have to end there for you.
You don’t HAVE to stay stagnant. After I hit my mid 30s I realised that there are some circumstances and situations I can only change by making change.
It’s this part that’s hard though isn’t it.
The making change. For me it meant I was even poorer than I started at times (which was bloody poor I don’t mind telling you) but you see, ultimately. Changing my life simply became about making decisions.
Making the decision to move on, and it was the process of that decision that freed me and propelled me to a future that I have been stunned at.
As a mother my overriding mantra is ‘what will the impact of this decision have on my son’ and whilst that’s an awesome way to be, particularly as the sole carer, it also meant that where I might have tried and failed fast (or succeeded beyond measure) I was too scared to make a decision.
But the time passed anyway. 1 year of wondering turned into 10.
My sons life didn’t get any better, in fact sometimes it got worse, but the minute I chose to go for it things began to change.
I wont lie and tell you it’s all been plain sailing because it hasn’t, I had to make sacrifices and yes so did my son BUT the truth of the matter is that, that small sacrifice has allowed us to build a different kind of life together and it’s amazing and going from strength to strength.
Decision making followed by taking action is the way to free your shackles and boost your confidence.
The key is that if you fail you fail fast and learn from it. It might mean stopping or it might mean adjusting but lady, you can do it.
Honestly, what worries you about it?
The time it will take (the years will pass whether you’re doing the thing you want or not)
So here’s the thing, if you can imagine yourself in the future both ways, plodding on doing what you’re doing and then differently having achieved the this thing of yours, which one do you really want most?
It’s completely ok if it’s just a pleasant fantasy (like winning the lottery)
The truth is that what causes us the most unhappiness is simply indecision.
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So you’ve started your business (or are thinking about it) and it all feels a little out of your comfort zone.
You’re on the socials and may even have your social media strategy in place yet… something is holding you back.
You feel ‘wooden’ and you want to enjoy what you do without appearing unprofessional.
So, how do you stay professional AND allow yourself to be, well, you?
It’s a strange transition going from employee/stay at home parent/high flying corporate leader/underachieving coaster to – freelancing, becoming your own small business owner and not having a boss.
It’s easy to stick to the approved of uniform (joggers/leggings/suits/cocktail dresses) and adhere to a certain professional etiquette when you’re in that role you’ve been living in for a while (and yes SAHMs and coasters do have their own etiquette) but what about when YOU become the focus of your business?
I struggle with this daily, the weight of the online judgement made by potential clients a thought every time I post. So, when I was talking to a friend recently he said that my USP (unique selling point) is me. It’s my winning personality – his words and no I didn’t pay him. I had to think about this a bit more.
If you’re feeling like an imposter, like you’re not good enough, if you’re second guessing everything you post then you’re not alone.
Last year I really fell out of love with my online presence. I just felt like it wasn’t me, not really. Nothing online felt like it truly represented me and as a consequence, and I think quite a logical one, I began to disassociate with my online persona.
I felt professional but hollow.
Call it imposter syndrome if you like but out of everything in this freelance world this feeling has had the biggest impact on me and whether you’re thinking about freelancing, have just started up or whether you’re a more established entrepreneur, I think we can all agree that this happens to each and every one of us.
What are the signs?
For me, this negativity manifested itself in the following ways:
Procrastination – I just dithered and dallied over everything – I even stepped away from social media entirely for around 6 months.
Loss of self confidence in my abilities – this is a doozy if it gets hold of you.
Attracting clients./jobs that you don’t actually really want to do – I found this a lot and began to notice that like attracts like. I.e. I was getting enquiries from people who were wooden, weren’t valuing my business and were wasting both our times. Whilst I wasn’t being a time waster online I had to come to terms with the fact that without showing who I was and with that underlying lack of confidence not being me was creating, I was devaluing myself, my hard earned and high quality skills and my business as a whole. After all, like attracted like.
I was bored and miserable and didn’t have a clue where to start to get myself out of the funk.
So again, how do you stay professional AND allow yourself to be you?
Here’s the thing, I can give you half a dozen steps to take and suggestions for doing this but I think the main thing is this:
You know what you’re doing, it’s why you felt you *could* do this in the first place, that little stirring of something in your gut. It’s not your ability that’s the problem it’s how you choose to showcase yourself and your business online.
When you share be yourself – talk like you, use words you would use, laugh if you would normally laugh etc. Be proud of your skills, talents and knowledge.
If you feel the most comfortable being made up do that, if you don’t then don’t (you don’t have to look like anyone else online, even if you fear they’re doing it better. You just need to look like you)
If you live in gym gear then bloody go for it, if I see you turn up in stories wearing a tutu and converse, if that’s your style then I’m there for it because, and this is most important, you will be bringing to the table the person I will be speaking with, giving money to, be recommending, be anticipating their next story and whether you’re a quirky Queenie or Straight Laced Sally then I’m there for it..
Tell me how your ninja skills can help me better yet show me, all whilst being you and I will more likely buy off you. The energy you give off will resonate almost more than the actual post itself – it’s certainly what will linger longest.
Most importantly, just don’t be a dick with it – if you’re uber professional that’s ok too, own that part of yourself and make the most of it.
The key to not being a dick on social media is to not take yourself or it too seriously. Try things, multiple times, see whether you enjoy doing them and whether they enable you to feel like yourself.
If you find yourself avoiding posting more often than not then the answer is that this is not the right method for you. But that’s not indicative of your business success, it’s simply about your style of content.
Would I speak like this if the client was sitting with me having a conversation?
That’s what I’m asking myself everytime I create my content (including this post).
When I look back at older content I appreciate it but there’s an air of disconnect because it’s not quite fully me. That’s ok, it’s normal as we change and grow.
Now my content will be a little smoother in style, will be a bit cheekier and will definitely have some more playful elements to it. Because business can be hard but it should also bring you joy and satisfaction wherever possible.
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Not gonna lie, I do best with praise and I thrive on positive relationships so there is nothing more excruciating for me than when I don’t ‘fit’ with someone whether that be a romantic entanglement, a friendship or a business relationship.
Shortly after I started working as a VA I had a client who was perfect on paper but sucked arse big time in reality. Don’t get me wrong the work was easy, do it with my eyes closed kind of easy but sadly I had to fight for them to pay every single invoice. They would call me outside of the set boundaries (which are super important in freelance work) and they had no concept of time.
I had to fire them and it felt brutal. I questioned whether I could have made anything clearer or done more and I still feel slightly uncomfortable when I think back to it. I was very much in the feast or famine stage of my business and it’s a painful memory.
Then there’s the time when you fall in love with a client and their business, the work is sassy and interesting and you have the enthusiasm of a teenage boys first boob groping attempt when it comes to everything you’re doing for them – you genuinely can’t wait to get the next email/WhatsApp or call. You work your butt off and you see the growth and you are super excited and then bam! They let you go.
It’s the old ‘it’s not you it’s me’ conversation. They’re investing their money differently, or you’ve fulfilled your end of the deal and they’re simply wrapping up the loose ends. Oh it hurts – you are of course thrilled for their success but it still sucks and naturally you take a bit of a confidence kick in the mammories.
And what about the dating you do in business? The wooing of potential clients, the fluttering of emails and calls, the hours of learning about them and pitching the perfect shot only to get the, “You’re amazing but I’ve just realised I’m not actually in the market right now. I’ll definitely consider you when I am though.”
It’s the erectile dysfunction of the business world. It happens to everyone at some point but you don’t really know what to do with yourself in the moment.
My tips for getting you through these kinds of situations are to:
Perspective is great. You really aren’t the right fit for each other right now – it can be so hard trying to forge a relationship on such shaky ground – it’s a blessing in disguise.
Reflective Practise. Why did it get to this stage before the cards were on the table and you were left feeling rejected? Were they really your ideal client i.e. if money was the issue, if their stage of business was appropriate, were you both clear enough on your boundaries/needs and requirements? Could you have improved any of the above?
Is there anything else that could benefit from this relationship? For example, could you connect them with a prospective client of their own or help connect them with someone elses service that they need or could you ask for a testimonial or connection to other people in their network?
Should you maintain this relationship? Just because the time isn’t right right now could you still keep the conversation open? Connected on Socials? Schedule in contact for 8 weeks time? (remember business is about building relationships)
What can you learn from this? Look at was was good, not so good and anything that was downright ugly about it and learn from it.
(I don’t recommend alcohol but I am partial to an expensive bourbon over ice)
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It still surprises me that whenever I put out a poll on Instagram or Facebook asking what’s holding you back in your business the resounding response is the loneliness. More often than not I hear things like ‘my husband doesn’t get it’ or ‘my family don’t consider what I do work’ or even ‘I have no-one to talk to my business about’. It all adds up to the same thing, not feeling understood and that breeds loneliness.
It particularly hurts when things are hard or slow and it becomes even more pronounced when you work an online business from home where your nearest and dearest think you spend your days scrolling the socials for a bit of pocket money.
It’s demeaning and condescending and alienating. It drags you down and still you can’t figure out who you reach out to to share that frustration with. Business is hard and not always clear and it can burn you out in ways you never expected.
You wrote to me and shared your longing for someone to share a glass of something with at the end of those long days. You know the days, the ones where you didn’t know whether you were coming or going, where you felt unsure of where to go next or how to even start. Those days when you needed to feel less alone in this. You said you craved for someone who listened and laughed and shared their own wisdom with you candidly and with love. Not someone to blow smoke but someone to encourage, support, hold up when things were tough.
How do you find those people and what do they look like in your life? I certainly don’t have all the answers but I can share this. You can find and create those relationships, you can find them in people already around you and cultivate those friendships or you can search out new ones.
Existing relationships are worth the work but can definitely need a bit of finessing. I learned that I had to take the lead on these conversations. I needed to talk more candidly about my business but equally important was making my boundaries clear. I wasn’t seeking opinions from them but I was seeking kindness, consideration, support. My partner still unintentionally demeans the business, he thinks it’s banter and I take it personally. We’re working on it but it’s a process and he’s getting better.
My friends are great, they are my biggest cheerleaders and my mum tells me to go all in which is great. They don’t really understand though because they don’t want to build business in the same way as me and that can still feel isolating (I know, nice problems to have hey)
So I reach out to other people doing the same thing as me, experiencing the same things as me and so I am a part of some cool Facebook groups and I follow and engage with the women that I resonate with. When I can I attend in person meet ups and workshops.
One thing that I found the most difficult though was knowing which groups to join and the best ways to build those relationships and communities. If you’re struggling in the same way I have some great video tutorials to support this. For access just sign up below.
You’re not alone if you are. I’ve been there and know that I will get there again – multiple times. I have opted out of joining in because I don’t want to look silly, I have chosen not to be more present online because I thought people would be irritated. I have lost money rather than discuss my disappointment with a product or service. This translates to your business on so many levels.
If you do any of the below then maybe it’s time to take a look at where you’re standing in your own way. Writing this I can tell you there are a couple of things I myself can probably (and should probably) address.
Keep yourself busy but feel like you haven’t achieved anything with it?
Find yourself feeling like there’s just too much to do and not enough time to do it in?
Tell little white lies about the status of your business?
Commit yourself to doing things that you actually really don’t want to do?
Spend your time doing the do but not creating anything new or tweaking what you have (you don’t have the time to do it all right)
Like I said, you’re not alone but if we all get a little more honest a lot of the barriers in your business created by those bullet points are a result of choices you’re making. Eurgh, I hate a truth slap in the face like that. Often, when I read blog posts that say things like ‘truth slap in the face’ I stop reading.
I think ‘You don’t know me, don’t lump me in with everyone that is making their own life harder – I’m just doing what I need to do to keep my head above water, don’t you dare judge me’
If you didn’t know, I can be quite dramatic when I’m reading!
But there it is. Those things that are holding you back/creating barriers – well you got yourself to this point and now you’re in that cycle and it’s probably time for you to take the bull by the horns and get unstuck.
We all want to do less and earn more. We all want to keep control but not have to do it all. We all want to be the key player in our business and be able to blow our own trumpet about what we’ve achieved.
Getting you out of the groundhog day habit of business (that we ALL get in from time to time) isn’t going to be possible in one blog post but I can help you get clear on what’s blocking you. There are a shit tonne of ways you can do this personally, I like a good old fashioned brainstorm or mind map or whatever you want to call it.
But first, there are some really common mistakes that we all make along the way.
You try to juggle every little thing yourself (in business and life)
This isn’t a plug for outsourcing, unless you have the money and ability. This is about being honest with yourself about what you want to juggle/what you should juggle and what other people in your support network could help you with. Speak to your friends and family and ask for help with the kids/dinner. Most people are in your corner (if you let them be)
You overwhelm yourself with unnecessary tasks
It’s so easy for this to happen. You bury yourself in the non essential day to day admin rather than revenue generating activities. Write everything you’re doing down and see what really is absolutely essential and what is just preferred but optional.
You focus on the product or service but don’t actually sell
This is a biggie. It’s important to get your product/service out ready BUT if you are not dedicating time to your marketing and visibility and actually telling people how they can buy it then you’re just creating not building a business.
You don’t network
This is similar to the above and is about putting yourself out there but it’s a really common way to hold yourself back. Networking is a way to hone your message and really get yourself and your product or service out there. Importantly though it can also really help you build that community of like minded people that are not only willing to buy from you but also potentially willing to work with/support or share your message for you too.
You don’t have faith in yourself and let your lack of confidence hold you back
This is the single biggest one. Lack of confidence is like hating broccoli. You can live through it but you have to just have to get it done. You don’t have to be perfect, everyones firsts were not as polished as their 20th’s. There are people just like you who will resonate with you – be yourself and be approachable but most of all push yourself to do the thing. It will be good for your business just like broccoli is good for your body.
Getting some simple processes in place and having a clearer focus for what you’re doing will help. It’s all about the bite size chunks in my opinion. If you want a little help with that, I have an epic FREE ‘Set Up For Success’ guide jam packed with useful resources and tools just sign up below.