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Three things you need to hear as a small business owner…

Three things you need to hear as a small business owner…

When you set up by yourself in business – freelancing, a LTD company, sole trader whatever it may be, you get lots of immediate well wishes. ‘Good for you’ and ‘you’ll be amazing’ are felicitations that are very much appreciated.

Accompanying the cheering on, you can often find a lot of advice. Some conflicting, some well meaning and sometimes unsolicited.

It’s why I tend to keep my chats and experiences confined to individual conversations. Every now and again I’ll get typing and things flow though. I want to heavily caveat this is from my own experiences shaped by my own life experiences and privileges.

This isn’t a list of ‘follow these and you’ll be golden’ kind of thing. I am a big fan of dispelling myths though – so I’m only too happy to indulge myself and others in speaking from the first hand (often wobbly) experience of venturing out solo.

1. Your definition of success matters

True no matter what your employment status to be fair. It’s something that has been in sharp focus for me since 2018 though. To say I felt bombarded by ‘follow this business model’ or ‘do these three things and you’ll be on 10k months in 72 hours’ would be an understatement.

Other opinions stated as fact included (but weren’t limited to): you MUST have a business coach. Your website MUST have x, y, z functionality. It’s all a numbers game so email everyone you’ve ever met immediately to drum up business.

But here’s the thing: 90% of that stuff was not me. Strategies that didn’t align with my values but I tried out for size like it was a wardrobe essential anyway. And guess what, they failed miserably for me. Because, as per the previous point – they didn’t fit with my strengths or what was important to me.

Sometimes when you’re new there’s a vulnerability that is easily swayed. And, to be totally honest it’s not limited to the ‘early days’. Some of those moments have crept in during the last couple of years too.

When I feel those moments approaching, there’s no time like the present to give myself a) some headspace b) some self-compassion and c) a reminder of what’s important to me.

Defining what’s important to you will help you hone the direction you want to take, the clients you’re attracting and the messaging you painstakingly pull together. It’s another branch of your identity and it can be rocket fuel – fending off unhelpful comparison and bringing clarity to your WHY.

2. Disconnecting your worth from your invoicing is chuffing hard

A few years ago, I vividly remember a friend asking how I was getting on with the business. I’d found a rhythm with producing content. I had a couple of corporate clients and probably felt the clearest I ever had on my goals. I wasn’t however earning what I wanted to. Not anything like it actually.

The work I was doing and the clients I did have were all giving me great feedback. I was having some brilliant conversations but I really didn’t know how to answer my pal. Because yes, I was loving what I was doing. All the boxes above were being ticked but financially it felt painful.

I managed ‘things are going really well, I’m not where I need to be money wise but it’s building’. But honestly it felt so uncomfortable. Could I really say the business was going well if I wasn’t hitting the numbers? Was I a good coach if I wasn’t invoicing? Could I really promise a Strong Return® if I was only working with a handful of clients?

Well, yes actually. Obviously there’s a HUGE element of needing to earn money. However my worth and the value I add isn’t directly correlated by my bank statement. Not always a comfortable thing to accept, particularly when you’ve got bills, the supermarket shop and holiday ambitions. But it’s the truth.

The moments where I believed I wasn’t good enough because I hadn’t made a sale or booked a new client were dark but ultimately came down to way more than my ability.

If this is something you’re untangling, it could be worth a bit of reflection time on all the things you’re great at, your strengths, where you DO add value. If you’re able to park the financial narrative to one side (fully aware that can be a luxury) and focus on you it can be a great way to help you reconnect with your brilliance.

3. There will be multiple opinions on your pricing

I think I’ve pretty much heard it all.

You’re too expensive / charging more than others in your field.

That’s higher than we pay others for this kind of training.

You’re too cheap.

That’s one heck of an hourly rate when you break it down.

You’re devaluing the market by offering that for free.

Our budget can’t stretch to that.

Let me be blunt with you – I’ve worked for free way too many times. I’ve allowed organisations (and individuals) to take advantage of my vulnerability and empathy to want to help. When you want to build a brand and deal in a currency of testimonials in those early days, you try to write a lot of it off. But it catches up with you. Six months into setting up and I was in a shocking headspace, feeling disconnected from what I was doing and questioning all sorts.

I’ve also come a long way to shift my views on what’s being charged and I can sniff out the BS a mile off now. It’s come with time and courage, it wasn’t an overnight fix. I can’t go back and change any of it, but if someone asks me about their rates now I’ll be really honest with them – and unsurprisingly it’s usually letting them know that they’re selling themselves short.

Some people will talk about magic formulas to work out day rates, product or service price points and all that’s in between. Ultimately, you need to be comfortable when it comes to pricing – and I mean that from every angle. Comfortable to say / write the numbers down in a proposal AND be able to live.

Ask other people what they’re charging, do your maths about your own living costs and test out your pricing – I don’t know if we realise enough that we do have the ability to change them if we need to.

Why do you need to hear this?

I’m not a business coach and I’m not about to start dishing out models or formulas to swear by. I have however, had quite the eclectic experience of running my own business in the last five years and these are a small selection of the things I wish someone would have shared with me.

Call it advice if you like, a reflection list, things to do, things to avoid – I really don’t mind. Whatever these musings bring for you, I hope you’re crafting a business that brings you empowerment, joy (most of the time) and a feeling like you add value – because if you’ve got this far through the article (well done) then I reckon you’re ready to shake off some of the shackles of how you think your business SHOULD be run and replace it with how YOU need it to run.

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