Facing the Sting: Why Solopreneurs are destined to stay that way forever

I just found my way to a blog post that stopped me dead in my tracks and lit my bottlerocket to the moon.  This guy is bananas – as a bit of a marketing snob and wordsmither myself, I’m mesmerized by Peter Shallard’s (@PeterShallard) poignant way of communicating the honest-to-God truth about what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.

In his post, “The Truth – Why Solopreneurs are destined to stay that way forever,” Peter cuts right to the soul of what is keeping so many independent professionals stuck.

Here’s a brief intro to what Peter says about the destiny of solopreneurs:

Most solopreneurs have dreams or vague plans to one day make it to the big time. A proper company and staff to boot. Whether it’s an in-house team or outsourced global workforce, every business owner dreams of growing the family, even if only to a single virtual assistant.

Yet such dreams are almost never realized.

Despite the lower-than-ever cost of bringing outsource talent onboard, entrepreneurs still struggle more than ever to actually getting around to doing it.

I have a nose for self-sabotage and something here reeks of internal conflict! This post explains why you still haven’t hired that person you know you should. Hint: It’s all in your head.

“I just can’t let go”

Famous last words of the archetypal solopreneur who endlessly procrastinates hiring the help they need.

I want to just copy the whole freaking post and paste it here for you to read.

My experience hiring my first virtual assistant

I remember when I hired my first VA three years ago.  I was kinda terrified, not gonna lie.  I mean, looking back, it wasn’t a big deal, but it felt like a HUGE commitment to siphon off part of my cashflow every month to another resource, in spite of my being very clear that I needed to get leverage, stat, if I was going to keep growing my business.

I’ve seen my clients grapple with this over-and-over again.  Truthfully, the reason I have a marketing team that executes booking / publicity, marketing administration and social media marketing for our clients is because the thought of trying to find a qualified, solid resource to execute on their strategy (once they’ve defined it through my Marketing Gameplan program) was intimidating and overwhelming to them… and I saw them struggling once they hired someone because they didn’t know how to bring out the best in that resource.

Make the shift from solopreneur to entrepreneur

I love how Peter closes out his post, with a charge to all “solopreneurs” to get about the business of breaking through to greater possibility and fulfillment as an entrepreneur.  Remember our charge: Who must I become to complete this quest?

Getting a team of people to do important work is harder than it looks. It requires a special set of skills that you won’t learn in school or from your parents. It’s tough and your unconscious mind knows this.

That is why your veins are riddled with fear. Your intuitive self is trying to stop you rushing into a situation that it knows you can’t handle. The same thing would happen if you lined up to ride a rodeo horse. Fear. It means there is something coming up which you need to prepare for.

This post isn’t about “how to be a manager” – it’s about how to pay attention to the signals your mind is sending you. It’s about how to overcome a hugely limiting form of self sabotage, that’s stopping you achieving your business goals.

If you’re a solopreneur who has always dreamed of building a team, it’s time to start preparing your mind for the challenge. You’re not procrastinating because of “control” issues, you’re procrastinating because you’re not ready… yet.

So get ready. Read, learn, train. You know how to be an entrepreneur. Now it’s time to learn how to be a manager.

You can check out Peter’s blog here (add him to you RSS Reader – good stuff!).

How are YOU getting leverage in your business by outsourcing and bringing in help?  And how are things going for you? Let’s talk about your experiences in the comments!

7 Key Shifts in Thinking from the Entrepreneurial Trenches (Pt 2)

7 Secrets of the Successful Entrepreneur

In part one of this blog series, I talked about how important failure is to success, and ended by saying If you haven’t failed, you haven’t been taking big-enough risks! In this blog, I want to take things a step further and share with you 7 key lessons I’ve learned along my own entrepreneurial journey. From educating yourself constantly to making the commitment to success and accepting how long it might take to see financial rewards, here are  7 key shifts in thinking that are necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur (these tips are especially for the speaker, author, coach, consultant, expert who’s selling their knowledge and expertise):

  1. The most crucial investment you make is in educating yourself. I really notice this when interviewing new team members – those who’ve been freelancers for a while expect to invest time and money to keep their skills sharp so they are able to create opportunity for their clients and land great gigs. Those who have been “employed” their whole career want you to pay for them to learn something new.

    My most successful colleagues all spend a great deal of money on conferences, certifications, mastermind groups, and courses they believe will give them any kind of an edge as they’re growing their business.  They don’t “throw money around” at every opportunity–they are intentional and deliberate, and they aren’t afraid to risk some dough if it will give them an edge. And it pays off.

    As an entrepreneur, it is a must for you to constantly be investing time and money in your own learning (taking a course, hiring a coach, attending a conference, buying a book, enrolling in a training program, etc).  If you’re of the mindset that spending money on your education and / or support is frivolous, or you “don’t have the money,” you’re pushing your success further into the future and potentially creating a more challenging path.

  2. The only person to blame when things don’t work out is “you”–own it, and go easy on yourself. When things don’t go well, it’s easy to slip into the blame game: it’s because of that vendor, or that bad hire, or that jerk of a client, or the market crashing.  As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to manage all the conditions that affect your success. You can’t blame your boss, or your co-worker, or the processes and procedures; huffing “because-they-won’t-listen-to-me” or “so-and-so-didn’t-do-x-so-this-is-what-happens” doesn’t make you successful.  The accountability is radical when you’re a business owner.
  3. Blaming someone else only keeps you stuck. If something isn’t working, at the end of the day, it comes down to something you did or didn’t do.  I find myself constantly solving “puzzles” around creating more success: I need a better system, more education, better resources, a new team member, a different client, a new relationship … I need to find out what condition is missing, or what nuance we need to address.  Communicate better.  Change something.  It’s never, ever, ever anyone else’s fault.  It’s always mine.  I own everything.  That doesn’t mean I don’t hold people accountable–I do.  And you should.  But your success ultimately depends on your ability to bring together the right team and create the right conditions for alchemy.
  4. Business owners need a tremendous amount of courage, and feeling “afraid” is just part of your job. Corporate environments have many nooks, crannies, and “layers” of bureaucracy that give your ego lots of places to hide when the going gets tough – it’s easy to find someone to blame, or to ignore what you’re not ready to face, or to remain oblivious to a shortcoming, or to overlook your need for someone else’s cooperation.  As an entrepreneur, there is nowhere to hide.  Every day, every hour, every minute some days, you must face things that are challenging to reconcile–your vulnerability to failure floats just beneath the surface of your experience.  If it gets too hot in the kitchen, sure you can quit or find another path, but if you are committed to success, you get really good at finding the courage to set your jaw and plow through.
  5. You must value your time differently and learn the art of LEVERAGE. As an employee, you trade your time for dollars in a pretty linear way to make money.  As an entrepreneur or independent professional, you soon learn that there are a LOT of hours that you could potentially work for which no one is writing you a check.  Getting leverage is really the key to success in building a sustainable business — you need others to come alongside you as partners to keep things running smoothly.  A major area for “getting leverage” in your business is in farming out the administrative and accounting responsibilities… it’s easy to want to hang on to these responsibilities so you don’t have to pay someone else, but you’ll soon learn that this isn’t sustainable.  Your time as a business owner is likely worth at least $100 / hour; every hour you spend doing $15 / hour work costs you money and slows your growth.  By hanging onto “menial” responsibilities, you clog up your mental bandwidth with sludge that keeps you from igniting your creativity to serve your clients, find new ones, and to channel the divine into something new and special.

    Another huge shift comes as business owners realize that they aren’t selling 40 hours/week. Most independent professionals have 15-25 hours per week to feasibly sell–the rest of their time is spent on marketing, networking, and creative work to sustain growth in their businesses.  Misunderstand this, and you’re setting yourself up to ride the roller coaster of feast-or-famine: after you finish what you’ve been pouring yourself into for weeks or months, you’re staring an empty pipeline square in the eye.  Rats.

  6. Becoming successful as an entrepreneur is a 5-7 year commitment. As much as I’d love to paint things rosy, the truth is that for virtually all of us, we don’t really start hitting our strides as entrepreneurs until 5-7 years in.  That doesn’t mean we don’t make money starting out–I’ve been fortunate to have “made it” financially since I started my business over seven years ago. However, I didn’t start hitting my stride until around the six-year mark, and frankly, I’m growing and learning every day.  There is so much to absorb and understand, so many nuances with which to become familiar.  The marketplace needs time to really embrace you and trust you and you need time to really trust yourself. This isn’t what people typically want to hear, but time flies and the journey is life-transforming!
  7. A strong entrepreneurial ROI requires a 15-year commitment. Every successful (translate: very wealthy) business person I know has stuck with their craft and honed their skills over years, and their tenacity has paid off exponentially when the commitment turns to double-digits.  Most people I know choose an entrepreneurial path in part because they want their opportunity at a 7-figure income (or more!).  And most of them realize that dream when the tenure of their business crosses into the double digits.

Question:  What important lessons have YOU learned on your entrepreneurial path?

The Heroic Secret of Successful Entrepreneurs – part 1

Image by Renjith KrishnanBe prepared to learn from failure and setbacks

I talked to a long-time friend and colleague today about his experiences as a first-time entrepreneur; like many of our experiences, it’s been full of highs and lows.  The thrill of starting a new venture often leaves in its wake a tattered battlefield of failed experiments, expended-effort-to-no-avail, frustration and disappointment. Then, we’re thrilled by the wins again.

It’s easy to drop into dark periods of second-guessing oneself when the going gets tough.  We wish we would have done certain things differently, “if only” and “why didn’t I” thoughts racing through our minds as we tried to figure out what we should have done, and should do now, spinning ruthlessly around the why-didn’t-I.

All normal.

I still marvel at the vast “shift” one must undergo to really be successful as a business owner.  It’s not something you can prepare people for, frankly.  There are many entrepreneurial paths with unique challenges, yet all of them have one thing in common:  they require you to be mentally tough and have a high threshold for uncertainty to survive.

Don’t get trapped by your own thoughts

I remember listening to Tony Robbins’ Personal Power program and reading Robert Kyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, and marveling at the idea of being stuck in disempowering thoughts. Marshall Goldstein says, “The thinking that got you here won’t get you there,” and I think that pretty much sums up the greatest challenge we must face as entrepreneurs: changing our thinking, a herculean task–talk about embarking on the Hero’s Journey!  Who must I become to complete this quest? has never rang more true than within the context of shifting from employee to entrepreneur.

There are a few key lessons that entrepreneurship has taught me, which I’ll share in my next post.  If you’ve spent any time on this path, you’ll see your own experiences in them and resonate with their truth, I’m sure!  Sharing these lessons won’t keep you from having to journey through them (sometimes over and over again), but perhaps they can pique your attention to maybe look at things a little differently on the next go-around. And don’t judge yourself too harshly for not knowing it all.  When a baby is learning to walk, do the missteps count as failures?  Hardly.  You don’t learn to walk without tripping, falling, sliding, crashing, bumping and tumbling a whole heck of a lot.  There’s no way for a baby to “prepare” for what’s to come.

If there was one piece of advice I could give you to help you on this journey, I’d tell you to be conscious about what you’re making things mean–commit to finding an empowering meaning for your experiences.  Every successful entrepreneur I know has traveled the road of get-back-up.  If you haven’t failed, you haven’t been taking big-enough risks!

Next week: 7 Key Shifts in Thinking from the Entrepreneurial Trenches

Question: What’s your view of the connection between failure and success? Did you overcome a pivotal moment on your path to success?

A ninja trick to help you LEAP to the next level

Finding Clarity when you're feeling blocked, uninspired, overwhelmed, stressedI recently had a conversation with a colleague who knew he needed to take things “to the next level.” He was feeling pressure financially (as we all do at times; I mean, doesn’t almost anything that ails us almost always have some kind of financial impact?) to “make things happen,” yet he felt stuck.

This is a frustrating part of being an independent professional, for sure.  We get busy “doing” things, taking care of clients, and when we start to feel the pressures of responsibility to get our businesses to a certain level, in the midst of our struggle, we feel SO uninspired.  Sometimes, we get to the point where we even feel bored with what we find ourselves doing every day with our clients … not a powerful space to be in if we want to attract more business, right?

Don’t let fear interfere with your life

I live my life by this motto: Any decision made out of fear is the wrong decision. If I’m contemplating a strategic move of any kind, personal or professional, before I’ll commit to anything, I need to know that I’m not going to make this decision because I’m afraid of something:  failure, success, the opinions of others, losing respect or admiration, avoidance of conflict, not having enough money – notoriety – etc.

The Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj affirms, “To see clearly, the mind must be pure and unattached.”

Finding that pure, unadulterated space when we’re feeling pressure or emotionally taxed can really be tough.  Still, it’s absolutely crucial that we develop that “muscle” in our minds, because to grow a business, we often need the strength to move stress and clutter aside so we can captain our journeys and tap into our own creativity.

The right questions can pull you out of the doldrums

When a colleague contacted me recently because he felt like he should start marketing his business, his tone sounded flat and uninspired.  It’s a whole other blog post to talk about why it’s nearly impossible to market successfully from an uninspired place.  I told him, “Good marketing comes from a powerful, motivating vision.  So, where do you want to go with your business?  What excites you?  Where are you being divinely guided to make a difference in the world?”

It seemed my question took him off guard; I think he expected me to launch into a bunch of marketing jargon that promised moonbeams, unicorns and pots of gold within 90 days.  We spent the next hour talking about what he was passionate about, uncovering the things that inspired him to become a coach in the first place.  He reconnected with what he loved, and from that passionate place, we began mapping out what growing his business might look like.

Understanding how the creative process works and learning to align with it is crucial to your success as an independent professional.  Pick up a copy of Scott Jeffrey’s book, Creativity Revealed: Discovering the Source of Inspiration if you’re ready for a deep dive.

What to do when the going gets tough in business


The Business Owner's Dark Night of the Soul - Our Rite of PassageAt a recent coaches meeting here in Nashville, I had a conversation with a coach who told me, “If someone asks me how they should transition to coaching from full-time employment, I think I would tell them that they should find part-time work to supplement their income until they get their coaching practice off the ground.”

I’ve mused similar things when I’ve hit a point of anguish in my business, particularly when I’m not making the money I need to make–and it hurts.

So many things go through your mind, and every insecure thought you’ve been trying to ignore blares in capital letters, accompanied by very loud music:

I’m a failure.  I can’t do this.  What the heck was I thinking.

I know I’m supposed to be doing this work; they’re idiots for not hiring me!

How could they reject me like that?  I’m so tired of being rejected; I feel so misunderstood.  Why can’t I make them understand that they need to hire me?

What was I thinking taking this on … my work isn’t valuable; people don’t need me.

I’m not good enough to be doing this.  My work isn’t worth the money I’m asking; I’m never going to make a living.

I’m so tired of this roller coaster … is a breakthrough ever going to come?

How am I going to get them to hire me?  What if they find out I don’t have any clients?  They’re going to think I’m no good.

I’m worthless.  Fat. Ugly.

God, you aren’t making this work and that ticks me off!

You get the idea.

Becoming an independent professional isn’t like other career paths.  You’re not pawning someone else’s widget as is typically the case in corporate America.  You’re selling you: your uniqueness, your special gifts, your breakthrough way of helping people get results, your special way of communicating and connecting.  It can feel particularly vulnerable and lonely.

I asked my colleague if she would have faced her fears and made the “big shifts” she needed to make to be successful without the “threat” of looming disaster. Wide-eyed, she realized those perilous moments served her, and that she likely wouldn’t have broken through without them.

My friend, Scott Jeffrey, talks about these dark times in his post, The Hero’s Quest.

The hero’s journey is always one of transformation. Whether you’re trying to build a successful business, raise a family, write a screenplay, travel to a distant land, or produce a work of art, focus on internal growth not external approval.

We are our own heroes. Ask, Who must I become to successfully complete this quest? At first, we won’t know the answer to this vital question, but over time, doors open and we receive a glimpse of who we must become to return anew from the adventure.

No true quest can be seen as mundane when the purpose is clear. Each person’s quest betters all of mankind regardless of how big or small that quest may seem to others. So journey onward.

Much of my work with clients doesn’t focus on what people would typically expect to be marketing activities, because my clients’ success doesn’t hinge solely on how great their website is or what kind of testimonials they’ve included on their one sheet.  Their success depends upon their ability to assign an empowering meaning to their experiences, especially the ones they might think are negative, to make sense of the ups and downs of the journey, and to process what’s not working in their business so they can get some traction and create the results they want.

Success is a spiritual journey
In many ways, the journey toward business success is a very spiritual one: facing our fears, believing in our gifts, trusting God to guide us, sharing a sacred part of our souls with our clients, learning to be brave every single day, remembering that we are merely channels for the amazing results we help manifest in the world.

Rather than looking for something outside of us to make our journey’s easier, we “get there” faster by asking that all-important question:  Who must I become to successfully complete this quest?

Why you should be doing this business

As independent professionals, many of us consider being successful and making money as the “litmus test” of our success as we contribute to the world … we ultimately want to make a difference, to live our passions everyday and to find fulfillment as we make our mark on the world.

It’s amazing how owning our own businesses often tries our conviction–the very nature of the process tries our souls, reveals our insecurities and our fears, and exposes our demons.

I love great quote by Marianne Williamson (from A Return to Love).  I think this is especially important for us to remember as we persevere through this journey:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our Presence automatically liberates others.