I recently had a conversation with a jewelry artist that went a little something like this:
Her: My business didn’t grow this year. I made less money than I did in 2013 and I’m feeling really discouraged.
Me: Did you take any steps to grow your business?
Her: Well, I watched a few CreativeLive courses. I read a couple business books and I read a bunch of blog posts.
Me: What I’m hearing is that you took in information, but did you take action on what you learned?
Her: A little bit but I could’ve and should’ve done a lot more. I did a few things like sprucing up my website here and there and I blogged twice a month.
Me: What did you do to connect to other creative entrepreneurs during the year?
Her: Not much. I commented on some blog posts and I got on social media some each week. I kept meaning to send emails and there was even a conference that I thought about attending but then I decided to try to go the next time.
Me: From what you’re saying, it seems like you weren’t really committed this year—like you weren’t invested in growing your business.
Her: I kept telling myself things like, “I’ll do that next month,” and “I don’t have time for that right now but I’ll do it next week.” And, then it never got done. I love my business but for some reason, I kept putting everything on the back burner.
Me: You’ve got to want it. And, I mean really want it. Do you?
Her: Yes. I do. I’m miserable in my day job and I love creating jewelry. My dream is to support my family with my business. I really want to do things differently next year.
Me: Okay. Then, you’ve got to make a firm commitment for 2015. You’ve got to start taking regular action, not just learning what you need to do but actually doing it, and you’ve got to invest in and prioritize your business. If you don’t, then you’re probably going to be in the same position at the end of next year.
Her: I’m ready. 2015 is going to be my year.
I’m sharing this interaction with you because I hear this kind of thing waaaaaaay too much.
There will always be excuses. There will always be reasons to procrastinate: to start the blog next month, to go to the conference the next time, to set up an email newsletter opt-in later, to invest in the Adobe suite next quarter, to learn how to host a webinar in a few months.
If you want to be successful, you have to prioritize your business regardless of the excuses. You have to commit. You have to make time.
Of course, that’s much easier said than done, right?
You can set goals for 2015. You can tell yourself that you’re going to blog every week. You can promise that you’ll finally set up an email newsletter opt-in. You can decide to design a new line of jewelry for the summer. You can set out to do one interview a month.
But it’s easy to let life get in the way, to put it off for another week or month or year.
It’s a horrible feeling to look at the past year and know that you should’ve done more—that you didn’t reach your goals and that you wasted so much time.
That awful feeling can be avoided.
My hope for you is that at this time next year when you’re taking stock of what you accomplished in 2015, you feel amazing. You reached your monetary goals. And you finally did what you set out to do whether that was write and launch an ebook, sell your first watercolor painting and then many more, teach an online course (that sold out within days of opening up registration), or quit your day job because you’re making a full-time income from your creative business.
Think of a big goal you’d like to reach in 2015 and then imagine how you’ll feel at the end of the year if you reach it.
Come on…close your eyes for a minute and imagine that feeling.
Accomplished. Confident. Thriving. Successful. Smart. Relieved. Stress-free. Excited.
So, how are you going to make sure that you reach your goals instead of procrastinating and telling yourself that you’ll do it later?
Here are the two main strategies I used in the beginning that helped me reach my goals, including earning a full-time income, selling out my courses and landing high-profile speaking engagements.
1. I invested in my business.
When you get serious about your business and invest in it financially, you’re more committed to succeeding. This does NOT mean that you have to spend thousands of dollars. Staying lean in the beginning is so much better than going into debt.
But, investing here or there can really make a difference to your excitement, productivity and commitment.
For example, I registered for a course that cost $997 within the first few months of starting my business and it lit a match under my little bum to make that money back. Instead of making excuses, I did the work and it paid off when I sold out my very first group-coaching program.
Some of the information in the course was stuff I already knew that I needed to do (like pitching guest posts and interviews and making my opt-in visually attractive) but I hadn’t done it yet. That course gave me the push to do the stuff I’d been ‘saving for later.’
I hired a web designer to design an email newsletter opt-in for $75. She designed it, added it to my website, and made sure all the tech pieces were taken care of. It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made for my business because I make about 90% of my income from my email list.
I also spent money to go to a conference within the first year of business and I came home feeling extremely energized and confident. I did the best work I’d ever done the month after that conference. And, I connected with entrepreneurs like Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder which definitely skyrocketed my business.
Every time I invested in my business, there was a spike in my productivity and profit. Even though it was scary, it was worth it each time.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Make a list of five to ten things you’d like to invest in during 2015. Pick one of those things, price it out (example: contact three web designers to see how much it would cost to design a header for you), and start saving for it.
You can do this by saving money from your paychecks from your day job, saving a percentage of each sale, or giving up something and putting that money towards the investment (examples: instead of getting Starbucks twice a week, put that $8 in savings; cut back on going out to eat from four to two times a month and put that $70 in savings).
2. I focused on connections.
It’s silly and unwise to stay in your little bubble, at home by yourself, when your business will grow so much faster if you regularly spend time on connections.
I left thoughtful comments on other blogs, emailed other entrepreneurs, connected on social media, went to conferences, asked others to chat on Skype, hosted a blog tour, set up an affiliate program, interacted in private Facebook groups and more during my first year of business.
The more I spent time strengthening connections with other entrepreneurs, the less time I had to spend on marketing and the more money I made.
I met one of my best friends, Mayi Carles, through a blog series that I hosted and we became each others’ accountability partners. We went through B-School together, told each other what we were working on, and checked in with each other every week to make sure we were staying on track.
One of the best things I did was invest the time and money to meet others in person. Meeting Mayi in person changed everything for me. She has helped my business more than any other person through feedback, support, encouragement and promoting my stuff to her audience.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Write up a ‘connection plan’ for 2015. What are you going to do daily, weekly, and monthly to strengthen connections with other entrepreneurs who have similar values and goals?
Find an accountability partner: someone who you can check in with once a week (via email, Skype, or Google+) to share your goals, give each other feedback and hold each other accountable.
And, pick at least one event to attend in person. It could be a retreat, conference, course, or trade show. You can stay local or you can take a leap of faith and pick something that you really want to go to—something that you know will give you the energy and confidence to do the hard work it takes to succeed in business.
If you’re interested in attending a women’s retreat for creative entrepreneurs, I’m soooooooooo excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the Movers and Makers Summit this upcoming February!
Along with Lisa Jacobs, Bonnie Christine, Paige French, and Kerry Burki, I’m co-hosting this amazing weekend retreat for twenty creatives in South Carolina.
This retreat is all about connecting and learning. If you decide to join us, you’ll learn how each of us has built our businesses while getting lots of practical advice on how you can improve your business, have access to ask us about any and all business secrets during lots of Q&A and discussion time and leave with professional headshots by the talented Paige French.
And, it’s all happening in a serene, coastal view location in Charleston.
It’ll be the perfect time to step away from the hustle and day-to-day drudgery while brainstorming new ideas, getting a clear focus on where you want to take your business in 2015 and connect with like-minded mentors and entrepreneurs.
You can find more details here as well as sign up to be the first to know when registration opens on December 29th.
If you’re at all interested, I highly recommend that you sign up for the wait list because there are only 20 spots and they could sell out fast.