Building a business takes time, and it’s easy to get frustrated if your growth seems slow. But sometimes you just need to learn to get out of your own way. If any of these issues are something you’re struggling with, you may be standing in the way of your own success.
You have shiny object syndrome
As Warren Buffet is often quoted as saying:
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
Most of us who are starting out with our online businesses don’t feel secure enough yet to say no to almost everything. I still don’t. I’ve written recently about how there are at least ten income streams that contribute to my online business. But I know that the more I focus on the two or three that really matter, the better I do.
If you want to beat shiny object syndrome and focus on what’s really important, you might like this free resource from Kelly McCausey of Love People and Make Money. It’s a webinar replay, but with text and audio versions too, so you can consume it in your preferred format, on the go, at your desk, or in bed.
You don’t have clarity around your business goals
You’re doing all the things people say you should to build your brand and market your business, but you’re not entirely sure what your goals are, who you serve, or even exactly what you’re offering them. Consider grabbing this free workbook, Seven Steps to Clarity as a Solopreneur, to get really clear on where you are, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there.
You’re talking yourself out of things
Everyone says you need accountability, and there is some value in letting other people know what your goals are and having them hold you responsible for taking action towards them. However, there’s also a tendency among new business owners (and creatives in particular) to talk so much about their ideas that they actually never end up acting on them.
This TED talk explains really well why you shouldn’t always tell people about your goals. It’s by the very clever Derek Sivers, author of Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur, and it’s well worth a watch, especially as it’s only three minutes long.
You’re working in a vacuum
You need to get out into the online business community, and the great news is, you don’t have to leave your home to do it. There are so many Facebook groups and other online communities where you can ask questions, find resources, share your content, and collaborate with others. Look for groups that serve your niche. Virtual assistant? You might love this online VA forum. Freelance writer? You might like this Facebook group. Whatever your business model and niche, there will be an online community for you.
You’re using time wrong
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’m on a quest to do less but better, which is easier said than done. But using time efficiently is the one skill that will make everything else in your business (and life) easier. I’ve written before about both conventional productivity techniques, and how you can jump through wormholes like a time traveller. I use both strategies.
You like what you have
Shaa Wasmund addresses this well in her book Stop Talking, Start Doing. Sometimes you’re not willing to take the necessary risks to make changes and grow your business because you’re actually pretty happy with what you already have. And that’s OK. I often talk about how much I love being a solopreneur. I don’t want premises and employees, I want freedom and autonomy, so I’m not aiming to ‘grow’ my business in a physical sense.
Liking what you have is good, as long as you don’t become trapped by the good and stop reaching for the great. I like being a one-woman band, but that shouldn’t stop me stretching myself, pitching bigger and better clients, coming up with new ideas, stories, books or digital products. Having a good life shouldn’t stop me reaching for a great life.
You’re scared to fail
And fail you must. In order to learn. I talk about this in my article about counter-intuitive things that lead to success. Failure is one of them. You already know this, if you think about it. If you’ve raised a child, that child didn’t go from sitting still one day to getting up on his feet and strolling casually and confidently around the room the next. The process of learning to walk is paved with bumps and bruises and scraped knees, because that’s how learning to walk works.
Learning to talk, swim, ride a bike or read your first story book is similar. Long-term, success is expected, and even anticipated as a certainty, but immediate success would be so unexpected as to be unnerving.
You’re not taking responsibility when you do fail
This is another thing I’ve talked about extensively, most recently in my article about the three most empowering words in the English language. When you take responsibility for your failures, you get to take control, work out where you went wrong, put things right, or do better next time. That’s how your success grows over time.
You’re worried about what people think
You should, of course, care what people think, but only if those people are your potential customers. Friends and family can be surprisingly unsupportive when you start an online business, often with good intentions (they don’t understand what you’re doing, and think your 9 to 5 is a much safer choice than branching out and being your own boss).
Bloggers, in particular, complain that friends and family don’t read and share their blog posts, even though no-one in their social circle has any interest in their topic or offers. Just remember, on this occasion, the opinions of friends and family don’t matter, unless they also happen to be your target market.
You haven’t sorted your urgent from your important
So you’re focusing on stuff that needs to get done right now, even if it’s not actually going to have an impact on your business. Remember things can be urgent and not important, and they can certainly be important and not urgent.
If your to-do list is full of things that look like they need to be done today (but actually don’t need to be done at all) you need to do a heavy edit of that list. Start prioritising things that will grow your business long-term, even if they’re not urgent.
You (only) do what you love
There’s a lot to be said for building a business you love working on, but there are always highly necessary bits you don’t love at all. Learn to eat the frog. Do the necessary bits you don’t love first, then reward yourself by focusing on the projects that make your heart sing.
You’re scared to own your ambitions
Do you ever tell people you’re ‘dabbling’ or ‘experimenting’ with online business? Ever imply that what you’re doing is just a hobby? Or worse, (and I hear this from writers and amateur bloggers all the time) say something like: ‘I’m not very good, but I enjoy it’? Stop that right now. It shows you haven’t decided to take your business seriously – so no one else does either.
You picked the wrong business model
There are a ton of different business models you can employ (here are five of the popular ones) but remember you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, or what you think will earn the most money, especially if you’re not qualified to do it. Play to your strengths and use your unique talents when devising a way to make money online. There are far too many business coaches who have never run a successful business, and online educators who are teaching something they haven’t really done themselves.
Don’t add to the sea of people who are doing something that doesn’t fit their skills, talents and experience, because someone told them there was money in a particular niche or business model. Pick an online business that works for you, and allows you to do what you’re good at.
You’re distracted on purpose
This means you’re actually using distractions as an excuse not to do business. Distracted by family drama, or other things outside of your business? We all are sometimes, but ask yourself these things. Are you setting up boundaries between home and family life? Are you letting your kids and other family members solve their own problems? Are you aware of what distracts you so you can manage those distractions effectively? Find ways to put distractions on hold while you do the essentials each day: show up, create, market, and sell your products and services.
You don’t know what you don’t know
Learning is at the heart of growing an online business. That’s why there really aren’t a lot of shortcuts. You need to take the trainings, read the books, study the online courses. When you start out, you really don’t know how much you don’t know. Humility is key at this stage. It’s fine to make mistakes, even in public (they’ll make great blog posts later on, of the ‘what I wish I’d done differently’ type). But you need to acknowledge there’s a lot you don’t know, and commit to a hell of a learning curve.
You think great marketing is more important than a great product
Both matter, but ultimately, all the time, effort and money you put into marketing will be wasted if people return your product because it’s low-quality, or just not fit for purpose. If you promote and promote and get nowhere, it’s time to look at the actual products you’re selling. Can they be improved? Can they be scrapped so you can focus on something better?
You’re stuck in planning mode
When you’re always planning and researching and making lists, but never actually launching anything, you’re not really building a business, you’re planning a business. As Seth Godin says, you need to learn to not be afraid to ship, and get your products out in the world.
You take things personally
And perhaps that’s why you don’t ship. When you put your products out into the world, you’ll get feedback, reviews and comments. Some of them will be negative, and that’s OK. You can learn from them, if they are helpful, and discard them if they aren’t. One thing you can’t do is take it personally.
You’ve convinced yourself you need more time than you do
Many of us start out thinking we need hours to create, to market, to come up with ideas. You don’t. No matter how busy you are, you’ll find your business growth increases once you know how to use the twenty (or five) minute chunks of time you actually have. Use tiny slices of time to draft a new article idea, or tidy up your website, or post an offer to social media. Create a list of ‘ten-minute tasks’ that you can slot into small windows of time throughout the day, when and if they become available.
You’re focused on the numbers, not the process
And what’s more, they’re the wrong numbers. You’re focused on the likes, the clicks, the comments, the follows. There are a few numbers that matter (sales, profits, conversion rates) but most don’t. When it comes to creative work, in particular, it’s best to focus on and refine your systems and processes.
Monitoring your numbers can help you see what’s working, sometimes, but it can also give you a false sense of growth. 10K followers on Instagram is technically ‘growth’ but if not one of your followers has ever bought anything from you, it may not be a particularly relevant metric in your business right now.