Today, I celebrate my 23rd anniversary of being an entrepreneur.
It was 23 years ago that I was “downsized” from my last job and when I made the decision that I would never work for someone else again.
Best. Decision. Ever.
In reflection, I thought I’d share 23 random thoughts about the last 23 years of working for myself with you. Some are hard-won lessons, some are advice from my experience. All of it has been worth every moment.
1. Even when times are tough, being your own boss is still better than working for someone else.
As every entrepreneur knows, there are mountains and valleys in growing and sustaining a successful business, none of which I could have navigated without my husband’s ongoing support. And although I’ve always been able to stand on my own two feet (thanks to my parents instilling that in me), my journey has been made easier with my inner circle cheering me on from the sidelines. Even in the toughest moments of being in business for myself, the alternative – getting another job – has never been an option. And when it’s simply not an option, you figure out how to move forward (yes, sometimes after the breakdown ;-)).
2. Doing it my way is the only “right” way.
I’m a big believer in not reinventing the wheel, to model success, that, in fact, there are no new ideas, just new ways of presenting them. That said, while I take the lessons and suggestions of others who are further on the path than I am, I’ve never blindly followed anyone’s advice. I’ve always listened to my gut and have done things that have felt right and good to me, regardless what others think or do. It’s never mattered to me if other people didn’t understand. It only mattered that I knew what was the right next step for me.
3. It’s not about the money, it’s about what matters.
I’ve made over $2 million in sales in the last 22 years – and yes, I know that there are others who make that in a year (or even in a single launch), but I’ve never missed a moment of what matters to me. I’ve lived my life, for myself and with my family, for 22 years. I’ve been present for all of it – the little things and the major life shifts and everything in between. No amount of money replaces the time I’ve had with who and what I love the most.
4. Publishing my book was a huge accomplishment.
Writing the first draft of the book took me 3 weeks. Then it took me 7 years to actually publish it. Figuring out what took me so long to do that was an inner journey I had to take that has served me well since, even if the work itself was very hard to do. They say that being an entrepreneur is the best personal development ride you could ever take – and it’s true.
5. I know like I know like I know what my zone of joy is.
I’ve led everything from teleseminars (remember those?), webinars, group programs, online courses, virtual workshops, private retreats, private coaching programs, challenges, to 8 3-day live events, and I’ve loved them all for different reasons. And now I have the experience, the wisdom and the clarity of knowing exactly where my zone of joy is. Actually, I’ve always know – I’ve just decided to return to it fully.
6. Always have a mentor and peer support, even if you can’t ‘afford’ team support yet.
I’ve had a mentor since I was 13 years old. In the first year of my business, I learned from Thomas Leonard and Coachville. In year 2, I hired my first business coach, and I’ve worked with someone, either privately or in a group, ever since. I believe that skin in the game changes the game, and I’ve gotten every cent I’ve invested into working with the business coach back in spades.
7. Self-Care is #1.
This one really took some time to sink in. When I started my business, we didn’t have kids yet and I had loads of time to take care of myself (not that I did a great job of it then, honestly). Once Chloe Lynn and then Jack came along, everything shifted and I sucked at taking care of myself – for YEARS. When my physical health started breaking down, I finally got my act together and have become vocal with my students and clients that you need to take care of yourself so your business can take care of you.
8. Stand strong in your priorities.
Or said another way, create boundaries and honor them. Whether that’s about protecting your work time, your refund policies, the type of client you’ll work with or something else, when you honor what matters to you most, you’ll find holding your boundaries to be much easier and serve you better.
9. Gratitude and generosity go far.
Even in the darkest times, there’s always something that I’m grateful for to write about in my journal every day. I also say thank you out loud every single day – for my health, for my family’s health, and for keeping us safe and happy. I also try to be generous with my skills and knowledge, whether that’s personally or professionally. I believe there’s always more than enough for all, so there’s no reason to hold back or be threatened by others. I’m so grateful that I get to do what I do and that wouldn’t be possible without being able to be online all these years. I refuse to squander that by comparing myself to others and instead focus on helping thousands more to create and grow their own successful online business.
10. Don’t try to be/do “all the things” – just be/do YOU.
In a way, this last one sums up all the others. I’ve created and grown my own business in the way that serves me best first, so I can show up as my best for my students. And frankly, if I can’t do it in a way that brings me joy (most of the time ;-)), then why do it?
11. Respond – or not – and when/if is my choice.
Just because someone emails, calls, messages, texts, etc. does not mean you have to respond right away – or ever, in fact. If I reacted immediately with a response every time someone reaches out, I would never get anything else done. Often the person gets the answer they need before I get back to them. And some messages don’t require – or deserve – a response – and I’m ok with that.
12. You can’t think your way to success.
You have to take action and tweak as you go. The longer you sit in a brainstorming bubble, the longer it will take you to get into action and start growing your business and making money. I do like to plan and I do spend time in creative thinking space, but I spend far more time doing stuff than thinking about the stuff I’m going to do.
#13. Release your hold on time.
Sometimes we beat ourselves up for not making $X in Y time period. Or we try to force something to happen within a certain time frame. But time containers hold us back. They make us create arbitrary goals too. Who cares if you make your $X goal in 5 weeks instead of 30 days? Who cares if you hold your webinar every 6 weeks instead of every month? We’re the ones who restrain ourselves but putting such stringent parameters in place. That’s not to say don’t have a plan, don’t have goals – but I am saying give yourself the grace and the gift of a little leeway in time to meet them.
#14. Don’t hoard or hide your stuff.
At one of my live workshops years ago, a treasured client said to me, “How come I can’t buy your stuff?” I looked at her perplexed, because she’d invested in several things from me in the past. When I asked her what she meant, she explained that when someone visited my website, with the exception of once or twice a year, they couldn’t buy anything – because everything was ‘closed’. And while it took some time for that lightbulb to brighten for me, what I realized was that not only was I following a closed marketing model (which is fine, if it works for you), but I was actually hoarding all of my experience and expertise and hiding it inside my ‘closed’ programs. As I shifted my business model over the last few years to the Online Business Breakthrough School and opening my online shop, I’m now always open for business – what a concept!
#15. Create a centerpiece for your business
Having a centerpiece offer in my business has been the reason I’ve been able to easily create multiple income streams over the years. My centerpiece is the Online Business Breakthrough System, which is an online course that’s my process for creating and growing an online business. And I’ve shared this system as a free talk, a print book, live 4-, 8- or 10-week online live training programs, 6-9 month group coaching programs, eight 3-day live workshops and more since its inception in 2006. And that’s accounted for 80% of my sales revenue. What I often see is service-based business owners creating new offers all the time instead of leveraging what they already have. It’s very likely you have a process you walk your clients or students through to get them to the results they desire. And putting that into a ‘system’ of sorts and making it the centerpiece of your business that you then leverage in multiple ways can create a lot more revenue for you (and it makes your marketing so much easier too, but that’s #16…).
#16. Leverage is how you work less but make more
One of the first things I learned about leverage in my business was to write the sales page first, and then repurpose that copy into whatever I needed for email campaigns and social media. And at first, that seemed daunting – this was the days of the 27 page (printed) sales letter. 😉 But it truly was one of the best lessons in leveraging what I’d already created, allowing me to continue to grow my business more quickly in those tiny pockets of time I had to focus. Since then, I leverage, repurpose and republish everything in my business, and it’s truly the way I’ve been able to work part-time hours but make a full-time income.
#17. Time freedom is my #1 motivator
While one of the main reasons I started my business was so I could be home to raise my kids, I’ve learned that being there for them as they grew older was actually MORE important than when they were small. For example, our college freshman had an emergency situation recently that required me to travel to her immediately and spend several days with her to take care of her and the situation. On the 7+ hour drive to her, it occurred me (and not for the first time) how grateful I am to have a business that enables me to be able to focus on not just on what matters most, but WHEN it matters the most.
#18. I am an Alchemist
Early in my coaching career, I was part of a business branding program that identified my archetypes. My #1 archetype is Alchemist, and I love being able to “turn straw into gold”, to create something out of nothing. As I’ve ridden the rollercoaster that is entrepreneurship, I remind myself of that during the inevitable ‘dips’ and ask myself, “What else can I create that will help my perfect people?” There’s always something, and I’ve been in this game long enough to know that the inevitable dip will turn into an inevitable rise as well.
#19. The Fundamentals are the foundation of consistent progress and ultimate success
I know that the next sexy thing is always tugging at us. And as creatives, it’s easy and fun to dive into something new, especially if we’re a wee bit bored with what we’re currently doing. But what I know to be true is that building a strong foundation of the fundamentals will trump the next trendy marketing strategy every single time. It’s how I’ve been at this for as long as I have. It’s why I STILL sell my Online Business Breakthrough program (since 2006) – because it focuses on the fundamentals and leads to consistent results every single time.