Earlier this year I was featured in the Your Business Magazine in an article about working ON your business rather than IN your business. As a solopreneur, it can get challenging sometime to juggle all the moving parts of your business.
There’s 2 very distinct sides to this self employed coin – first you have the side that services clients or creates products. It’s the side that does the work that customers might be willing to pay you for. Secondly, the flip side of the coin is the side that deals with growing the business and strategizing to scale it into something that has further reach and longevity. The side that ensures that the business remains relevant, evolving as market needs change, and perhaps getting to a point at which the flipper of the coin can become more choosey about their level of involvement in the business.
Ergo: working IN your business vs. working ON your business.
The piece in the magazine gives a great overview of the topic citing some of my input from an interview conducted prior to publishing the article as well as those of some well known business experts.
Here I thought I’d share my original answers to the interview questions in the hope that it might be useful to a creative entrepreneur who’s thinking of starting their own business.
“Learn through someone else’s mistakes rather than your own”, I always say!
So here’s my thoughts about…
Working ON your business vs. Working IN your business…
1) When did you set up your business and what was your motivation for doing so?
I started out as a Professional Photographer in 2007 when I still lived in Johannesburg. I decided that I no longer wanted to work for someone else, and I wanted to do something that would allow me to be creative. I discovered that I had an eye for photography when my husband and I travelled on holiday overseas and I documented our adventures.
2) When did you start to notice you were falling into the trap of “working in, not on” your business? Why do you think this happened? What were the results?
I was unaware of the concept of working IN vs ON my business until 2012. Until then, I’d been fumbling along, trying this and that to grow my business, hoping that if I stuck it out long enough and continued to improve my craft, I’d catch my big break. The reality was, although my business plodded along, I wasn’t making any great strides in growth. I was getting work and I was getting busy, but I was living from invoice to invoice, hoping that I’d get enough bookings the following month to cover my expenses. I also began to reach a point of exhaustion because I had to work continuously to ensure that I had a relatively consistent income. It got to the point that my work had encroached so much on my home life because of the long hours I was putting in that it started becoming an issue of contention between my husband and I.
I also began to lose the joy of my creative work because I had to work so hard at it and wasn’t seeing a financial return on my time and effort investment. I believe this happened because as a creative at heart with no formal business skills I thought, erroneously, that I could just start creating great work and my business would grow organically.
It wasn’t until I read a book called E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber that I realised the importance of running my business as if I intended to franchise it. This meant building and implementing systems and procedures, automating the repetative tasks and gaining an understanding of what future I wanted for myself and my business. When I started implementing some systems and automations, I found that I had to start thinking bigger than the immediate work I was doing on a client to client basis.
From there my journey of personal development began which coincided with my business growing and developing too.
3) Did you attempt to delegate work? Was this a successful strategy for you? If not, why not?
At first I was resistant to delegating work because I didn’t have the funds. As a result I took on every role required to build and grow my business. I needed a website, so I learned about HTML coding and WordPress websites. I needed to actively get my name out there, so I learned about social media marketing and I began networking.
Today I’m so grateful that I was able to be so resourceful, because there are so many things that I’m able to do myself that other solopreneurs wouldn’t know where to start with. Having said that though, I do believe that this approach slowed my businessgrowth because I was juggling too many things at once. If I’d outsourced more work, I’d have built my brand and my business to a higher level sooner, but I’d never give up the knowledge and experience I’ve gained as a result of being self-reliant.
Today I outsource much of my admin including client follow-up and communication as well as tax submissions. There are still areas that I need to delegate and when the gap between time constraints and affordability are close enough, I’ll make the next jump.
4) What steps did you take in order to re-prioritise and re-focus on your businessgoals?
I began an ongoing journey of personal development. I began to work on my marketable skills, but more importantly, I began to work on my mindset. I took off the blinkers that were causing me to obsess about micro-managing my business and took a step back to figure out why I was doing what I was doing and what I wanted my life to look like from an all-encompassing perspective. I realized this was necessary when I couldn’t think of a single activity that I wanted to do in my spare time that wasn’t work related.
I began the practice of visulasing my ideal life, in which my business was only a part of a bigger picture.
Then I looked at all the services I offered in my business and determined what I enjoyed most and what I enjoyed least. I began cutting back on the services I enjoyed least to the point that I stopped offering the service that was my main income generator at the time. Although this went against logic, I knew it was the right decision because my enthusiasm and energy was being pulled more strongly to other offerings and a bigger purpose.
I also made the commitment to stop thinking small and to ditch the identity of a small-time photographer who survives from month to month.
I actively worked to elevate my personal brand and defined and communicated my mission and the impact I wanted to have on my clients. My mission is to be a Confidence Crusader who elevates the confidence of all women.
5) What have the results of these steps been?
When I made the conscious decision to no longer offer the services that didn’t fulfill me, other opportunities and ideas flooded in and my business began gaining momentum. I realized that there is power in offering a niche service.
I had a realization that I could thrive and thanks to technology I could contend with anyone across the globe, which lead to the creation of other offerings that are more scalable and accessible to anyone in the world. These offerings include online courses and the book that I’m currently writing.
6) Why do you think so many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of working in their businesses, and what advice would you give them to turn this around?
I believe entrepreneurs become so immersed in the daily activities that meet the needs of their immediate clients that they lose sight of the bigger picture and potential opportunities.
As an individual who wears many, if not all of the hats that are required to build and grow a business, the overwhelm of keeping a business afloat can keep that person in a constant state of reactive behaviour. Coupled with the conditioning that, in order to be successful one has to work hard, means an entrepreneur can become their own worst enemy.
With time as our most precious resource, it can feel counter-intuitive to step away from the emails and enquiries and the 101 other urgent tasks vying for one’s attention, in favor of reflecting and visualizing the bigger picture.
Everyone has experienced a flash of inspiration at the most inopportune time, like when you’re in the shower, or driving on the highway. For this reason, it’s important that the entrepreneur takes a step back from the day to day busy-ness to allow new ideas and inspiration to strike.
I would highly recommend delegating or automating all the aspects of the businessthat they enjoy least, so that their time and energy can be focussed on those areas that grow the business and fulfill their own sense of self.
The value of personal development can not be overstated. Read, listen to, watch and consume as much empowering content as you physically can. Instead of watching 3 hours of Netflix, watch TED Talks, or listen to your favorite business podcasts or read personal development books. The folks who generate this content are sharing the lessons and insights they gained through their own trial and error, which means you can fast-track your learning and growth.
Put daily effort into all aspects of your life – business, health, relationships, home, spirituality. If one area is dominant, the other areas suffer. And if one area is struggling, the other areas suffer. Aim to be a well balanced individual and always keep your big picture vision as the motivation for your small daily actions.
7) What are some of your business goals for the year ahead?
I recently released my online Conscious Confidence Course.
I am currently writing a book about confidence which I hope to finish writing towards the third quarter.
I would like to present talks to women and women’s organizations nationally about confidence.
I would like to hold my own fine art photography exhibition.
I will continue to help the women that I photograph realize how uniquely exceptional they are. I will continue to show them how to step into the most confident versions of themselves and how they can, by example, inspire other women to do the same. When they realize this, nothing is impossible.
8) Anything else you’d like to add?
Marianne Williamson’s quote which was the inspiration for the shift in my brand and positioning:
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. … 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.”
Over to you…
Do you have any pearls of wisdom for a young person looking to enter the entrepreneurial world? Share your advice or lessons from your experience in the comments below.