I struggle with imposter syndrome so much it’s completely undignified. My feelings are shaped like Thai takeout and the inside of  a brown paper bag as I try not to hyperventilate.  Anyways, just taking a moment to write some business advice, which feels super weird because I’m a mom with a laptop and pink glittery slippers and pyjamas, but something I strongly believe that service providers do is that they fail to plan for success.

First off, as a Canadian and a woman socialized to be nice and modest, success feels like a dirty word and talking about planning for success feels VULGAR. Like I’m talking about sexual positions or something. But like really. Stay with me. It only seems silly because I’m a mom with a laptop. If I were in manufacturing, someone could ask “How will you deal with unexpected demand” and it’s a production process question, not a vanity thing. So if you feel weird about me talking about that as an online business owner who creates, pretend I actually manufacture something like widgets and stick with me.

Online service providers don’t talk enough about planning for things going well. We talk about what to do when the client doesn’t pay or what to do when you can’t book any gigs but what we need to be talking about is “What will you do if you are presented with everything you ever wanted?” or “What do you do if you have so much you can ‘t keep up?” or “How will you transition when invited to perform at a much higher level than you have ever experienced?” It’s about how to take a seat at the grownup table and not looking at all the cutlery wondering WTF it is all there for. Which is the salad fork? For what it’s worth, this is my advice.

  1. Have a mission statement or purpose for your business. I mean, beyond BUY GROCERIES AND DO NOT GET EVICTED. What’s your mission? What do you want to achieve? Use that as criteria to evaluate your projects.
  2. Have a vision of what you want your life to be like. I mean, prepare for the possibility that things could get bigger, like if you adopted a mini pig and it ends up like 200 pounds. But really, how do you want to live and do the things you are doing help or hurt that?  If you want flexibility to not work every day, are you doing stuff that involves a ton of ongoing monitoring that’s keeping you from being able to just take off for the day or do something fun or crazy or just take care of your health if you need to? If you want stability, do you have too many one off projects and you find yourself always scrambling for more deals? Is your business doing the job you hired it for?
  3. Understand opportunity cost. This was a hard lesson for me. The time you spend doing things is time you’re not doing something else. Some gigs are a pay cheque and some gigs are a payroll loan, you see the money but allll the time you spent making it could have been making more money if you believed in yourself enough to go for the bigger fish.
  4. Be real about fragmentation. There is a ton of stress involved with constantly shifting gears. Running a ton of small projects can be stressful because you have to make a million decisions a day. Should I do this first? Should I do that first? Who needs me the most?  My marker for this is decision fatigue. At what point of the day am I completely unable to make one more decision that is not required, like is it I can’t figure out what to have for lunch or is it I can’t figure out what to have for dinner? Figuring out where your overwhelm point is is so important.
  5. Make it easy for people to say yes. Figure out how to succinctly tell people what you do and for who and why so they don’t feel overwhelmed. You know when you are looking at a 20 page menu with pictures (ugh I hate pictures in menus) and you’re like “Crap, I don’t know, there’s a lot to think about.” You want to be the one sheet that makes deciding on lunch easy.  And don’t be the dollar menu, because if you don’t have margins, you won’t be able to scale.
  6. Plan for abundance. I mean, if a farmer plants stuff and it doesn’t grow, they plan for how they are going to get through the winter. But you don’t want to be the farmer who wakes up to a full field and be like NOW WHAT I HAVE NO STAFF AND ALL THIS WHEAT IS JUST LOOKING AT ME I AM SO SCREWED. So figure out what pieces can be automated. Figure out what can be scheduled ahead. Figure out what can be delegated.
  7. Learn to tell other people you are worthy. I try to tell people it’s only bragging if it’s untrue. If it’s true, it’s marketing and  it’s your unique value proposition which you are communicating to people who require this information to make good business decisions about the funds they are considering investing. Nobody wants to buy from the restauranteur who said “My food is okay I guess if you’re into that sort of thing.” No, they buy from the person who is like “Let me make you the best damn steak you have ever tasted.” If you don’t look confident, people aren’t going to trust you. Especially with food safety but with other things too.
  8. Learn to see yourself as worthy. Most of all, when you are given the thing that you want the most, figure out how you are going to look yourself in the eyes and say “Yes. I do deserve this.”

That might have come off humble braggy, but whatever, I just think the conversation needs to change to abundance from scarcity. It’s not vanity to say “What if I succeed?” it’s just good business sense and practical and really, why shouldn’t you succeed? I think maybe it’s about sitting with the discomfort and asking “Where does the story I’m telling myself that I don’t deserve these things come from? And who am I serving in listening to it?”

I’m going to go back to listening to some tunes and bang out a marketing plan and transcribe all the things and map out my next week, but if you have a story of how you overcame this stuff, drop me a comment.

1 Comment

  1. Great tips Alison! I really like your idea on #7. That brings a lot of clarity for my secretarial services business. Thank you.