Planning a Business – The Foundation

At a recent business retreat I attended, we were asked to “reverse engineer” our year. Essentially, we started with the number we wanted to make and worked backwards. When I first started my business, this was essentially how I handled things: I had a number and worked backwards to figure out what my hourly rate should be.

The problem? I had no foundation.

I had a viable business idea, but I didn’t understand the full value of the business.

The Three Things You Need To Start A Business
1. You need to know your ideal client

Trust me, you don’t want to be everyone’s go-to source for whatever service you provide. Your history, your story aligns you to work with specific clients. Get to know your ideal client — their dreams, their fears, their mistakes, their potential. Interview past clients who have been a joy to work with and find the common threads.

2. You need to know your value

How are you helping people? You might be coaching or teaching or providing a service, but look for the bigger picture. What does working with you help your client achieve? How are you supporting them? What space are you creating for them? This can be unexpected sometimes: you may think your housekeeper is cleaning a home, but the housekeeper is really freeing up your time so you can focus on your genius work or spend it fully with your family. There’s always a significant hidden value to what you do.

3. You need to know your client experience

These days, it feels like every industry is saturated. So how do you set yourself apart? By creating an amazing experience. How do you want to feel when your work is done? How do you want your client to feel? Work on what each step of your work together looks like. Where can you add unexpected value? Construct a memorable experience and you will shine.

I’m prepping my first monthly Notes to Soulful Entrepreneurs and there’s some goodness inside! If you haven’t signed up yet, GET OVER HERE and do that.


Dreaming Big

When I first started my business, I saw two great advantages in my new endeavor: (1) Escaping the cube that I had been chained to at my non-profit job, and (2) traveling.

I had no business plan.

I hoped clients would find me. I had thought maybe I’d make about as much as I had in the job I was leaving. I really hadn’t given much thought to what I was doing.

Last week, I attended Click, an event hosted by Christine Kane and her team down in Asheville, North Carolina. During my time there, working on my business and speaking with other entrepreneurs, I realized how small I’d been dreaming, both in my business and in my life.

I’d been staying small because I was afraid of the consequences of playing big.

Playing big means taking big risks. It means envisioning a future for my business beyond self-employment — a future in which I find myself creating an organization and, eventually, an empire. It requires skill and sense and levels of savvy I have to grow into.

And it means making some people uncomfortable, especially myself.

I felt really bad about this. I knew it was hard for my ex-boyfriend that we were in such different places financially. He wanted to be the provider, but I was in an easier position financially. I never minded or complained, but I know it stressed our relationship silently. And yes, it was definitely uncomfortable at times.

I have to live in a place of discomfort because I’m growing in that place.

The moments of uncertainty (where I just wish someone would tell me what to do) are moments that lead to my expansion. I’m learning. Every new experience bends me and teaches me.

At first, I was really uncomfortable talking about money, even dealing with money. I charged so little in the beginning that I failed to make rent one month. I hated asking people for money because I thought it made me sound greedy. Learning to value myself and my skills took time.

There were also the moments that I broke the “don’t talk about what you make” taboo around people. (My mother was particularly squeamish in these situations, a feeling I had inherited and was trying to break.) I admitted where I had been, where I was, and where I was going, because in all honesty, I was done with the old ways of doing things. I want to have real conversations about life. I wanted to open myself and share my failures and my success.

If we’re going to help others be successful, we need to model that success.

That means talking about money and business and life without bragging, without flinching, without flagellating ourselves because we’ve been successful where others haven’t. It means discussing what has been challenging, when we’ve wanted to give up, how we overcame the demons lurking in our shadows.

Andt means dreaming big and playing big, to show others how possible it is to turn a whisper in our hearts into a force of nature in this world.

It doesn’t happen all at once.

We are called by life to be happy, in every way. Now, that sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? But it never feels that easy.

Along the path, we self-sabotage. The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks talks precisely about this. We’re not used to success and happiness and abundance.

Learning how to be comfortable with abundance is a process.

Evolutionarily, we’re hard-wired to expect the lurking predator; we stay small to stay “safe”. But the world has changed.

I don’t expect myself to make a quantum leap in my happiness levels. Right now, I’m focusing on my business, my health, and my friendships. At some point, I’ll think about dating again as well. But I’m not pushing myself to have it all right away.

There’s something beautiful in the process of becoming and I’m just enjoying the journey.

Where are you playing small? Where are you dreaming big? And how has being in uncomfortable places helped you? Tell me your story.


How To Make A Good First Impression With Your Website

Websites are the calling cards of the digital age. So often, a good website can make you. You might be an incredibly talented milliner, life coach, photographer or pastry chef, but if your website looks like something out of the mid-2000s, you could be left behind.

Excellent content wrapped in a beautiful design that works right is pure gold.

This is why I started my business: to give people a space online where their talents can really shine, to create a space that is sacred and helps them on their journey to who they are becoming.

So where do you start with your online space?

1. Invest in a logo.

Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of a logo. Think of Apple — iconic, recognizable anywhere instantly. Now, your brand may not have the same worldwide attention that Apple products do, but a beautiful, identifiable logo goes a long way. It can be synonymous with your brand. Invest in and fall in love with yours.

2. Use clear terms in your navigation menu.

According to one eye-tracking study, visitors spent an average of about 6 seconds looking at the navigation menu (second only to the site logo). Give your visitors clear choices. If you have a blog, call it a blog; people know what that is, they know what to expect. Don’t list your services under “Fashion” and make users work to find them.

3. Organize your content.

Be clear about who you are and what you do. It should be easy for visitors to find these things when they hit the homepage. Create an About page that allows them to connect and relate to you. If you offer services, find a way to visually organizing what you’re offering and who it’s for. Clarity is key.

4. Know what’s above the fold and make sure it’s awesome.

Users are more willing to scroll than click on multiple content pages, but what you show them above the fold of your site will make them want to scroll. That content above the fold is a crucial part of your first impression. Use it to convey your message or highlight key content you want to shine. Make them want more.

5. Make it work.

Everything on your site should work — sliders, opt-in forms, testimonial plugins. There’s really nothing worse than broken page elements.

6. Update the content regularly.

You don’t need to blog every day or even every week, but be consistent. Your readers should know when your posts go up. You’re creating an expectation — deliver on it.

Let me admit right now: this isn’t always easy. Entrepreneurs and business owners in the start up phase often may de-prioritize their content regularity because they get overwhelmed by their business. It’s okay. We’ve all been there — I go through regular phases of overwhelm myself. But I recommit regularly as well, and it’s that recommitment that will take your business from start up to success.

Well, that and a great website with that design/content killer combo.

(Psst…if you’re thinking about a new design for your site, get over here and sign up for my newsletter. I’ve got some good projects brewing that you’ll want to know about and if you’re on my list, you’ll be the first to know when they arrive.)


Making a Good First Impression

Ever feel like you’re back in 4th grade?

Sometimes when I meet new people, I feel like I’m back in elementary school all over again. It’s gym class and they’re picking teams for dodge ball. I hate dodge ball — not because I actually hate the sport itself but because I hate failing (I’m so not an athlete, even now, with the exception of archery). But even more than failing and being knocked out of the game, I hate being picked last.

That psychological imprint hasn’t faded over the years.

Getting over it meant getting vulnerable.

I recently attended a mastermind retreat and a 3-day business event in Asheville, North Carolina. I’m a total introvert, but I love people — in small settings. Neither was a small setting. Weekend #1 there were over 40 new names and faces. Weekend #2 brought 150 more my way. My inner child totally wanted to have a panic attack and hide in the corner.

Instead, I coaxed her out, gave her a quick pep talk, and reminded her that sometimes, all we need to do is show up and be real.

So I said it to people: “Meeting lots of new people always feels overwhelming to me.” “I was worried I’d be picked last for everything.”

The reality? People get it. So often, they feel the same way, even if they’ve been to events like this before.

Making a good first impression is all about being yourself.

These days, I’ve learned that we need to just show up as ourselves. I attend these business events in dresses and black Timberland boots because that’s just me. I admit when I’m a little bit afraid and I do everything I can to make people around me feel comfortable and heard.

First impressions aren’t about projecting only what you want people to see; they’re not about showing your strengths and hiding your weaknesses.

A good first impression is bringing your whole self to the party. It’s showing your strong and soft sides, being authentic, and creating connections with people.

When we’re authentic, we attract opportunities and create deep relationships.

As Brené Brown writes, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

I try to do this every day in my life and in my business. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s always worth it.

What are some things you do to make a good first impression at events? Do you ever have a moment when you want to run away? What do you do to connect with people? I’m curious to hear how other people get themselves ready for big events and meetings.

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