FrustratedIf you’re like most self-employed professionals, you started the year with goals, plans, and maybe even dreams, for your business. This was going to be the year you reached ambitious marketing goals, implemented a realistic marketing plan, or expanded your business with a new market or service. And now, you find yourself not on target. The goal’s not met, the plan isn’t in place, or the expansion hasn’t taken off. That’s a pretty normal state of affairs for us self-employed folks. Stuff just gets in the way.

There’s really only one solution to this problem, although it comes in a number of different flavors. Take action. Now. Don’t wait another month or even another week to see if the situation changes. Assume that if you don’t do something different (or do some things differently), business will continue just as it as up until now. Your goals, plans, and dreams will not materialize unless you make changes. The sooner you make them, the sooner you’ll start getting the results you desire.

So, what can you do? Here are four different flavors of action you can take to overcome any obstacles in your path and start tasting the fruit of success.

1. Consume targeted content. A delicious benefit of living in the 21st century is that you have more access to relevant content than ever before. Without leaving your home or office, you can read books, absorb blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch videos that provide needed information and inspiration.

Don’t know how to create an effective marketing plan? Order a book on Amazon. (Or get one of mine.) Not sure how to have an enrolling sales conversation? Look up examples on YouTube. Wondering how to break into a new market? Google it.

Resources like these can also provide the needed inspiration to keep going when life throws you a curve, or prospects reject your overtures. Check out the posts tagged with “marketing mindset” on this blog, or subscribe to TinyBuddha or GetMotivation.

2. Digest a class or mix with a group. A missing ingredient for many self-employed people is structure. When you are the only one governing how you spend your week, or how you organize your learning, it’s easy to get side-tracked or wander up blind alleys. Classes can deliver a step-by-step approach to absorbing new information and skills. Groups can offer access to new contacts and camaraderie to break isolation. Both can provide the accountability of other folks expecting you to show up.

If writing blog posts, articles, or an ebook is part of your marketing plan, consider attending my Get It Written Day, or joining a Shut Up and Write group. Need more leads and referrals? Check out a local BNI chapter. Look into live classes you could take at a local entrepreneurship center or university extension program. Or take a virtual class that offers student interaction and instructor feedback.

3. Get things cooking with a coach. Whether you hire a professional coach, or work with a peer as your buddy coach, having a coach creates powerful accountability to accomplish what you set out to do. Regularly scheduled sessions with a coach provide a brainstorming partner to eliminate obstacles. You’ll also gain valuable perspective by discussing your struggles and questions with another human who is dedicated to your success.

Working with a professional or peer coach can also help with normalization: recognizing that many of your challenges are shared by others. It can be tremendously helpful to learn, for example, that it’s typical for a corporate sale to take weeks or months to close, even when the client has a compelling reason to act. Or that almost everyone has some fear or resistance about making follow-up phone calls. Or that social media is rarely the marketing silver bullet for self-employed professionals.

4. Take in some advice. Whatever is preventing you from achieving your goals or completing your plans, you can bet that others have experienced the same. Ask around. Check with your colleagues, seek out a mentor, or hire an advisor. Getting specific advice can provide not only new knowledge, but added confidence that you are pursuing the lowest-hanging fruit and not barking up the wrong tree.

Notice two details about all my suggestions above. (Other than all the food metaphors.) First, the words in boldface — information, inspiration, structure, etc. — can help you create a recipe for taking action. Consider each of the goals or plans you’re struggling with and ask yourself whether one of these bolded words might be the secret ingredient you need to stir into your business and marketing sauce.

And second, every one of these ideas suggests that you could benefit from some outside help. Asking for help isn’t cheating. If you’re hungry for more business success this year than you’ve achieved in the past, take action now to get whatever help you need.

C.J. Hayden

C.J. Hayden, MCC, CPCC, is the author of the bestseller Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, Since 1992, she's been helping self-employed professionals survive and thrive. C.J. is the author of five other business how-to-books, and has taught marketing at Mills College and John F. Kennedy University. Find out how you can work with C.J. as your business coach or attend one of her upcoming programs.

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