If 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.
The number one complaint my clients and students — self-employed professionals — bring me about their marketing is that they aren’t doing enough of it. You would think this would be easy to fix. I could just tell them to spend more time marketing and selling, and that would solve their problem. But like so many other challenges in life, knowing what needs to be done doesn’t necessarily make that thing occur.
Consider losing weight, for example. If it were as simple as being told to eat less or exercise more, we would all be as thin as we wished just by deciding to make it so. Since that doesn’t happen very often; it’s clear we humans need a bit more help.
At the start of every year, I encourage my clients to follow the same practice I do of reviewing the past year before setting intentions for the new one. I find that a thorough review of the previous year can provide important guidance for moving ahead. I make a list of “Successes, Accomplishments, and Breakthroughs” and another of “Failures, Disappointments, and Breakdowns.” After giving myself some time to celebrate my successes, I analyze my failures. Try this process yourself, and see what it provides.
Looking at each of your disappointments over the past year, ask yourself what went wrong in that area, and what you might be able to do differently. Let’s say you didn’t gain enough new clients last year. What’s your take on what went wrong?
Remember back in grade school when the teacher asked you to hold hands with a friend on field trips? The idea behind the buddy system is that it’s much harder to get lost if there are two of you traveling together. When you get into trouble, your buddy can help you out, or find someone else who can.
Maybe you could use a buddy in your marketing. The constant challenges you encounter while promoting yourself and your services make sales and marketing a difficult road to travel all alone, and it’s easy to get lost. Working with a marketing buddy can give you:
Most of us self-employed professionals truly enjoy no longer having to answer to The Boss. But the lack of anyone to report to can be a problem. There’s no one to make you perform sales and marketing tasks you don’t want to do. If you procrastinate about posting to your blog, resist going to networking events, or find follow-up calls too scary to make, no one will know that you’re avoiding marketing except you.
I understand that marketing and sales involve activities that can be confronting. Even I don’t always find marketing easy, and that’s after 25-plus years of having a successful business.
In working with successful business owners, one of the traits I see come up often is that of being a leader. Some are natural leaders, comfortable with being in charge; others have reluctantly taken on the role. If you seem to have leadership in your bones, fantastic! However, if you find yourself more of a reluctant leader, you’ll want to develop your leadership skills so you can step more into the role.
Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a take-charge, my-way-or-the-highway type of person. Being a leader means being willing to say the buck stops here and hold yourself, and those you work with, accountable.