I've had to adjust my strategy a lot in the last few weeks. It doesn't have to do with trying to make more money. Some will call this approach silly, but I'm actually working really hard toward making my business DELIGHTFUL - both for my audience and for myself.
As you can imagine, the first year of business is intense. You get to battle with yourself a lot, go mad a little, and sacrifice some sleep and sanity along the way. Mostly because you're improvising and trying to do everything and failing and it's hard...
I've decided that the self-inflicted madness stops. TODAY.
I have my fellow business owner and creative rebel - Jen Carrington - to thank because she recommended Essentialism by Greg McKeown. In the book, Greg reminds us never to forget about the trade-off that happens when you focus on something.
When you focus on something, something else suffers or falls behind or drops off. It doesn't have to be a bad thing; it's only bad when you're not aware of it. Let's look at a few trade-off scenarios and how we can turn them to your advantage.
When blogging dries you up.
It wasn't too long ago that I still had the occasional bouts of writer's block and struggled to write anything for weeks. I am told this is a big problem for creatives of all shapes and colors. Well, I recently told you how to stay constantly inspired:
Just write every day. Or practice your craft every day.
The undeniable truth is, the more you practice and create, the easier it flows. It's been a few months of writing daily, and even if I feel uninspired one of those days, I write through it, and it's back to normal bursting-at-the-seams inspiration the next.
However, once you get to this proverbial Writer's Nirvana, you realize something scary:
You can't accommodate a constant stream of haphazard writing.
I've been writing whatever I felt like writing, namely blog posts. And now that I have an endless supply of inspiration, THE WRITING NEVER STOPS. You'd be appalled if I gave you a peek at my blog drafts. For the past few months, I've published almost 50 articles, but there must be at least 100+ unpublished drafts in my Squarespace account.
See the problem? I've spent all of my energy on writing things that don't get utilized.
I could have DIRECTED my inspiration to something more pressing than blogs. When you redirect your energy and relocate your time, you open up space for creativity and projects you didn't have time for before. This is what I'm doing right now. All of my energy is going toward guides and workbooks for creative rebels. If you don't direct your stream of inspiration toward something other than blogging, all you'll ever do is blog.
When social eats your life.
Admit it, you have wasted WAY TOO MUCH time and energy on networking. Even I am not completely innocent in this respect. Even though I have a firm strategy that prohibits me from being active on more than 2 platforms, I still spend too much time on twitter.
This is where the Essentialist's Way applies...
Going deep is going all in. If you're going to have twitter as your main social media channel/bringer of traffic, then go deep into twitter - develop a strategy, maximize on your efforts, automate, etc. Then choose a secondary channel if you have enough time and never spend another minute trying to be on every frigging channel.
When you go deep into something, you have to sacrifice something else. It's called a "trade-off." When you say YES to every client that comes your way, you may have to say no to quality, high-paying clients who will pay more or treat you better.
The same goes for social media - if you say yes to every channel, you'll have to cut corners somewhere in your business you shouldn't cut corners from. You can also decide that CREATION is your top priority, and that takes up a lot of your time, so networking or something else you do will likely suffer because you don't have enough time in the day to do everything. It's why people use assistants and automation tools.
I know you want to do it all, but you'll do so at the expense of what really matters - results. So start cutting those corners! YOUR ASSIGNMENT:
Write a list of all of your business tasks and assign them to two columns - top priority and not top priority. There is no middle. Then commit to going deep into the top priority items and drop or outsource the rest. Ta-da!
When you cheat people.
There will come a time when you'll be tempted to try all kinds of methods to grow your business. Some will come at the expense of your people.
On one hand, you have your audience, and on the other, you have yourself.
If you try every growth tactic under the Sun, even though most won't fit with your values or personality, you will cheat yourself. When you use growth tactics that turn people off, you will cheat them. At least that is the case for my business.
Your top priority should be results, obviously, but they can be things you get or things you give to other people. I have decided that bringing DELIGHT to my audience is far more important than growing numbers. This means focusing my efforts on giving over taking and people over numbers. No annoying pop-up windows or daily sales pitches or pushy website copy. Basically, no anything that would annoy the hell out of me.
The trade-off is obvious - more focus on the people, less focus on the money.
This is not to say that you can't make a killing and delight people at the same time, which is exactly what my gal pal Jen does, but it does mean that you'll have to come up with alternative or at least not so annoying ways of growing your creative business.
You can't do it all and have it all. You need to prioritize and sacrifice.
And remember to adjust priorities as your business grows.
Mix and match (exercise).
Can you think of two things that don't seemingly go together but could?
For example, Regina Anaejionu is pretty good at creating magazines. She's also pretty good at blogging. Why? Because she treats her blog like a magazine! Not many solopreneurs would attempt the same, but somehow, she pulled it off and she's thriving.
When you mix methods from different industries, you STAND OUT.
You can also do like Austin Kleon and develop a different approach for marketing - he shows his work. That way, he spends all of his time being creative and his marketing doesn't suffer for it, which is every creative's DREAM. Mixing things in creative ways will not only set you aside from everyone else in your industry but also kill two birds with one stone: You're doing what you love AND taking care of your business priorities.
And here is my favorite creative MIX & MATCH exercise:
Make a list of all the things you like. I don't just mean business-related stuff, but also anything you've ever spent an inordinate amount on because you loved it. My list would include photography, Tarot cards, writing, polar bears, creative collaborations, positive psychology, life coaching, twitter, trailers, Photoshop, and so on.
Now mix these randomly. Couples are ideal, but you can form threesomes, too. Finally, see if you can make something tangible and FUN from these matches. For example, I could match Tarot cards and writing, which is exactly what I did for this article.
(It was my first ever published and paid for article. Woohoo!)
Giving up and letting go.
I have sacrificed social media platforms - Pinterest - and said no to big prospective clients because I truly believe that saying yes to things you love produces the best results in the long run. I've also given refunds for products that didn't work out in the end. Here's what one of my students said when I offered her a refund for my cancelled course:
In the end, dropping something doesn't necessarily mean giving up. Most of the time it just means that you have better and more important things to do. It's actually brave to let something go so that something else can thrive. A lot of people think that means quitting your job to start your own business, but for many others it means keeping your full time job but sacrificing your weekends and evenings to do what you love.
So don't feel guilty about wanting to drop things. We all have those things. Do it like a band aid - cut them out of your life and forget about them. And don't forget that some are vital, so just outsource those to somebody who loves doing them.
What do go deep into and what are the trade-off's? What do you want to say YES to and what have you said no to that gave you more freedom and joy?
I hope that you'll read Essentialism because it's a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration. It involves a pretty hardcore mindshift, which is a thousand times better than any "productivity hack" you'll find out there. Productivity isn't about doing more in less time (that's called busyness), but doing just enough for optimum results.
Good luck with prioritizing and optimizing! I'm right there with ya. :)