Business Mistakes I Made in 2014 (+ free worksheet)

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I could sum up 2014 in one sentence it would be “out of control”. As a planner and control freak, the ups and downs unsettled me. By the end, it was a relief just to make it through the other side in one piece.

I haven’t made resolutions or huge goals this year. I’m wary of making them, simply because so much of what happens in life can’t be planned. Family members get sick and opportunities come your way that you can’t even imagine. Despite this I do think there is value approaching your life and business with intention. Part of that is accepting and reviewing the mistakes we’ve made so we can learn from them and move on.

Here are the top 4 business mistakes I made in 2014 and how I am going to fix them in 2015.

Lacked focus.

For the last few years I’ve struggled with focus. One minute I want to work on Happy Piece full time, the next I want to keep consulting and working on strategy projects. I love both and I’ve come to realise that will never change. I’m always going to be torn between them so the time has come to accept that and move on. I’m done with wasting another year trying to decide which one to focus on.

Solution: In 2015, I’m limiting myself to two main projects for my strategy business that will free up time to work on Happy Piece as close to full time as I can.

Let fear get the better of me.

Happy Piece is the passion project I started after a family visit to Rwanda. Over the last two years, the business has grown organically without me having to do too much. Last year, I decided to make some huge changes but I let fear get in the way of following through with them. I found myself making excuses about why it the changes would be too complicated or wouldn’t work around my family life. After reading Tara Sophia Mohr’s Playing Big, I realised that overcomplicating things is a form of self-sabotage and ultimately comes from fear of the unknown.

Solution: Simplify things and get moving. I can work towards the bigger changes one step at a time. I’ll start with a simple business model that I can implement right away. I’ll also try to be aware of when I am overcomplicating things unnecessarily and remind myself to keep things simple instead.

Took on too much.

Branding projects, a book project, Happy Piece, speaking gigs and trying to be at every school event meant I felt stressed most of the year. My mother was very sick and I spent a lot of time at the hospital then at her home while she recovered from surgery. I’m grateful that I have a job that ebbs and flows around my schedule, but I still stressed out about work when I should have been concentrating on more important things.

Solution: Take on less work or recruit my first employee so I can delegate tasks that don’t need to be done by me.

Compared myself to others.

When you work mainly on your own it is easy to fall into the comparison trap because there is no-one there to stop you. I spent a lot of 2014, trying to figure out what I want the rest of my career to look like. Despite knowing that looking at other people’s lives will not help, I still did it. I looked up people and companies I admire and without even realising at the time, I started to compare my reality with theirs. Before long, my goals changed into the type of goals I thought I should have instead of concentrating on my own personal strengths and vision for my career.

Solution:  Create a supportive group of ambitious but heart-centred entrepreneurs so we can celebrate our small wins together and keep each other on track.

Now it’s your turn.

What business mistakes or habits do you want to leave behind this year? To help you, I designed a worksheet which you can download below. Simply list last years mistakes in the “business mistakes” column then brainstorm solutions for each one so you don’t repeat the same mistakes again this year. Good luck.

solutions-list-worksheet

 

There is no magic bullet (and anyone who says otherwise is lying)

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Let’s get real for a minute.

Growing a successful business is down to multiple components that work together to make you money.

Anyone claiming otherwise is lying.

No ONE thing is going to save your business or catapult it to success. It’s impossible.

Does this sound familiar?

  • If I could just afford a new website by (insert web design company all your competitors use) my sales will be transformed
  • If I just had a new brand people will buy my stuff
  • If I could just get into (insert the most popular magazine in your industry here)
  • If I just joined that cool and popular e-course that all my idols are affiliates for, I could be cool and popular too
  • If Oprah just mentioned my business, I’d be all set!

These things (yes, even the last one) will not save your business.

They will only make a difference if the other components are also working properly.

What do I mean by components?

The components of your business are the things like; your product and service offerings, pricing, clear target market, marketing strategies, customer service, suppliers, your team, your brand experience, a website that works. All these things work together like a puzzle. If one thing is missing, your business will still work but not as efficiently. Add that one thing to all the rest and boom! Your business will be spectacular. But one of those things on it’s own, is not a business. Just like having great products alone is no guarantee of business success, neither is having a great team or a top of the range website.

Save your money until you know what’s wrong

If you have minimal website views, spending $7000 on a new website should be the last thing to even enter your mind.

The first thing on your list should be understanding why your business isn’t working.

Why aren’t people getting to your website in the first place?

There are plenty of businesses out there with no websites at all. They sell on Instagram, Facebook, at craft fairs or through word of mouth. There are also many businesses with ugly websites but you know what? They still make money and work just fine.

If you’re getting lots of views and have your other components in place, then and only then will a new website, brand identity or shout out from Oprah, help you get more business.

Blogtacular!

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I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be speaking at Blogtacular, an amazing new conference in London for design, lifestyle and craft bloggers.

Some of the other speakers include Joy Cho from Oh Joy!, Yvonne Eijkenduijn from Yvestown, Anne Ditmeyer who blogs at Prêt à Voyager and for Design*Sponge and so many more (see the full speakers list here).

My session

I’ll be talking about blog design, covering basic graphic design skills and design principles. In particular, I will be covering DIY design tips including things that you can do to improve the look and feel of your blog whatever your skill level or background may be. While the ideal for most bloggers is to employ a professional designer to create a custom blog design, that is not always possible especially when you’re starting out or blogging as a side project so it makes sense to learn how to beautify your blog yourself.

By the end of my session I want you to feel empowered and ready to take control of your blog design!

Details

Blogtacular will be held at the Royal Institution in Mayfair, London. The conference starts on Friday May 9th with an evening drinks reception and Joy’s Keynote talk. It then continues for the whole of Saturday 10th May which is when my session will be. For full details and to book your ticket head over to the Blogtacular site before they sell out.

I’m so honoured to have been asked to speak and I can’t wait to meet so many wonderful new faces :)

I hope to see you there!

5 Ways To Limit Distractions

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As part of my job as a strategist I spot patterns and opportunities by observing what is going on the world. While this is great for clients, I’ve realised it has actually been holding me back in my own business.

It often goes something like this:

First I notice a huge gap in the market for a new project. Then I research lots until I have convinced myself to give it a go. I get frustrated when my other work/projects/life gets in the way of me being able to do this new project. Then I shelve project until I have more time/find a way to clone myself. i.e forever.

It sucks.

My time is limited as it is so I need to be focused to get stuff done.

After realising my lack of focus and over-abundance of ideas was sabotaging my attempts to reach my business and personal goals, I made a few changes to help me get back on track.

1. Check email no more than 3 times per day.

A while back I cut down on email checking but I found I was creeping back into the habit of checking it all the time again. I now check it around 9am, 2pm and 6pm and I work with the project management app Asana to stay in touch with current clients. This eliminates much of the email back and forth involved in longer term projects as we’ll just message and upload files within the app. I’ve also turned off notifications of email on my phone.

2. Limit social media to 3 times a day.

I found this harder to limit because it is so easy to use social media to fill in dead time, like when I’m waiting for the kettle to boil or sitting on the bus. I find too much social media draining though so, limiting my time on it helps keep me sane . If I come across an article I want to share, rather than going into Twitter and getting sucked into to conversations and even more articles, I’ll queue the tweet in Buffer using the browser extension.

3. Limit information consumption

While I do need to read a lot of info for my job, I’m changing how I do it. I now limit myself to scanning news headlines in the morning and after the kids are in bed. If I’m in the research phase of a client project, I’ll reach much, much more but I’ve started tracking my time to make sure I don’t get lost down the rabbit hole of article after article.

4. Stick to the plan

Last year I readjusted my business model and decided to make some changes. I now work to a six month plan which I will reassess in July. If one of my new ideas doesn’t align with my short or long term goals then I don’t follow it up.

5. Simplify business systems.

In order to reach my goals for the business I needed to set up business systems that allow for growth. For me, this meant documenting the steps of every process I undertake from client intake, project workflow to packaging systems for Happy Piece. I still have more to do but it’s helping me become more efficient and will help hugely when I take on team members in the future.

So there you go. Hopefully some of these will help you!

Have you limited your distractions lately? Have any tips to share?