I am approaching the end of my first full year as a full-time career coach and speaker. I can’t believe it! Time flew by so far. Not only was it so different than running a business part-time, I have learned exponentially more about the struggles and triumphs of business! It has been an amazing journey and I look forward to what the next year will bring.
As I reflected on what this year has taught me, I realized that much of the dialogue I was having with myself was about how to do the work more efficiently and effectively, how to identify (and pursue the right) revenue streams and how to identify and leverage my professional advantage(s) while keeping my sanity and faith in the fact that the effort I put forth is or will be paying off.
So, I experimented with my skills and deferred to the things I liked to do. So, I experimented with my skills and deferred to the things I liked to do. Small Business Week takes place April 30-May 6 and was created to highlight and celebrate the importance of small business owners. To support this cause, I have partnered up with QuickBooks whose goal is to provide easy-to-use, invoicing software to small business owners to allow them the time to focus on what matters most, their business (P.S. I use this software myself and it is a lifeline!).
Below I share two of my competitive advantages and how I leveraged them in the hopes that my reflections will give you some ideas.
Competitive Advantage #1: I LOVE to network.
Making connections is the best way to promote your brand, test out your business idea(s), gain customers/clients and find other ways to grow your business. It is imperative for me to market myself, not just do the work I want to do. I’ve accomplished a great deal by integrating into the community, but these efforts are springs that add up to a marathon. I move between making my community feel smaller to widening it as I research and learn more about what I am capable of achieving and exploring in what direction(s) my business could go so that I am ultimately successful. Business ownership certainly allows you to study yourself very closely and honoring those discoveries takes time and patience but let others be your guide. So I…
- Researched what groups exist in your area that are related to your interests. I took note of the local Chamber events, perused MeetUp groups for young professionals and business owners, attended human resources organization mixers, Association for Talent Development events, affiliated with women’s organizations and other volunteer organizations. I then attended at least one event for each (sometimes more) to meet people. It takes time for people to recognize you in your own community. I was persistent and present. You can be too.
- Volunteered at large-scale organization events and fundraisers. I figured that I could meet cool people, potentially find friends since not only was I new to full-0time business ownership, I was also new to the area. Secondly, I wanted to know who were the “who’s-who” in the region. Gathering information and knowledge about your community can help you feel connect but also engaged. This is important to business success but also life. to find potential friends b. to see what individuals were the Who’s Who of my area.
- Invited individuals to meet with me for coffee. I found it valuable to reach out to some individuals one-on-one. For example, there was a company I admired and wanted to learn more about so I reviewed the staff list and identified a young professional to whom to reach out. We met at Starbucks one day and ended up talking for quite some time about business owners, freelancing and other life experiences. We remained in touch and recently decided to expand our conversations about business to other young, female business owners. What started out as a relationship based on business molded into a friendship which still serves us professionally. My outreach and ambition in this regard encouraged others with whom I met individually to introduce me to others in their networks and so my network continues to grow. I pay it forward by connecting my contacts with them as well.
Competition Advantage #2: I LOVE to speak.
Public speaking is a critical and necessary skill for a business owner. I market myself as a career coach and speaker so the majority of what I do revolves around educating others. My primary goal is to help mid-career professionals in their thirties and forties navigate their careers and anchor their futures. Essentially, I want to help them decide how they want to proceed professionally. I help some change careers, others secure promotions, make more money or conduct some professional planning (aka where do I want to be professionally in the next 3 years).
As such, I love talking to people in front of large groups, one-on-one, virtually or in person. So, this past year, I decided to take Angela Lussier’s Speaking School for Women while simultaneously listening to her podcast, Claim the Stage. As a result, I honed this skill, learning the business of public speaking and secured twice the number of speaking gigs and more that were paid than I had in previous years!
I share this example to reinforce the importance of professional development as a business owner. Pick a skill every quarter or every half year to improve upon; you never know what you might learn about yourself and where it might help you grow your business! Since my experience was so positive and because I care about others’ abilities to speaking up, advocate for themselves, share their stores and change the world, I became trained as a club leader to launch a Speaker Sisterhood Club this summer in the Lehigh Valley, located in eastern Pennsylvania. These clubs are places and spaces where women can share their voice in a safe space and learn public speaking best practices. Not only will this become an additional revenue stream for me but it will also allow me to support my target audience in a way that is relevant to my primary business’ goal.
To played with this skill further, I have been practicing my speaking skills by experimenting with Facebook Live. It comes easily to me to create valuable video content about topics related to professional development, share information about my life as a business owner and offer resources to my audience. It is a free way for them to know what I am doing and for what I stand. I encourage you to view one of my videos here and try it out for yourself. My friend, Sandra Costello, has tried Facebook Live too and you can see one of her videos here as well.
Lastly, I leveraged Twitter more regularly for a couple of months as an experiment to grow my number of followers. I posted resources on topics related to my business, interests and skills regularly (e.g. mid-career professionals, public speaking, women and work, productivity, business ownership, etc.). As a result, I increased my number of followers by almost 100 people and was asked to participate in several Twitter chats, gaining even more exposure. This helped me stay top of mind and expand my networks beyond my immediate community.
Disclaimer: Not everyone loves speaking but it can be helpful to practice speaking up, whether it be virtually or in person about your work and what you care about. Find a way that works for you. People connect with more deeply with you when you share your passions and, despite how intimate or public your venue is, that is how you create customers, clients, followers and even friends, especially when solopreneurship starts to really feel lonely.
I encourage you to sit down with a pen and paper and reflect on what your competitive advantages are.
- What do you gravitate towards naturally?
- On what have you been spending your time?
- What activities have you been feeling less than enthusiastic about? Think about your experiences in business thus far, what has been working?
- Have you pulled any financial reports to see where most of your money is being earned? On what activities? Have you been tracking the metrics on your social media sites?
Those are just a few questions to get you started. There will always be more but choose one or two that jumped out at you first and spend some time on them. I encourage you to experiment for as long as you can but then take some time to focus on one thing for a while and then go back out and experiment, experience and explore. This malleability is intrinsic to entrepreneurship; it keeps you honest. I know it has for me.
Photo credit: Business Betties
Like this article? Share it!
This last year as a full-time business owner has proven to be both challenging and rewarding. Understanding my strengths, what the market will bear and how to differentiate myself were consistently on my mind. When I heard about Fundera, a bias-free lender marketplace for small businesses that need to fund their dreams, I was inspired to share my perspective on the needs of a small business owner. I came up with solutions to my top five challenges and want to share them with budding business owners like you!
Difficulty #1: Limited to no interaction with colleagues on a daily basis
Solution: Get out into the community at least 1-2 times per week.
- Join mastermind groups, attend free community events via your local Chamber of Commerce, find meet up groups for business owners and learn more about their challenges and successes in your area.
- From these larger gatherings, you can orchestrate additional, informal and, yet, consistent gatherings or one-on-one meetings with mentors and colleagues who are also flying solo in business in any industry.
- I am an extroverted person so I attend 2-3 events per week but one to start is perfectly fine as long as you can schedule a few one-on-one meetings per month. Being visible in the community whether at large networking events, small committee or volunteer meetings and educational events is critical to feel part of a community and to get the amount of socializing, both professional and personal you need to feel sane.
In addition, I’ve established an informal team of advisors. These are individuals in my network (e.g. friends, family members, mentors, former colleagues and others I admire) whom I can turn to about a business idea or with a concern. I would recommend that you have a conversation with most people you want on this “team” so they understand your needs and can vocalize their commitment.
Difficulty #2: Establishing viable revenue streams.
Solution: You know what kind of work you want to do but you have to spend time building others’ awareness of your area of expertise. Oftentimes that means that you need to consider other ways to make money as you get your products and services rolling. I have tried (and succeeded with most on) the following:
- Leveraging my skills in forums such as Thumbtack, Freelancer and Upwork.
- Monetizing my hobby – I started my #walkphotography Instagram experiment two years ago. I’ve always loved photography and this has given me a creative outlet, but along the way, I’ve received really positive feedback about my “eye.” One of my goals for early 2017 was to set up an e-commerce site where I could sell prints. It can’t hurt to see what happens, right?!
- Retainer clients – Contact larger companies that are required to meet a certain criterion of contracted services for the year to understand what their needs are and how you might be able to assist. Local economic development groups, industry-specific professional associations or small business development centers may be a good place to start.
- Take on part-time, mindless work. You can stay afloat monetarily doing something that pays the bills but lets you use your mind to “work” on your business. For example, Champion chess players often worked jobs such as putting caps on bottles to allow their minds to play several games during the day while doing this mindless manual labor. What kind of work might this be for you?
- Partner on programming and community presentations. Doing so will allow you to cross promote services, gain exposure to new circles of influence and individuals as well as help you think about your skills and content differently than you might have previously. Volunteering for community organizations allow others to get to know you without the pressure of hiring you. This activity can go a long way in terms of building your credibility. I am working on a presentation with a financial advisor about how mid-career professionals can effectively invest in a career change, professionally and financially.
Difficulty #3: Managing my time, finding balance between my personal and professional life activities and learning when to power down technology.
Solution: I’ve found that the best strategies for me in this area have been about mindfulness.
- Establish a routine (morning and evening). Go for a walk around the block or in your neighborhood in the morning as your commute and to signify to your brain that it is time to get to work.
- Establish official “work” hours and stick to them. Communicate those hours with your clients, family members and whomever else would put a demand on your time during those hours. As an experiment in awareness, for 30 days starting in February, I am going to shut off my computer during weekday evenings at 8:30pm and drink a cup of chamomile tea. This will allow me to prioritize larger projects earlier in the day and give myself time to unwind before bed.
- Set aside time for working out, even if it means doing a few exercises for 10 minutes in between calls or during breaks from working on projects. A healthy body encourages a healthy mind.
- Spend time working at coffee shops. This will help you feel visible (above) and encourage productivity.
- Take 20 minutes at the end of the day for 30 days to summarize the type of activities you spent time on, if they gave or took energy away from you and how you felt at the end of the day based on your behaviors. At the end of the that month, look back at your journal entries to identify patterns or opportunities for changes that can be made. For additional journal prompt ideas, check out this link.
- Prioritize time for you. This could be enjoying time with friends and family or a solo activity; do what replenishes you. I take time to work out, listen to podcasts, read, travel and/or take pictures in an area of my hometown.
Difficulty #4: Marketing my services, managing my brand and finding my niche
Solution: This is something you must consider throughout your career no matter what your profession. However, as a business owner, you are your brand so make sure to think about how you’d like to be known digitally and in person. Are they consistent with one another?
- Create a website or pay someone to do so and update it regularly.
- Do targeted Facebook ads for products or services that are your bread and butter.
- Create consistent colors, font and brand messaging across social media platforms. For example, my designer created customized banners for social media with my logo. Hubspot is a great resource for learning more about this area of business management.
- Remember your ideal customer avatar and target your products and services to their needs, emotions and wants. You have the luxury of building true and genuine relationships with your clients because their interactions will be with you, the CEO, instead of a person down the chain.
- Getting out in the community will also help you learn about the needs of your people. In the fall/early winter 2016, I conducted phone interviews with members of my target audience. This allowed me to test my ideas and hunches about their needs and helped them become more aware of who I am, especially outside of my normal circles. This is great for building my brand and expanding my circle of contacts.
Difficulty #5: Doing everything yourself from bookkeeping to selling your services and products, to doing the actual work that you love
Solution: Larger companies can divvy up the work of the organization. Small business owners or solopreneurs often do not have that luxury. It may be possible for you to do the following to offload some of these responsibilities that are not as enjoyable to complete:
- Hire a virtual assistant or invite a friend/family member to help and pay them back in baked goods, etc. Be creative!
- Set aside a day for an hour when you dig into your most unpleasant or dreaded tasks.
- Revisit your strategic plan to ensure that the work that you are doing matches your priorities and goals.
- Purchase QuickBooks or Freshbooks to manage your invoicing and other finances.
The bottom line is twofold in my opinion. First, you must become part of the fabric of your community whether that be local, regional, national, international, professional or a combination of a few of these networks in order to succeed as a small business. You need to be visible and engaged. Second, you must stay attuned with how you are showing up in your business and with the feelings you have related to your businesses activities.
It is hard to compare yourself with companies that are farther along in their years of operation. Therefore, I encourage you to pick one or two of the strategies above that resonate for you and give them a try this month. Show some self and business love in February! Talk to me about what you discover on Twitter, @MeghanGodorov.
Like this article? Share it!
Earlier this week, a friend and I decided to check out a local networking event in Allentown. I love the restaurant and it was a gorgeous evening so I knew we’d be able to spend time outdoors. We grabbed a drink and stood in the crowd catching up. Out of no where, a woman comes around my right side and introduces herself.
Impressed by her gumption, we both started chatting with her. She asked what we do for a living and where we live in the Valley. We returned the favor and asked her where she worked and lived and she began to describe how she was working full-time in an industry that was not ideal for her. We asked her what she was seeking and fully supported her interests by offering to connect her to a few people we know in the area. We exchanged business cards, she thanked us and went on her way. Seems like a typical networking encounter, correct?
My friend and I turned to each other, acknowledged the whirlwind that that was and befuddled regarding the fact that she did not even want to continue to learn more about us. My friend said that if she had run into a career coach like myself, she would have tried to chat with me more and take advantage of me being right there, free of charge. I wouldn’t have blamed her for doing so, in fact, I felt the same way…why hadn’t she stuck around to get to know us?
My belief is that when you are desperate to move on from a position or career and someone gives you the advice to get as many business cards as you can at networking events, you lose out on the opportunity to truly connect with someone, get to know them and learn about the ways you can help each other.
We stood around for a while discussing what she could have done better, again, admiring her straight-shooter approach but knowing full well that perhaps her more successful strategy should have been reciprocal in nature, not transactional. Avoid the “bad taste in others mouths” impression and stick around for a conversation. Building relationships genuinely and over time will pay off in the end in dividends that you oftentimes cannot even compute at the time. Below are some tips for turning a quick networking transaction into a relationship:
1. Truly listen to what the other person is saying. There are gems of advice and sage pieces of wisdom in everyone’s professional story. That same night, we met a gentleman who has been running a successful investment property company while simultaneously making a 300% mark-up/profit selling stationary and funeral announcements to funeral home directors. He learned this trade and skill selling this product through a different company and then choosing to work for himself, taking his clients with him from that company.
2. Offer a favor in return. Last month, I attended a Chamber affiliated young professionals’ group networking event and met an easy-to-speak with financial planner. We chatted about the area as I told him I recently returned and was looking to meet other professionals in the area. He offered to meet me for coffee so we could see how we could help each other. It seemed like each of us was looking for mentor – me for the area and him to promote his professional development and advance the career profile of the professionals in the Valley. That conversation made me feel energized, like a part of something and potentially the start of a great professional relationship.
3. Sit at the bar. When the event started to wind down, my friend and I realized we were pretty hungry. We decided to grab a seat at the bar and order dinner. There were two seats but one gentleman was sitting in between them so we kindly asked him to move over and invited him to join our conversation. He turned out to be a very nice guy who knew all of the bartenders and was a regular at this restaurant. We immediately had an in, lucky us! Plus, many people visit the bar to order drinks, which gave us both a way to chat with more people and we didn’t even have to go anywhere. If you happen to not be near the flow of “drink-ordering” traffic, you always have the bartender(s) to network with and they meet tons of people every day.
For more advice, follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn @MeghanGodorov.
Looking to change your career? Or a considering new opportunities? Sign up for my newsletter today on my homepage and receive a free job analysis worksheet that will help you advocate for a raise or career change.
Like this article? Share it!
When pivoting in your career, it is helpful to have priority areas that narrow your focus, provide structure to your new adventure and allow you to grow in manageable ways. Below are 4 areas that have helped me build my side hustle and evaluate its full-time viability. Consider these areas as reflection points you can use at any time, no matter where you are in your business.
1. DETERMINE YOUR INVESTMENT CAPACITY EARLY AND OFTEN
It is easy to get excited and completely overwhelmed at the same time by business ownership. What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? How will you manage your day-to-day schedule building something while also maintaining performance in your full-time gig? What is your tolerance for risk? Can you put other things in your life on hold to put your business dream first (i.e. time spent with friends, family, less cash for entertainment)?
Fear not! Take some time answer these questions above. Set up a practice of self-care, acknowledge accomplishments regularly and pay attention to how you feel each day and every couple of months. Remind yourself this is a journey and determine if you’re up for it.
Timesaver #1: Prevent burnout by taking time to acknowledge your progress and reflect on what you’d like to accomplish in your business adventure, whether it be full or part-time. Happiness in work goes a long way
2. DEVELOP A REPUTABLE, CONSISTENT ONLINE PRESENCE AND BRAND
Identify the social media sites where you feel most comfortable sharing your business vision, thoughts and resources associated with your brand. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were the first and easiest three places for me to start doing so. Later, other social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram gave me the space to be creative and show my more personal side.
Several years ago, I worked with students at UMass Amherst to build me a website. This past spring, I realized it no longer suited my new vision and scope. A mentor encouraged me to take it down and build a simple website on Squarespace. Best. Decision. Ever. I took on the task of learning Squarespace, which led to some struggles but, ultimately, the realization that I needed help to get the caliber of design that would set me apart from other coaches. I became familiar with design lingo and more aware of my own expectations, making me a savvier shopper and landed me in the capable hands of Business Betties.
Leaving the website design and coding skills to the experts allowed me to focus on writing effective copy, reflecting and gathering client feedback and actualizing my web presence and brand in a visual context that I was proud of. I then sought support from a friend to design my logo. Not only did my business’ mission to support the professional development and career goals of women, I felt that my brand also became that of female business owner who supported other female business owners. Bonus.
Timesaver #2: Brand development takes time. Identify the aspects of it you enjoy and then invest green in an expert service or two.
3. DEVELOP NEW AND CAPITALIZE ON INNATE SKILLS
Early in my business, I tried to build all of the skills I thought I would need on my own. What became clear after several struggles implementing that philosophy was that I needed to dedicate my time to learning industry trends in terms of content delivery. I already knew how to create and deliver workshops; I just needed to learn new software and techniques. Where and how could I reach my clients? I spent time learning webinar and video software and how to use Google hangout-on-air, create eBooks, Facebook Ads and Lead Pages. Canva, MailChimp and WordPress followed suit. I was completely immersed in building new skills. I felt alive and fulfilled.
Participating in the Do+Make Business District connected me to a community of entrepreneurs, resources, classes and challenges that assimilated me into the world of entrepreneurship. Since I loved marketing so much, I am in the process of completing Hubspot’s free marketing class and will complete the Resume Writers Academy Certification this fall, an industry-specific credential.
Timesaver #3: Developing both industry-specific and entrepreneurial-related skills are essential throughout the life of your business.
4. BUILD COMMUNITY
Make the decision early on to spend time talking with and meeting fellow business owners. Tell your friends, family members and even strangers about your goals. Join these Facebook communities and groups of like-minded and similarly focused women. For example, I joined and/or followed online bloggers and coaches such as Olyvia, Mariah Coz, the Nectar Collective, Megan Minns, Hilary Rushford, Kimra Luna, Live in the Grey, By Regina, Lady Project and the Freelance Hustle. Being both an observer and participant builds your sense of belonging and encourages you to act on your entrepreneurial dreams. There are other female business owners to whom you can turn for advice. Find yourself an accountability buddy, ideas mentor or sponsor; an individual or two who can connect you to people and resources that will help you grow business, listen to your awesome ideas and help you turn them into reality.
Timesaver #4: You cannot be successful in work and life without friends, family and fellow business owners. Invest time and a little cash in coffee dates and phone calls to build relationships.
This article first appeared on the Business Betties blog. To view on their site, please visit this link.
Like this article? Share it!
It is funny how things I read get synthesized. The things I hear and see and experience seem to come together like a “eureka!” in my head and then I want to write about it. Such a thing happened yesterday as I was thinking about Jimmy Fallon and how he has risen to success with what Parade magazine calls “boyish enthusiasm and creative drive” as well as a smile and an insane amount of talent that continues to exceed even his own expectations of himself. His ability to get his guests to be silly and have fun unleashes that within us when we watch his show, especially the “Best of Jimmy Fallon” special. I spent much of Sunday doing work and watching his greatest moments from Saturday Night Live too…and then it hit me…
Earlier last week, I stumbled upon an article on the Daily Muse (my favorite job search/career advice website and start-up), Want Work you Love? Don’t Follow Your Passion, written by Erin Greenawald where she asks, “Well then what should we do instead?” Many might think that Jimmy followed a passion of being a comedian all his life but his early college years suggested that he wanted to go into Computer Science and Communications (ultimately he earned a degree in the latter). While enrolled, he pursued an interest and refined a talent for jokes doing comedy shows and impressions at a local club and, because he was doing something he loved, he was exuding that same charm and enthusiasm he does now but at a time in his life when he was still honing his craft. When I encourage students and clients to follow or discover their passion, I am sincere of course, but what I am actually communicating and what Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work you Love is stating in the video from the Daily Muse article above, is that in order to passionately go forth in your career, you must follow your interests and cultivate talents that are needed for the world– those unique to your conglomerate of skills. The confidence in the skills you have honed as a result of pursuing your interests causes you to be passionate because not only is what you’re doing an interest of yours but it is also something that you are now good at and that other people recognize as such. Others take note of your competence and the confidence you exude. We cannot prove you’ll be successful following your passion because passion develops over time by continuous or sequential exposure to things that interest. You do not follow it you create it, taking hold of or cultivating the skills that allow you to be talented at specific things.
For example, I pursue all things career related because I have always naturally wanted to help people discover what they want to do and learn about themselves. Naturally, then I try to pursue my interests so I have anecdotal information to share with my students/clients about how I have felt in doing so; sometimes relentlessly to the point that I am super busy all at once pursuing everything I am interested in! However, the beauty in that comes the rationale that because I am consistently involved in cultivating my interests, I am becoming better and more talented at those interests which have become over time: community engagement, leadership development, certain matters of economic development, as well as the teaching of professional development tips and skills.
Fallon’s career is an example of how rubber hits the road. He was patient in the pursuit of his career, in fact, he had several years in between his time as a regular on SNL and before he took on the Late Show where he was off of most everyone’s radar. He did a few movies to test out that market with his skills, met his wife (on the set of Fever Pitch), had a beautiful baby girl and is now host of the Tonight Show. However, he wasn’t “following his passion” during those years away from television, he was pursuing an interest he had to do movies; to try something different as he was redefining and exploring another facet of his career. Luckily for us, those pursuits did not pan out and he returned to what he does best and what Lorne Michaels said he was a natural at, “[being a comedian who entertains with] a free-wheeling hodgepodge of chat, skits, piano-playing, ad-libbing, man-on-the-street interviews and loopy stunts,” similar to that of the original Tonight Show host, Steve Allen. Lorne recognized Fallon’s talent early on, during his SNL days, and then called him back to Late Night and the rest is history…
Putting in your best effort while pursuing your interests builds skills that others recognize and given a forum to do those things, can put you in the limelight. Whether that be on a national, regional, local or familial stage, it does not matter. What matters is that you’ve created a stage where the skills you’ve cultivated into a career are now what fills you with passion!
**Fallon actually acknowledges the mystery around how he arrived on the Tonight show further supporting this notion that you do not follow your passion, you create a career by cultivating your interests. Check out the beginning of his opening monologue and then consider his final statement which essentially said the following, “[We will talk about what is going on in the news, I will make fun of everyone and ultimately, I want to make you laugh so you get to bed with a smile on your face and stay happy]”
Like this article? Share it!