Howdy y'all, as members of the corps of cadets at my undergrad used to say to good lookin' ladies passing by. Back in those days, it was so painful for me to leave the house without makeup. "Better late than ugly" as a recent addition to my mug collection says. It's amazing what looking back can do for a person. When I thought I was ugly because I left my house without makeup, I realize now that that was actually impossible because I was 19 years old... and literally no one is ugly when they're 19 years old (because you're NINETEEN!!).
So, looking back at 2016, my first 'real' year in business, I'll talk about the good and the bad. Bad first you say?
I don't care what lies you tell yourself or how you rationalize it- but (1) you CAN become a neat, organized person and (2) you will never, ever live a balanced life if you can't keep your house clean. Because if you can't keep your house clean, you can't keep a lot of other things organized and clean. I know most of you want to punch me in the face right now. "Last Year Christina" would too. But you have, have, have, have, HAVE to get organized, and not just in the Container-Store-Organize-Everthing way. You have to go full Marie Kondo and throw a lot of stuff out. That inbox is going to be overflowing and if you cannot figure out where your mail goes, i.e. either the RESPOND, PROCESSED, TRASH folder, you can never run a successful business. You might make money, you might have enough clients, but you will drive yourself crazy and do a lot of repeated, unnecessary work. GET RID OF YO' STUFF!
BIZ HACK: For three days, try to do everything right there and then. Ex: you open your inbox- try to process all the new mail by spending 2 minutes or less on each piece by responding, putting it in a 'processed' folder, putting it in a 'needs further action' folder, or trashing it. Make extra folders if it's helpful, but don't dwell- you shouldn't spend more than 3 seconds deciding where it goes, or if you can't decide, putting it in the 'processed' folder.
Do the same thing during these three days with your clothes, workspace and more. The way we treat things in our life is the way we treat things in your business. The three days thing is so you can try it out- if you hate it, you only have to do it for three days. I don't think you're going to hate knowing exactly where everything is though... :)
Not Charging Enough/Offering the Wrong Services
Whew, this is a tough cookie for all of us. After working on some custom client contracts, I decided to stop offering this legal service and turn my attention to improving the experience my trademark application clients have and work only on licensing contracts + negotiations, trademark applications + litigation and copyright litigation.
This was a really hard decision because it's always hard to feel like you're leaving money on the table. Luckily, the few custom contract clients I had were DREAM clients (who are totally making me question my decision as I type this because they were so amazing...) But in reality, a client contract is not worth as much to my clients, and so I didn't charge much for them (even though the require significantly more drafting work on my part- as opposed to trademarks which require a lot of strategy). Part of the reason I stopped offering my customization of client contracts is because every time I customized them, my clients' client contracts (say that 10x fast) started looking like my templates because my templates seem to have #allthethings.
BIZ HACK: Every time you say yes to a client or situation that's less than ideal, you're shutting yourself out from better opportunities. It was so difficult to leave $1k+ on the table each time someone came to me to edit their contract, but in the time that I've said 'no' to three people, I've been able to plan out and get ready to launch a course I expect to make at least $30k+ on. Maybe your situation looks different- maybe you plan to work on improving your client experience so you can charge 30% more per client, or you have a dream of launching a book that will eliminate the need for your 1:1 services. As an added bonus, I feel like each time I send a would-be client to another attorney, I'm fostering that relationship rather than cutting it down.
Lack of Confidence
Any of you who read my post earlier this year about the Illume Retreat know I was on the verge of pooping my pants when I first met Bonnie of B is for Bonnie design, or my insecurities around my creative talents. Confidence is a funny thing- you can actually fake it 'till it's real, which is what I did for a long time. I feel like this is one I'm finally sweeping under the rug, but it was still very much a part of my story and life during the first half of 2016.
BIZ HACK: Don't punch me, but this one is actually easy to get over. You can fake it with Amy Cuddy's power poses. You can also do what I do on every episode of our podcast- science will back me up on this one- but you can say "I'm so excited" instead of telling yourself "I'm nervous" and you actually will perform better. Finally, a lot of my confidence came from my lack of preparedness and organization, so while it wasn't a quick fix, it was a manageable one. For you, it may be similar but you need to find out what the 1-2 things are that make you feel unconfident and punch them in the face.
Lack of Preparation
Working with Reina on our podcast has been a dream. I always thought I was 'Type-A' but she takes the cake. She's not a perfectionist, but she certainly doesn't let anything half-baked escape out into the world. Her excellence can really be attributed to one core value: she is always prepared. It even goes back to her coach training- she (like myself) set herself up to be prepared for anything by attending and graduating from a top program, not just any program. She (or I) may not know everything off the top of our heads, but we know how and when to find answers elsewhere because we are prepared to do so. And then, obviously, in the practical sense, she always makes sure she's prepared well ahead of time so we're never slacking for our audience or guests.
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: Digitize. This was a painful hack for me to learn- I loveeeeeeeeeeee (yes, with that many 'e's') stationery and paper products. I have a paper planner, paper notes, paper everything. But when it comes to being prepared, there's no substitute for a quick search in my google docs or on my computer system for a file name. There's just no amount of paper filing excellence that can come close to that level of organization or evergreen preparedness. Plus, digitizing your documents allows you to always update something without scribbles, re-writing or re-drafting. For example, in HoneyBook, I find myself updating my client contracts all the time. There's always a more efficient, more accessible way to say or convey something, and if I can make something better, you know I'm on it!! With everything being digital on HoneyBook, or even in my google docs, I can make my edits which are saved and can be added to or edited again later. With paper, well, it doesn't quite work like that :(
Lack of Support
Reina saves the day again here guys. Before Reina and I partnered up, I was trying to do everything on my own. I fortunately had recognized the value of hiring a virtual assistant, but had no clue what or how to delegate anything to her. I also didn't realize that a lot of what I was asking her to do exceeded the scope of her duties or skill set. It was then that I started to make some major investments in my business. If you're interested in all the support I rely on today, you can meet my team by clicking here!
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: I hear a lot of people (including myself) make the excuse that they can't hire because they don't have the budget or funds for it yet. Secret: you never will if that's your attitude to start with. Same goes for online courses, systems, software or anything else you know you need to invest in but think you have no money for right now. The truth is, if you want to see your business grow by fits and starts, you can happily rely on the income you have coming in. If that's only a few hundred bucks a month, good luck. Or, you can figure out ways to finance your dreams by bumping up your service-based offerings while you grow your products in the background.
Lack of Exercise
Huh? Yep. I was a big, sedentary carb-aholic for most of 2016 up until July. I have some legit health excuses, and some pretty lame excuses, but the point being I wasn't taking care of myself. Part of that had to do with my lack of support (see above) so I was forced to do everything myself, which is really, really stupid for me. I am not a bookkeeper, administrative assistant or graphic designer, though these were all roles I took on for the sake of "saving money" at the cost of my health. I've not only felt better since I started exercising, but with one hour of effort 2-3 times per week, it's also manageable and I have been getting WAY more done in and on my biz.
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: Take a barre class. I'm addicted to Barre3 right now because it's high-end, only 1 hour and has a great playlist. If you have 0 money for something like that, my favorite exercise is plain old walking. You don't need to be an American Ninja Warrior; you just need to do something for an hour 2-3 times a week-- notice, I didn't even say you had to do it every day!!! Something is definitely better than nothing when it comes to exercise or developing other healthy habits.
Known in the Industry
Now that we flushed out all my shortcomings, I'm happy to explore some things I think went really well. Thanks largely to the Rising Tide Society, I gained a lot of authority in the industry in a relatively short amount of time. Once I was no longer unknown, it was like all the doors opened for me. There are a lot of business success secrets, but this was definitely the game changer for a lady who knew her unique selling proposition (USP), could have told you what her ideal client was doing at any time of any day, and had taken all the courses on how to run an online business. Moral of the story? You can do all the 'right' things but if no one knows who you are, no one buys from you and you don't have a business.
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: Make a list of 10 people you want to be like. Facebook stalk them and then support them in any way possible. Become their friend, so that they not only want to help you, but you have a genuine connection to them as well.
It was a dream of mine to get to speak at my favorite events, conferences and workshops-- to be 'known'-- not because I'm a narcissist, but because it's really eff'n depressing to write a blog post for six hours and no one reads it. I'm now booking events, online and off, well into 2017 which is really crazy to this gal who had maybe 10 site views on a good day last August.
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: Don't be afraid to apply for speaking positions on podcasts, or to reach out and create your own speaking opportunities. Try an online workshop- they're easier to organize and promote than in person events and have the potential to reach a larger audience than in-person events.
Launched Two Courses
I've launched two courses all on my own to successful sales days, and I have been/will be launching countless others in joint ventures with other creatives this fall, including one from Once Wed/ If I Made that's on sale now. It's been wild to be on one end of the courses (as a student) and to see how much work actually goes into creating a full-blown signature course like the Winning Creative's Way. I learned a lot, which I will share about soon, but I'm not ready to yet. I'm still trying to process it all! I will say one thing though- anyone who tells you course launches/production is easy is full of cat piss and deserves to be blasted with Hannah Montana music on repeat.
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: Start small. One of the biggest mistakes I made was trying to be like Amy Porterfield and only launch huge courses. I'm backtracking on that because as I've had to realize, I'm not Amy Porterfield, no matter how much I love her and listen to her podcast.
First Five-Figure DAY
It was great to have my first five figure month, it was even cooler when it happened in a weekend, and now a day. I've been enjoying five figure revenue for awhile now, but I'm also investing a lot of it back into my business so while it's been fun, it's also been nerve-wracking. Mo' money mo' problems yo.
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: When you're barely selling any of your $10 or less product, I know how far away five-figure months or even days seem. It's definitely possible (which I never would have believed a year ago). It's not hard, but it does take a lot of work and learning, especially if you don't have a mentor to guide you. It took me two failed blogs/business + 1,013 days of learning before I made any real money on my entrepreneurial journey.
Made So Many Amazing Friends
I never thought of myself as someone who "had friends." I always had my 1-2 closest friends and then there were the bubbly girls who were "everyone else." Welp. My best friend from law school died suddenly last year and my other best friends live forever miles away, and what do you know? That gets kind of lonely. Despite being a shy introvert (less shy now, still incredibly introverted), I managed to force myself into enough social situations to have friends wherever I go (or at least it feels that way because they are the best!) It's been a huge personal + biz win for me and it only happened because I forced my way out of my comfort zone. I'm so happy to have met so many amazing women I'm proud to call my friends, including my team members (Sarah O'Malley, Lauren Carns, Dannie Fountain, Nicole Boucher and Julie Painter) and more amazing women than I could ever name, mostly through Heather Crabtree's Savvy group and Tuesdays Together meetings.
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: Get out there. There's going to be tons of excuses, other things to do and tired nights. If this is just too painful, I gotcha girl. Joining a group mentoring circle is a great way to show up, but still embrace your shortcomings with everyone else all together. It's an introvert's dream.
Launched a Podcast
Oh, this little thing. We only hit #23 on iTunes. Just 'sayin...
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: I don't have much to say about the podcast except I love it, and it's shown me the power of building a consistent platform. If you hate blogging, podcasting may be for you...
Well, everything that I could. I feel like I've become the unofficial queen of outsourcing. Guys, I can't do anything in moderation. It's all or nothing, a blessing and a curse. I'm sure I'll write about everything I've outsourced, and then if anyone wants it, I'll give you a course on how to do this in your biz too. It seems to be something I'm asked about A LOT! So....
LIFE HACK FOR YOUR BIZ: Start small so you don't end up wasting a lot of money on help that just sits around twiddling their thumbs because you're too busy running your biz or working with clients to actually explain what you expect them to do. If you want to know how I did it to the tune of consistent income, five figure months and becoming an authority in the creative community, click here where I'm happy to reveal all.
Join me on Monday, October 10th on Facebook Live
I'll be answering questions about how I found real success in my business, starting making a good bit of mula, created a side hustle as a workshop speaker and more!