I am in the midst of re-organizing the topics on the blog to be more focused and purposeful so that you guys can really benefit from spending time here. The new section I'm going to introduce is Small Business Hour. Over the last few weeks I've been prowling the Internet and hanging out amongst creative entrepreneurs and getting a lot of views for this section. My hope for this section is that it will benefit many new creative entrepreneurs or stuck entrepreneurs out there. It will mostly cover common problems faced, advice and solutions from other creatives who have walked down the same path and overcome these obstacles. I also hope to eventually incorporate some interview sessions with prominent, awesome-sauce entrepreneurs so that we can all learn from each other to create amazing businesses that make our hearts sing!
I really came across the topic of Dealing with Critics far too many times. Ugh! Even the very best of us encounter critics. Some of them are friends and family. Which is kinda sad because a lot of the time, they do mean well, but they don't realize the repercussions their words have on us. Words have power, y'all. Power to lift people up or break people down.
"Get a real job already!"
"What do you do... exactly?"
"What are you going to do with your life?"
"Why are you wasting your time on this rubbish?"
"Maybe you should consider applying for some jobs. Here, [so&so] has this opening you can apply for!"
Have you guys experienced this? Because I have. Sometimes it's even worse -- it is unspoken. It's like the air stagnates when the topic turns to your "business." Yeah, people like to quote-unquote the words "your business" because they don't really think it's a real thing. They doubt your ability to make it in the supposed dog-eat-dog world out there and think that you should probably get a stable, moderately-paying 9 - 5.
Ugh! I can only say ugh! Because I wish that I could be there to hug you right now. To tell you how brave you are, how awesome you are, how valuable you are in this world. That you decided to carve a name for yourself. That you decided to take the leap, not for the lifestyle, not for the fame, but for something you truly love. Because you want to look back one day and know that you tried it out. You did something because you wanted a life with purpose. You had passion.
Through my almost 3 years (yikes!) of being an entrepreneur, I have faced critics almost on a daily basis. And some of these are people that I loved, a lot. I used to buckle. I used to break down. I used to be so upset over these things that people would say to me and I used to feel as worthless as they, perhaps unknowingly, made me feel. Goodness gracious. The business side of things was hard enough, especially in the first year of entrepreneurship. And they just pile on and on and on. Add to that a pathetic client base and you really have your confidence ripped away from you heartlessly. That was the worst part of my entrepreneurship life. And believe it or not, it still happens now. Which is, of course, disappointing, because I wished I could tell you that it would go away, but it still lingers mercilessly. Because non-small business owners don't get being SMALL. They see it as a weakness. But it is a strength, y'all. Listen up, because I'm going to say it again, being small is a freaking strength, y'all.
I just want to say again, I hear ya. I know how hard it is already, and I know how triply hard every one of these critics is making this. I know you sometimes feel like perhaps they're right, I know you let them claw away at your confidence and your passion bit by bit. But I hear ya. I want you to take a step back and really realize what you are doing. Really look again and know that you want to make this happen even though you might get wet-blanketed from time to time. If this is you, I got some tried-and-tested tips for ya! I hope that you emerge more courageous, more determined and more confident than ever about what you are doing.
Listen up: You are a ground-shaker. You are a world-changer.
1. Realize, know and OWN your worth.
People can try to chip away at your confidence by telling you that you aren't good enough, that your business will never succeed, that you are better off doing whatever else they think you should be doing. But girl, once you know your worth, it's like a boom-boom-pow, Kung-Fu-Panda ultimate move. It's like you carry this warm, insanely-awesome secret in your core that no one can access.
Look at what you've done so far. Look at how far you have come, and count even the tiniest steps. Like learning to route an e-mail, even. Or that you set up a spankin' new page on your own. And add them to your worth. Imagine a scale that's amazing -- the heavier it is, the better. Add all these "done" stuff on to your scale. And watch the scale tip... heavier... and heavier. See yourself worth more and more. And there is no need to take away things from this worth scale. You can only add onto it because that is simply how business works! You learn more and more stuff and you get better and better. All those small things you thought were insignificant? Add them. There is nothing that you do for your business' sake that is insignificant.
You are worth plenty, right? You have come insanely far already. And you can only go further. And higher. And better. Add. Add. Add.
Then, finally, OWN it. KNOW that you can only get better at this and carry it in everything you do. Know that your efforts are not lost in the great unknown and that there is measure of you slowly getting better and better and nearer and nearer to the place that you wanna be at.
They cannot take away from you what you know that you have done. That you have learned. That you have improved on. That you have that awesome one new client.
2. Discover and recognize your purpose.
This!! OK, I somehow don't even care about the critics anymore on this point.
People, you have to recognize that your business, is not just some other business. Your business, is not just a machine that makes money off other people. Your business is this game-changer, this service that will help you change the world, little by little. Because by doing what you love and what you are passionate about, you will, somehow, inevitably, help someone. Inspire somebody. You cannot help it. You just do.
You are put in this world, in this business, in this position for a freakin' good reason. It is not by chance. But it is your life, your way to help the world in your little ways.
Somewhere along my third (this year!) of doing business, I discovered that my business is not merely a designing business. That people actually got inspired by what I wrote, by what I created, and that their businesses changed for the better with my designs. That they got more business with my design. Hey! I created a ripple effect! Look, ma!
And once I recognized that fact for myself, everything got so much easier. I got so much more confident with my work, with communicating my work to someone else, and I knew that my business was not what the critics told me it was. Their words didn't even stand in my eyes anymore! That is where I want to get you to be at. LIBERATION!
I'll tell you again, this is not a coincidence. Your business has a greater-than-thou-only purpose. Figure that out.
3. Be 'slightly' antisocial. Haha!
I realize that not everyone is going to agree with this point. But I am going to tell you honestly that it worked for me.
When I say antisocial, I really mean discerning. When you are always around the people who criticize your business and who misunderstand you a lot, you tend to feel bad for yourself a lot more as well (duh). So for the past year, I weeded out my Facebook profile, I cleaned up my Twitter account, and I joined supportive groups that I know will help me instead of put me down. I joined people who were essentially, on the same boat, and could feel what I felt and could understand what I was saying.
And it was a breath of fresh air. I no longer needed to spend 80% of my time either on my critics or on useless things that did not concern my life (hey, a lot of us misuse Facebook), but I spent most of my time catching up with the people who really matter. It could be family, it could be fellow entrepreneurs, but it's discerning the people who lift you up. And surrounding yourself with them. Because life is too short to hang around negative-nillys all the time.
And listen: I am not saying throw away that well-meaning friend and cut her off for good. I am not saying that you don't talk to your family members who do not support your business. I am saying that you can choose to socialize and spend more time with people that matter and who can help you become better.
When I did this "purge", I was really slightly antisocial. I was more reclusive not only because it helped my business because I was more focused (many times we underestimate the power of not being updated about our friends and family all the time) but because I found out that there was less "white noise" in my life in the form of critics and it gave me much more valuable time for myself!
4. Finding your peace.
This is a continuation and combination of the first three points. When you know your worth, know your purpose and you have gotten rid of the "excess noise" in your life, you are ready to choose to be reclusive. You are ready to be peaceful. You will be at peace with your business and you will be able to plot a clearer way forward to further your business.
Finding your peace is a big thing that I know, cannot be generalized and just told to you. But I know that doing the first three points properly really did help me get to a better place in my business. And really helped me solidify my vision and goals for my business.
But bonus ways of finding peace for me: Studying the Bible and really basking myself in His wisdom. I know others have benefited LOADS from meditation and group discussions (kinda like mini-therapy, ha!). Pick one activity that will bring you more calmness in your life. That will inspire you. And that will awaken your core.
5. No more 'ums' and 'ahs'. Know how to explain what you do.
Ah... The super amazing and fun last step! Getting to a really good place and feeling like a million bucks is great. Really superbly awesome! Everyone deserves a pat on the back for getting so far.
But in order to really hit the ball out of the park, you can use the knowledge that you have gained about yourself and your business to create a great introduction about your business that will make you proud. Honestly. There are a million names for this stuff. Elevator Speech (or pitch). Quick summary. Awesome introduction. What you do. But it is actually very simple and straightforward.
It is a solid, from the heart, dug deep from the core answer to the dreaded "What do you do... exactly?" question.
I don't memorize it by heart. But I have a few ways to introduce myself that I have thought about carefully that will really help people understand what I do. That will relay more than, "Oh, I design websites." or "I help people with admin work." No. It is a solid answer that you are confident and proud of. That will really let people know that you are ready to make a difference in people's lives. That will not be taken lightly.
I practice because sometimes, we are the ones who make people think that our words don't carry weight. And in turn, that our business does not carry weight. The misunderstanding stems from ourselves, because I have found myself shy or inadequate to really tell people what I do and what I want to do for this business. But the next leap you can take is, just go for it, y'all. You gotz it, I can see it. Just go for it and unleash your brilliance on whoever asks. Make people feel what you want them to feel about your business. What you feel about your business. Words have power, y'all, remember? Use your words to help people look up and look twice when you talk about your business!
What a long-ass post. I am fond of writing long-ass posts, and I apologize for my inability to be concise. But I love writing, y'all. And I love writing for you. It is always my hope that my post will help some entrepreneur out there who stumbles upon it. I created the September FBG that will be up in the next post (I wanted to post them together but this post has become, as mentioned, long-ass, so I decided to separate them). I hope that the FBG will help you get to a better place that will allow you to focus more on your business and your purpose rather than on the critics. Because I know how distracting those people can be. :)
Take heart, y'all.
You are already amazing.