It can be difficult when you’re in the early months of running a business to distinguish between:
the work you want to do
the work that best serves your audience, and
the work that you think you should do (perhaps because other people are doing it).
With time, business owners get more adept at knowing what is and isn’t right for them and their audience. But until that confidence develops, it can be difficult to pick apart why you’re not feeling quite right about your work. Frequent reflection can help you to identify what does and doesn’t feel right for you, and find your way in those early months.
Despite Be Stubborn being the second business I have built, I wasn’t immune to going through serious periods of self-doubt and uncertainty in the early days. I had a strong idea of what I wanted to achieve, but I kept falling into a trap of working on things I felt that I could achieve; the two were not always one and the same.
For example: I worked on content to help new business owners with marketing. There was nothing wrong with this; it’s an area of real expertise for me having spent five years working in corporate marketing, before setting up and promoting my first business for three years. But it wasn’t the right thing for me to be working on, for three reasons:
The work I had in mind was not fully aligned with my goals, and it didn’t fit with what I wanted Be Stubborn to stand for. I was getting distracted by the ‘coulds’ and ‘shoulds’, and was a losing my way.
Everything I was planning to say already existed out there. I intended to put my own unique slant on it, but I couldn’t quite grasp how I would be able to do that at that moment in time.
And honestly, the content I was creating bored me. It just wasn’t something I was excited about anymore. And if it bored me, I knew it would bore my audience.
After wrestling with this for over a week, and feeling like I was making no progress, I decided to park the topic until:
I felt very clear on how I could add value, and
I felt like I could share this in a way that was relevant for Be Stubborn, and that excited me and drew out my passion for the subject.
Both of these things are integral for creating original and compelling content. And in the meantime I was free to create content and resources that I felt could really serve my audience.
HOW TO ASSESS WHETHER YOU’RE STRAYING FROM YOUR PATH
It is likely that all business owners will feel like lost at some point, and like they’re not necessarily doing anything wrong, but might be ‘barking up the wrong tree’. In the age of social media, with so much content available for us to consume and seek inspiration from, it is easy to lose sight of our own path. Invariably, this leaves us feeling down and lacking in motivation.
To work through this, I ask myself three key questions that enable me to reflect, reassess, and move forward.
Q: AM I FEELING AUTHENTIC OR FRAUDULENT?
Being Boss talk about ‘fraudy feelings’ a lot, and I have taken comfort in learning that this is a universal issue, even amongst those I think of as amazing and successful. So was this what I was experiencing? Did writing about marketing make me feel like a fraud? Yes and no...
I know my stuff when it comes to marketing, and have great experience from both a corporate and small business perspective. I knew that if I could find the right approach, that I had knowledge that could be valuable to others.
But on the other hand, maybe I was feeling was a little bit ‘fraudy’; although this was rooted in the awareness that I would not be the first or only people sharing content like this. I would have been adding my take on marketing to the conversation, rather than something new and original. This meant that:
although it wasn’t the case, I felt like I was just copying others
I wasn’t satisfying my ambitions to contribute something different to the market.
If I revisit this topic again, it will be with a new approach, and a better connection to the values and manifesto of Be Stubborn.
Q: HAVE I FALLEN INTO THE COMPARISON TRAP?
Following on from testing whether I felt fraudulent or validated in considering sharing content about marketing, I asked myself if in fact I had fallen into the comparison trap.
I don’t think it would be far from the truth to say that almost all business owners struggle with the comparison trap at some point or another. We see the amazing work of others and feel inspired, before wondering how we can match their standard.
There is no easy solution to avoiding the comparison trap, apart from reminding yourself that you’re doing the best you can, and that is enough. If you’ve stayed true to your values, and in line with your business’ purpose, it shouldn’t matter what other people are doing.
I know, easier said than done in reality.
So this is the point where I remind myself to STAY IN MY OWN LANE. Everyone has had different life and career experiences up to now, and has different things to offer.
I know that both my career background and my personal life have shaped my approach, and offer me a perspective that is different to others. I won’t be the right fit for everyone, but I trust that there will be people out there who want to hear what I have to say, and so I will continue.
Q: AM I HONOURING THE PURPOSE OF MY BUSINESS, AND MY AUDIENCE?
Despite the best intentions, and the knowledge and experience that can make relevant the content you have planned, you might not be honouring the purpose of your business. Subsequently, you’re not giving your audience what they have come to expect from you.
It can be useful to have some key words and phrases about your business, your mission and your values close by when you’re planning you content or business development. Refer back to them often, especially in the early months, to ensure that you’re staying on track. Hold yourself accountable, and do things because they are completely right for you and your business, rather than because it worked for someone else, or might be good for search engine optimisation (SEO).
IT TAKES TIME AND COURAGE
In the first year, and perhaps beyond, it is likely that business owners will occasionally lose there way, and feel out of control. In part, this is because we often have a vision of where we want to get to, but the time it can take to manifest this frustrates us. As much as we try to work steadily and surely towards our goal, we can keep getting new ideas, or seeing what others are achieving, and we want everything to have been completed yesterday.
Try to be kind to yourself, and remember:
There is no foolproof solution to these periods, apart from working through them, and staying the course.
It can also be invaluable to talk to a coach or a friend who understands the industry you’re in.
Keep on coming back to your intentions, values and purpose. Remind yourself daily of what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re trying to serve. Make it a part of your process to read through a ‘mission statement’ or a list of your core beliefs each morning, to centre yourself.
And if you do lose track, do not lose hope. You can always correct your course. It’s ok to take some time to reflect and refresh your approach, even if that means you don’t create anything new for a few weeks or have to change the style of your social media posts. Remember that you’re playing the long game in creating a business that will hopefully sustain you emotionally as well as financially for years to come, so it is worth tweaking things as you go to get it right.
You can do this. I believe in you.