No one wants their business to stall. But over and over, I’ve seen clients of mine work hard but get nowhere with their business. That’s a big reason I’m moving away from web design toward online marketing. I want to help folks as much as I can, and having a great website is only a small part of making money online.
The really great news is that most of what I see out there is completely fixable.
I work primarily with women who feel time-deprived. They started their own businesses for more flexible schedules and more time with family. But they end up working just as hard as they did in their corporate jobs, but earning less, and having even less time.
Based on actual women I’ve worked with, I’ve created a list of why moms aren’t as successful in their businesses as they ought to be. They’re working so hard, but not quite getting there. I keep seeing the same patterns. I’m hoping that by writing about them and how to overcome them, I can help anyone who’s in the same situation.
My own business stalls
Since leaving my last corporate IT job, I’ve tried to build a business twice, and run in to these same troubles. The first business, you might know, was a calligraphy business. The two main troubles there was that I didn’t want to do the things required to scale my business and I only focused on my very local market.
I wanted to do all the artwork myself. I essentially created a job for myself, not a business. The great news is that I filled my time with clients, and even had to turn some down. The bad news was that once I was fully booked, I couldn’t scale at all. I didn’t want to move to teaching or hire others to work for me. Then, we moved. And my entire business was local – I barely had a website at the time. I really didn’t want to think about starting over!
It was time to get back into my other love – web development. I haven’t given up calligraphy or art – I’m even working on building out a basement studio. It’s just that realized I didn’t want a business around my art. I jumped in to web development, and quickly into web design. Soon, I realized two things – a pretty website isn’t what most people need – they need a marketing tool on the web. And I’d created another job for myself.
I was doing well, but hit a plateau that seemed impossible to get past. And my clients were having the same troubles. I knew I needed to focus more on online marketing for myself and my clients – they needed websites that actually did some work for them. Now, I’m consciously building out processes and systems for my business as well as hiring others so that I’m not building just another job. I’m already seeing benefits and I hope this helps you too.
My clients’ business stalls
My list here is based on not only my experiences but what I see in my clients every day. Seriously hard-working women who should be succeeding are struggling. And I don’t think they have to struggle.
This is the biggest issue I see by far when my clients struggle.
Formal education trains you to be a great employee. Even my MBA program trained me to be a great manager, not to start a business. I think now there are programs for entrepreneurs if you seek them out, but they either didn’t exist or I didn’t know about them when I was in school. Combine that with the corporate experience so many of us women get while we’re childless, we really learn to excel at being an employee.
The kick in the pants is when we find out that at most places, being an employee does not provide what you need when you have a child. Bigger businesses lose out when women leave to start their own businesses for the flexibility and freedom to work how they want to work.
But, fresh out of that corporate world, so many women take their employee skills and build themselves another job, not a business. They feel like they have to do everything, they react to clients rather than proactively manage them. They treat their clients like their bosses and scramble to please them the way they scrambled for their managers in a corporate environment. That only leads to frustration and burn-out.
Instead, women who want to run businesses must act like the boss, the owner. Clients are customers. This means putting into place policies and procedures and standardizing your processes. Which leads to standard products with very predictable work patterns and schedules. And best of all, this leads to the ability to hire and scale, since the procedures ensure client results.
No business confidence
When you’re an employee, you pretty much know exactly how you’re doing. If you screw up, you get yelled at, and if you do a good job (and you’re at a good company), you get rewarded. Your colleagues, too, let you know where you stand.
When you run your own business, it’s harder to know how you’re doing. Sure, the big things like revenue and number of clients are indicators. But, there can be a huge time difference between action and result. So, in the moment, it’s so hard to know if you’re doing the right thing.
A couple of my clients have built out projects that they never launched, and some are nervous to do any promotion at all. I still struggle with confidence and imposter syndrome, even when I didn’t really have this problem as an employee.
Here’s how I combat irrational confidence issues.
- If I’m worried about releasing something or publishing something, I ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Then I make a list. Usually, it’s all made up in my head, and nothing bad could really happen. I could embarrass myself, but that’s nothing new. I do that every day anyway! And if something really bad could happen, I can then make a plan to do everything I can so that it won’t happen.
- I keep track of some performance indicators like sales, social media followers, number of blog posts published, traffic numbers, email subscribers. While one or two more followers in a week may not make a big difference, over time, the growth does make a difference. When I look at the progress over time, I’m encouraged. It may not be fast, but I’m making forward progress, and that’s a success.
- I look at some of my past successes – projects that rock or a tough problem I figured out. Sometimes I read through testimonials clients have left for me to remind myself how much I help people. This can be a really great motivator. If I give up, or don’t publish, then I can’t help out.
AKA Shiny object syndrome! The grass is always greener! There’s a new, awesome opportunity around the corner!
I’ve now been working with clients long enough to see that sticking the course is really they only way to gain traction. Jumping from opportunity to opportunity without a bigger plan never allows you to put down your roots and establish yourself.
You can combat this one with regular planning sessions. I think at the minimum, quarterly planning is necessary. That helps you have a bigger picture of your business. Many times, I find that the desire to switch to something new is just because you’re in the weeds and you’re tired of the hustle with little to show for it. By stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, you can reboot your motivation and remember why you’re doing the work in the first place.
Starting something new isn’t really the problem – it’s that you may not be starting strategically. If a new shiny opportunity works in your business plan and it sounds fun, go for it.
Not knowing your audience
I think we all have a tendency to want to appeal to as broad a group of people as possible. Very few of us want to ruffle feathers or turn people away. But the truth is none of us are WalMart, we’re more like boutiques. We can’t appeal to everyone because we’re not big enough. Even WalMart has a target customer, and we all know someone who won’t set foot in one, right?
If your products and services are built for everyone and promoted for everyone, then no one is going to look at them and say, “oh! Yes! That’s for me!” And you’re not going to sell very much.
Or, if you write articles on your site for senior aged men and then put floral scented lotions up for sale because you got a deal on the scent oils, you’re not going to get too many sales.
Your audience might not be who you think it is, and it might change over time. I started this site and blog with a particular ideal client in mind. But it looks like the people I’m attracting are slightly younger than I originally anticipated. So now, I have to decide if this makes an impact on the services I want to provide, or if I need to refocus efforts on the older age group.
You can find out this information by asking! Crazy, right? You can also use analytics for a good estimate of information about your audience. Be sure you know who they are and talk to them!
When you feel like you might be stalling…
Take a look at this list here, and the solutions I use.
I really hope these can help you because I want women to be successful with their businesses and still have time for their families. It’s what I strive for and what I want for other families.