For all its algorithm foibles, its sucking of our free time and its uneasy affect on our self esteem, there’s no denying that Instagram can be a field of dreams. It’s a place where new businesses start and thrive, and where you can meet and engage with your audience in a really lovely, genuine way.
However, over-reliance on Instagram is rife (hey I’m guilty of this too) and relying on someone else’s business for the success of your business is never a safe position to be in. With all the flux going on at Instagram HQ and the rise and fall of engagement, now is a good time to stop that over-reliance and make Instagram one of your marketing tools, instead of the marketing tool.
One thing I didn’t account for when starting up a business was the lack of talking. And by talking, I mean that bouncing of ideas with colleagues, whether just lifting your head up from your desk to check something or having a full blown brainstorming session. Of course I knew I wouldn’t have this when I went out on my own. What I didn’t know was that I’d miss it.
I had taken for granted that act of talking through a sticky problem with people who got it and the creativity of throwing ideas around with a group of people all working towards the same goal. I missed the different perspectives, the talking it through. While my Instagram comment pod are great at chatting through these things, there’s only so deep you can go in a character limited message.
So that’s what I wanted to get out of my own business coaching experience – talking it through with someone who understood my industry and challenges. To check that my instincts were right and that I was heading in the right direction. For me, that craving of a running mate, a colleague, was a rut I couldn’t get out of on my own.
Today I’m going through some common ruts we get into in our businesses, and look at ways to talk through and out of them:
“I have too many ideas and don’t know which direction to take”
First off, too many ideas is better than no ideas! The problem you’ve got here is too much choice; you’re worried about making the wrong one and you’re too close to it all to think about it logically. Maybe you’re trying to decide between pushing an online shop and offering client work, maybe you’re trying to figure out how to monetise your blog, or maybe you’re not that far along yet and are still deciding between sixteen different business ideas.
This is the point at which a different perspective will really help. You can do all the brainstorms and pros and cons lists you like, but still every idea is wrapped up in your emotions and viewpoints, and you can’t separate them out on your own. You could put this out to your audience and see what they think, or ask family and friends – although the problem with that is they tend to tell us what we want to hear.
Some questions to talk through:
Which of these ideas can I live and work with for the next five years?
What do I want my life to look like? Which of these ideas serves that best?
What else is on the market?
“I just don’t know whether I’m doing things right”
This is such a biggie. When we’re in the workplace we always know whether we’re on track because if we start doing something wrong someone will swoop in and stop us sharpish. When you’re the boss and the employee, how do you know that you’re doing the right things?
A good way to do this by yourself is to stay close to your goals and ensure that everything you do directly supports them – crudely, it’s asking ‘what can I do this week that will make me money?’ and staying laser focused on activities that support the business. But knowing whether those activities are effective, or whether there are other things you’ve never heard of that could be better, may take a good conversation with someone in the know.
Similarly, when you have your own business your talent is in the creating, but you’re suddenly asked to be marketing, operations, customer service and finance too. In a workplace, there would be experts doing all of these functions, so it’s ok to ask for help in areas you don’t understand.
You need to ask yourself how you are best serving business. Are you serving it better by developing new products, working on the creative and focusing on your talents, or spending three days reading business blogs? Sometimes it’s better to shorten the learning curve and just ask for specific help tailored to you.
Some questions to talk through:
What is my ultimate goal?
What are other people in my industry doing and how?
Where do my talents lie and how do I best serve my business with them?
“I’m plateauing and can’t seem to stop”
This is the worst. You’ve experienced some growth in the past and even though you’re using tried and tested techniques the enquiries and sales just aren’t growing. You’re feeling panicky, your confidence is draining away and you’re considering things you would never have done before out of desperation.
Growth is like a drug and you’re always chasing the high of the time you got 500 followers in a week or beat your sales target. You need to recalibrate your brain, stop chasing the high and focus on working towards your realistic growth goals.
Once you’ve done that, a new perspective on your business and marketing techniques would really help. Your tried and tested methods may not be working because there’s been an algorithm change, or maybe your audience is just bored of them. At times like this I like to tell myself to ‘be water’ – water will always find a way through an obstacle, first as a trickle, then as a flood. You can find a way, you’ll just find it quicker by talking it through.
Some questions to ask:
What can I do that will support my goals?
How can I find a different way through?
What isn’t working and how do I change it?
“I just feel really unclear about everything”
This is one I hear fairly regularly. Similarly to the first rut, you’re just so close to it all that you can’t see the wood for the trees and don’t know whether you’re coming or going (should have done a cliché bingo for this one…). Maybe you’ve been toying with a lot of different choices, or maybe you’ve just been overthinking everything for too long. Either way you’ve quietly panicked yourself into a bit of paralysis and you don’t know how to start moving again.
In this case talking will help you tackle to real problem: you need to fall back in love with what you do and remember that you can do it. Talking can flow more naturally than writing; with writing you think to much about what you’re going to say so it’s not natural. With talking, you will get into a flow and surprise yourself with what comes out of your mouth.
Some questions to ask:
What is the end point and what are the steps to get there?
What about your business do you love and why?
What are your talents and how are they best used?
“I hate it all and I want to quit”
Ok, let’s not do anything rash! First of all, if you really wanted to quit then you wouldn’t be reading a post about how to get out of a business rut. Somewhere inside you is hope and the determination to make it work, so let’s make it work.
First, let’s nail down what it is you specifically hate. Is it your product line, the hours, the goddamn bloody algorithm? Once you work out what it is you’re not enjoying , what you’re afraid of, and make it specific, then you can start taking actions to make it better. One thing you need to do is start taking the emotion out of it too – and talking it through with someone will really help that, not only because they can challenge you on things, but your social skills will kick in and stop you ranting quite so much 😉.
Some questions to ask:
What is it a specifically hate?
How do I want my life to be and what is stopping that right now?
What steps do I need to take to get rid of the things I don’t enjoy?
What ruts have you found yourself in? Have you felt you needed help getting out of them?
When running your own creative business, selling and marketing becomes a large part of the job description, although most of us feel completely put off by the whole concept of selling. Over on Instagram a few weeks ago @nonisadzi asked “how do I attract clients without being overly ‘marketing’?”
And therein lies the rub. For us as creatives, the idea of marketing and sales is a negative one – it feels dishonest, icky and interruptive. We want to create a comfortable environment for our customers and clients, and it feels like selling to them disrupts that atmosphere. So how do we get over our fear of ‘selling’ so we can grow our businesses, yet remain true to ourselves?
This is a question that creatives wrestle with throughout their business journey – whether you’ve got a fledgling idea or are debating a big new step, the idea of growth can be a scary one. Of course it’s natural to be trepidatious when approaching the unknown, especially an unknown that will change your life; which is why we search for articles and posts like this one for comfort.
Unfortunately, the short answer to this question is: you’re never ready. Or at least, you’ll never feel ready. It might be that you look back in a few month’s time and wonder why you ever worried, or you’ll realise that you needed to make the leap in order to develop and learn.