Every week, I have at least one conversation that involves someone telling me they’re overwhelmed because they can’t find clarity and are busy doing #allthethings as their business profits plateau.

Small business owners tend to be overwhelmed, overworked and underpaid. If you’re nodding your head, here’s how to gain clarity quickly so you can get where you want to go in business far faster.

Your first priority is money

Your business doesn’t only need money to survive. What people are paying you for today indicates what they value and what you’re doing a good job at. If people are paying you for a particular service and then coming back and referring others, that indicates you know what you’re doing, right?

Sounds simple, but it’s easily overlooked when knee-deep in overwhelm.

Look at what you’re charging and whether it could be improved:

  • Do your clients understand exactly what they’re getting and what’s not included?
  • Do you need to revise your terms and conditions?
  • Are your terms and conditions clear and obvious and in multiple places?
  • Is it time to raise your prices?
  • Are you getting at least some money up front?
  • Do you have accounts overdue that need to be chased or clients that you need to part ways with?

You are irrational

We are all irrational beings. Fear stops us moving towards what we really like. We all sabotage our progress because cognitive bias overrides our rational brain.

Cognitive bias reduces our ability to make clear-headed, rational decisions, which can be a great undoing when self-employed. That’s why it can be hugely useful to have someone – such as a business coach – hold you accountable.

Rationally, we know that the client who is always having an ‘emergency’ shouldn’t take precedence over the business development date that we have every Monday morning, but irrationally, we fear that we’ll lose the client’s business if we don’t answer the phone.

When coaching people in Hustle & Heart, I talk about how we need to manipulate ourselves. Most people assume I’m joking. But it’s precisely because we’re irrational that we need to learn how to manipulate ourselves to get stuff done. (Unless, of course, you’re one of those super-annoying Type A personalities who naturally wake up at dawn and bound out of bed for a jog. I am not one of those people, and I’m not unusual.)

The secret to getting stuff done is yours alone to conquer. Especially for the self-employed, we must learn the particular nuances of our procrastination and fear as well as our joy and productivity – this is different for everyone. Then we’ll also be able to stop reading those obnoxious “25 things productive people do in the morning” articles.

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Start moving towards where you want to go

In countless training courses, I ask people where they want to take their business. With enough creative exercises and confidence building, the vast majority of people know exactly where they’d like their business to be. And almost nobody is moving in that direction.

Why? Because they’re busy being busy, running through their days to stay in exactly the same spot.

When pushed, most people name the barriers to get there. But there’ll always be barriers. There’s always another business already doing it already (thankfully, as it shows there’s a market for the ‘thing’), we’ve all got busy families and lives, we all have limitations.

The upside of limitations is that’s it’s awesome for igniting your creativity. Whatever small thing you can do today to take you in the direction you want to head in is progress. Small steps, done over time, add up to big change. Start.

Accepting what you don’t know

Everybody has blind spots. Nobody knows everything. And these misconceptions can be expensive. I’ve harboured several misconceptions that were false assumptions which cost my business thousands, if not more.

When you’re self-employed, it’s imperative to have at least a foundational understanding of how revenue and profits, marketing, PR, and copy writing before you outsource it. You need to know enough about these things to avoid getting into trouble.

Outsourcing things that you know little or nothing can turn out to be hugely expensive when a smooth talking confident person convinces you to outsource something that they only know marginally more about than you.

You may not want to spend all your time on marketing or PR, but you do need to have a foundational understanding of how and why they work so that you can assess the skills of the person you’re handing them over to. Burying your head in the sand is not a business strategy.

Clarity in business: a new approach

Clarity is like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – elusive and ever changing. So here’s another approach: forget about the lightening bolt from the blue. Even those who claim to have been ‘struck’ clarity don’t necessarily find the next steps easy, or clear.

Especially if you’re creative, you’re likely also to be multi-passionate. So how do you find clarity, followed by progress?

Act. You can’t be indecisive forever (well you can, but it’s likely you’ll be living alone with your parents into your 40s). You must make a decision. It doesn’t matter if you change your mind in a year’s time, because in that year you’ll have gained invaluable experience and can tell yourself (and the world) that you gave something a good go. Indecision is a killer. So act – any direction will do if you’re standing still.

The secret to short-cuts

Everybody wants to know the short-cut but nobody’s that keen on my response: yes, there are quicker and easier ways to do what you’re likely spending too much time doing; but you’ll need to keep doing the regular stuff too – optimising your website, regular email marketing, social media marketing and blogging, and understanding your business finances.

From this foundation of consistency, there are short-cuts – not only in day-to-day hustling, but also in those one-off brave acts (like pitching and promotions) that will bring a big result.

As a business coach, part of what I do involves connecting people with synergies – that might be another business owner who’s already done exactly what you’re planning to do, or journalists who cover the topics that your business is about, or a partner to collaborate with.

More often than not, I work with hard-working business owners who have been beavering away for years, unaware that there are quicker and easier ways to build their community, make more money and do their best work.

Over my last nine years of self-employment, I know that business progress isn’t a smooth upward trajectory but a series of loops, plateaus, and sometimes, a steep upward trajectory, thanks to a handy shortcut. So slow down a little. Stop rushing. Focus on what’s important and restructure what you’re doing so that you’re not so busy doing unimportant stuff.

Time for clarity? Don’t wait for it to strike out of the blue. Clarity comes through action – with our Hustle & Heart group coaching program.

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