One of the most common questions I get from new, overwhelmed business coaching clients is, “how do I stop feeling ‘all over the place’ in my business?”
It’s a big problem, not only when you’re starting out, but when you’re taking on more than you should be as your business expands.
Frankly? It comes down to whether you have a solopreneur or CEO mindset.
The solopreneur is always putting out fires and chasing down the next client; the CEO is running solid marketing funnels and delegating the details to their team.
Even if you are a solopreneur, it’s important to run your business with the CEO mindset.
Want to make the shift?
Here are 17 ways to crush that “all over the place” feeling and get back in control of your company (and life).
1. Write down what you want your business to be
Often, we’re chasing a dream that’s not actually ours. Whether that’s a $500,000 business when we just want a $50,000 one, or a $100,000 business when we really want a million dollar one, that lack of clarity can really make you feel your business is all over the place.
Do a simple exercise in which you write a list or letter to yourself about how your business is doing in 3 years.
“Dear self, business is going well! We’ve got about 10 clients a month, all 1-on-1, and our rates are up to $700/month! We’re finally making over $80,000 each year!”
How does that feel? Seeing it on paper/on the screen will force you to evaluate how you really feel about this being your future, for better or worse, and make you think about how you’ll have to change things to get where you need to be.
2. Think about what you really like to do
Do you like 1-on-1 work? If so, own it. Don’t cave to the people telling you that 1-on-1 work isn’t scalable and your business is going to suck. You’ll up your prices to take on fewer clients, then sprinkle in more scalable options like groups, products, etc.
Are you a really good teacher? What’s keeping you from making that course?
Do you still like sitting down and figuring out sales funnels for clients, even though you have a team?
Find ways to do more of what you like and less of what you don’t.
BUT be very aware of your business goals. A business should be able to run independently of your input. If you’re going to own the freelancer approach to business, don’t worry about it, but if you want to have a CEO mindset, you’ll need to delegate somewhere.
3. Get clear on who you serve
When we’re starting out, we all say that we’ll serve anyone and everyone.
Frankly? I think that’s fine.
You should work with non-ideal clients, just to get a feel for what you don’t like about it.
But after you’ve worked with 5 to 10 people, you should take a step back and figure out what characteristics you liked in people, and what characteristics you will avoid at all costs going forward.
When you can actually picture the type of person or business you’re wanting to serve, it all feels a bit less fuzzy.
I had a client this week tell me, “I realized last week that I’m not a clarity coach.” She had been working with some beginners who weren’t sure what they wanted out of life, and that made it really hard for her to implement her signature system.
Knowing that, she can now tailor her copy and marketing language so much better!
4. Streamline your systems
One thing that I found through my work at Systems Scientist that was really hard to sell to solopreneurs but really easy to sell to CEOs was systems.
The solopreneur mindset says “I don’t have time for systems” or “I do everything myself, so what does it matter?”
The CEO mindset says “I want things to go as smoothly as possible for myself, my team, and my clients, and repetition can make that happen.”
You should be thinking about what you’re doing every day, every week, every month, and picking out ways you can automate things. Whether that’s social media or client onboarding or bookkeeping, there’s no reason to start from scratch every day.
Write down what you’re doing daily and get that into a makeshift standard operating procedures document, so you can plan to pass off the little things to a team member in the future.
5. Develop your signature process
Whether you’re a coach, a designer, or a copywriter, a signature process is another system that will make your life and business easier.
Not only is it helpful to know what’s coming up next, it’s easier to sell a “signature system” than it is to sell “I don’t know, we’ll get on the phone 6 times and work on your life, I guess?”
6. Set up a routine (or anti-routine)
I don’t do routines, partially because my (legitimate, medically diagnosed and treated, not “cutesy”) OCD won’t allow me to without going into a bad mental cycle. So I’ve created a bit of an anti-routine: I don’t know how I’ll work each day, what time I’ll start and stop working, or where I’ll be working, but I know what I need to work on.
There are a million approaches to effective to-do lists, and I’m anti-routine around those as well. I’ll follow one to-do list system for a month, then another for a week, then hop over to a new one for a full quarter. It’s about what works in the moment, but there has to be something that works.
Don’t use the anti-routine as an excuse to procrastinate or stop getting work done. Use it as a framework for being creative and productive.
7. Eliminate one service
We’ve all been there: offering a million services at once to see what people really want. But if you’re feeling all over the place, eliminating one of these services is a good place to start. Perhaps it’s a full, I’m-no-longer-offering-that-service elimination, or maybe it’s as simple as moving it to your “secret services” menu (that you only mention when someone approaches you about it), but get rid of something that’s not converting the way you need it to.
8. Get a to-do list that works
As mentioned above, I incorporate various to-do list strategies throughout the year (or week). Find one that works for you right now, not the ideal one you want to see yourself using next year. Right now I’m playing with three in particular:
A productive to-do list can get you taking massive action every day, rather than wondering where your time will be best spent.
9. Turn off notifications
The best thing I’ve done for my focus and productivity has been to turn off notifications (or close tabs) on my phone/desktop/tablet. Rather than putting out fires all day, I’m checking emails and Slack and Asana and FB Messenger when I’m at a lull between tasks.
Being reactive rather than proactive can leave you with constant stress and the feeling that you’re not taking care of everything sufficiently. Handle messages deliberately to take back that control.
10. Start where you are
Angry that you haven’t had your first 5-figure launch when you haven’t even had a 3-figure launch yet (because you haven’t had any launch yet?)
Frustrated that you’re not making 5 figures a month when you just started making 4 figures a month?
Want Marie Forleo’s 5-figure website when you don’t even have the money for a 4-figure website?
Tired of thinking of everything in 4-figure, 5-figure, and 6-figure terms?
You’ll get there.
But you’ve gotta get through the Couch to 5k of business before you’re a 6- or 7-figure earner.
For some people, yes, that happens in less than a year.
But for most of us, it takes a few years to get settled, focused, and off running.
Don’t make it harder to get things done while you’re daydreaming about how things could be.
11. Evaluate your mindset
In a woo woo way if you’re so inclined, or in a more scientific way if you’re like me.
I started talk therapy almost 5 years ago to the day, when I was initially diagnosed with various mental illnesses. That first year sucked ass, but it really helped me get my diseases under some semblance of control.
The following 4 years? Keeping it in check by questioning my thought processes, mindset, and associations.
For those who aren’t fortunate enough to be in therapy, you basically go in, talk about what’s making you mad/sad/happy that week, and your therapist asks you to question why you reacted to things the way you did. You walk yourself backwards and see what triggered what, and ask if it makes logical or emotional sense to react that way. (And sometimes, emotions are just emotions, and they’re sucking that week)
So stop taking your thoughts and feelings around your business at face value. Question why you’re doing things the way you’re doing them, and ask if your beliefs about business are your own or some guru’s.
Other science meets woo woo approach to this? Mindfulness meditation. Something the right and left brain can agree upon.
12. Hire a VA
Just for 5 hours. Get a taste of what delegating feels like. Because if you’re going to be the CEO, you need to bring team members on board.
Figure out what’s eating most of your time (social media? graphics? emails?) and find a VA that specializes in that by posting in Facebook groups, on Twitter, or emailing your list.
5 hours. That’s it.
13. Make your “why” front and center
If you’ve not read Start With Why by Simon Sinek yet (or at least read one third of the book and watched the TED talk like I did), you should skim through it.
No one cares what you do in business. And no one buys what you do in business.
They care about and purchase your why.
And your why is what can keep you going every day. It can be your North Star, so that when you’re feeling all over the place, you can stop and ask yourself if what you’re doing is relevant to your why.
If it’s not (or simply no longer) aligned with your why, let it go.
14. Stop using that social media platform you hate
Seriously. You’re doing a sucky job at it, and everyone notices.
This is a really simple one–pick 2 or 3 platforms you really like and focus on those.
For me? It’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. But I’m still on Pinterest and it’s embarrassing, so I hired a VA to help me spruce it up a bit so I can expand there as well (I’ve been doing this for over 3 years, including a year focused on digital marketing consulting, so I’ve got the space for 4 platforms now).
15. Ask your audience what they’re looking for
Insane, right? If you’re really not sure what’s going to sell, ask your audience.
Post a poll or survey in a Facebook group, send something out on Twitter, email your list, or just message people individually.
If you’re not sure where to go from here, but you are sure of the group you want to serve, start with them.
Ultimately, business should be about providing solutions to problems, so find out what your audience’s real problems are.
16. Clean up your files
Alright, this one is for those of you who aren’t quite wanting to do the deep work but still want to leave this list with something tangible.
What’s your desktop look like right now?
How about your Evernote folders?
Your downloads folder?
When you have a digital business, you’re going to have digital clutter. Whereas in the past we may have picked up around the office, cleaning up your files is the digital equivalent.
17. Go for a walk
And finally, whether you’re playing Pokemon Go or not, get outside to clear your head.
There are physical and chemical things that happen when you go for a walk that leave you more clear-headed, so, if you’re able-bodied, take advantage of this tip.
The CEO isn’t wondering if she has time for a walk, she knows it’s crucial to her wellbeing and the health of her business.
Shift your thinking, shift your business, shift your life.