I wonder if one reason we loved playing make-believe was the ability to create our own rules. When we are young, rules are like sunsets–no day ends without one. Someone is always telling us a new rule or reminding us of an old one.
Rewards often accompany followed rules. And so, we learn to obey.
But do we get so used to a rule-a-day diet that as we age we continue that ritual? We operate based on rules. Unwritten. Unspoken.
Rules that assist. Okay. Rules that limit. No-kay.
One way to make the rules is to start your own thing. A small business. An online presence. Side hustle. An invention or innovation.
Feeling an itch to make a change? Stuck at a fork in the road? Noticing the lack of noise downstairs and realizing you’re at midlife? Maybe it’s your time to make some new rules and choose what to do next. If you start your own business, you get to make the rules.
1. Play with who you want.
When you start your own business, you get to choose who you work with.
Say you start a personal training business. You not only get to wear stretchy, comfy clothes, YAY, but you get to choose your clients.
Yes, you might begin by taking any client in your target audience, but over time you will determine who it is that you help best (and enjoy working with).
Don’t like grumpy people? Tardy folks? Chicken little? Kindly bring your professional relationship with that person to an end. Release them to find someone who also likes to complain. The Grumble Twins! They’ll be happier with someone who doesn’t tense up at the disparity in the relationship. And you’ll be happier too.
If you’re in charge, you also get to hire whom you choose. I employ amazing people and work with some lovely freelancers. Because of my projects those freelancers are able to be a stay-at-home mom, a student, a dog mom, or explore their creative after-five-o’clock-side working for me. I love that. I get to handpick people who are fun, brilliant, conscientious, capable, creative, and happy.
When you start a business, give yourself the freedom to pick with whom you want to work.
2. Serve others with kindness and inclusiveness.
If start your own business, you get to choose how clients are treated. And even how to speak to “pre-clients”. No desperation or arm-twisting, people-splaining, or hyperbolic promises.
You can choose to speak and serve with kindness. And with an attitude that communicates that you know you don’t know 100% of 100% of things, so you accept and include others before tromping onto the scene like Sweetums.
(Sweetums? Not familiar with the large, hairy ogre Muppet who towers over humans and ruins most scenes and scenery? Ohhhh, that Sweetums! You know him, just not his name.)
3. Not every hour of the day is devoted to work.
We all know someone that is worked by their business. The bushy tail is definitely wagging that dog!
One of the benefits of being your own boss is your ability to determine when you work.
I don’t sleep.
Well, I do. But not well. So, I serve clients late at night.
Writing projects, website copy, social media creation; I do that work while my hubby, dog, and the neighbors, sleep. Knowing my late-night bandwidth, I often take hours out of a typical work day to surprise my husband for lunch, talk on the phone with my kiddos in different time zones, volunteer, or go hiking with friends.
Yes, I have daytime commitments of meetings that I totally enjoy and respect, but I like being in charge of when and how much time I devote to my business.
If your strengths lead you into a B2C (business-to-consumer) direction you might find your hours more dictated by your customers. My stylist, Rachel, can’t cut hair at midnight. Well, I suppose she could cut mine. I’m still awake.
She runs her business during the best hours to serve her clients. But she can carve out time in the summer or over breaks to work less and be at home when her kiddos are there.
And she could also establish a niche and be a when-school’s-in-session-only stylist. In that scenario her income projections would need to suit her, but so should her schedule.
4. Serve the right person for you.
You can’t be everything to everyone.
(Wait, that sounds like a rule. Well…let’s call it a “guideline for success”.)
Please don’t offer a service or product to please everyone. Choose a target market that you understand, love, and can serve well. Take time–plenty of time–upfront, to identify your target audience before you begin. And watch your data to learn more and more about them over time.
Have you seen the Venn diagram where the circles overlap to show you the sweet spot in the middle? That’s where your small business begins.
Not familiar with Venn? A Venn diagram uses overlapping circles to illustrate the similarities, differences, and relationships between concepts, ideas, categories, or groups. Similarities between groups are represented in the overlapping portions of the circles, while differences are represented in the non-overlapping portions of the circles.
You can scribble-up a Venn diagram to determine your ideal customer. Each one of us is unique. Your ideal target audience is too.
5. Name your business whatever you want.
If I had a nickel for every “what does Fadooger mean?”, I’d have a lot of nickels.
Fadooger doesn’t “mean” anything. I like silly words. And silly things and side-stepping the expected. I was about ready to tell you that “Sara’s Marketing . com” was already taken, but you know what? At the time, I never looked. I wanted something all my own. A first run. Not an also-ran. So, I created Fadooger out of thin air.
I like the tall “d” and swoopy “g” and the two “o’s” that look like happy eyeballs.
When you start it, you get to make the rules AND name your business whatever you want. Have fun!
6. You define what success looks like.
If you start your own business you can determine what success looks like to you.
- Don’t believe in monitoring “likes”? Don’t.
- Want to charge every client on a sliding scale that fits their ability to pay? Go for it.
- The bottom line is at the bottom of your list? Okay.
One of the first business books I read was Do What You Love And The Money Will Follow. The title feels like a generalization, but is not far from the truth. Back to the Venn diagram, if you find what you’re created to do and it meets a need in our world AND you’re ready to put in some exhilarating effort, you will be successful.
You get to define success.
If this is a season of life where profit margin is queen, then go for it. Make your money while you serve others and be happy about it. If you’ve been fortunate in previous seasons and revenue isn’t your main concern right now, build and give and call it a success. Do you have little kids at home? Then a flexible, non-exhausting, side hustle equals success. You define it. Not the people around you.
Mike Cessario, Founder of Liquid Death, canned water, says
“It’s the market, not onlookers, that determines success.”
He is all too familiar with how easy it is for doubters in life or online to tear down an idea so he turned online hate into a brilliant campaign which spawned the album Greatest Hates with lyrics taken directly from grumpy online reviews.
You determine what looks like success. Not onlookers, an outspoken relative, or conventional measurements.
7. Invest in others when you start a business.
One thrill of owning my own business over the last decade has been to invest in others.
Beyond the ability to share a portion of my revenue with worthy causes, I am able to invest beneath the surface of lovely humans.
Last week, I enjoyed a reference call for one of my freelancers where the director thanked me. I was surprised at his gratitude directed at me. He said that my freelancer, their soon-to-be-employee in the interview spoke of all of the new skills she’d learned from me.
This director of a policy agency in Washington, D.C., said, “You’ve invested in growing this young writer and now our nonprofit will benefit from that. Thank you so much.”
I was honored and pleased that she felt our time together had grown her skills. And how nice of him to be grateful too. Now her talents, a first ripple, creates more ripples in a bigger pond. Isn’t life wonderful?
I love the opportunity to grow a business that helps others. Yes, I could write about the challenges of a small business, for sure! But when i think of Fadooger my heart wants to holler about the huge happy reasons to start your own gig. I’d love to encourage more folks, especially you moms, to start your own thang.
It doesn’t have to start big and it doesn’t even need to grow big. But believe in yourself and the value of your talents and let others pay you for it. Break some rules!