What if? “La La Land”-inspired Food For Thought For Small Business Owners

If you wander back in time through my posts on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll find evidence I fell in love with the movie “La La Land.”

I’m often skeptical when a film gets obscene amounts of accolades, but this one deserves every single ounce of the kudos heaped Screen shot of Dawn Mentzer's Facebook post about movie La La Landupon it.

It’s a story of chasing dreams, the sting of reality, love found, hopes dashed, and fresh starts.

It’s also a story of “what ifs.” It’s a story of looking back and wondering how life and career would be different if we had done just one thing differently.

We can all relate to that, can’t we? Personally and professionally we wonder what our lives would be like if we had made other choices.

What if I had said that more tactfully?

What if I hadn’t lost my temper?

What if I had gone to that networking event?

What if I had quoted a different rate for that project?

What if I had said “no”?

What if I had said “yes”?

What if I had taken my time?

What if I had been more careful?

What if I hadn’t jumped to conclusions?

What if I had told the truth?

What if I hadn’t been so stubborn?

What if I had spoken my mind?

What if I had tried to be more understanding?

What if I had tried harder?

What if I had been more caring?

What if I hadn’t given up?

Every decision we make, every action we take—no matter how seemingly insignificant—affects how the future will progress. Turning down a coffee meeting, posting a contradictory comment on someone’s social media post, deleting an email before reading it…you never know when something you decide to do—or not do—will make or break opportunities and shape how your relationships develop.

What if we all put a little more thought into the little decisions we make every day?

Your turn: What “what ifs” make you wonder how things might be different today if you had made some other choices yesterday?

The Satisfaction Of Creating Doesn’t Pay The Bills

Some people would have you believe if you want a profitable business in a creative field, something’s not morally right with you.Words "Reality Check" In blue and yellow on white background

Sadly, in certain social circles there’s some stigma attached to wanting to make money so you can afford nice things and take part in the recreational pursuits you enjoy.

 

As someone who is self-employed in a creative role, I’ve sometimes questioned my motivation, purpose, and the rates I charge upon reading articles and social media posts that hint we’re misguided if we’re looking out for our bottom line.

 

Enough already.

 

Starving Artist Reality Check

There’s no shame in wanting to come out ahead and have the means to provide for yourself and your family.

 

Not every creative professional finds glory in “starving artist” status. While the creative process is enough to satisfy some writers, painters, photographers, and other artistic sorts, others of us want to make a decent living and have a little extra for our trouble and talent, as well. We want not only the satisfaction of creating, but we also aspire to achieve and sustain a desirable standard of living.

 

Don’t let anyone fool you. Wanting to do well financially in your business of being a creative doesn’t make you greedy, self-centered, or unethical.

 

To the contrary, it demands you must be even more fair, customer-focused, and responsible.

 

Running a profitable business in a creative field doesn’t mean you’ve sold out. It instead shows you have the heart, soul, and determination to not only survive but also thrive when doing the work you love.

 

Think and share your thoughts: Have your love of creativity and desire for profitability ever collided? How have you struck the right balance?

7 Business-Savvy Irish Sayings

St. Patrick’s Day. What’s not to love about shamrocks, leprechauns, and having a justifiable reason to add a pinch of Jameson’s and a dollop of whipped cream Cloveratop your coffee?

And then there’s that rainbow to lead you straight to a pot of gold.

Sigh. If only it would be that easy.

If you’re in business for yourself, you know it demands a good bit more than the luck of the Irish to stay in business.

According to the Small Business Administration, approximately half of all new businesses survive five years or more—and some other sources report that as many as 80 percent of all new businesses fail.

The key point to home in on is survival as a small business eludes many. Those that don’t continue past their five-year anniversary don’t close their doors because they made SO much money they could take an early retirement to live a life of luxury. It’s because starting and sustaining a business is hard. Really hard. Not everyone can make a living at it.

It takes continual energy, learning, and listening (and heeding) wise advice along the way.

Sometimes the best wisdom comes in a simple phrase. So, because it’s St. Patty’s Day, I thought it appropriate to share some Irish sayings solopreneurs and small business owners might find insight and inspiration from.

Irish Words Of Wisdom To Remember

  1. It takes time to build castles.
  2. If you come up in this world be sure not to go down in the next.
  3. A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.
  4. May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, and never catch up.
  5. Better be sparing at first than at last.
  6. You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
  7. If you do not sow in the spring, you will not reap in the autumn.

So simple. So sensible. Keep these in mind today and throughout your small business journey; you just might find yourself closer to that pot of gold.

By Dawn Mentzer

Sources:

Top 50 Irish Sayings & Proverbs, AskMen.com

Irish Proverbs With English Translations, IslandIreland.com

Got Thanks? Time To Give It!

With the holiday season more hectic than other times of the year, finding time for reflection on what you have to be thankful for can easily take a back seat to Thankfulness in spotlightmore pressing things. You know, like making an emergency trip to the grocery store for that one Thanksgiving side dish ingredient you forgot or rushing to the mall in hopes of scoring the limited supply Black Friday buys your kids say they won’t be able to live without.

I certainly don’t take the time I should (as often as I should) to recognize how wonderful life really is despite the day-to-day challenges. Do you?

After reading numerous posts about thankfulness, I decided to follow in the footsteps of business professionals like Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media, Laura Spencer of Writing Thoughts, and Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks. They’ve shared what makes them thankful—and their posts served as the kick in the pants I needed to get my thankfulness on. Could you use a kick, too? If yes, check out my list, get started on your own, and then share some of it here in the comments.

I’m Thankful For…

  1. My husband Shane’s love, support, patience, and encouragement
  2. My daughter Natalie’s comfort level in talking with me about anything and everything (Although I admit I’m not always immediately thankful for that!)
  3. My parents who are always there for me no matter how old I get
  4. My brother (We used to beat up on each other as kids, but we’re beyond that now.)
  5. Having our 89-year-old grandma on this earth
  6. My in-laws who welcomed me with open arms into their family 17 years ago
  7. My friends—from high school, college, and my past life at D&E Communications—who remain special people in my life
  8. Facebook, for making it easy to stay in touch with those friends
  9. The friends I’ve been blessed with on my self-employment journey (You understand the challenges, you give encouragement, and you inspire me.)
  10. My mastermind group gals (Jennifer, Rachel, and Terry) for your insight, advice, support, and friendship
  11. My assistant, Rose, who has helped me immensely this past year
  12. Clients who entrust me to help them with their content and their brand’s message
  13. The amazing connections I’ve made with people on Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn
  14. The unconditional love of our boxer-mix, Luna
  15. Our house
  16. My 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee that still looks great and runs like a champ
  17. The corporate takeover that gave me reason to pursue my career in freelance writing
  18. The amazing teachers in Ephrata School District. In eight years, we haven’t experienced a bad one in the bunch.
  19. Where I live (2 hours to the beach. 3 hours to the mountains. Within 5 minutes of three major grocery stores. 3 minutes to Staples and CVS. 20 minutes from two malls. 7 minutes to the PA Turnpike. 30 seconds from the Green Dragon Farmers Market.)
  20. Red wine
  21. My chiropractor, Dr. Lee Lausch, who has kept my scoliosis at bay
  22. The grace of God
  23. Outgrowing my seafood allergy (I now eat shrimp twice each week!)
  24. Broccoli and brussel sprouts
  25. Making a living by writing (After five years, I still find that somewhat surreal!)
  26. The gym in our basement (God bless my treadmill, free weights, and Wave Master!)
  27. “Survivor” (The only TV show I actually sit down to watch!)
  28. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the morning
  29. Red wine (Oops, I already said that, didn’t I??)
  30. A heart that beats
  31. Lungs that breathe
  32. Legs that run
  33. Eyes that see
  34. Ears that hear
  35. Hands for holding
  36. Arms for embracing
  37. A mouth for smiling
  38. Love
  39. Laughter

I could go on and on and on but in the interest of time and attention spans, I’ll put a cap on my list so you can begin yours. Ready to go?

What do you have to be thankful for?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable SolopreneurTM post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solopreneur Tip: Sometimes You Should Judge a Book by its Cover

I’ve been fortunate as a freelance writer. The overwhelming majority of the prospects I’ve met and the clients I’ve worked with have been respectful and reasonable people.

But you’ve probably discovered not ALL prospects have those same qualities.

Signing on problem clients can cost you time and money—and they can chip away at your self-confidence and sense of self-worth if you let them. That’s why it’s important to recognize the warning signs. Some prospects display tendencies or act in certain ways that you should consider “red flags.”

Exercise Caution, Solopreneurs and Freelancers!

Freelancing tip: Sometimes you need to judge a book by its cover

If you’re someone who patiently gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, you could do yourself and your business a disservice if you see these signs but move forward with the business relationship. Although a prospect who fits one or two of the descriptions might still be OK, you need to be careful.

Problem Prospects Can Cause BIG Headaches as Problem Clients…

When You Should Judge a Book by its Cover_Page_2

As a solo biz owner, you need to look out for yourself. Your time, energy, and talent are precious, so don’t squander them on prospects who won’t appreciate your professionalism and the value you bring. We’ve all been told to never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you have to go with your gut.

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By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post

Why Small Biz Owners and Solopreneurs Need to Get Enthusiastic About Enthusiasm

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about enthusiasm

Enthusiasm’s upside for solopreneurs and small business owners

Enthusiasm is tough to fake…that’s what makes it so powerful in business. When you’ve got a real interest in your work and in the people you’re working with, it shows. And that genuine display of excitement for helping clients fulfill a need within their businesses builds goodwill. Your enthusiasm for what you do may not be the primary or deciding factor clients consider before working with you, but it can set you apart from your competition. Think about it; wouldn’t you prefer to work with a services provider who seems genuinely interested in and appreciative of the opportunity to assist you?

Enthusiasm’s downside (Yes, it really does have one!)

Alas, enthusiasm has a negative aspect, too. And ironically, it’s the same quality that makes it a positive; it’s tough to fake. When you’re not feeling enthusiastic toward your clients or your work, it may not be easy to hide your detachment. Lack of enthusiasm may make your clients and prospective clients mistakenly think you don’t care.

Most of us have ebbing and flowing levels of enthusiasm for a multitude of reasons that can change daily depending on what’s happening in our personal and professional lives:

Enthusiasm busters:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor nutrition
  • Not enough exercise
  • Family troubles
  • Client issues
  • Projects we’d rather not have taken on
  • Too much work, too little time
  • Not enough work

 How to coax your enthusiasm out of hiding…

Assuming you still have that underlying passion for your work even when you’re not feeling excited about it, there are ways to dig deep to rekindle and demonstrate enthusiasm.

  • If your schedule allows, temporarily sett aside work that’s a downer.
  • Focus on a task or project that energizes you.
  • Say “no” to projects you don’t have an interest in.
  • Avoid negative people as much as possible until you’re feeling better able to brush off their ill will.
  • Try to focus on the positive rather than the negative in situations. For example, you might feel pressured by a deadline, but the sooner you finish the work the sooner you’ll have that money in the bank.
  • Fake it until you’re feeling it again. Concentrate on making your conversations online, via email, over the phone, and face to face upbeat and friendly. If you purposely act enthusiastic, you must might convince yourself to feel that way for real.

Enthusiasm matters not only when making an impression on clients, but it also serves to motivate us to do more – and do the very best we can – in our businesses. And that comes full circle because being more productive and skilled at what we do will make us feel more enthusiastic more of the time.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

Want to Make Clients Thirst for Your Services? Think Beer.

Blue Moon has its orange slice.Bottles of beer

Corona has its lime.

While I’m not a big beer drinker, I think both brands give us small biz peeps something worthwhile to think about.

What can we serve on the side to enhance and augment our core services and give our clients an experience they want to order over and over again?

You might say, “But malt beverages are way different than what I provide to my customers.” While that’s probably true, it doesn’t mean you can’t apply the same logic to differentiating your business.

Bottoms up! Brainstorm about what will make your clients say “Cheers!”…

Think about what complementary topics you’re savvy about that you don’t offer as billable service offerings, but for which you could offer some advice or share relevant resources. For example, I bill clients for my work as a freelance content writer, but I often provide clients, prospects, and even other writers with guidance on social media, networking, and online efficiency tools. Those things are my lime wedges and orange slices, and I’m sure that with a little thought, you’ll discover you’ve got your own to serve up in your business.

It’s all about value! What can you add to your offerings to make your brand more appealing? What garnish will help make your brand the one clients thirst for?

 

Your turn! What ways have you discovered you can provide additional value to your clients?

 

By Dawn Mentzer (a.k.a. The Insatiable Solopreneur™)

 

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Image courtesy of Gualberto107 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, You Want to be a Freelancer? Make Sure You Have This One Thing First.

According to a study by Intuit in 2010, an estimated over 40% of the American workforce will be “contingent workers” Confident professional woman showing thumbs up(i.e. independent professionals including freelancers, contractors, temps and part-time employees) by 2020. Where full-time employment with companies owned by someone else has always been the norm, the trend is shifting to make freelancing/solopreneurship far more common.

As a freelancer and solopreneur, I find that exciting! With more acceptance of freelancing as a viable career path will come more information, tools and resources geared toward making solo professionals more efficient and successful. Honestly, I think the time is ripe for exploring freelancing – provided you’ve got the one thing all freelancers need to get their businesses off the ground and to sustain them.

Confidence!

“A feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something” (as Merriam-Webster defines it), confidence needs to be at the root of your freelance endeavors. It’s the realization you have skills, knowledge and talents that will render you valuable to clients. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be considering a freelance career, right?

What’s equally important to having confidence in yourself and your abilities? Your attention to projecting that self-assuredness in all you do and to everyone you meet.

Be careful, however, not to confuse projecting confidence with bragging and appearing vain. When starting your freelance business, you’ll want to share about your capabilities and unique value without sounding like you have an over-inflated ego.

How to Project Confidence With Appropriate Confidence…

  • Be real.

    Share the facts.  Your real-life professional achievements, educational background, and examples of your work in your field will speak volumes without any embellishment.

  • Share what others have said about your capabilities.

    It can be a turn off if you pat yourself on the back and tell someone how great you are, but it’s much more acceptable and palatable to others when they hear the praises someone else has sung about you and your work.

  • Be gracious.

    As you’re sharing about yourself, your expertise, and your capabilities, don’t neglect the opportunity to generate goodwill by showing an interest in the people you’re talking with. Making others feel included and important demonstrates a collaborative nature – a quality that’s essential as a freelancer!

Confidence – expect yours to be tested.

Know it’s perfectly natural to find your confidence shaken at times. Whether your work on a project isn’t going as smoothly as you had hoped, or you’re dealing with an extra-demanding client, or some other force in the freelance universe rattles you, you’ll discover self-doubt may stalk you on occasion. When it does, revisit and reflect on the foundation of your confidence as a freelancer. Your knowledge, skills, experience and talents are with you always…and will only get stronger as you venture farther down the path of freelancing.

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4 “Un” Words to Remove from your Small Business Vocabulary

Words wield power. While we pay a lot of attention to them in our marketing efforts, it’s easy to forget the words weUnnecessary - Un words to remove from small biz vocabulary (and sometimes others) use in our thoughts and when we talk about our businesses have an impact, too. Some words lead us to self-defeat. Some lead us to grandiose expectations of our capabilities. Either situation can indirectly and subconsciously cause us to sabotage our own businesses.

 

Four “Un” Words to Undo in Your Small Business

Unable
Get over it – you can do this! Especially when you’re in the early stages of starting your business, you’ll encounter people who are a constant source of dark clouds. They’ll make you doubt yourself and your abilities. Ignore the naysayers who provide no constructive criticism or suggestions. Assuming you’ve done your due diligence before starting your business, focus on the strengths you have and the opportunities available to you. Forge forward and prove you are able through your progressive success.

Unaware
While you can’t believe everything you read online, the internet hosts credible resources on every aspect of business under the sun and moon. Seriously, there’s no reason not to have a working knowledge (or find out who does) of marketing, tax responsibilities, business bookkeeping, social media, sales, productivity tools, etc. Read reputable business blogs to boost your awareness on topics, and reach out for expert assistance if you don’t have the skills or know-how to take care of certain aspects of your business on your own. With so many local experts online, you don’t need to consult someone six states away if you’d rather have a sit-down face-to-face meeting with a professional your friends and neighbors know.

Unafraid
It’s OK to sometimes feel a degree of fearfulness in business. Not paralyzing fear, but a healthy sense of concern can help keep you on your toes. Note that motivation can’t come from fear alone, but it can serve to complement your efforts to build a successful business. It can drive you to put necessary checks and balances in place to ensure your business is doing things the right way. And it can  push you to be ever vigilant about making improvements to serve customers better. Fear can make you feel grateful, not cocky, when things are going your way.

Unbeatable
Speaking of cocky…never ever get too comfortable in your position over your competition. Inflated self-confidence is the key ingredient in complacency. Complacency breeds laziness and lack of caring. Your business needs you to care no matter how much success seems to be on auto pilot. Regardless of how well things are going, you need to constantly look for ways to improve and take the initiative to do business better. Why? Because your customers deserve it…and your competition is!

What other “un” words do you think solopreneurs and small biz owners should unfasten from their business vocabulary?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Nixing Negativity for the Good of Your Business

Negativity is a downer and productivity drainer – just like Dan Waldshmidt points out in the article I shared inThumbs up, Thumbs down my G+ post below.

At least it works that way for me, but in that G+ comment stream, one of my connections pointed to an article on Lifehacker (originally posted on Linkedin) which indicates that isn’t the case for everyone.  While “strategic optimists” look ahead to the best outcomes when planning to meet their goals, “defensive pessimists” envision what could go wrong and plan how to avoid those things.  How are you wired? Good news: studies showed that both types of people are equally capable of achieving. They just find their motivation to act in different ways.

Personally and professionally as a solopreneur, negativity makes me less motivated and less productive. I stay conscious of hurdles and risks, but envision a positive outcome.  And while it’s not always easy or possible, I do my best to minimize exposure to chronically negative people.  You know the type, the chronic complainers who can’t seem to find anything good about anything or anyone.  Thankfully, they’re fewer and farther between than they are plentiful!

I agree with Waldschmidt that avoiding negativity is a must – but we should never lose sight of reality in the process.  Those “Pollyannas” who are sunshine and rainbows forever…well, that’s just not natural! It’s not a weakness to feel down at times, get frustrated, or feel scared. It’s human nature. But dwelling on the downsides can be a major anchor to your small business if you consistently focus on what’s wrong rather than doing what’s in your power to put things on the right path or move in a new direction. 

Are you a strategic optimist, defensive pessimist, or somewhat of a hybrid? What impact does negativity have on your motivation and productivity in your business?

Image courtesy of anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

By Dawn Mentzer