Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Are You a Business Owner Just Trying to Figure It All Out?

nathan-dumlao-aZ9X3L1Va2Y-unsplashIf you’re a fellow small business owner, I bet you didn’t start your organization because you wanted to run a business. Sure, maybe you wanted some of the independence and freedom of making your own time-management decisions, but it wasn’t the allure of bookkeeping, IT trouble-shooting, learning to be a fundraiser and/or marketer, or navigating human resources that drew you to this life.

Instead, you wanted to do something you’re passionate about and make a difference. I do, too.

Unfortunately, though, all the other stuff comes with the territory—at least in the beginning as you bootstrap and do it all yourself.

And, if that’s the case, then (like me), you have those days where running a business feels overwhelming. There’s also a lot of self-doubt.

You may even wondered if your side gig will ever become your full-time career, if you’ll ever really make the impact you desire, or frankly, if you’ll even be doing this a year from now.

Been there.

I don’t know about you, but my self-doubt can be crippling. I’ve had many discouraging days where I just didn’t feel like I was cut out to run a business. In fact, “I don’t know how to run a business” was just one of the many lies I told myself. I’m a writer—and that’s the only part of it that came naturally to me.

But as a fellow founder, we also have to, well, run a business, right? Making a difference is the result of many things, including learning the fundamentals that set you up for long-term success. This is part of the foundation that helps determine your future.

It’s also where I felt unprepared and unequipped. And I knew that I wouldn’t make it to Signify’s next anniversary unless I got my proverbial house in order.

That’s where I found myself when I discovered Shanna Skidmore.

As someone who has always had trouble with math and numbers, I honestly just thought I’d never be able to understand it. But I also knew if I didn’t come to terms with that and find a better way forward, my business would continually suffer from my self-doubt. And, one thing’s for sure…that does no one any good.

I’ve read books, taken courses, and listened to other money gurus, but it still just never sunk in. However, with Shanna, I found a coach that could not only break down finances in a way that made it easier to understand, but show me the steps to take for sustainability in my business.

Shanna’s specialty is teaching finances to female creatives, and with her help, I’ve made some big strides this year. Not just in my bank account, but in my confidence as a business owner.

I feel empowered and equipped, and like I have a plan to work from. It’s made a huge difference, and I wish I would’ve met Shanna a couple of years ago.

Because here’s the big truth I’ve learned in the last, few months:

It’s not just about being able to ask for money when you need it, whether it’s from a customer or donor, it’s about understanding WHY that particular number matters, and what it will ultimately mean both for you personally as well as your organization and cause.

For us, this isn’t about retiring to our own private island. It’s about solving problems.

Money is as much a mental game as it is a physical currency. And if you don’t have a good relationship to money, you’ll never handle it well. You’ll never have the impact you could have otherwise.

Whew—that’s just some of what I’ve been learning this year! That is, in part, thanks to Shanna.

If you’d like to hear more of her approach to business finances, I encourage you to check out her FREE masterclass TOMORROW AT 1:30 PM EST, “How I Built A Six-Figure Business.”

I’m planning to be there to soak up the goodness myself. I hope you’ll join me, whether you’re a woman who runs a for-profit or a nonprofit organization.

Shanna’s a smart cookie, and as you can see, has helped me in my business tremendously. So, I hope you’ll give her a chance. And, really, what have you got to lose?

Register for the free “How I Built A Six-Figure Business” masterclass right now, and prepare to become a better business owner.

I want that for you, and you’ll see that Shanna does, too.

Plus, who can’t use some free advice?

 

Quick note for my nonprofit friends: While Shanna’s content is primarily geared to female entrepreneurs of for-profit businesses, nonprofit founders have also found success with Shanna’s methods. In fact, here’s Signify community member, Chantel Adams of Forever We, with her perspective:

“Blueprint Model gave me clarity on not only why I’m doing the work I’m doing, but also how I’m going to move forward to make it successful. I have more energy, ideas, and focus than ever before. If you want a real blueprint for making your business work for you, then this program is the best.”

You’ll have to do some creative thinking with some of the principles in how they relate to your nonprofit, but it can be done. I guarantee you’ll still find a lot of value in Shanna’s teaching.

 


UPDATE 8/8/19:

Shanna’s entire suite of business programs is on sale through 8/15/19!

As a reminder, this is the LAST TIME she’ll be offering her programs! I wish I’d known about Shanna three years ago when I started my business, but I’m glad I took her course when I did.

If numbers and finances confuse you, but you want to start or scale a profitable, life-giving business, now’s the time!

 

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
– C.S. Lewis

 

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Solopreneur and Small Business Resources

Solopreneur and Small Business ResourcesIf you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you know I love recommending resources of all kinds. From podcasts to books to products to events—and everything in-between—if I know something that would interest you or that I think you should know about, I feel compelled to share it!

In fact, I have a Resource List on my business website for this very reason. But my clients are primarily nonprofits, social enterprises, and other cause-focused organizations. While this is, of course, awesome, I also know about a lot of resources that aren’t a great fit for them as well. And those items don’t live in any organized place like my business Resource List.

So, for the sake of my other solopreneurs and small business friends (and my sanity), I thought I’d go ahead and include them all here for easy access.

Note: There are obviously a lot of other options besides what I’ve listed below, but these are the ones I refer again and again, as well as have personal experience with. And anything with a * means it’s one of my favorites!

BOOKS

 

PODCASTS

 

EMAIL LISTS

 

CONFERENCES

 

FREELANCE RATES

 

SOFTWARE

 

OTHER BUSINESS TOOLS

 

SAVING MONEY

  • Trim is negotiates lower bills for me
  • Ebates for money back while online shopping
  • Honey for online coupon codes
  • Fetch for saving money on grocery bills (referral code RM8DK)
  • iBotta for saving money on grocery bills ($20 referral bonus)
  • This post on saving money on medical bills
  • Medi-Share for health sharing plans
  • Check out my Travel Hacking 101 post for tips on how I travel to conferences cheaply.

 

MISC

 

And if you are a nonprofit, social enterprise, or other cause-focused organization, you can find more great resources for your business on Signify’s site! 😉

What am I missing? What would help you? What do you need?

PS: If this has been helpful, would you mind sharing it with another solopreneur or small business owner?

 

 

Some links are affiliate links, which means I get a little somethin’ somethin’ for telling you about them. However, I only promote things I know and love!


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My Third Annual New Year’s Retreat

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The beautiful view from my room in Hiawassee, Georgia.

So sorry for the delay on this post. I literally hit the ground running on January 1st, and haven’t stopped. I’ve been working late nights and weekends trying to get on top of my goals for the year. But now that I’m slowing down a little, more because I’m tired than anything else, I wanted to update you on my third annual New Year’s retreat.

You can read more about my first and second New Year’s retreats here, but even as I’ve had some practice at this, I still made some key mistakes that you can learn from.

First of all, if you’ve never planned a personal or business retreat before, let’s start with my basic tips. (By the way, I use the terms business and personal kind of interchangeably since I’m self-employed and all areas of my life tend to overlap. 😉

  • The schedule and format are up to you! You can read, reflect, journal, hammer out notes on your computer, or however you’d like to spend your time. Retreats are a time to reflect and focus on specific goals, so do whatever supports those. But, you need to know what you’re going to do before you leave, so plan ahead. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out how best to use your time.
  • The location is up to you! I’ve taken retreats several hours away, and also just down the road. For me, it usually depends on where I have travel points to use. But you can camp, fly, or drive. You can rent a room, rent a house, or just borrow some space that someone isn’t using. The point, however, is to be away from home. You’ll get distracted at home, and that’s not what you want for your retreat.
  • The budget is up to you! It doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve eaten out, bought groceries, and stayed inside 99% of the time rather than spending money on activities. But there is always a way to fit it in your budget. On this year’s retreat, I actually paid for the hotel (thought I got a great Cyber Monday deal), so it was my most expensive retreat yet at $250.
  • Who you go with is up to you! You can take a retreat solo, or go with a spouse or business partner.
  • The length is up to you! If you’ve never done this, and aren’t sure how it’ll work for you, start small. Take a few hours and go to a co-working space, coffee shop, or park. Work up to a day trip, overnight trip, or even a couple of days. And then do it again!
  • Make sure you rid yourself of distractions! Turn your phone, email, and social media off. Tell people that you’ll be unavailable. Again, resist the urge to waste time. Make the most of your retreat, which is a total gift.
  • Know what happens when you get home. You likely need to act on what you accomplished at your retreat. Have a plan for when life gets back to normal.
  • Final tip: Create time for fun! I do this at the end to celebrate the retreat, and get my head of task mode.

Are you catching a theme here? Yep, it’s up to you! It’s called a personal retreat for a reason.

For my January retreats, I usually like to stick close-ish to home because I’ve just returned from holiday travel. This year, I drove about two hours north of Atlanta, which was a good distance, and also gave me enough time to finish an audiobook on the drive.

The only real downside to this year’s location is that we were going through a major cold snap here, and it was literally in the single digits while on my retreat. So, I just hunkered down rather than venturing out to coffee shops and other interesting places.

And as I said, even having planned my own retreats several times, I still made a few mistakes this year:

  • I didn’t think through the timing. I’d started my retreat on New Year’s Day the past two years, so that was the plan. BUT this year, I’d only been back in town for 48 hours before leaving for my retreat. And those 48 hours were fairly filled with activity. So, I was tired and slightly unmotivated when I woke up and had to drive two hours north to the retreat. However, this was important to me, so I sucked it up, and made the most of it! #entrepreneur
  • The other timing issue for me was the normal schedule I’d already developed for my business. The first of the month, and first of the week, is filled with things like writing my email newsletter, scheduling my social media, writing my business blog post, etc. So, the entire first day was spent on these items rather than digging into my retreat. That was frustrating.
  • I WAY underestimated what I could get done this time. My list was really long to try and accomplish in just a couple of days. I always tend to do this a little anyway, but I was way off this time because of an email series I wanted to watch that ended up taking most of day two.

The good news was, that the first of the year is typically a slow time for people, and I had some “buffer” time built in which allowed me to get few more things done when I got home.  So, if you can plan a little buffer time, that’s ideal. It’s hard to get out of retreat mode! It’s a beautiful place to be.

Regardless, this is why it’s important to know what exactly you’re going to be doing on your retreat, and also prioritize the most important items. That way, no matter what comes up, you get the essentials taken care of.

I really can’t stress taking a personal/business retreat enough. Here’s why:

  • They allow you to focus on very specific areas. This could be specific projects, long-term goals, or anything in-between.
  • They provide clarity. When you’re out of your own environment, you see things differently.
  • They provide renewal. If you love to travel, like me, you’ll get filled up with an experience like this one.

And I can’t state this enough times: retreats aren’t a luxury. This was a big lesson for me to learn, but they can be a vital way to re-examine your own business, goals, etc. There are so many ways to plan retreats to make them work for you.

As of last year, my goal is actually to take quarterly retreats, even if they’re short. This way I’m reflecting throughout the year, so I can make small adjustments along the way, rather than only doing that at the end of the year. It’s another way I strive to be intentional, and would recommend that approach for you as well.

Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to be a business owner to do this. They are a great tool for anyone to utilize. You just have to decide to make them a priority. We all put our time and money somewhere, so it’s up to you to decide.

Finally, if you think a retreat would be a great idea for your year, get it on your calendar now! If you wait, you’re more likely to keep putting it off. Again, it’s about prioritizing it.

If you decide to plan your own retreat, let me know any of your lessons or best practices. Or even just tell me how your retreat went. I’d love to hear!

(And if you have any questions about a retreat, just let me know!)

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At the end of this year’s retreat, I stopped in nearby Helen, Georgia. It’s a strange, fun, and touristy place north of Atlanta that resembles a Bavarian village. But it was a good spot to stop, grab lunch, and walk around for a bit before returning home.

You can see more pictures here in Instagram.


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Black Friday / Cyber Monday Business Deal Roundup

Hey, everyone!mike-petrucci-131817

I just sent a roundup of my favorite Black Friday / Cyber Monday business deals to my business email list, but I thought the information might be relevant to some of you as well.

If you are a solopreneur, small business owner, or key employee, these sales might just be right up your alley. You’ll see offers for:

  • Easy-to-use legal documents
  • A conference
  • Online tools
  • Website domains
  • Printed materials
  • Financial stuff
  • Book skimming
  • Email marketing
  • Social media scheduling

Read the email here.

Happy shopping!

And don’t forget about Small Business Saturday, the new Shop for Good Sunday, and #GivingTuesday as well!


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7 Lessons From the First Year of Business

7 Lessons From the First Year of BusinessI still have a hard time believing it, but I launched my business, Signify, on July 1st of last year! Some days it really does seem like yesterday, and others feel more like a seasoned pro. Regardless, it’s been an intense learning experience.

I created Signify out of a desire to help my friends. I knew people with small nonprofits and purpose-driven for-profits and social enterprises that needed someone like me who could lend another set of hands and breakdown marketing and communications for them. They cared deeply about their mission, since it was the driving force of their organization, but marketing and communications weren’t their strong suite. They knew they needed to look and sound more professional in order to get noticed and grow, but they didn’t have time, or maybe even the know-how.

So, I stepped in. I’d already been freelancing, giving them advice, volunteering, and helping them as best I could along the way, but with this as my full-time business, I was going to be able to help them even more.

Many of these relationships became my first clients, and they’ve even stuck around for multiple projects, or referred their friends to me. It’s been a wonderful way to sustain and grow my business. Whether they need writing, consulting, or strategy help—and most often a combination of all three—these organizations have been a privilege to serve. I wanted to assist cause-focused organizations who were doing great things in the world. They were already making a difference, and I knew I could help them create a bigger impact.

It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m eager to start year two.

But first, here are seven lessons I learned from these first twelve months.