There are many ways to find your purpose, and share it, that have nothing to do with career or money; it could be being a parent, a hobbie, volunteering or pro bono work, sharing your knowledge, story or passion.
As a practicing counsellor, I regularly get asked by peers as to what I’ve learnt from growing a business and success tips to building one that they can love, too. I thought it would be great time to write down and share those lessons. This is business-focused, but you can bend it to whatever you ache for. I’ve certainly learned a lot!
Here are my top learnings.
1. Don’t let anyone, (including governments, media, other people or your own negative committee, limiting beliefs and low self-esteem ) tell you what’s (im)possible for you.
I was told that most people need years of experience to be financially solvent in private practice as their sole income. I set up my private practice 6 months after qualifying, quit my employed job (without enough clients to pay the bills), and was completely self-employed a year later. That was 4 years ago.
Don’t allow fear, limitations, prejudice and judgments dictate what’s possible for you. You are far more capable than you can ever imagine.
2. Be realistic about timings/money/resources.
A lot of businesses fail within the first 3 years and I can see why. At the beginning it’s hard. There seems to be a huge amount of output and little input.
For the first 7 months I made £50 a month, had no new clients, and then there were months when I made no money at all.
It’s taken me years of investment, both of time and money, to build up momentum, reputation and a following. Be realistic with your resources; allow for the time to build proper foundations and have ways to support yourself while you are building.
3. No one knows what they are doing until they do it
I cannot stress this enough. It’s easy to idolise people who have succeeded, comparing ourselves to a polished, established package and think “I can’t do that.” Of course you can’t and nor could they. By the time people become visible in the public arena, they’ve been working for years privately, not knowing what they were doing either. There is only one way to develop competence; practice.
4. Build the trust, add value, and people will invest in you.
When we are asking for investment, whether it’s someone’s time, to follow you, a buy from you, invest in your business, dream or product — we need to earn it.
We do this by building trust and proving that we can add value. Trust is made up of these things:
- Reliability. Do you follow through on what you say you are going to do?
- Consistency. Is your message consistent?
- Authenticity. Is your behaviour aligned with your message?
- Value. What do you offer and how does this help people?
- Honesty. How open and honest are you?
- Accountability. Are you taking responsibility for your 50% and doing it to the best of your ability?
5. No one is going to do the work for you.
It’s great to talk, create ideas, read motivational books, watch inspirational videos; a wonderful first step! However if you want to build something substantial it needs more than words, especially creating a business you love. We must be prepared to take consistent action, be flexible about how we succeed in our outcome and move out of our comfort zone.
The end result may not be what you originally had planned but the bravery is follow where the path may lead.
6. Prepare to fail
When a child is learning to walk or talk, we don’t shout and criticise them for stumbling. We get excited; in awe of the new stage they have entered. We beat this attitude out of ourselves as adults which makes us terrified of failure, not being perfect, and getting things wrong. This causes stress, procrastination, risk aversion and avoidance. (Some tips on how to manage anxiety here!)
When we welcome failure not as something to be terrified of, but as a step to progressing, it makes us brave and bold in our decisions.
Even if you do “fail”, it’s a brilliant lesson in what works and what doesn’t, upping your chances of success next time.
7. Our purpose quite often comes from our wounds
Whilst I wouldn’t want to re-live a lot of my life, as I’ve healed, I’ve come to be deeply grateful for the experiences that were most difficult. They’ve given me drive, ambition, compassion, empathy, passion, bravery, enormous strength and the greatest gift of all: to be able to share my learnings with others. This makes my work my passion.
What has your life experience taught you, what do you wish you’d known earlier? How can you bring more of what you naturally do well and love doing into your work?
8. Feel the fear and do it anyway
When my first website went live, I couldn’t sleep for 3 nights. After I posted my first blog and saw that 5 people had read it, I wanted to give up my career because I felt so anxious!! I didn’t want people “looking” at me. Then it was the terror of my voice being recorded, then videos, then live radio…
We never stop being frightened/uncomfortable when we do something new or vulnerable, you just can’t let it stop you. When we move through and away from fear, we open a whole world of new opportunities.
9. Visualise your 10/10
This is a great way of discovering what your hopes/dreams/visions are and programing your unconscious mind. Write out a future ideal day/week. Don’t worry about the “how” or whether it’s realistic and don’t judge it, as this has a shutting down effect. When thinking through your ideal day, think through the following:
- What are you doing?
- How are you feeling?
- What are you thinking?
- Who is there with you?
- What is different than now?
10. Immerse yourself in knowledge about your subject, learn everything you can...
When I started I had no idea what I was doing. I had no marketing, business, accounting, experience, and my IT knowledge extended to MS Word!
For the first two years, I read and watched everything I could, went to networking events, asked lots of questions and found role models who were already doing what I wanted to do. I had to watch the same video on Wordpress for 3 weeks (painful) before I could build the “basic” website (obviously not basic enough!!) tough, but essential learning.
11. Be clear about your ideal clients/business and don’t worry about trying to please or appeal to everyone.
You are not going to appeal to everyone and you don’t need to. Be clear about your audience and talk to them. Recognise the value you can offer to those specific people; this will be your anchor in all that you do and is the one thing that has kept me going throughout all the challenges. The more clear and authentic you are, the easier people will be able to self-select and find you.
12. Define your vision and what successful means to you.
All of our definitions of success will be different and it’s important to be motivated by your version. Is it freedom, creativity, flexibility, automomy, connection, deep relationship, changing the world, liking yourself, variety? What do you want to have, feel, be? Meeting these personal goals, makes everything you do satisfying, regardless of the outcome.
13. Find your tribe, support network, and mentorship
This has been absolutely crucial to me. Building a business, 100% there will be times when you will have doubts, you will want to give up, and wonder why you aren’t taking an easier route! It’s inevitable. Having a support network who understand the challenges that come with designing your life, is essential.
I have business coaching, monthly supervision, and have a wonderful group of people who are my business go-to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and share in others wisdom.
14. Find behaviours/routines that fill you up, build resilience that help you keep going
If you do not have things in place that replenish you, no matter how passionate and enthusiastic, you are going to end up burnt-out, exhausted and stressed.
I know because I’ve periodically gone through crises until I changed!
15. Stick to a couple of marketing techniques rather than trying to do them all at once and deliver good, consistent content
There are so many mediums now to market yourself that it can be overwhelming. Just choose a couple and put your emphasis on valuable content instead that’s consistent. Hootsuite is a great app that allows you to forward date your posts, it’s been a great help to me.
16. Enjoy the ride and let the experience expand you
Don’t fixate on outcomes, figures, likes and followers; this is not a true reflection of how successful you are. Even if your dream doesn’t come to fruition in the way you had imagined, it doesn’t matter. The process of building something from the ground up in whatever context, will test, challenge, and reveal things that you had no idea of. It will take you to places you hadn’t imagined. You will meet people who you may have had no other way of coming into contact with.
As you internally expand, your external world will expand with you and everything becomes a little more possible.
Dream big, enjoy the ride.
Ismene Cole uses a blend of counselling and coaching to help her clients understand the "why" and the "how to move forward". She is passionate about helping her clients achieve their greatest potential and creating the life they deserve. If you would like to connect with Ismene, you can contact her directly throug her profile here.