06 June 2009

Are You a Business Dabbler?

A coaching colleague has been telling folks that it takes 4 or 5 years to get a solo practice really profitable. That's true for a lot of self-employed people, it seems. But the questions to me are, why and is that timeline the only reality?

You may have already been asked -- are you running a business, or a hobby -- and not realize what that means. Here are my rules of thumb for making that distinction:

You're dabbling at a hobby if you:
  • tell a few friends and ask them to spread the word
  • send a few fliers or postcards to names out of the phone book
  • design a website that talks all about you
  • put a few "articles" on a blog, call it a website, and never update it
  • try to appeal to everyone with every problem because you "can't afford to turn away clients"
  • spend more time getting organized than doing marketing tasks
  • change your pricing too often, or give away your services, or use sliding scale too much
  • use less than 4 hours a day for marketing in the first year (or more)

You're seriously running a business with a commitment to succeed if you:
  • create do-able business and marketing plans before ordering business cards
  • schedule 4 hours a day, 6 days a week to accomplish tasks on your marketing plan
  • hold yourself accountable for keeping those appointments with your business
  • isolate an ideal client niche and use the language they do in describing their problem
  • work methodically in developing the foundational pieces of your marketing message
  • be systematic in pursuing your marketing strategies for connecting with those ideal clients
  • create many ways to give valued help as a relationship-building strategy that gets clients
  • develop an emotionally compelling, helpful to clients web-presence
  • lead with your personality strengths in determining the right marketing activities for you
  • pull together a support team that includes professionals with expertise you don't have
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? It is.

Being in a self-employed business is like having several businesses going at once. You have to do the all the work that corporations have multiple departments and many people to accomplish. Yes, some of the work can and should be outsourced to those who can do it better, faster, and cheaper than you can (after factoring in trial and error).

If you aren't ready to eat, breathe, and sleep your practice, you've got yourself a hobby.

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