I was sitting at my desk, blinking away tears as I stared at my computer in disbelief.
There was a panicked email from one of my agency’s web designers – she was halfway through the design process, and our client had quit!
She’d emailed the designer demanding a refund…
…and if we didn’t hand the money over, she was threatening to sue us.
I knew that I was going to have to call this woman and talk her down, on the phone.
This wasn’t the kind of email I wanted to deal with at the end of another 50+ hour week. I put my head down on my desk and cried.
This was not what I pictured when I thought about owning a business.
I’m not much of a crier, but the thing I remember most from my first three years of business is how much I cried.
I had started a design agency with my business partner, working with incredibly talented bloggers with large audiences of their own. It was supposed to be a dream opportunity, but every time one of our designer’s clients was unhappy, OUR reputation was on the line.
It didn’t help that we had no idea how much we were undercharging since we had no mentors to guide us.
The email left me feeling shattered.
And the problem was that every time a contractor missed a deadline, a client had an issue, or a design project went longer than planned?
Every bump in the road felt like another mountain to climb, and I was shattered all over again.
I kept thinking: “Why is this happening to me?! When will this be easier? Working for myself shouldn’t be like this!!”
But guess what?
My business was exactly where it was supposed to be, and your business is too.
Isn’t that rude?
It’s very rude and very true.
Now, I hope that yours is much less of a drama-rama than mine was ten years ago.
But no matter what challenges you’re dealing with, or what projects you’re working on, it can feel like where you are right now is…
…An obstacle on the way to where you want to be.
…Even something that’s being done to you.
Here’s the truth:
Your business is perfectly designed to create the results you’re experiencing.
Your business is finely tuned to create the exact amount of income that’s it’s generating now.
Your business is precisely engineered to produce the number of clients & customers you have at this moment.
Your business is exactly where it is supposed to be.
(And it’s not going to become different on its own!)
That was over a decade ago now, but in the first year of my business, I had slipped into a way of thinking that you might be experiencing too.
I had adopted the belief that in my business, things just happened to me. All I could do was react, hope that it would end soon, and push through.
But results don’t just happen to us, our actions always cause them.
With online business, it’s just time delayed. So much that it often feels random,
Note: I don’t mean that you create your results in a magical or wishy-washy way. You’re not omniscient, and people don’t act according to the power of your mind. But the patterns in your business are a result of your thinking and actions. And that’s always in your control.
But because our results are so time-delayed, it can be really tricky to spot “in the wild” and in our businesses.
Here’s how this played out in one of my client’s businesses last week…
Last week, one of my clients – a photographer – came to 1:1 office hours with me. Her big goal for this year is to book more documentary photography sessions for families and to become known as a documentary photographer.
She had started to see a surge of clients in the last weeks (woohoo!), but they were overwhelmingly for posed portraits.
She shared that she was considering pivoting to focus on portraits, to make sure she was responding to what her clients wanted. But she had just finished redoing her website, and she didn’t want to put these people off by marketing herself as a documentary photographer.
I asked her to look back at what she’d been doing in her marketing and outreach over the last few weeks.
And after a little digging, she shared that two weeks before, she had hosted a week-long challenge on Instagram Stories about how to take better portraits on your iPhone. It was the highest engagement she ever had on stories, and she was still trying to catch up on things that had fallen through the cracks during the challenge.
Here’s what she thought was happening:
RESULT: Portrait clients finding her
REACTION: She should change her ideal client
But what was really happening was:
ACTION: Being vocal about portraits
RESULT: People interested in portraits saw her expertise and remembered she could help them solve that problem.
When she saw the pattern, she was so excited!
Now she didn’t have to spend dozens of hours redoing her website.
She didn’t have to pay a copywriter to rewrite her website, again.
Now she could decide if she wanted to change her ideal client from a place of excitement and possibility. She could switch the topic, but use the challenge she had created as a framework to attract her ideal clients.
She had saved dozens of hours, and thousands of dollars just by changing her perspective.
The difference between reacting and digging deeper to find the action that’s caused your result is subtle, but it has a dramatic effect.
What your business creates right now isn’t an accident, and it’s not going to change until you do.
This is the best thing! It means that what we get from our businesses isn’t mysterious or unknowable.
You can measure it.
You can repeat it.
You can change it.
Even if it feels like you only have a few random inquiries or sales every month.
But you have to be willing to get curious.
You have to be willing to be uncomfortable and make some changes – at least for a little while.
You have to be courageous enough to see where you’re getting in your own way.
And you have to take full ownership of what your business is currently creating.
But if you’re willing to do that?
Then everything can change :)