For years I had been self-employed as a contractor/freelancer, but in 2009 I decided to venture into unfamiliar territory—entrepreneurship. My parents had taken the plunge more than fifteen years ago, so I knew that hard work and determination would set me apart. I wasn’t, though, prepared for the many twists and turns, pitfalls and highs that would line my path—and that my motivation and drive would be tested time and time again.
Now, I’m not the most patient type. In fact, at the beginning I was naive through and through. (I figured everyone would want my service, without realizing that doors just don’t open on their own—you have to knock and keep knocking.) Still, I am a huge believer that all is possible, you just need the right mindset.
So when times are rough, sales low, and motivation on the downturn, here are five tips to keep you going…
If you don’t believe in your service or product, how can you expect others to do the same? We all know the features and benefits spiel…you need to know how to sell what you’re offering, yes. But beyond that, you have to believe that what you have to offer is great, and that you will be a success. Make sure your internal dialogue is on the same course. Faith is free.
2. Know your market
Research, research, research. This may sound elementary, but when sales are low you should go back to the basics and re-examine the trends. Research and development is an ongoing process. Look at social media, read blogs in your field. Knowing new players (potential clients), your competitors’ angles and your consumers’ wants and needs are essential at any stage of the game.
3. Use social media to your advantage
When I first started using social media I shamefully tried to connect with the big wigs—sending them direct posts hoping they would retweet my messaging. This isn’t how you connect online; it’s about relationship building, not self-promotion. You must create genuine conversations. Follow brands, bloggers, media moguls, consumers and average Joes who speak to your industry and interests. Use social media to understand competitive strategies, consumer feedback and above all, connect with your audience.
4. Know your destination
I’m currently reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Written in 1937, the book examines the recipe to becoming successful. Now, don’t get caught up in the title. It’s not so much about making the big bucks as it is laying out the steps to making your dream come true. Sound a little hokey? Not at all. If you don’t know where you’re going—stop and think. You must have a plan. What do you want? Once you know this, you can determine the steps to get there. And be flexible. Your approach might change as you get further into your business (we live, we learn) but your destination should be set. That, coupled with unfazed determination, a burning desire to succeed and hard work, and you’re golden! (Don’t second guess this. Positivity and focus go a long way.)
5. Failure isn’t an option
Over the years I’ve faced many obstacles—mostly my own. In my event management and planning days, I nearly lost my mind when things weren’t done to my specs or on my timeline. This is no good. Getting lost in the details will do nothing but veer you off course.
Now, why talk about failure? Because failure is a funny thing—it can motivate us to do better or discourage us all together. But we should think big. Failing at a step isn’t failing to get to the destination. Learn to take your blows with grace. Don’t let them define you. Remain focused and make sure you believe you can do it. I haven’t always followed this advice. At times I’ve been so deeply marked by setbacks that I’ve failed to see what I’ve gained from the experience. It is imperative, then, that you keep your internal dialogue positive, that you chase your destination, that you research your market, that you engage with your audience and believe, believe, believe you can do it. This is simply non-negotiable.