Do you use labels to describe yourself?

How would you describe yourself to someone? How would you explain who you really are?

I was asked this question recently, and I found it quite a hard one to answer. Do you define yourself by what you’ve achieved and the successes you’ve had in life? Do you define yourself by what you give out to other people? Do you define yourself by your role within your family, as a parent, a partner, a daughter or son? Or do you give yourself labels, such as extrovert/introvert, or perfectionist/procrastinator, to give a couple of examples?

Having thought about this for a wee while, I realised that I had fallen into the trap of labelling myself as both an introvert and a procrastinator, and I started to wonder if this was actually resulting in limiting thoughts such as, ‘Oh, I’m no good at speaking in public because I’m too much of an introvert’, or, ‘I’ll just put off that scary big job that I don’t want to do ‘til tomorrow’. You see, by telling myself that I was these two things, I was perpetuating the myth, thus creating my reality!

Of course we all have different personalities, and it would be a very dull world if we were all outgoing life and soul of the party types or, at the other extreme, wallflowers, but are we only behaving in these ways because we’ve been conditioned to be like this? It’s also true that we sometimes have different masks that we put on in various professional and social settings, and this can be very unhelpful if we’re pretending to be something we’re not. For example we might be working in a job we hate just because we don’t feel capable of stretching ourselves or we might want to fit into a certain social group, so end up drinking too much or attending parties we don’t really enjoy.

At the risk of not practising what I’m preaching, I would still consider myself to be more of an introvert than an extrovert, but that’s because I mostly enjoy working on my own, I prefer socialising with smaller groups of people and you won’t find me auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent any time soon. However, having said that, as I talked about in my last blog post, I did recently get up and speak in front of a group of people at a networking event without fear and these days I will happily go along to meetings where I don’t know anybody and introduce myself to complete strangers.

And if you’re struggling with procrastination, why not do what I’m doing today and work with an accountability buddy to crack the habit. Break up what time you have available into chunks, set yourself achievable goals and see what you can manage to get off your to do list. It’s working for me! 

 

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What gets you out of your comfort zone?

I did a brave thing last week. I got out of my comfort zone and spoke in public at a networking event!

Now, I know your definition of brave might not be the same as mine, but to me, doing something that scares you is a brave thing. When I started my business just over three years ago, the very thought of networking and actually having to go out and speak to other business owners scared the hell out of me. I remember taking a friend to my first event (I was too scared to go on my own!) and my hands were shaking when I poured my first cup of tea. I found out we were doing speed networking and I was absolutely horrified, but in the end it was actually quite fun. You weren’t stuck talking to the same person for more than five minutes at a time, and there was the opportunity to return to people you really wanted to talk to at the end of the meeting.

Actually standing up and talking to an audience for ten minutes though, well, I pretty much discounted that from the very start. Until last week, that is.

I attend a local networking event once a month which includes what’s known as a ‘soapbox’ feature, where one regular attendee gets the opportunity to tell everyone about their passion for what they do. Being a regular attendee, I kind of knew it was only going to be a matter of time before my name was picked out of the hat, and I’ll admit it, I nearly chickened out when I was given the nod, but I realised that this would get me nowhere. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that to move forward in your business, you have to get out of your comfort zone in some form or another, otherwise you’ll never grow, either personally and professionally. I knew I wasn’t exactly selling my services, I only had to be convincing about the passion I have for words and the belief I have that it’s important to make content available to ALL learning styles (I do this with intelligent transcription, by the way, just in case you didn’t know!). 

I see now that the fear I was feeling was fear of the unknown. It was fear that I would trip over my words and be tongue-tied, that my mouth would dry up, that I might fall over in front of everyone and make a fool of myself or that I might get a poor response. I realised that fear of what might happen wasn’t going to serve me in any way, and why on earth would bad stuff happen anyway? I convinced myself that because I knew what I was talking about, some people would resonate with it, and some might not, but they wouldn’t be my ideal customer anyway. When I stood up to speak last week, my nerves evaporated, and I actually enjoyed it. Yes, the crowd wasn’t massive (around 17), but considering I haven’t stood up in front of that many people since I was at school, that was a biggie for me, and I know now that if I can do it, anybody can! 

What’s your biggest fear when it comes to your business, and what would get you out of your comfort zone?

Who’s your ideal customer?

If you’re reading this, chances are you might run your own business, you offer a range of services and/or products and you have a customer in mind that you like to sell to and they love to hear what you have to say. Or are you struggling to find the right people to work with?

Okay, I’ll admit it. When I started my business three years ago, I really didn’t know who I wanted to target. I went into business purely as a lifestyle measure at the time, as I no longer wanted to return to the traditional workplace after my children were born, but I still wanted to earn some money. I didn’t really have much of a plan although I knew I was good at what I did, but I also didn’t really know how I was going to get my clients. I realise now that I should have asked myself questions like:

  • What sort of VA business do I want to have?
  • What sort of services do I really want to offer (not just what I think people might want or what other VAs are offering)?
  • Who do I want to sell to in particular?

And most importantly…

  • How am I going to target the people I really want to work with?

It took me until about a year ago to realise that I didn’t have to target absolutely everyone. I was introduced to the phrase ‘spray and pray’ marketing, whereby you fire your message out at random and hope someone (anyone) will buy. If you’re trying to target all and sundry, however, then at best you’ll get a load of work that takes up all your time for not much return and at worst you’ll get the nit pickers who are incessantly demanding, query your rates and often pay late (if at all). I know, I’ve been there!

So where do you find that ideal customer? What did I do to narrow down my search?

What’s worked for me is narrowing down what I offer to a more niche market. After all, if you’re a jack of all trades you’re a master of none, and if you’re a specialist in something, you can market yourself as such and thus get yourself known in the marketplace as the ‘go to’ person for that particular service or product. It also helps enormously to be much clearer on who you really like to work with by thinking about your ideal client as an actual person who has a problem he or she needs help with. You can then try to get inside the mind of this person in order to focus on the problems and issues you can help solve.

 Your ideal customer will see and appreciate the value in what you’re offering, will come back for more and will refer you to others.

What could be more ideal?

A fun way to do business (and life) planning

When it comes to your business (and life), what springs to mind when you think about forward planning? Perhaps you have a few ideas about what you want to do in your business (and life!) in the coming year, but it all seems a bit, dare I say it, overwhelming, to think about goals, actions and accountability.

And yes, I know it’s already the end of January, so shouldn’t we already have got our plans in place and be raring to go with achieving the goals that we should have had written down by no later than the final chime of midnight as Hogmanay turned into January 1st?

But planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming and something to put off ’til next week. Last year I discovered a business AND life planner designed and created by Leonie Dawson, an Australian businesswoman and mentor whose target market is largely creative and spiritual women, but I get the feeling she would probably appeal to anybody who likes something a bit different and left field and is a bit bored of the usual planners and calendars. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it’s bright, it’s colourful, it’s inspiring and most importantly, it’s fun! I would definitely recommend clicking on the link below to check it out if you fancy reflecting on the year that’s just passed and if you’d like to get inspired for the year ahead.

http://leoniedawson.com/affiliate-redirect/?p=CatherineMPoole&w=amazingyr

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Why has it taken so long?

A few months ago, I commented on a blog that I read on a regular basis. I received a reply back which was telling, to say the least. The owner of this particular blog told me that she wanted to leave a comment on my blog, but that it still wasn’t there. Despite there being a ‘blog’ page on my website, something that’s been there since – whispers – the end of last year, it has remained resolutely empty.

So why has it taken me so long to get started? If you’re like me, you probably wonder if you have anything interesting to say. You might think, well, what should I be talking about? My business, my life, my work/life balance, my interests or perhaps if all else fails, my children? What if nobody reads it? What if – the horror – nobody comments and it just sits there in the ether gathering virtual dust?

I admit it, I’m a serial procrastinator. The main reason I’m writing this blog post is that I was given a challenge by a good friend of mine to get it written and sent back to her for feedback within 24 hours – no mean feat, when you’re the queen of putting things off! But I had to ask the question, why do I keep putting things off? Why has it taken me so long to start this, when I could have had a whole series of the things written by now?

I think it’s the fear of it not being quite right. I know the adage, don’t get it perfect, get it done, but it’s so easy to write something, then look back at your words and feel the need to re-tweak and re-write again and again, without ever actually producing a finished document. But I’m starting to realise that this doesn’t get you anywhere.

I know that I’ve got things to talk about that relate to my business that other people haven’t got a clue about. I know that I can talk about juggling my business with my other job as mother of two primary school age children. I know that I can relate to a lot of other people out there who are in a similar position and that’s a heartening thought, as it means that some of you might actually be interested in what I have to say! I don’t know why it’s taken me so long, but – yay! – I’ve managed to complete my first blog post. Here’s to the next one!