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3 (Unpolished) Live Learnings from A Small Business Owner

Originally published here on Stories blog

As I walked in to view my soon-available, additional practice location (the dreamily Amsterdam-my and canal-ly Stories Space in the Nine Streets) to meet with the founder, Emilie, the other day, she asked me "how's it all going?". After months of trying, trying, trying, and doing, doing, doing, it was a lovely moment of reflection. And, as a coach, of course, I think it's really important to stop and take stock of what you've been doing and how far you've come.

Looking back... I'd met her a year ago to join Stories on Sarphatistraat on a Starter membership, which included 1 day in the co working space to build your business, and 4 hours of flexible bookings. I'd been doing all my coaching online at this point, so it was a momental step for me to commit to a physical space and to invest money in moving the business forwards. I remember thinking it was 'risky' to spend money on it, and feared I wouldn't make it back. 6 months later, I was overspilling the 4 hours and having to book extra time there and online. I decided to upgrade to get my own room 1 day per week. That same fear and sense of risk piped up again. But I ran with the idea that if I invested in creating space for my business (and myself), it (and I) would therefore have the space to grow in to. Another 6 months on, I've decided to expand the space to expand in to again. That fear is still there. But I'm learning that that's completely ok, and I now have a bit more evidence to support that if I create the space, I will fill it... at the very least, enough.

Now... The important thing about this is that, as much as I love what I'm doing, I've actually started to feel a bit overstretched. I've been trying to prove to myself that I can make this work, that people will want what I have to offer, so have been spreading myself a little thin (and playing in to those old attitudes and behaviours that put me into over-stress before - funny problem for a coach to have!). So in the last month, I've been changing my set up - to contain and focus my coaching hours. To pull back on yoga teaching. To change my time and days off so that it is in line with the same days my friends and loved ones have off (I was teaching yoga on evenings and weekends, and starting coaching work on most days very early, which meant I had most free time when everyone else was at work!). Here 3 things I've been learning and working on in the process:

  1. Having a small business does not lend itself to the same sense of consistency a 'stable' job with a 'stable' income has. You might think... "OBVIOUSLY, Hannah!". But it's what I've been striving for - to hit an 'average' income each month. In reality, I have months where I earn less, and months where I earn more. I'm learning that a) that's ok and normal - and that it's more useful to review my income quarterly and annually, instead of monthly. b) It's actually quite nice, because my energy is not consistent. I have energetic months, and times when I want it to be quieter. I'm learning how to work with this, rather than against it.

  2. There is no 'final' or 'perfect' audience size or pricing model. I've been playing around with how I price and package my services. I've had Byron Sharp and other high horse strategy theories nagging away and banging around my brain. The reality is, that I started my own business so that I could create a working lifestyle that worked for ME; that I could choose. So my business strategy needs to work for ME. Otherwise it defeats the whole point. I MOST, and most simply, want to offer the highest quality 1-1 coaching sessions possible, because I LOVE DOING IT, and I'm pretty excellent at it. I've thought about courses, online programmes, workpacks etc. I've also developed some coaching workshops for corporate creative companies around career development, confidence, balance (do get in touch if you're interested in this!). But I am accepting that things will flow and grow, appear and disappear, and I just need to go with it.

  3. When you ARE the small business (i.e. I am the coach; I am the service; I am the product), YOU need to be visible. This is the absolute sucker punch, this one. I have a long and winding road still ahead with it. I dived in to creating my brand and branding to really capture and emit as much of my vibe as possible. I also invested in an SEO strategy to increase my visibility, and to be there when people with high intention of finding a coach are Googling. It's been working excellently, and thanks to my bangin' SEO consultant, I am now in the first pages on Google for my keywords. Excellent. It does not, however, detract from the fact that there is so much more room for me to share myself, my opinion, my experience, my support. I fear that sharing too much of myself could erode my credibility or professionalism, or that people will find it annoying and cringe. At the same time, I think this is a bit 'whatever', and that actually there's a lot of people who would find it, at minimum, useful, and at most, enjoyable or interesting - it may even bring me more well-matched clients. So, I'm starting to think about adding some KPIs to my 'visibility' goals: Do I feel I'm showing up as myself? Do people feel they know me + my approach before they work with me? Am I finding what + how I share interesting, in service of my learning + professional development, and nourishing to what I love about my work?

If you've reached the end of this, thank you for reading. I appreciate it. I think I'll keep sharing these unpolished mish mashes of learnings as I go and as I grow. They're helpful for me, and if they're helpful to at least 1 other person then I'm happy with that! And of course, if you, or someone you know, is a small business owner looking for some coaching support, I would be delighted to hear from you. Email me on hannah@takecoachingamsterdam.nl or check out www.takecoachingamsterdam.nl