“Never pretend to be a unicorn by sticking a plunger on your head.”
Sage advice from Martίn Espada in ‘Advice to Young Poets.’
Unicorns are iconic. Emblematic. They symbolize the effortless realization of dreams.
The thing is, dreams are real, but unicorns are not.
That seems like a despondent note to start on, but it’s actually kick-start positive.
Having dreams is healthy. It gives you goals and ambition -- a driving force for all that you do. It reassures you in the face of failure and encourages you when you’re out of ideas. Solopreneurs often have no one to rely on but themselves. We all need an inner unicorn.
But business success isn’t magic, no matter how much we might wish it to be. Reality has a nasty habit of making dreams slow and difficult to realize.
Here’s your first reality check: Nothing is impossible.
Not if you set realistic goals, work hard, and never falter in your self-belief.
Let’s say you want to offer a business coaching program: A six-figures-in-twelve-months sort of thing, with mindfulness and wellbeing to boot. (Not just another get-rich-quick gig.)
This program will cost in the realm of $10,000. You know people can and do pay that kind of money for great programs.
It is, however, unlikely you’ll get to that point overnight.
Don’t despair. Finding the balance is tricky, but plotting a realistic goal to success will make achieving that $10,000 dream much more achievable.
Because why shouldn’t you be earning that much per client if that’s your dream?
It’s just a matter of discerning dreams vs. reality in business, then taking it one step at a time.
Step 1: In five years’ time
Close your eyes and think about what you want to achieve in five years’ time.
See yourself bathed in success. Your program is a hit and you’ve got a waiting list. You’re living in your dream home, you’re loving life.
See the dream. (Your own, that is.) Fall in love with it.
Promise yourself you’ll make it.
Once you’ve got the dream down in Technicolor, you need to add some black and white realism.
How are you going to get there?
Step 2: Pen and paper
Get out your trusty moleskine, or your laptop, or phone.
I have a ‘Dreams For This Year’ list on the Wunderlist app, for instance, that I check every morning to remind myself why I do what I do.
Putting your dream to paper (or screen) makes it physical. It makes it something you can touch. It’s your accountability on dark days.
It makes it real.
Step 3: Go digital
Businesses are bedfellows with the Internet now. It’s almost impossible to launch a business without a website to match.
Getting your dream domain, setting down a design (either yourself or with a professional) and launching it makes it all official.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your product ready to go yet -- having a mesmerising landing page and opt-in form is a great way to get the ball rolling.
Work on amassing a stellar email list. Spread the word about your product. Send your loyal subscribers some high-quality newsletters or mini e-books with actionable, unique takeaways. Write a blog to underpin the product.
Is this quick list a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? 100%.
Think of it as laying the groundwork for your main product. You wouldn’t leap into a marathon without any training. If you build up a solid audience then market your product well, the launch will be far more lucrative and you’ll see a positive ROI much quicker than delving into a cold market.
Ongoing: Love your stumbles
Learning from your mistakes is one of the best qualities in any business person, particularly a solopreneur.
As a one woman shop, you can’t handle everything all at once without occasionally slipping up. Take the falls on the chin, make a note, and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Likewise, figure out what does work and stick to it.
Pen Pencil and paper
People change as they grow. You might suddenly want a tattoo, or a cat. Your dream of a skyscraper studio apartment might morph into a cottage with land to keep miniature donkeys.
Dreams can change, too. They might shift into something bigger, something with a new end game, targeted to a different market.
That’s okay. That’s natural.
Don’t feel you’ve failed. Pencilled dreams can be rubbed out and altered, whereas dreams written in pen are final and can only be crossed out.
Keep an open mind. There’s more than one way to achieve success.
Ongoing: Value your critics
That might seem self-destructive, but your naysayers act as free consultants.
It might be difficult to see the faults in your program because you’ve invested so much of yourself into it. An outside opinion could actually be beneficial.
There’s a difference between someone trying to cut you down and someone trying to cut you a break.
Listen to them. Think of what your product will look like if you implement their changes. Don’t be too proud and reject outside help, whether in the form of assistance or criticism.
View critique as a free screening. If any glaring errors are found, you’ll be glad you listened to your cynical friend.
Ongoing: Embrace your inner unicorn
Be bold. Be brave. A unicorn is a mythical creature that has stood the test of time, despite being literally impossible.
You can do the same. Know the difference between dreams vs. reality in business, then be like a unicorn and never give up on that dream. It might take a little longer than a day but you’ll get there so long as you stick to your plan, maintain your work ethic, and learn as you progress.
Keep a clear head and a focused goal. Don’t be afraid of change and criticism.
And know that when -- not if -- when you get there, you deserve every bit of it.
P.S. On the other hand? Perhaps it doesn’t matter if you don’t deserve it.
Your days, back in your hands.
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