How To Ask For The Support You Need

There are few things that strike fear into an entrepreneur. Networking. Taxes. Tech glitches on launch day. And asking for help. After all, we’re in charge of everything – doesn’t that mean we’re supposed to be the expert on everything?

Nope. Not at all – the pressure is off.

It can be tough to fess up when something isn’t your strong suit and humbling to ask for a helping hand, but reaching out for support isn’t a sign of weakness - it’s a sign of strength.

Asking for support will require effort and vulnerability on your part, but before deciding to stick it out on your own, consider the impact of not asking for help: hours spent slogging through trial-and-error; not having energy or time to create new content or connect with potential clients; the added expense of bringing in a pro to save the day after something goes wonky. Or worse - being stuck in the status quo, and not moving your business forward. Facing risks like these, asking for the help you need trumps stubborn independence, every time.

Read on for three steps to getting the support you need to help your business thrive.

1. Clarify

First thing’s first: figure out what you need help with. Get clear on what will move you forward, and what you can’t do yourself. It’s important to fill this list with intentional and strategic activities.

A good place to start is your to-do list. If an item has been making multiple appearances, yet never getting crossed off, it’s a good candidate. Whether it’s fear, skill set or lack of time that’s preventing you from getting it done, that can be overcome. Another good place to find items you need help with is in your future plans. What big, exciting services or products are you bringing into the world? Do a quick brainstorm of all of the moving parts associated with each of them, and circle the ones that aren’t in your sweet spot.

2. Curate

With your list of ‘help me!’ items in hand, begin compiling a resource list of people who have the needed skill sets. Think of it like building your business’ go-to team. Look towards your friends, family, and colleagues (both online and in real life). Start with going through your social media contacts and jotting down which areas of expertise jump out at you. It’s not about delving into profiles and portfolios just in case they’ve got a secret super power you haven’t noticed before. Most of us have a stand out specialty that will be top of mind. Still have something you can’t find a resource for? Tap into your second circle of connections. Know a gal who knows a gal? Ask for an introduction or referral. [Editor’s note: the One Woman Shop directory is a great place to start your search for talented solopreneurs.]

3. Communicate

The final step is to reach out and ask for the support you need. This involves clearly expressing what you need help with, outlining expectations, and aiming for an ‘easy yes’ for the other person. Let’s see how those wrap up into your request.

  • Get Specific: Asking for ‘help with your website’ is far too broad. Narrow it down to the specific action item you need help with. “Can you please help me come up with a great headline for my sales page?” is much better.
  • Outline Expectations: What kind of support do you need? A quick email? Phone call? A done-for-you tweak? Spell out how you’d like to receive help, and what your timeline is. “I have a few ideas, and would appreciate your thoughts via email or Skype. My launch is scheduled for 4 weeks from now.”
  • Easy Yes: Your chances of receiving help are greater when you bring down the barriers to someone saying yes. Consider their schedule, how long helping you will take, and the strength of your connection to them when asking for support. “I know you’ve got a full week, but am hoping that you’d have 15 minutes to hop on the line and help me through this. I’ve attached the ideas I’ve come up with, and your input and perspective would be very much appreciated.”

Shifting your mindset is key in taking these three steps. It requires understanding that admitting blind spots and asking for help makes you a stronger business woman, capable of tackling – with the help of your go-to team - whatever life or business throws your way.

Support is a Two-Way Street

Now that you’ve unlocked the keys to asking for support, be open to offering assistance, or stepping up when someone has the courage to ask you for help. The impact of helping others will be more valuable than you can imagine. As solopreneurs, contributing to the success of others is just as important as making sure our own needs are met. After all, we may be one woman shops…but we’re certainly not in it alone.

The Challenges of Being a One Woman Revolution

We all know it can be tough being a One Woman Shop, but from my experience working with the do-gooders, change-makers, and ruckus-starters of the world... it's even harder being a one woman revolution.

Now, I work with a plethora of driven, passionate, and mission-driven solopreneurs. They're out to make a difference in the world and just happen to use their businesses to do that. They have more than just something to sell; they have something to SAY. And they're some of the fiercest, most committed humans I've had the pleasure of knowing. Sound like you?

If it does, then you know that it's not all rainbows and sunshine, this mission-driven entrepreneurship thing - especially when you're riding solo.

Of course, we struggle with product development, service creation, marketing strategies, time management, and a whole slew of other biz obstacles. But beyond the challenges of the average solopreneuring superstar lies a set of unique issues I hear all too often from my do-gooding, change-making, ruckus-starting clients.

1. PRESSURE: Carrying the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders

There's a level of personal responsibility we place on ourselves when our businesses are built upon the bedrock of impact. Because our missions to make a difference are so deeply ingrained in our businesses (and in the very fabric of who are) we start believing that if we miss the mark, the greater good we're trying to achieve is going to suffer.

Stop Thinking: "If I don’t launch this product/service/program right and it flops, I'll not only being failing myself... I'm failing my cause."

Start Believing: This "epic failure" mindset is probably the biggest contributor to stunted biz growth among mission-driven entrepreneurs because the pressure becomes so big and so gnarly that it stops you in your tracks. It makes you so afraid of failure that it only results in failure to try risky things, push the envelope, and shake shoulders. And that, my friend, is failure to affect change.

2. NEGLECT: Putting Yourself Dead Last on Your List of Biz Priorities

I'm not talking about self-care here. I'm talking about being so committed to making a difference and helping others that we build an encyclopedia of excuses why everyone and everything comes before yourself. If someone needs your help and can't afford your products or services, you're inclined to help because you started your business to HELP - even if helping means you add to your already too-heavy workload or that you'll have to sacrifice something important to you to make time.

Stop Thinking: "I don't have the time or energy to work for free... but this person REALLY needs my help and I'm in the business of helping people."

Start Believing: Neglecting to put yourself first when taking on the task of saving the world or starting a movement means neglecting to put your mission first. That sounds contradictory, but it's not. If you spend all your time doing work for free in the name of helping others, you're not spending your time doing what you need to do to be your best. When you sacrifice sleep in the name of helping others, you're sacrificing performance the next day. When you sacrifice family time, you sacrifice moments and memories that feed your soul. When you sacrifice time and energy spent working on your next big thing, you sacrifice the potential of that project making its maximum impact. When you sacrifice YOU, you sacrifice the mission.

3. ENOUGHNESS: Feeling Like You're Never Doing Enough, Shouting Enough, Being Enough

Let’s be totally honest. There’s always more good to be done, more change to be made, more shoulders to be shaken in the world than any one woman revolution can tackle herself. And because of that fact, you probably tend to reside in the “Never Enough” camp when it comes to your confidence level. This doesn’t show up to outsiders, though - it nestles deep inside your brain where only you can hear it and you can hardly ever shut it off.

Stop Thinking: “I’m not doing enough/saying enough/being enough to really make an impact in the world. I should be doing/saying/being MORE.”

Start Believing: First and foremost, what you’re doing/saying/being is MORE than enough. Most people don’t give a damn to make an impact but you DO. The fact that you’re doing/saying/being anything at all means your level of enoughness is far above and beyond the average joe. And secondly, you’re a human. You can only do/say/be so much. If you’re working your tail off to make an impact and it’s slow-going or barely working - it’s not due to your lack of commitment or your lack of effort. Creating a movement takes time and it often feels like damn-near rocket science. Keep trying. Keep experimenting. Keep innovating. Keep doing and saying and being. You’ll figure it out as you go so long as you don’t guilt yourself down burn-out alley.

4. ISOLATION: Being an Outsider Even in the Presence of Peers

Doing good, making change, and starting a ruckus is not easy work despite what some may think. Those of us in the business of impact are often misunderstood. People think it’s all rainbows and sparkles and unicorns because it’s meaningful work that gives us warm fuzzies and a sense of purpose in life. But it’s quite the opposite. And even fellow members of entrepreneurial cool kids club don’t seem to get that. Being mission-driven in a world of fortune-, fame-, and freedom-driven business owners can feel lonely and alienating at times.

Stop Thinking: “These people just don’t get me. I don’t have people to turn to when it comes to needing help with spreading my message.”

Start Believing: It’s true. For every mission-driven entrepreneur out there, there’s at least 10 other entrepreneurs driven by something else (based on entirely unscientific research, that is). But there are like-minded revolutionaries out there. We just don’t always wear our do-gooder, change-maker, ruckus-starter name badges, so it’s sometimes hard to find us. To initiate your “Impact Radar” (that’s the part of your brain that recognizes fellow impact junkies - more unscientific research for ya), you’ve got to listen carefully. Find people talking about social entrepreneurship, changemaking, philanthropy, purpose, and “heart-centered” business. That’s normally where you’ll find us lurking.

5. OBSCURITY: Swimming in a Sea of Rules Written for Everyone Else

You take the classes. You attend the webinars. You buy all of the eBooks and read at least half of them. You go to the conferences. You hire the coaches. You scour the internet for anything you can consume that will help you become card-carrying, cape-clad SUPERpreneur. But it all feels... ill-fitting. The definitive guides are about building traffic, the roadmaps and blueprints are for making six figures in six months. And the courses push smarmy marketing and sales copy tactics that make you feel sick to your stomach. But you implement everything you can and you still feel like your all-important, game-changing message is merely a whisper in the midst of a hurricane.

Stop Thinking: “I’ve done everything the gurus tell me to and it’s not working. Is the mission-driven business model just not viable? Am I struggling because this just can’t be done?”

Start Believing: The answer, quite simply, is NO. You’re not struggling because you can’t make a buck while making an impact. You’re struggling because we’re being taught the rules of the entrepreneurial game that have been written by people with other priorities. There’s a plethora of resources for those looking to make oodles of money, get famous overnight, or work as little possible - but there’s not much out there for those driven to make a difference through their businesses. You’re struggling because you are a rare breed. You’re struggling because the current culture of entrepreneurship hasn’t yet made room for us - and we haven’t yet decided to demand it. And it’s about time that changed, wouldn’t ya say?

I say it’s time to demand that the One Woman (okay, and Man) Revolutions of the entrepreneurial world stand up, raise their hands high, and let each other know we’re here. I say it’s time to start the conversations mission-driven entrepreneurs need to be having and provide each other with the support we all need. I say it’s time we join forces with another as we plow forward in our endeavors to leave a dent in this world.

Step 1? Sound off in the comments about your biggest challenge as a One Woman Revolution.

Step 2? Engage your fellow revolutionaries in some conversation about how they best overcome what you struggle with most. We’re in this together, changemakers.

Five Ways to Create an Inspiring Office (Without Breaking the Bank)

Create an Inspiring OfficeA couple weeks ago, I contributed a post to One Woman Shop called Five Lessons Learned in my First Six Months as a Freelancer. Several people told me that they found the insights to be helpful (yay!) but the part I got the most questions about was the “Create an Inspiring Workspace” section. Specifically, how I managed to do it on the cheap.

First, full disclosure:

  • I already had a room in my home dedicated to a home office. It used to just be a room that stored my huge collection of jewelry and happened to have a desk. But at least I had a few basics to start!
  • The cost did not include my brand-spanking new laptop.
  • That’s not a rented dog in the picture. She is a real-live corgi named Ginger and she’s the official office greeter.

But everything else was definitely scored for free or at a ridiculously low price. Other than saving money, my main goal was to make my office a representation of my personality and things I love. And here’s how I did it:

1. Get Comfortable.

Create an Inspiring OfficeOne of the myriad perks of having a home office is getting to create a space that perfectly suits your tastes and comfort. That means choosing your own office chair instead of putting up with the backache-inducing one the company gives you. I chose one with a hard back from Ikea – it’s cute, inexpensive, and forces me to have good posture.

Create some ambiance. If you’re anything like me, you have close to a million candles stashed in a cupboard somewhere, and they’ll instantly turn your office into an ultra-soothing space. Bring in fresh flowers from your garden or spring for the $5 bouquet at the farmers’ market. These are things that cost nothing or very little, and help to create a desirable atmosphere. And less stress means better work, right?

2. Get Creative.

Create an Inspiring OfficeSpotlighting your unique personality in your office requires some creativity and even a bit of soul-searching. What are the things that inspire me? Which colors make me smile and feel more awake? How can I show off my quirks? Not all people love knick-knacks, but I personally enjoy tchotchkes and display them freely. To give my office a boost of individuality, I cruised garage sales, flea markets, resale shops, toy sections at craft stores and discovered forgotten treasures in my basement. For example, I found the plastic dinosaurs in a $1 bin at Michael’s, painted them silver, and voila! An ideal cross between chic and kitsch.

3. Get Shopping.

Create an Inspiring OfficeWhen I first set up my office, I made a list of my necessities. A file cabinet. A bookshelf. Places to sit and brainstorm. I do have my fair share of items purveyed from Target and Ikea, but scoring truly great deals usually requires scratching beneath the surface. Do some research and check out places in your area that are off the beaten path. That’s where I scored this circa 1970s school desk. I ventured into a local warehouse that sells cast-offs from the university, and this desk was only $5. But it adds a whole lot of personality.

4. Get Lighting.

Create an Inspiring OfficeAs One Woman Shops, we have been known to work into the wee hours. That’s how it goes sometimes when you’re a solopreneur! For us, good lighting is a must. Light can help you feel more alert, prevent eyestrain, and create a cheerful feel on cloudy days and dark nights. Ikea is famous for their statement lighting, like this pendant lamp in my office.

5. Get Inspired.

Create an Inspiring OfficeIn my opinion, an inspiration board in a solopreneur’s office is a must -- something you can look at to remind yourself that you’re on the right path and will get creative juices flowing. Go through some memory boxes, photo albums, old magazines, or go to Etsy for awesome visuals. My favorite thing on my wall is a painted picture of a flower my mom made when she was eight. Free, fun, and it inspires me to keep going.

Those are my tips! Now go out there and find those free or nearly-free things that stir your soul.

Guest Post: 4 Tools to Help Grow Your Community

As a solo business owner, you’re probably looking to grow your community of collaborators, fellow business owners, mentors, clients, and customers, right? If you’re impatient like me, the “build it and they will come” mentality just isn’t cutting it for you. You know that with a little bit of resourcefulness and a touch of proactivity, you can grow your community much quicker than if you post and pray (okay, enough with the business catchphrases, I promise).

Click to Tweet

Click to Tweet is a free tool that lets you create pre-drafted messages for Twitter that others can send out. Top startups have incorporated viral sharing into their business models (think: Groupon and Instagram.) Consider Click to Tweet to be your own little exercise in viral sharing growth hacking.

You may already include Click to Tweets in your blog posts and on Facebook groups, but have you thought to incorporate them on your slides when doing a speaking gig, in your email signature, and in your emails to your list?

Read the rest of the post over on Freelance to Freedom Project!

Guest Post: How to Proactively Grow Your Email List

If you’re like most solo or small business owners, you’re constantly on the lookout for ways to grow your community of supporters, clients, customers and collaborators.

At One Woman Shop, a resource hub and community for female solopreneurs and freelancers, we have a secret weapon that we use to proactively grow our community: email. No, not email marketing, just email.

Since adding smart, resourceful solo business owners to our community is one of our top priorities, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Sure, we spend time pinning, tweeting and Facebooking and yes, we set up a pop-up plugin on the site and started offering an opt-in freebie, but one of our biggest initiatives recently has been direct outreach through email.

It’s simple, really. Anytime we see a female solo business owner online, we send them an email telling them about our community and asking them if they would like to join our email list.

Read the rest of the post over on Design*Sponge!

5 Reasons Every Solopreneur Should Write an Ebook

As solopreneurs, we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to keep business booming. But a simple downside of solopreneurship is just that: you're solo. And while you might think of yourself as Superwoman, in reality, you can’t do it all. So if you could create one product that would actively promote your business and services, increase your credibility, and start a passive income stream, you’d do it, right?

That’s where writing an ebook comes in. Every solopreneur out there could benefit from writing one, and you’re no exception. Here are my top five reasons writing an ebook could make your business boom:

1. Ebooks Build Your Audience

Launching an ebook forces you to go past your comfort zone and promote your work to people outside your usual circles. If you’ve been hesitant about self-promotion, having a quality ebook that will genuinely help people is a great way to introduce yourself to new markets without feeling pushy.

You can expand the reach of your new contacts even farther by including a simple Click to Tweet code throughout your book. This makes it easy for readers who are loving your ideas to spread the word!

2. Ebooks Promote Your Other Products/Services

There’s nothing like a little cross-promotion to boost your other products or services. The pricetag on your premium services might make new customers hesitate, but an accessibly-priced ebook gives them the perfect place to enter your sales funnel.

Think about what your customers need to know or do before they’re ready for your premium services. Give them that beginning information in your ebook—along with reminders that your other offerings are ready and waiting to help them.

3. Ebooks Enhance Your Credibility

It takes a lot of hard work to write a book, which is why having your name on the cover of your own ebook gives you a boost in credibility. There are a lot of people out there who want to write a book, but only a fraction of them actually take action and make it happen.

By writing an ebook, you’re showing prospective clients that you have the initiative and follow-through to get things done. With qualities like that, who wouldn’t want you on their team?

4. Ebooks Can Land You Speaking Engagements

Organizations look for speakers who are motivated, inspirational, and experts on their topic. By writing a book, you’ve already proven that you’re an expert in your field—it’s hard to write an entire book if you don’t know anything about your subject matter!

Your book also shows organizations that you know how to connect with and inspire an audience. No one wants to listen to someone who rambles without giving their audience what they need. As an author, you’ll already have proven that your ideas are well worth paying attention to.

5. Ebooks Earn Passive Income

Unless offering your ebook for free is part of your marketing strategy, you’ll be bringing in passive income with minimal effort. Since all the work of writing and publishing is done up front, you’ll be free to sit back and enjoy your passive income stream. (Just make sure you have an ongoing marketing plan so your book doesn’t fall off the radar!)

Writing a ebook isn't easy, by any means. It takes hard work, time, and sincere dedication. But it's ultimately rewarding. Ready to write an ebook for your business? My new e-guide Typing Away: Your Roadmap to Writing a Book has 25 resources and printables to make writing your book pain free. With an easy writing strategy to keep you on track, you can focus on running your business and having a life — all while writing your ebook.