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  • Diana Schneidman

Four lessons about building my own business I’ve learned the hard way

This weekend I met up with an old friend and fellow self-employed freelancer /coach / writer. We reminisced about life and business lessons we have learned along the way, inspiring me to write down some of the truths I have discovered.

These lessons are on a single theme: There’s much more to success than simply committing to build a business on a rigid schedule.


Lesson 1: No matter how strongly you resolve to complete a prescribed series of business-building steps within a predetermined timeframe, sometimes you cannot wrap it up on time because you don’t have the experience to do so.

When I first started to build my practice, I signed up for an extended course with live event and mastermind components to guide me through the developmental process. The cost was in the thousands of dollars, and I resolved right from the start that I would stay on schedule and have everything up and running by the last class.

I worked hard. I put in the time and effort to meet every deadline Still, I lagged behind even in the very first classes when we laid the groundwork by identifying our unique personal strengths and branding concept.

I thought long and hard about my passions and talents and developed some ideas for how my work would help people, but in class discussions, the leader and other students would point out shortcomings. I was stuck at the beginning and feeling like a loser by the second class.

Then, in a private phone conversation with the leader, he pointed out that the fastest-moving students had already met with considerable success in their business over years of effort. They had experience and extensive feedback from clients to help them identify their strengths and what their market desired.

Simply because a schedule has been defined does not mean that effort alone will enable us to complete with the most advanced students.

I was doing fine simply by entertaining these topics as I went about my day. It would take time to identify my purpose and how I would express this purpose, both in terms of the work I would do and the words I would find to describe this work.

Learning the steps is useful but business development is not as simple as following the recipe for a chocolate cake.

Lesson 2: You simply cannot perform some business activities.

Some experts recommend hiring people to work for you so you can save your time for activities demanding creativity and leadership.

I could not afford much hired help in the beginning. So I eventually decided to direct my financial resources specifically to activities I may never master or that I abhor so strongly I can’t do them. In my case, this means setting up a website and certain other technology tasks.

I once took a course in how to design websites. The teacher was agog with the fun (to her) of what she was teaching. She spent almost an entire webinar session demonstrating how to use HTML to change the size, shape and color of a “buy now” button.

I simply didn’t care if the button was red or gold. I finally realized that no matter how handy it would be to have the skill to make such changes, I wasn’t interested.

I dropped the class and decided instead to hire someone else to do this work.

Some of us hire others to design websites. Or write marketing copy. Or organize our tax data.

Life is so much easier when you recognize the tasks that don’t suit you and promptly take action to have someone else do them.

Lesson 3: We must relearn the lessons others have learned at our own pace.

So many teachers have sales pages claiming that it took them years to figure out how to do it but they can save us time by teaching us what they have learned.

Maybe yes, maybe no.

If their processes will work for you, if you want to do exactly what they do, maybe you can save yourself months if not years of frustrating effort.

However, sometimes it simply can’t be done that quickly, especially if your business idea is substantially different from theirs.

They probably took more time than they had hoped because they had much to discover about themselves and what they wished to achieve.

Your discoveries must be your own. Your journey may take much longer than the months, weeks, or even single weekend timespan they promise.

Lesson 4: You may need a way to bring in money while you develop your business.

I had thought I could make a fast transition to a new type of business, but I learned that extensive freelance writing experience would serve me long-term as a proven way to bring in income. I needed this skill and could not afford to let it fall by the wayside merely because I preferred to do something else.

Multistep programs, whether a system in a box designed for self-study or an individual coaching series or a master-mind group program, can be big on accountability. Leaders push you along the path.

Building a personal business that matches your talents and your goals—perhaps even talents and goals you are still struggling to identify—involves so much more than completing tasks on schedule.

In summary, it’s important to make peace with these realities so you can proceed with acceptance, persistence and faith rather than frustration and defeatism.

Originally posted 11-30-15

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