Is your mindset holding you back and limiting business growth in the process? You might not even be aware that it's happening.
If revenue is floundering…
If you’re constantly worrying that clients are about to leave you…
If you’re doing anything and everything possible to appease every client demand…
If you can’t seem to make a dent in your workload despite putting in 10-hour days…
If every moment outside of work is tainted by feelings of stress and defeat…
Then it’s time to check in with yourself.
The first thing to do? Recognise what it is that’s holding you back and why. There is always a reasonable explanation for failures or missteps that occur in business and, often, it begins with a flawed mindset.
As Henry Ford once said:
“Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.”
If your business (and life) is showing signs of stagnation, or if you struggle with focus, productivity and drive then changing your mindset might be the very thing you need. After all, if you tell yourself you can’t, what reason do you have to improve if you’ve already resolved to fail?
Negative Mindsets that Need Changing. Right. Now.
When you envision your most productive day, you probably don’t picture yourself tearing down the possibilities before they even had a chance to emerge, do you?
Obviously, you started your business because you wanted to make a difference in your life as well as the lives of your clients. Going into business for yourself is hard work, which is why negative thoughts have a tendency to try to sneak in. If you allow the wrong mindset to take over, it can throw off all sorts of things. Focus. Coordination. Productivity. Creativity. Energy. Heck, even health could be compromised.
So, let’s first take a look at the mindsets that are holding us back, then we'll dive into how we can change them.
Feeling Not Good Enough
Are you constantly getting down on yourself no matter how hard you work or how happy clients are with the results of what you’ve done? Do you spend more time looking around at the competition and worrying about why they (seemingly) are better than you?
If you aren’t a winner inside your own head, you can’t reasonably expect anyone else to see you that way.
Feeling Good Enough
Having a little bit of success can feel good. Realising that you only have to work 10 to 20 hours a week in order to make a livable wage is also pretty nice too. But why settle? When you get into that mindset of “this is good enough” or “that’s all I’m really capable of”, you can’t expect anything beyond the status quo. If clients sense your complacency, they will respond to you in the same manner. After all, if you’re not aspiring to do more, why should they?
As Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck explained:
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.”
You need to have a tough skin to start a business. Without one, any sign of defeat can be enough to knock you off your game.
For instance, let’s say you launch a new WordPress consultancy in October. You’ve had some promising calls with prospects, you’re excited to sign them onto your service, but then most everyone goes quiet.
In your mind, you may be quick to attribute this to your viability as a WordPress consultant. Instead, you should’ve taken yourself out of the equation and realised that it was just bad timing - something that likely would have been confirmed in January when those prospects came back, ready to get started in the new year.
If you accept defeat way too early and believe that failure is inevitable, any productivity and drive you had will fall away.
Perhaps you’re feeling too impatient with the pace of business. You don’t necessarily attribute it to your own failures. You’re more so frustrated that people aren’t immediately purchasing your services. This is when impatience can lead to sloppiness and bad judgment calls.
For example, you may end up spending hours online looking for prospective clients instead of focusing on the work you have to do for the ones you already have. If you already have your business in good working order and you have a strong marketing strategy, this feeling of impatience could lead to acts of desperation which might hurt your business more than help it.
Starting a business means you are now accountable for the continued success of it. This translates into a lot of responsibility which can make us feel overwhelmed and a little helpless. Just some of the responsibilities include:
- Signing new clients on a regular basis.
- Retaining clients over the long-term for stabilised revenue.
- Getting clients to pay you well and to pay you on time.
- Convincing clients to follow your expert advice.
- Convincing clients to actually care about their websites.
It can be tiring right?
Another thing that can make you feel helpless is when people stop listening to you, not caring about your opinion, or not treating you with respect, it’s natural to feel helpless. You think you tried your best and it just wasn’t good enough.
Feeling Paralysed by Fear
There are certain fears that every WordPress consultant will face at some point in their career. Many of them stem from what I refer to as:
Your reality is dictated by what you believe and what you do. If you allow yourself to feed into these fears and false omens, then, of course, you’re going to be paralysed. That inability to move is going to stop you from making money for your business and growing as an individual.
Look, no one is going to be perfect all the time. Granted, you’ve systemised your processes in order to avoid any sort of hiccups or egregious errors, but that doesn’t mean that mistakes won’t happen. Or that a client won’t be unhappy despite you doing everything they asked.
So, if one of your client’s websites gets hacked, if a piece of advice you gave led to a drop in performance, if a client is upset because their mum/husband/friend didn’t like what you did to the website… you can’t take it personally. If you did absolutely everything you could to give your client the best results - and catered to their demands in the process - there’s no reason to be ashamed by the outcome.
You shouldn’t dwell on past mistakes either. If you don’t resolve your regrets (with clients or internally) you will never be able to move on.
One of the best things about self-employment is the control you have over everything. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload, by the people surrounding you, by the decisions that you’re being asked to make, then there’s something wrong. Either you’ve ignored the signs of burnout and have pushed yourself too far… or you’ve undervalued your services and are working too much to compensate for it.
If you’re feeling bored or unsatisfied with work, then it might be that you’re not challenging yourself or even in the right line of work. If you find yourself procrastinating to get started every morning, or you find any excuse to jump at a different kind of project because it’s more fun/interesting, then you might need to think about a change.
It might be that you simply change your niche to work with people in an industry that you're interested in. Or you can evolve your business and perhaps create a product from your service. Start visualising what your perfect work day would be and work towards creating that rather than focussing on what you don't like in your job.
Let’s say you use a task management system like Asana. Every day, you’ve charted out seven hours worth of work. You feel like that comfortably allows for time to check emails and answer unscheduled calls or texts from clients or employees. Even so, you get to the end of each workday with about two hours of work incomplete.
You worry that you’re losing too much time in distractions and so you stop giving yourself much-needed breaks throughout the day.
The problem then only gets worse. You become obsessed by the lack of productivity and spend more time investing in time tracking tools, distraction blocking apps, and so on. The tools, in and of themselves, are not the problem; it’s the diverted attention that is.
No matter how many times you clean your desk, move loose emails into the right folders, or create templates for your processes, you have this feeling of disorganisation and a lack of control. It doesn’t matter what you do to get your life in order, something always seems to be out of place and in need of attention. When these things start to build up, especially if they’re minor in the scheme of things, you lose your ability to focus on what matters.
Feeling Like You Have to Do It All on Your Own
One of the reasons you outsource tasks to others is because they’re more efficiently handled by someone else. But entrusting tasks to others means you have to trust that they’ll be accountable to project specifications, timelines, client-mandated procedures, and so on. When that doesn’t happen, or when it happens in a way that’s misaligned with your expectations, you can feel frustrated.
When this frustration leads you to do it all on your own, it’s going to get in the way of the work you had set aside for yourself. And it’s not just your business that will suffer from the lack of attention. Your employees or clients will suffer as you continually prevent them from learning how to be self-sufficient and accountable.
For some people, guilt stems from the realisation that what they do could readily be handled by the clients who pay them to do it. WordPress consultants can and sometimes do feel guilty charging for their services.
What this boils down to is feeling guilty about success. You feel as if somehow you cheated others in order to make as much money as you do. Unfortunately, that guilt can lead some to lower their prices or give too much of their time away for free, which can have the opposite intended effect and increase stress, dig into profits, and hurt your confidence.
This issue stems mostly from feeling as though there is no one to share your successes/failures/fears with - even if you have a spouse at home, best friends you have dinner with once a week or a close-knit family that sees each other often enough. The problem isn’t having people in your life; it’s feeling as though they won’t understand or care about what you’re going through.
Have you ever looked at someone else and felt jealous or deeply resentful of what they have? It doesn’t necessarily need to be a WordPress consultant that’s found more success and/or done it in a shorter amount of time than you. It could be anyone - an old classmate, a spouse, someone whose story you overheard on a plane.
When you play the “who’s got it better?” game, you’re inevitably going to lose at some point and it’s not fair to do that to yourself.
Do you look at your business’s cash flow or your personal savings and instantly label yourself as “broke”? It might not even be that you’re without money, you just had higher expectations for how far along you’d be at this point in your life.
The more you tell yourself and those around you that you’re broke, the more obsessed you will become with money. When you lose sight of the quality of the product that you deliver and the satisfaction of clients, it’s going to be really hard to deliver anything of value.
Changing Your Behaviour; Changing Your Mindset
Right now, you might be feeling good about your WordPress business and about life, in general. But your mindset can change in an instant, which is why you need to foster healthier behaviours for yourself now. By training your mind and body to adapt to the natural ebb and flow of business and life, you’ll be better equipped to kick out those negative mindsets before they have a chance to settle in.
Here are 15 ways to change your behaviour which will lead to changing your mindset for the better.
1. Start the Day Anew
Begin each day with a clean slate. By building this into your routine, you can ensure that the previous day’s stressors or missteps don’t follow you into the next workday.
The start of the day is yours to personalise, but here are some tips on how to get your head into the right space before anything has a chance to pollute it:
- Keep your email, social media, and other daytime distractions turned off.
- Begin with 10 minutes of silence. You can use an app like Headspace or Calm to guide you.
- Take some time to reflect on the three things or experiences you’re most grateful for.
- Follow up with three successes or experiences you want to have in the future.
- Finally, wrap with at least 10 minutes of exercise. If you can do this outside, even better.
By starting every day on a positive note and invigorating it with mental and physical stimulation, you give yourself the chance to reset any previously negative mindsets.
2. Create the Ideal Workspace
Think about how stressful it can be to sit at a desk and not be able to find notes you took from a recent client call. Or how annoying it is to not be able to find that ebook you know you downloaded the other day and were looking forward to perusing.
If you haven’t done this yet, spend some time giving your workspace a little love. It’s actually one of our tips for building and sustaining profitability in WordPress consulting. It’s just as relevant for profitability as it is for adopting a more positive mindset.
3. Create Safe Spaces for Yourself
Your office is going to be your dedicated space for all things work-related. When you need to be productive, that is where you go; nowhere else.
However, what happens if a major client cancels a contract? Or you’re struggling to work out a performance-related issue on a maintenance client’s website? When stress hits and you’re feeling overwhelmed or too distracted to work, you need somewhere to escape to. Don’t let those negative feelings contaminate your workspace.
This safe space can be whatever you want it to be. Maybe you take a walk to your favourite park, go to a yoga class or to the basement and play Rocket League for a little bit. Find your own personal escape and use it.
4. Create Processes for Everything
One of the more destructive forces in business is a lack of consistency and organisation. When we rely on our memory to get us through a workflow, we run the risk of any number of elements throwing the whole thing out of whack. However, by creating an all-encompassing set of processes and tools, we remove the risk of forgetfulness, fatigue, and distractions from pushing us off-course.
If you want your business to be the best it can be (yourself included) by simplifying and streamlining operations wherever you can is essential. But remember not to fall into the trap of complacency or laziness. Just because you took time to develop a robust system of control doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be adapted as you discover ways to be better.
5. Define the Structure of a Productive Day
When you think about what a productive day looks like, what do you see? Do you have time carved out for business management tasks as well as website-related work? Do you have set hours during which you work and then free time set aside to do what you want with the rest of the day?
If you haven’t figured out what a successful day looks like and how to strike that perfect balance between personal and professional - then do it now. It’ll help you more effectively plan each day’s schedule and you’ll feel better about crossing each task off your list.
6. Organise Your Day with Rocks
One of Gin’s tips for how to stay productive is to use rocks. Does that sound crazy? It’s absolutely not.
Think about it this way: your client hands you a large fishbowl, a pile of rocks, a bag of sand, and a jug of water. Then she says asks you to fill the bowl with everything she gave you.
You could take a haphazard approach of dumping all the contents in at once. Then, mash in whatever remains at the end. The result? Not pretty! You may even realise that you have to start all over again because you decided to put the big rocks in last and they simply don't fit.
You could take a methodical approach to completing the task at hand. First to go in are your big rocks. Next, to go are your small rocks. The sand is then poured in to fill the gaps. And, lastly, the water.
By defining goals, prioritising them first, and then shaping the rest of your day or project in a more logical manner, you can effectively get through more tasks and always walk away feeling accomplished.
7. Eat That Frog First Thing
Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” That’s not a pleasant thought, but it makes sense in the context of what we’re talking about.
Think about it like this: you get a call from a client who is high-maintenance. They need something overhauled today and you’re absolutely dreading it. You know you need to get it done, so it’s on your list of things to tackle… but you keep pushing it to the end of the list. You find every excuse to do anything but that dreaded task until it’s much later than you wanted it to be and you still haven’t delivered it to the client.
It would feel a whole lot better if you just ate that disgusting frog first thing. Then, your mind is free to focus on tasks you actually enjoy.
8. Stop Multitasking
Two leaders in neuroscience reported in 2017 that multitasking is a bad thing for most people. Specifically, they cite a study that says that only 2.5% of the population can multitask effectively. Everyone else? Well, we’re basically just splitting our mental resources between two (or more) tasks and never giving all of ourselves to one.
They further explained that:
“[R]epeatedly switching back and forth from project to project, like a hummingbird darting from flower to flower and then back to the original flower, can impair our ability to function at our finest.”
What does that mean for you? For starters, if you’re on a call with clients, don’t put your smartphone within your eye line. If you’re in the middle of designing a website, block your browser from push notifications. If you’re answering an important email, don’t allow your children to barge in while you compose it. Be mindfully attentive with every single thing you do.
9. Accept That You Can’t Do It All
I know - your business is your baby and only you know how to nurture and care for it. However, with this mentality, it means that you feel that you have to do everything all the time. That's exhausting! So if you want to grow your company or feel less overwhelmed, you need help.
This means that at some point, you need to learn to trust others and let go of a little bit of control. It's worth it for all of the benefits! Just think about how this will help you focus on the things that matter - like bringing in new business. Or getting to focus on the things you love doing rather than the more menial tasks. Or... wait for it... turning off your laptop at 5 pm!
With that said, if you're bootstrapping your business, you need to crunch the numbers. If it takes you five hours to manage your finances every month, and it takes an accountant two, why do you insist on “saving money” by doing it yourself? If it’s not in your wheelhouse, don’t force it. You could end up being your business’s biggest cost in the long run.
10. Only Accept Goldilocks Jobs
One of the reasons why you might have a negative mindset about your business is because a previous project told you that’s how you should feel.
It may have been that you accepted a job way outside of your comfort zone, and you crashed and burned really hard as you struggled to complete it. Setting yourself up for failure by taking on projects you can’t possibly deliver on can be devastating to your ego.
The same goes for projects that are beneath you. If you’ve ever taken something out of desperation, despite knowing that you could be doing more and making more money, it’s only going to cut into your confidence.
So, when agreeing to work, always aim to find that Goldilocks sweet spot.
11. Embrace Your Failures
Everyone makes mistakes. We’re human; it happens. When it does, you need to learn to brush them off.
Of course, you should accept ownership of any problems that arise. And when they do, you need to apologise and make amends with your client.
Once that’s done, embrace your failures fully. Conduct post-mortems for every completed project to assess your wins and losses. Then, update your internal processes to repair any flaws in the system. If you can’t grow from these failures, what’s the point in experiencing them?
Be ok with not being perfect and be ok with making mistakes. It is inevitable and all business owners go through it. Accept it, learn from it and move on!
12. Celebrate Your Wins
On the other side of the coin, you need to celebrate wins every chance you get. Did you hit your goal for new clients acquired this month? Did you receive a rave testimonial from a high-profile CEO? Did you check off every task on your list for five days in a row?
It doesn’t matter how big or small, celebrate those wins.
13. Never Stop Learning
People who feel bored and unchallenged at work, or who worry their business is starting to stagnate, likely need to recharge their skills. The web is an ever-evolving place and if you’re not prepared to grow and adapt to it, you shouldn’t be surprised when you lose interest in what you do.
I’m not telling you to go back to school (unless that’s something that interests you). There are other ways to get educated and bolster your skills and business capabilities in the process.
Attend online webinars regularly. Subscribe to your favourite (and informative) blog or newsletter. Read inspiring books that help improve your skills as a business owner. Think and Grow Rich is one of my favourites. Conversations with God is another inspirational must-read.
14. Find Support
Even if you’re rocking the solopreneur hat, you are not alone. Talk to friends and family about what’s going on in your life and business. It doesn’t matter if they don't know anything about WordPress. You’ll be surprised by how interested others are in what you have to say if you’re truly passionate about it.
Finding a community of like-minded individuals is also important for feeling supported. You can find these groups locally, online (like Facebook or LinkedIn Groups), or through resources meant for people like yourself. Flying Solo is an Australian-based micro-business community worth looking into. For those of you in the U.S., check out Freelancers Union.
Family and friends are great for providing moral support. Communities will give you what you need in terms of general problem-solving for business. But business coaches and mentors can speak specifically to that which concerns you. If you need a more active push to be productive and move your business ahead, having a one-on-one support system would be a great option.
15. Take Care of Yourself
If you haven’t seen this video on the WP Elevation YouTube channel yet, be sure to give it a watch:
If there is one thing you should take away from this tip, let it be this:
“Some people just like hitting shit.”
In all seriousness, though, there is something to be said about the positive effects of taking care of your health, be it mental or physical wellness. If you struggle with focus, if you can’t walk away from work with a smile on your face, if you’re feeling hopeless about this business venture, get out there and do something. Take yoga. Get a massage. Go to therapy. Hit a punching bag.
Do what you have to do to work out those mental demons and get yourself feeling right.
You want it all:
But if something tells you to doubt yourself, how can you expect to gain any of that if you’re expecting the worst?
Your mindset is essentially the foundation of your business. By putting aside the fears and doubts and questions, and changing your mindset, you can make every day the most productive day you’ve ever had.