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Unhelpful business beliefs, and how to change them

One of the things that can make business really hard for a lot of us is unhelpful business beliefs. They can stop us from taking action, moving forward, and getting the best out of our businesses.

But just because we believe something now doesn’t mean you can’t change them. Beliefs are mutable – they exist only within you. They’re not a tangible thing, cast in concrete. If you choose, or accept evidence to the contrary, you can change what you believe – and if they’re unhelpful business beliefs, maybe it’s worth looking at.

Unhelpful business belief 1: “Marketing is sleazy”

Do you feel yuck having to get out there and do marketing? Does the thought of networking make your skin crawl, all that schmoozing and talking yourself up? Does it feel like selling out, or like you have to fake yourself?

The belief that marketing is sleazy is one of those really common ones that, honestly, is only as true as you make it. Now, I’ve definitely come across my share of people who come across as sleazy; people who treat it as a bragathon about themselves, people who ditch you as soon as they find you’re not buying what they’re selling.

Forget all that. That’s not the kind of marketing you want to be doing. Think of your business as a sunny little island, beautiful coral reefs and palm trees. Marketing is about building little bridges to those islands. Making a connection here, a guest appearance on a podcast there, a Facebook page, an email offer. Is there anything sleazy about your little island and those bridges? Didn’t think so.

Unhelpful business belief 2: “I should worry about my competitors”

In a world where we’re socialised to take individual responsibility and to rise above all others, it’s little wonder that we can get really worried about our competitors. It makes us feel that we have to fight for every client, that we have to measure up, and always be one step ahead.

But you know what’s good about having competitors that do the same thing as you? It shows there’s a market for your work. It means you’re not going to be the only one serving everyone, so you can focus delivering to the people who’ll really appreciate you for you.

It’s more helpful to think of your competitors as colleagues and to form strategic alliances with them. They can be a source of clients through referrals, or there can be opportunities to put your heads together to collaborate on something, or a sounding board when things are tough. After all, nobody gets it more than they do.

And the other thing is, they’re not you. Yes, some clients will choose them over you. But other clients will choose you over them, because you’ve got something special they want. Make sure you know what that something is, and be loud and proud about it.

Unhelpful business belief 3: “I need to value business above all else”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing performative busyness. It was really pervasive before the pandemic, and I’m not sure whether it’s toned back now or if I just spend less time on social media. You know the posts: “It’s 10pm on Saturday, and on my day off today I’ve finished four proposals, replied to 60 emails, finished my 5-year revenue forecasting, and planning to launch our disruptive new product #entrepreneurlife” Or, “How was your holiday weekend? I got heaps of work done and I’m ready for the new week #freelancelife”

It doesn’t have to be that way if you don’t want it to be. What do you value in your life and work? Do you love to travel? Do you have a second small business that you love (even if it’s not your primary income)? Do you have kids you want to see? A partner? A dog?

If you believe that your business must be the focus of your life, because that’s just how it is, and you don’t want it to be, you’ll grow to hate it. It won’t feel right for you and you’ll resent it.

So what to do? Work out how much you need to make, how many clients you need to serve to make that, and how much time you want to spend doing it. If you’re finding there’s no way you can make what you need in a standard 30-40 hour week, that might be a sign you need to think about charging what you’re worth and reconsidering your pricing.

Remember, rest is still part of running your business. And especially if you’re doing it on your own, you need time to recharge your creativity and take space away from it.

Final thoughts

It’s really easy to find yourself in some negative mindsets around your work and stuck with unhelpful business beliefs. But if you come away with anything, I’d love for it to be this: your business is your own, and you can make it what you want. No doubt, it’s going to be an important part of your life. But it can be important along with so many other things – all you have to do is believe that’s the case, and work out how to blend it in to that big beautiful masterpiece that is your life.

Feeling like you need some support? I’m just at the other end of an email!

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