Last week I talked about the 10 biggest mistakes I’ve made as a business owner, and today, I’m telling you the 13 BEST things I’ve done for my business! This is the first time I’ve felt comfortable sharing some of these things, so here goes nothing. 🙂
Why am I sharing so much of this? Because it’s THAT important.
When we cranked out the annual survey earlier this year, so many of you wanted to know things beyond just copywriting (I get it), and I want to deliver on that. We get questions from y’all about how to get unstuck, the “one piece of advice” I’d give to new business owners, and more.
In this video, I hope I can tackle some things you were wondering! I’ll chat a bit about how I found The Blueprint Model to be the BEST tool to help me set a budget and schedule of paying myself, and I’ll be talking about my Market Sustainably Track bonus here soon—doors open every January!
No. 1: Started to “play like an NFL player”
I don’t even watch NFL football, but go with me on this.
Sitting in a big room, a coach of mine said “I have to treat this a bit like I’m an NFL player—I don’t know when I’m going to be out of the game.”
I decided then and there I wanted to work hard to build a business when I can’t.
If you followed my story, you know I have a history and a background of anxiety and depression—I learned the really hard way that sometimes I’m just going to have days where it’s just not jiving. With pregnancy, I learned to have days where I just need to rest. When you are a small business owner, that’s not always the luxury. There’s not always going to be somebody that can just pick up the slack when you’re having a sick day.
Really learning and putting things in place this year to set up my business to run when I can’t or just prepare it well so if something happens and if I can’t do this forever, we’re not completely up the creek without a paddle. I just loved the analogy that she gave of treating it kind of like you are a professional athlete.
No. 2: Committed to taking sabbatical
I’ve created entire blogs and videos on this: It is something that is so close to my heart!
The first time I heard the word sabbatical, I was working in corporate marketing and it was something that those who had 10 years tenure with the business were allowed to take. I remember hearing the word sabbatical and seeing those who were senior in the business take them and thinking, “That sounds like the coolest idea ever.”
Considering how I could step away from work and then come back with a refreshed mindset was a HUGE draw.
I’ve now taken three sabbaticals in my business and this last one I took pay, which was really nice. I’ll get into that more in a little bit. But this is something that’s kind of a tradition now for my husband and me—it’s been so very fruitful.
No. 3: Join a PAID mastermind
Now, I think there’s a lot of great coaching groups out there, but what I have learned about myself is that I show up for the things I pay for, not always for the things that I don’t pay for it or the things I get for free.
So I put skin in the game this year. I invested in a five-figure mastermind and oh my gosh, it was life-giving!
I have a few tips for you if you’re looking for a mastermind yourself, because I get asked a lot.
One of the biggest things is that I didn’t realize how alone I was. I’d struggled with finding an opportunity to be around peers where I was a little more like the dumbest person in the room, but also had something to contribute … do you know what I mean? I wanted that sweet spot where you’re kind of in the middle.
Also, find the leader that runs a business like you want and has the same morals. It was important for me to find a coach who looked at finances and life and balance the same way that I did.
No. 4: Set really tight email rules and personal rules
I’ve worked really hard to set tight email rules and personal rules.
My students inside my The Art of Efficiency™ program know all about these because I’m really big on going ahead and setting up your own rules.
For example, knowing that I only get in my inbox one or two sessions day each for an hour each max capacity is fabulous. That and tracking my time are things I implemented pretty early on in my business.
No. 5: Established a Finance Friday workflow
I batch days in my business (check out the how-to on YouTube) and on Fridays I got really specific about a finance workflow.
I pay off the business credit card, I pay myself, I run payroll for my team, I go through and look at our PnL. Basically any and all tasks that have to do with finances, I do them all on one day!
Since these tasks have a dedicated day and dedicated time every single week where I focus on them and pay myself, I DO these things. I’ve never published my Finance Friday workflow anywhere. If that would be something that’s helpful for you, I’m happy to do that!
No. 6: Ran the business on 90 day years
Instead of planning annual goals for my business, which is what I tried my very first year in business, I nixed that completely and started planning just in 90-day increments.
Todd Herman’s 90-day year program is great for this, but you can basically piece it together on your own. It’s just the idea that you need to be nimble as a creative small business owner. When I was setting these huge, long, drawn-out annual goals, I wouldn’t give myself the space to be nimble and change and if a new idea or an opportunity came up to put that into place.
I also started reading here the book Scrum by Jeff Sutherland and some other more sprint style ways of management, which sounds a little nitty-gritty, but even as a small business owner, that was so helpful. I’d never seen anything like that before when I worked in corporate business! It was all huge, long goals and annual plans and so the idea that I could just focus on 90 days at a time, that’s all light bulb moments for me.
No. 7: Hired out help
I’ve talked about this at length, but I always thought that you had to enter this certain bougie status of business ownership to be able to have somebody contract for you or delegate to somebody or have somebody on your team.
Then, I realized I didn’t have to reach this certain status level as a creative small business owner.
It was something that I could get pretty early on in my business!
One of the very first things I outsourced was bookkeeping. Before then, I was spending HOURS every single Friday working through and trying to budget out everything. Yes, I learned a lot in doing that, but this helps me immensely.
No. 8: Read books
Next, I committed to reading a lot—and I still do.
I think we spend so much money on online education and courses, but remember books? 🙂
Learning how to be a good reader has been really important as I’ve become more of an entrepreneur and stepped into more of a business ownership and leadership capacity.
👇🏼Want to scoop up my list of book recs? Voilà!👇🏼
No. 9: Started an email list and committed to my own content
I started an email list before I was ready and committed to weekly content.
I listened to podcasts right before I quit my job and kept hearing that I should start an email list. All the gurus were talking about that and I thought, “Well, I’ll go ahead and I’ll try it. This may be dumb.” Once I did start my email list, I didn’t send anything because I didn’t know what to send. About 11 months into business, I found myself sobbing, sitting with some girls and I said, “You know what? I realized I’ve just spent an entire year of building other people’s businesses and I haven’t done anything to build my own business.”
Right then and there I committed to 52 weeks of showing up in people’s inboxes—and that’s all it took! It’s like all I needed to do was vocalize out loud to myself that I wanted to commit to emailing regularly and I did it.
Want to start your own email list? My FAVORITE tool for creative small businesses is ConvertKit. Give it a whirl for free here!
No. 10: Said no to things
One of my favorite Bob Goff quotes is, “Every single Thursday, I quit something.”
Recognizing that I don’t have to say yes to every single opportunity that comes into my inbox was a big shift for me. Again, if you want to hear more about that, go look at last week’s video, those mistakes that I’ve made in my business.
No. 11: Got a healthy outlook on Instagram
As a creative small business owner, Instagram is where many of us do a lot of our marketing … and I used to let it get to me.
Instead? Go find an Instagram marketing teacher who seems to have a pretty healthy outlook when it comes to the social media platform and learn from them. I wrote the launch copy for my client Jenna Kutcher’s course all about Instagram and then I went and purchased it. Transformation is in the transaction for me—even though she texted me immediately saying, “Ashlyn, you already have access to it,” HA … I knew if I didn’t pay for it I wasn’t going to take it.
Spending that money and learning a little bit more about her outlook on Instagram really shifted the way I looked at it.
I needed to learn how to use the app well but also not see it as my worth and identity.
No. 12: Got really clear on how I’d deal with the haters/refunds/copycats/etc.
I got clear on how I was going to handle haters, copycats and refunds.
If you deal with refunds in your business, LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE from James Wedmore’s podcast. He talks about how to see refunds and recast them in your mind to see that it’s not a bad thing.
I’m so proud that we have under a 2% refund rate across the board in my business. That said, if you’re going to be in business, you’re going to have things like haters, copycats and refunds.
Getting a really good agreement and contract in place (this is who I work with for the legal side of my business, and where you can scoop up contract templates), having a relationship with an attorney that I can call anytime that I see something out there or somebody lets me know, “Hey, this got ripped off from your work.”
That has put me at ease at night.
No. 13: Invested lots of time into knowing my numbers and having a financial plan so I can pay myself every week
Finally, I invested a chunk of time into building a financial plan that I actually kind of love.
I was really slow to pay myself every single week. I just hoarded the money that the business made. Terrified it would all go away, I also said yes to everything, out of fear that the work would disappear. I didn’t really know how to price myself, either. I mean, I kind of knew how to price myself competitively in the market, but I didn’t quite understand what overhead was and how that came into things or really what my take home needed to be.
These were all things that as a words person just kind of intimidated me a little, and I buried my head in the sand a bit. My husband is brilliant when it comes to math and this led to a lot of different arguments over the finances. Obviously, he didn’t think that I needed to quit my corporate marketing job just to come home and not pay myself even though the business was bringing in money, but I was just too afraid to do that.
We spent a month working one on one with my sweet friends, Shanna Skidmore, going through The Blueprint Model program and applying that both to our personal finances and also to my businesses finances.
Now, I have a revenue plan in place. I know exactly what we need to hit in each capacity in each category every single month. I know what “enough” is. I know at the beginning of the year how many clients I need to have and then I can call it quits after that, which is really nice.
Voilà! Those are the 13 things that have moved the needle in my business, the very best things that I’ve done over time.
Eevery year I lead a crew of incredible women through my Blueprint Model bonus, Blueprint Model + Market Sustainably Track. It opens up in January every single year. Want to get on the wait list to work with me in that capacity? Get on the list here!
Plus, get your FREE guide to 7 ways to get financially set below!