My Super Power Is…

My Super Power Is…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been carrying around a notebook (technically I do that all the time anyway) and I’ve been going through an exercise to uncover my super power. What I discovered confirmed what I sorta already knew and uncovered some kryptonite too.  Remember the blog post a few weeks ago where I gave myself this writing assignment – How do I figure out my super power? – the process worked!

Before I get into what I discovered, let me give you a brief overview of how I did it.

I first dusted off my resume and started with a list of all my former jobs, then added any special projects or events that I was involved in over the years. Add in volunteer activities, associations, and a list of my closest friends. Then I started filling in a few bullet points for each of those things on the list.

  • What was I responsible for and did I enjoy those tasks and what was I really, really good at doing there?
  • What did I hate doing at that job or on that project?
  • What awards or commendations did I receive at that job or on that project?
  • Did I ever get in trouble for doing something wrong?
  • What things do all these jobs or projects have in common?
  • In my businesses and side projects – what do I excel at? Where do I fall short? What do I enjoy? What do I dislike?

Next, it was time to think about the people in my life. Friends, family, colleagues, associates – thinking back to interactions with the people in my life of the past and those I interact with now. In some instances, I actually asked those people to help me uncover some answers.

  • What is the last thing that person asked me for help with? Was I good at helping with that thing? Did I enjoy it?
  • What do I dread doing when asked to help with something?
  • Even years after I regularly interact with someone… what do they still come to me about?

Then it was time to evaluate all those pages of bullet points. I searched through the lists and highlighted things that were similar. What stood out as being in the same category and what patterns emerged that

As you might imagine, the little notebook filled up quickly and this project ended up taking a lot longer than I expected it would take. But it was an enlightening experience to figure out my strengths and weaknesses – and a fun trip down memory lane. But now let’s talk about what I actually discovered about myself, shall we?

Super Power 1: vision and logistical planning

I have a strong skill of seeing the end of a project or goal. I can visualize it as it will actually happen and then sort of walk around in that vision to see how it all works together, spot any flaws or snags and realize which things need a more specific plan. Sounds abstract and hoaky. I know. But this skill came in handy when I had a business doing event and wedding planning and it helps me now as I work with clients on large scale event design projects.

Super Power 2: understanding complicated topics and teaching it to others

I think I first discovered this with my blog about my weight loss surgery journey – Journey to a Healthier Me. I have never studied more topics of biology, science and macro/micro-nutrition than I did when I had my guts rearranged in the name of living a healthier life. And once I researched a topic and understood it, I wanted to record it somewhere – so I wrote up a long blog post about it and published it on my bariatric blog. Mostly that was information for my own reference, but then people started telling me how valuable that was for them too. I also have the ability to teach people how to do art or craft projects that they don’t necessarily have the skill to do without help.

I also have the ability to teach people how to do art or craft projects that they don’t necessarily have the skill to do without help. For the past 20 years (I try to quit but my mom won’t let me) I’ve taught a craft class at my Mom’s church for an event she organizes called Gal’s Day Out. A couple hundred women and girls come together for a day of crafting, lunch and Bible study. It’s treated school style in that you “enroll” in three different craft classes, rotate through the classes and lunch hour throughout the day and ends up together for the big “pep rally” to listen to a special speaker. I’ve taught a class at this event for years and it’s always …. uh… shall we say… an adventure. But it’s not just hands-on crafting classes I can teach. I have helped many people who want to start a business by teaching them the step-by-step process they should take to be successful. Or teaching interns at work how to create graphic design projects using the best practices of the design industry.

My kryptonite is routine and lack of variety.

Just as I discovered what I’m really good at through this exercise, it also became obvious what I was terrible at. My kryptonite is routine and lack of variety … doing the same thing day in and day out with no challenge and no need for creativity. I get restless and need to find a creative outlet. Sometimes I can deal with this type of routine-based job if I have something else in my life that gives me the creativity I crave. But knowing that I have this particular weakness is helping me understand what I should focus on as I move forward with the next chapter of my life.

I’d love to hear if you have gone through this same exercise. What did you discover as your super power? Did you also uncover your kryptonite?

 

I buy too many domain names

I buy too many domain names

I’m absolutely sure that I’m not alone when I say that I buy too many domain names. In fact, my friend Cory Miller has the same problem. I think of a great business idea or blog name and I get all excited that I need to make sure the domain name is available…. then when it IS available, I feel the overwhelming need to snatch it up and own it just in case someone else thinks of that same exact idea and buys the name before I can.

So yes, I own a few domain names. And yes, many of those names are just parked in my account not really doing anything. I typically redirect them to one of my other related websites while it’s parked so it’s at least doing something while it just sits there.

I buy all my domain names from Name Cheap. I love their customer service and they are a super reliable registrar. In fact, I love them so much I became an affiliate for them, so when you click on that link and buy something, I get a small commission.

Over the past couple months I’ve been working through this “new business discovery” process (thanks for coming along for the ride) and whenever I think I’ve hit on a really good idea, I go check to see what domain names are available. Since I started this process I’ve purchased four names. I mean, domains are cheap, right? So it’s not like I’m spending thousands of dollars or anything. But sometimes it makes me wonder if this is really the wisest way of expending my energy.

Ha! What am I saying? Of course, it’s wise!!  Buy all the domains! 

Why am I writing about this? Mmm… probably because I’m trying to minimize the guilty feeling over the fact that I bought two domain names this past week. But also, I just want to make sure YOU know that you’re not alone. There are others of us out there in the world who buy too many domain names. Maybe we need to form a club or something.

 

How do I figure out my Super Power?

How do I figure out my Super Power?

As I explore which new side hustle venture to try, I decided to revisit an exercise I did about 4 years ago when I decided to get serious about business. I wrote about the technique on my business website because it’s a great way to explore your strengths, skills, expertise, and how to combine those things into something that will help you be better at business. The article is called: “How to Identify Your Business Strengths” but it’s about more than just business. It’s about discovering what you’re good at and applying it to your life in any number of ways. So let’s explore, shall we?

The Original Method

The original method came from a book about creativity and what types of art to try. But I adapted it to related to business strengths and determine what you’re good at so you can apply those skills to building a successful business.

Let’s Change the Method

I’m going to expand and change that original method again. This time I want to go through my “resume” and figure out what I really liked about each of the past jobs or business ventures I’ve had. Then I want to look at the best things I brought to that job or project? Also, what did I enjoy the most and what did people comment on about my abilities related to that job or project?

Identifying my Super Power

That list of things will eventually reveal a short list of my super powers – or at least that’s the hope. I’m writing this out before I even do the experiment. I don’t have any illusions that this is going to be easy to figure out. But I think it’s a good exercise and it’s the best one I know of to uncover what’s already in my head. I know the answer already, I just don’t know that I know it yet.

My Writing Assignment

I love to write but I usually do my writing at the keyboard – what can I say, I spend 15 years of my career as a secretary so it’s in my blood.  But this exercise I think it’s important to grab pen and paper and do this the old fashioned (yet oddly new modern) way.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of notebooks to choose from (we’ll discuss my notebook addiction in another post). So my self-imposed writing challenge is to write, write, write until I uncover my super power. Then we’ll explore how to leverage the super power into building a side hustle that earns $1,000/mo.  I may – or may not – wear my red superhero cap while writing.

 

Side Hustle or Business

Side Hustle or Business

This post is part of my ongoing series of exploring my next income-generating business venture. Go back and read the past two blog posts for some background and context.

Sometimes I wonder if I should be exploring the idea of a new business or if I should think of it as a side hustle. But first, let me explain the definition of these two options. Of course, these are not scientific definitions, just the way they are separated in my own mind:

Business – building a company that will provide the full income needed to sustain my lifestyle and all the expenses associated with living my life.

Side Hustle – building a project that provides additional income on top of (or alongside) the main income generating job or business that pays all the bills for living my life.

Right now I have a day job. It covers 100% of my living expenses and gives me enough play money to travel a bit, buy fun tech gadgets (a self-proclaimed weakness), keeps me supplied in leather notebooks (don’t ask, it’s a serious problem), and enough money to set aside for retirement. My current business – Tremble Creative Services – acts like a side hustle because the money comes alongside my day job income and gives me extra play money. That business could easily be built into a sustainable sole income if I put enough work and effort into it – the potential is there and sometimes the workload is so great that I feel overwhelmed.

In my mind, a side hustle is smaller and more “project-based.” It might bring in $1,000 to $5,000 per month but for a side hustle to be the sole income for me, I’d need more than one side hustle project. A side hustle is still a business (at least the IRS would say it is, anyway) and if you have a really successful side hustle or multiple successful side projects – those can be combined under an umbrella company and be sole supporting.

Am I talking in circles?

So to break it down. A side hustle is something I would do in addition to a day job or other business. It’s a way to make some side income while doing something different than the main income generating thing I’m doing.

But why all the attention to the difference here?

I’m mostly just thinking out loud here. I’ve been really focused on trying to come up with a new business direction now that I plan to back away from taking on new client service contracts. I’ve been trying to think about the next BIG thing that will help me quit the day job and move to the beach. But is that the right way to be thinking about this next venture? Or should I be thinking of it as a side hustle instead? I’ve settled on the notion that I need to think smaller because I’ve found that thinking big is making me feel overwhelmed and it’s paralyzing me from taking action. What action can I take that will help me earn an extra $1,000 per month? That’s my new question to ponder.

Over the past several weeks (or have we lapsed into months now?) I’ve settled on the notion that I need to think SMALLER. I’ve discovered that thinking big is making me feel overwhelmed and it’s paralyzing me from taking any action at all. So I’ve had to assess my original goal of building a big new business and taking on the responsibility of all that goes into building something from the ground up. Instead, I’m focused on small. Small action, done daily that will eventually lead to larger results. I’m focusing on building a new side hustle rather than building a new business.

OK then… I’ve said it out loud.

Well, maybe not verbally out loud, but publishing an article online for the whole internet to see, I guess that’s loud enough. My next new venture will be a side hustle project and my goal is to generate an additional $1,000 per month from this side project. I’m not setting a time limit on myself right now, but I’m determined to act with speed and have fun while I do it. Explore and be present, right? That’s the goal.  Let’s see where it takes me next.

When business ideas aren’t enough

When business ideas aren’t enough

This is a continuation of the last blog post – BUSINESS ON MY MIND – where I talk about how my current business fits into my life and how I want things to change.  Now I want to figure out what is next for me.  Documenting this thought process and the actions I take is a way for me to be more objective about my decisions and have a record what I do.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
I am tired of my current business and want to try something new.
My first idea might not be my best idea.
Oh wait… there’s a self-discovery journey now?? When did that happen?

My First Idea

That title is a bit comical to me. This first thing I’m going to talk about is more than an idea. It’s a fully developed business model plan and the initial groundwork for the idea is already laid. I’ve already written two of the books on this “idea” plan and have taken steps to begin it. But let’s still call it an idea for now.

In a nutshell, this first idea has me taking a giant step away from being a graphic designer but still doing design work when a project comes to me that I really, really like. Instead of design, this business model would help me use my skill in building small businesses and teaching …. and help others do the same.  The general idea has five focus areas and streams of revenue:

  1. Writing books and workbooks for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs that help them develop or grow a business on the foundation of their strengths and passion so they can build a business they love. (Yes, this is the part where I’ve already written two of the workbooks on the list of ideas.)
  2. Developing online and in-person courses that are based on the workbooks I write.
  3. Coaching is something I already do in my current business as I help small businesses use brand management to grow successful businesses. In the new business model, I’d formalize that into actual coaching services.
  4. Consulting would involve brand reviews, one-time strategy or brainstorming sessions.
  5. Graphic design and brand management is something I’d offer on a very limited and highly vetted basis to clients who go through the above areas of the business.

So as you can see, this is a bit more than a mere idea. So what’s the deal? Why not just jump into that and plow a new path? It’s a good plan. It’s solid. It will definitely work. So why all the doubt?

So Much Doubt

About 3 or 4 weeks ago I put the brakes on this new plan. At the time I claimed it was because I needed to stop splitting my focus between this new business venture and my current business obligations. That’s is sorta true. I mean… it’s definitely true. It’s just not really what the core of that decision was about.

I didn’t know it at the time and have only just begun to realize that the decision to halt has deep roots in self-doubt.

I’m a very confident person. I am decisive. I am known for doing lots of research, looking at all the options, then picking a direction and moving forward. I make up my mind quickly and I take action.

Which means this whole self-doubt, false-start, indecision thing is foreign to me.

It’s Not All Self-Doubt Though

I trust my gut. It tells me stuff that I might not understand immediately. But if my gut says stop, I stop. If my gut says go, I go. I don’t trust blindly though. I need to know the why behind a directive… even if that directive is coming from my own gut.  I’m a rule-breaker and rebel by nature. I don’t like to be told what to do unless I first understand why I’m being told to do it.

So as I’ve been in this holding pattern I’ve been turning the decision over in my head a lot. I believe that the decision to put this idea on hold is based on a few other things:

  • The above business model relies on building an online audience and create an influencer-type reputation in the business development space. As an INSF personality type – this is not something I’m particularly enthused about doing. In fact, the very idea of it turns me off. I’m capable of doing it, but it certainly wouldn’t be comfortable or fun.
  • This idea would require a whole new business for me. Basically starting from zero and spending the next 2-3 years building an audience, creating content and creating authority. That’s a lot of energy to expend … I’m not convinced that I have enough passion for this business model for that much energy.

Self-Awareness is Key to New Ideas

My good friend, Nikki, once told me that I’m the most self-aware person she knows. It’s true that I’ve got a pretty high level of self-awareness. It truly bugs me when I can’t figure out what’s in my own head so I pick it apart until I understand.

I am thankful for the level of self-awareness I have even if sometimes it gets in the way of acting… like now. But I’m going to embrace this and see how I can leverage my self-awareness to help me develop a business based on my strengths and passion to grow a thriving business that I love.

That last part – “business that I love” – that’s the key for me. It’s easy to build a thriving business that makes money. But if I don’t LOVE it, why am I giving it my passion? So it’s time to focus on that part of the equation and see where it takes me.

Self-Discovery Journey

In the coming weeks, I will use my own sly techniques of discovering my strengths, expertise, and passion in an attempt to generate business ideas that are a good fit for my personality and lifestyle goals.

What the heck is a self-discovery journey?  Ha! I have no idea! In fact, when I started writing this blog post I had no idea it was going to end up here. I guess it’s time to figure that out, huh?

I do have a technique where I help people identify their skills and strengths to help them build a stronger business. Read it here: How to Identify Your Business Strengths. So I guess I’ll start there and see where this journey takes me. I did that exercise about 4 or 5 years ago so it’s probably time to do it again. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff in the past 5 years. I’m way more brilliant now!

So I guess that’s what’s next. Come back soon!

 

 

 

Business on my Mind

Business on my Mind

When you visit the homepage of this website you’ll see some fancy words about exploring and being present and letting this space be my little slice of the internet where I am free to be myself and ramble on about whatever interests me. As the title implies, lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my business ventures. I think it’s time that I write about it. My site traffic stats confirm that nobody* reads this blog anyway, so why not ramble when I’m the only one listening.  (*In reality, there are a few dozen of you out there, no offense intended, of course.)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
I work a day job, have a long commute, and run a thriving design business on the side.
But I’m tired and I don’t know what to do next.

First the back story.

I work a day job as the lead graphic designer for a large organization. Most days I spent my time acting as a brand manager, intern herder, marketing strategist, and art director… sometimes I actually get to do real design work too. The job is good and I enjoy it. The commute is not good and I don’t enjoy that (more than an hour each way). On a normal day, I leave my house around 7:15 a.m. and get home around 6:45 p.m.

Almost as soon as I walk in the door, I grab a quick dinner and cozy up to my new, beautiful, powerful and fast design computer where I start right in on client projects.  If you click above on the “Creative Services” link, you’ll see what my business is all about. But in a nutshell, I do graphic and web design for small businesses and solo side hustlers. There’s also a bit of marketing strategy, brand management and business development thrown in there too. I have a few retainer-based clients and a few open contracts for one-off projects.  I like to put in 2-3 hours a night in the evenings and then another 8-10 hours over the weekend.

It’s a solid “part time” business and I’m pleased with my success and the growth I’ve seen in the past few years. I love my clients. I love the work they do. I love seeing them succeed and know that my design work had some small part in that success.

What I don’t love about my business is the fact that I’m trading my time for money. If I don’t perform the work, I don’t get paid. If I take a vacation or sick day or just decide I need to be on the beach on a sunny Saturday… I don’t get paid. I hate that about my business. I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.

I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.

Present day situation.

I’ve actually made a few decisions already and it’s taking longer to implement them than I thought it would. So I’m on the edge of frustration. I’m powering through and doing what I can to keep a good attitude about it all. But that part above about being tired. Yeah. There’s that.  But let’s talk about those decisions first…

  • I’ve decided to step back from any new client contracts. In the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve actively been saying no. A lot. I’ve created a list of other freelance designers, web/tech experts, and marketing gurus who have been getting a number of referrals from me. What’s fascinating to me is that as soon as I verbalized my intention to stop taking on new clients… suddenly new clients were showing up on my doorstep wanting help. I’ve taken on a couple small projects, but for the most part, everyone has been turned away.
  • I am doing everything I can to wrap up the current contracts I have as quickly as possible. I have three main projects that have an “end date” attached to them. Although that end date isn’t’ an actual date, there is a time in the future when the project will be done and the contract complete.
  • I have a few ongoing, monthly retainer clients that I plan to keep. Anyone who has a long-term relationship with me like this is someone I enjoy working with and want to continue helping them grow their businesses.

So now what?

That’s the big question. What now?  I’ve got some ideas. In fact, I’ve even fleshed out a solid business model overview for a new venture. I’ve talked to people I trust in my Mastermind Group and my inner circle. But I’ve been feeling overwhelmed about all these plans and ideas. So I’ve had to take a step back, set it all aside and try to focus on what’s essential for the moment. The existing client lineup is what’s important right now. I have time to worry about what the future of my business will become.

A trusted friend suggested I document this journey. Keep track of what I’m thinking, what plans I’m making and how all the jumbled pieces of the puzzle eventually fall into place as I work through the steps. I tend to be a methodical thinker. I see the end project in its completed form… and then have the skill to break down the individual tasks it will take to achieve that end goal. Somehow that skill is a bit clouded when it comes to my own projects – or at least this one, in particular. I think my friend is right. Documenting this process could help me find clarity, or at least be a comical way of keeping track of all the crazy mistakes I make along the way.

Stay tuned for more updates. I’ve got lots to tell you!