I have had the privilege of coaching a number of info-entrepreneurs over the last few years, and one of the most challenging aspects of business coaching is one that's often difficult to identify and describe.
One of my clients put it this way – you can either take small chances and get
small rewards or you can see yourself as a big player, take bigger risks and
achieve big results.
Many new info-entrepreneurs find it hard to internalize the image of themselves as successful business owners, worth the high price they charge. Instead, their internal conversation sounds like this:
I'm just starting out. Who would hire me?
The local economy is really tough and no one can afford me.
Only the big-name research companies get the big clients.
I'm just a one-person business. How much could I charge?!?
It's hard to move past these self-perceptions. If you see yourself as "just starting out" or "just a one-person business", then that's how you will project yourself, that's
how your clients will see you, that's how your referral network will talk about you, and that's as far as you'll ever be able to go.
To get beyond the "I'm just a" mentality, it's up to you to first identify what kind of image you want to project. You don't have to truly believe it yet – all you need is to clearly identify what that image would look like if you were to embody it.
No, this isn't just woo-woo hippie talk. Quite a while ago, I sat myself down and decided that I wanted to move my business up a level – to work fewer hours and bill more per hour. I realized that I had to see myself differently, in order to have others see me in a new light. So I identified several long-time info-entrepreneurs whom I highly respected and decided that, in all my actions, I would make the choices that those people would make. Sue Rugge, one of the pioneers of the info-entrepreneur business, was one of those models for me, so I began constantly asking myself, What would SuRu do?
I was surprised by how quickly I started making different decisions and
seeing myself in a new light. I began thinking bigger than I had before. When I was given an opportunity to describe myself, I started describing myself in terms that emphasized the high-end services I provide. When a prospective client
called, I started responding with more confidence - not necessarily because I
believed it but because I knew this was how Sue Rugge would have talked with the
client. The wonderful thing about this is that it quickly becomes a virtuous
cycle; as I started sounding more confident, my clients started sending me
larger jobs and expecting me to provide more analysis and other value-added
Conversely, if I saw myself as a small player, or "just starting out", I would have accepted jobs from clients who would never be able to pay my normal
hourly rate, or would have nickeled and dimed me on every project. Having a role
model and thinking like a big player, I was able to move my business up a level.
How do you see yourself? Are you "just starting out" or, on the other hand, are you "in my first five years of business"? Will you take on any job, no matter how small or how difficult the client, or do you spend your time building a business that will sustain you through your first five years?