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“If you don’t find business plans sexy, it’s probably because you’re doing it wrong,” says small business strategist and blogger, Sagan Morrow.
Sagan uses her decade of experience in communications and social media management to ease the fears of new solopreneurs by helping them recognize and deal with the overwhelm that often plagues them, and to discover the value of expression, prioritizing, organizing, and collaboration.
Sagan is a small business strategist and chief communications officer at Juxta Communications—an agency that provides DIY guides, tutorial systems, and strategies for new business owners so they may more easily and affordably manage communications needs, among other things, in their business.
She has nearly a decade of experience as a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager, and that basically sums up “communications.” She’s teaching people how to do that in-house—at an affordable price and also managing it for other people who are just too busy to do it themselves.
Today, we’re talking about how to stop feeling overwhelmed by your online business. Something that can sometimes stop new solopreneurs in our tracks as we navigate everything we need to do to grow our businesses. Sagan began teaching other small business owners in 2016 and has taught them how to do just that—avoid the overwhelm and avoid coming to a dead stop before there’s even a chance to adapt, overcome, and finally succeed. She also cohosts the Candid Conversations small business podcast and is a published author.
Sagan’s Background Before Freelancing
When she was in college, she knew she wanted to write for a living, and she was really interested in healthy living. She contacted a healthy living blogger to discover how she could get started as a blogger and that person recommended she start her own blog.
She began her blogging adventure, but soon realized she didn’t know what she was doing. Initially, she spent most of her time trudging through the struggles that many new bloggers face, but eventually found Blogger—a platform she could use to finally showcase her writing.
After college, she started freelancing for a firm. They were especially interested in her health blog background as the firm had recently secured a health center client. She also worked with other freelance clients.
After that job ended, however, her financial situation terrified her. She faced the fact that she had no idea how to put herself out there—to market herself and her business. It’s inspirational for us to learn that when she first contacted others, she was actually just marketing herself. For most of us, it’s scary to put ourselves out there and make stuff happen.
Eventually, Sagan took a 9-to-5 job, but soon realized she had hit the proverbial glass ceiling and could go no further. She became frustrated with the problems inherent in 9-to-5 jobs. She was certain she could do better. So, she quit and has been working from home full time for the past few years.
Success Takes Time
It’s awesome that Sagan is willing to share her background and the struggles she encountered back then. It shows us that success is like an iceberg. The top may look beautiful and smooth—weathered gently by the wind. Underneath, however, it’s a jagged mess—beaten by the waves and the undercurrent and running into rocks under the water’s surface. This helps paint a picture that shows us it isn’t always a straight shot to success. There are ups and downs—all.the.time. Long-lasting success doesn’t happen in one day… one week… and maybe not even in one year, but if you’re making steady progress over the long haul, that’s success in my book.
Sagan and I both started with little knowledge about growing our blogs. I started my first blog five years ago, and it was an abysmal experience. I had no idea what the heck I was doing! Many people give up at that point. They get SO overwhelmed with what they don’t know that they just do nothing.
Sagan agrees that it’s so easy to look at those who’ve been blogging for a long time and think that it looks so effortless. Yet there is so much that goes into it that we’re not seeing. Ten years later, Sagan is still blogging. Her blog has evolved over the years; it has been a dynamic process. She started as a health blogger, added a fashion blog, a communications blog, and then turned them all into one lifestyle blog. Now it’s a business blog!
It’s clearly important to be open to evolving with your blog and to take it one step at a time because success never happens overnight. You have to work at it, do it slowly, be okay with that, and enjoy the journey.
Fear of Marketing Yourself & The Big Picture
It’s no secret that many people are afraid to market themselves. The big concern is, “How am I going to get work and make money?” All making money is, is meeting somebody’s need and repeating the process. You learn skills, you meet a need, and then you repeat the process. Learn. Meet. Repeat. Continue repeating and continue generating income. Want to make more money? Learn more skills.
Sadly, some people don’t worry about learning skills because making money is their number one goal. What I’m trying to teach them is that it’s not all about them. It’s about your clients and how you can help them. To get clients, you have to have something to offer them.
Sagan often tells her students it’s about providing a service and being in service to people. When her students change their mindset, when they think of themselves as being of service and doing something important that a client needs—helping them solve a problem—it makes the marketing side of things much easier.
Sagan has worked with some amazing clients, and she says it gets to where you don’t even think of them as clients anymore. They’re almost friends because you have this very dynamic relationship with them. You understand each other’s needs. You understand how you can be of service to them, and that makes a huge difference.
The Art of Marketing: Building Relationships
We have to approach marketing with the mindset of building a relationship, and that’s why marketing is an art. It’s not a science. It’s a relationship economy now with all the social media out there. As a social media manager, Sagan knows it’s not about, “How much content can I pump out to my followers to get them to buy my stuff?” It’s how can I help them? How can I lift them up and give them what they need to succeed? How can I give more—without giving away the farm because everybody has to make money, and nobody should be expected to work for free. But how can we give more—because nobody ever became poor by giving.
Sagan often tells her students they’ll never succeed if their number one priority is making money. We all need money to live. You have to figure out ways to make money. But ultimately you should offer a service because that’s what you love to do, and you enjoy the process… the journey.
People often ask for an easy way to make money without having to do any work. That’s a very tiny goal. The better question would be to ask how they can learn the skills to meet a need for someone else. Again, making money is simply meeting people’s needs and being an asset to their business.
That’s why, at Work-at-Home School, we encourage people to make learning skills the priority, because with those skills comes the confidence to market yourself. We call it marketing, but it’s just building relationships with people who need the skills you’ve got.
Finding Your Ideal Client
Sagan has great information on how you can find your ideal clients. You can ask yourself questions such as what types of people have you enjoyed working with in the past? What types have you not enjoyed? That can be in your personal life and your business/work life. Who do you connect with? Who do you resonate with, and why? Relationships are very complex, but you can often pinpoint key pieces that draw you to a person and what makes you step back from them. Paying attention to that is important.
Think about values you may share with another person. Your business values should reflect your personal values. You want to make sure your ideal client also has some of those values if you want your business to not only succeed but be enjoyable and satisfying too! Isn’t that one reason we seek the work-at-home life?
Building a service business is essentially figuring out what services people you relate to need and learning to provide them.
For those concerned about finding work once they’ve learned the skills, my advice is to not just sit there. Network! It’s not enough to just learn the skills, sit and wait, or put up a website and wait for people to come to it. You can’t have the mindset of “build it—or learn it—and they will come.” You have to go out and meet people, and that can be scary for some of us.
Mindset for Success
In terms of demand for online work, building an online business, and working with business owners, I can attest that I cannot keep up with how much stuff there is to do.
There’s always room for someone else to do something—and Sagan agrees with me! Some of her students worry there are already so many writers, social media managers, editors, graphic designers, etc. Sagan tells them there’s space for them and what they bring to the table—their unique qualities and abilities—and I wholeheartedly agree!
Sagan has found that clients won’t necessarily hire you because you have decades of experience in a particular industry. They’ll hire you because they relate to you and see examples of your work or testimonials. It’s the relationship factor—they hire you because they like you.
The services you offer will be different or they or they can supplement someone else’s services. So, if you’re an editor, you might offer copyediting skills where someone else offers proofreading skills. Well, you can work together; you can collaborate on projects. You can help market each other.
People are reluctant to reach out to others because they fear rejection. Sagan says it’s important to get to the root of fear. Ask yourself what am I afraid of and why? So what if that happens? What if this potential client says no? What can I do to prevent it from happening?
Using that thought process and really walking yourself through it is so helpful. Her students experience a big turning point when they do this. It suddenly feels much less overwhelming.
It’s also important not to have a scarcity mindset—that there isn’t enough work for everyone. If you can flip that switch and know there’s a growing amount of work, that even the smallest bloggers have a hard time keeping good people on board, and that if somebody says no, it’s not the end of the world, that will be a big confidence booster.
Biggest Misconception About Working at Home
Sagan says the biggest misconception people have about starting their work-at-home business is that they’re too busy. What people are actually doing when they say they’re too busy is prioritizing something else instead.
You have control over your own life. It’s okay to prioritize something else besides your business, but you need to be aware of that.
Once we get past the whole misconception of, “I’m too busy,” and realize we’re prioritizing this now, then we suddenly have much more freedom. Suddenly, we have more control over everything, and that’s very liberating.
As women, and especially moms, we have these external beliefs that we’re too busy; we have to put our children first, we have to make dinner, we have to clean the house, we have to do this or that, and if we do all that stuff, then we can work on our businesses. What if we reprioritize and put all those things not last, but prioritize ourselves? By prioritizing ourselves, we can serve the people around us better. When we do this, they don’t suffer; they thrive.
CONTROLLING THE OVERWHELM
Sagan recommends getting things on paper to prevent overwhelm. She loves helping students overcome overwhelm with step-by-step guides and instructions.
When feeling overwhelmed, the first step is to have a brainstorming session and get all your ideas onto paper—even if they’re not realistic. Sagan uses a giant poster board and colored pens. Then translate all that info into a business plan. Sometimes we just need to get all the things out of our head so we can see them, organize them, and prioritize them and in doing so, avoid overwhelm.
Once you have all your ideas on paper, you can figure out how they all work together. Your business plan should be a very organic and living document. It should be a tool you refer to regularly; it should be steering the ship of your business.
After you’ve brainstormed and created your business plan, then you should focus on the actual tasks you need to accomplish. Assess things and be willing to pivot as needed.
Sagan meets her business partner for coffee every Wednesday morning and they discuss their accomplishments from the previous week, what they didn’t do, and why they didn’t get around to it. They talk about any obstacles and how to overcome them.
Having regular check-ins will be so useful for helping you feel more focused, less overwhelmed, and able to ensure that everything you do in your business is done strategically and with intention. It’s easy to be pulled in so many directions while trying to do everything the experts are telling you to do. Instead of listening to others, focus on checking in with yourself.
Make sure everything you’re doing in your business is contributing to progress and to reaching your goals. If there are certain things you’re experimenting with and they aren’t working, then maybe it’s time to let those things go and try something new.
Sagan loves teaching people how to create a strategic plan of action. What are you going to be doing every single week to achieve that three-month goal? Break that three-month goal down into monthly and weekly goals, then figure out how to achieve that goal. How do I break that down into five to seven manageable tasks? Breaking everything down into bite-sized pieces is what makes all the difference. That’s where the real magic happens.
Define Your Why
You want to make money, but why do you want to make money? Maybe you want more time with your family? Because you want to make a difference in the world? You want to create a life you love. Brainstorming is the means to that end and to rid yourself of overwhelm once and for all.
If you’re doubting why you need to define your why, the great thing is that once you know your why, that’s what leads to the how. You need to know the why before you can get to the how, and the how is everything.
Your Capability for Success
Sagan admits to being terrified to leave her 9 to 5, but it was helpful to know she’d already been doing her side hustle for a while. You don’t need to do it for years, but starting your side hustle before you quit your job will set you up for success. It’ll boost your confidence, increase your client base, and allow you to build up capital.
It was also helpful for Sagan to know that if things didn’t pan out, she could always get another job. She teaches her students that it’s important to have several backup plans. For example, you could have a backup plan to borrow money or get a regular job if you need to. You may not want to, but just knowing you have options will make a huge difference. It’ll help you feel less afraid and a lot more confident and driven to succeed with your business.
It’s smart to realize there’s always something you could do. Often, the fears that come from whether an online course will work or whether there’s work out there—if there’s really demand—come from inside; a mindset a lot of us share.
When we figure out there’s an internal thing we have complete control over, the whole picture changes. If we create systems and don’t give up, we can make what we want happen. But we have to get over that internal fear that we can’t do it. Maybe you don’t have skills, and you need to learn them. Know that you have the power to do that.
The brain is such an amazing tool. If we realize that our brains are nowhere near capacity and that we have the power to learn more skills, we can generate more income. That’s why the whole theme of Work-At-Home School is more skills equals more money.
How You Can Quit Your 9-5
Sagan clearly has a gift for teaching others. If you want to continue learning from her, her course Goodbye 9-5 is in Work-At-Home School. It’s a step-by-step system designed to take you from the job you hate to working at home full-time within three months.