How to figure out why you’re not getting anywhere with your business

Maker's Business Toolkit: How to figure out why you're not getting anywhere with your business

Whether it’s year end, month end, the end of a business quarter, or maybe even just your birthday, a significant date in the year can give us an opportunity to review what we’ve been doing in our business and indeed our lives since we last checked in.

But sometimes that’s not an entirely positive experience. Sometimes another year rolls around and we feel like we’re still pretty much where we were last time. And even if we have made progress, it can be frustrating if you feel that there is just so far left to go.

I really believe that we get more done when we feel good, so feeling depressed about our progress isn’t really going to be a great motivator.

So if you’ve had a period where you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished all that much, what can you do to take some lessons from it and make some changes going forward?

I’ve spent a lot of time working with hundreds of different makers on their businesses in my membership, Makers’ Momentum Club and I have noticed some common patterns when people are disappointed in their progress.

Let’s take a look at a few of them.

But first, is it really true?

I think this is an important question to ask yourself whenever you’re feeling frustrated over something that is subjective – meaning that it’s influenced by your own personal perceptions or opinions.

Feeling frustrated with your progress is completely normal and something that all makers experience, but is it objectively true that you’re not getting anywhere?

Maybe, and maybe not.

So the first thing to do is to work out whether you’re just being really hard on yourself. We makers do have a tendency to focus on the things that we’re not good at, and forget all of the things that we can either do really well, or at least a lot better than we could a year ago.

Remember that running a business on your own involves learning a lot of new jobs, and doing them all at the same time.

Bookkeeper, social media manager, admin assistant, photographer, copywriter, launch strategist, PR manager.

These are jobs that people work for many years to become proficient in. People make full time careers from just one of these roles.

And we are learning all of them, all at once. Does it really seem reasonable to be disappointed in yourself for not mastering all of them within 12 months?

Before you worry about the lack of progress you’re making, consider whether your expectations about how much you can learn in one month, quarter or year are really reasonable or not.

It can be easy to forget all of the things that are going well, because we’re preoccupied with the things we haven’t achieved yet, but you can’t properly assess your performance if you’re only focusing on the negatives.

So, make sure you set yourself a regular review to think about and record the full state of affairs in your business, both the good and the bad.
If you don’t know ho to get started with this, The Maker’s Yearbook has got a great monthly review that you can use.

Chances are you’ll find you’re doing much better than you thought. But if you’re still frustrated with your progress on your goals, let’s look at some common reasons for not making the progress you planned for.

Did you set the wrong goals?

Goal setting isn’t easy. It’s actually a pretty complex process of strategy, motivation, planning and execution.

And many of us fall down at the first hurdle – setting a goal that is going to be achievable and is going to give us what we actually want.

One of the practices we have in Makers’ Momentum Club is that we set goals weekly. Every Monday we set out the most important piece of work we want to complete that week and we set our goal so that we get it done.

 

But a common mistake is to set a goal that requires you to be something other than who you are. Maybe it’s “I’m going to be organised in planning my social media” or “I’m going to worry less about sales.”

On the surface these sounds like reasonable goals but when you sit down to work to actually “do” them, it turns out that there’s nothing to do. And so we move on to something easier, like doomscrolling or panicking about sales.

You can’t just become more organised or worry less. You have to have a strategy for what you could “do” that will make you more organised or less worried. And you need to set THAT as your goal.

Let’s take an example:

If you want to become more organised with planning your social media, what could you do?

There are lots of things, right?

➡️ You could start a spreadsheet to store your ideas so that when you come to write posts, you don’t have to think of something new.
➡️ You could start using that social media planning tool you bought from an Instagram ad and then never looked at
➡️ You could set up a routine and then block out a couple of hours a day that you commit to spending on producing social media content and engaging with your followers and potential customers.

Any one of these would help you to get closer to your goal of getting more organised with social media, but they’re all things that you can do.
So it matters that you do the work of making your goal something you can actually achieve, and also something that you can measure, meaning that you know when it’s finished.

We can’t know when we’re more organised, but we can know when we’ve planned out our posts for the next month with our planning tool.

Did you set an unrealistic goal?

This is perhaps the most common mistake that any of us make.

Because most of us haven’t really planned how we’re going to use our time before, we tend to be pretty bad at predicting how long things are going to take.

We also have a tendency to just forget about all of the other work that has to get done, and all of things that can interrupt us.

So it’s not uncommon for people to set goals to write 5 blog posts in a week, or build their website in a week, or some other really huge task.

Of course it is possible to write 5 blog posts in a week. It is possible to build a website in a week.

But probably not if you’ve got ANYTHING else to do. And probably not if you’re not used to doing this work.

We get faster at what we practice. And whenever we start something new, there are unforeseen problems that pop up and we have to take care of them before we can continue

 

If you write blog posts all the time, you may be able to write 5 in a week. But if you haven’t written one in six months, or ever, then this just isn’t a realistic goal.

Unrealistic goals really sap our motivation because we always have the experience of failing. Writing one blog post a week is really great and gives your marketing a lot of momentum. But if you try every week to write five blog posts and only write one, you’re probably going to feel defeated, rather than pleased with your progress.

Set yourself goals that stretch you, but just a little. Otherwise you never give yourself the chance to feel good and it’s easy to feel like you’re getting nowhere, even when that’s not the case.

Did you think about how you were going to achieve the goal?

This is a step that a lot of us miss. And unless your goal is very straightforward, there are usually a few extra steps involved that we do need to think about, if we’re going to be able to hit our target.

I said earlier that setting good goals depends on us being able to predict, with reasonable accuracy, how long things are going to take. That’s so that we can then allocate enough time to do them.

Because it’s just as important to work out how and when you’re going to achieve the goal as it is to decide on what the goal should be. And a lot of us just don’t do that part.

We write down our goal, and then we treat it like a wish and just wait for it to come true. Goals aren’t wishes. They aren’t about what we want to happen, or where we want to be. They are about what we are going to DO.

If you don’t take the time to work that out, then it makes it very unlikely that you’ll achieve it.
And actually, working out how and when you’re going to do it makes it far less likely that you’ll set goals that are unrealistic.

Take our blog post example. If your goal was to write 5 blog posts this week then the next step would be to allocate the time to do it.

You would think about how long it usually takes you to write a blog post, or have a guess if you haven’t written one before, and then multiply that by 5.

So if it takes you 2 hours to write a post and you want to write 5, you’re going to need 10 hours this week just to accomplish this goal.

That’s more than a full day’s work, so we can already see that it’s starting to look unrealistic. If you don’t work full time on your maker business then it’s even less likely to happen.

Once you start to figure out how you’re going to find those 10 hours to work on the blog posts, you might also realise that you’ve got a doctor’s appointment this week that’s going to take you away from your studio for a couple of hours, plus you’re meeting with a gallery on Thursday and you need to prepare for that.

So thinking about how you’re going to achieve the goal – either the steps and the separate pieces of work that go into it, or the time it’s going to take, or both – can help you to modify unrealistic goals and also ensure that you set aside time to actually do the work involved.

Of course, it’s all a process of learning and experimenting. We don’t know how long things take to do until we start measuring them and sometimes how long they take to do can change based on our energy levels or the time of day or our level of practice and expertise.

So we’re not aiming for perfect execution, just doing our best to set aside some time for the things that we have decided are most important, but which inevitably get left until last if we don’t set aside time for them.

 

And finally… did you sabotage yourself?

Mindset plays such an important role in your progress and your productivity. I always think of mindset as a backpack that you carry around with you.

If it’s full of rocks, it’s going to be a lot harder to do anything, than if it’s empty.

If you’re trying to do something that you don’t really believe you can do, don’t really believe is right, or are really scared of doing, it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

Our minds love to try to keep us safe by finding comfortable distractions from the work we need to do.

We set out to email some journalists to try to get our work featured, then decide our website is embarrassing and spend three weeks trying to decide which new website platform we should use to update it.

Or we set out to get more consistent on social media and spend 6 weeks building a complex database that will decide how to repurpose all of the content we haven’t actually written yet.

Sometimes it is necessary to put a goal to one side because there’s a piece of work that needs doing first, but it’s always worth asking yourself if this is an excuse not to get started and if you could get started in a simpler way.

I’m willing to bet that you’ve actually achieved much more than you think, in the last month, or quarter or year. But if you have been sabotaging yourself, or being unnecessarily hard on yourself and you’re struggling to get some momentum, join us in Makers’ Momentum Club for more accountability and opportunities to get help with your goal setting.

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I'm Nicola Taylor

I’m the founder of Maker’s Business Toolkit and I help artists, makers, and handmade business owners to make more money with less stress.

Click here to find out more about me.

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