Sometimes I find myself being the harbinger of tough love with my clients.

It's very hard for me to "lay down the line" when a client starts getting wishy-washy about working on their business. It gives me a stomachache. It makes my arm pits sweaty. It makes me really need a peanut butter cracker. Or twelve.

But it just has to happen. I want to see them succeed.

The wishy-washy usually comes when it's time to invest. Whether it's time or money - or both, the time to invest will stir up insecurities and doubts. And these will either kill momentum, or set a client up for major success for the future, depending on the path they take.

To stave off insecurity and doubt, realizing that it's time to invest can help you get in the right mindset to achieve your goals. And here's how I like to discover if it's time or not:

Realize When DIY Isn't Cutting It

I spent years being a DIY indie business owner. I branded myself, I designed everything myself, I developed my own marketing plans, I took my own stuff to the post office. I did everything.

And then I hit a ceiling.

Building an indie business by doing everything yourself is do-able. I did it. Lots of really great indie business owners do it.

But DIY-ing it is not for everyone. And it's not forever.

I made my biggest jump in growth when I realized it was time to outsource. I hired an assistant, a bookkeeper, a marketing specialist. I got someone else to do my branding. I have realized that I can be much better at what I do if I let other pros do what they're good at for me. DIY won’t cut it forever.

KNOW YOU'RE READY

It is startling to me how impulsive people can be with their business. And with large sums of money. They wake up one morning with an idea, a fat wallet, and a drive to expand. They call up a web designer (or some other business related service person), tell them their ready, and then fall on their face. Because they're weren't really ready.

Before you hire someone to take your indie business to the next level, know you're ready to take it to the next level.

  • Have you already established yourself, even in a relatively small way?
  • Do you have a clear direction for growth and expansion?
  • Are you ready to put in the work?
  • Are you in it for the long haul?
  • Are you ok with change?

If you answered 'no' to any of these, then you're not ready.

Some solutions:

  • Stick out your current situation a little longer. If you're still growing and interested in 3-6+ months, then it might be ready to make a bigger commitment.
  • Clarify your personal goals. I'm a firm believer that you should not focus on an outside entity before you have thoroughly focused on yourself.
  • Do your research. Know what work is going to go into what you're wanting to do. It makes change more gradual, and therefore less painful.

KNOW YOUR BUSINESS IS READY

Few things make me more sad for an indie business owner's planning skills than getting knee-deep in a large business renovation just to find that their business can't sustain the growth.

So, what? You have your products, you have a name, and you purchased a domain, yes? All set.

NO!

  • Do you have a clear and concise brand? (Not just a logo, but a brand. P.S. If you don't know the difference, you're not ready. Period.)
  • Can you afford growth at the moment? (More product, more packaging, consultants, designers, infrastructure...)
  • Do you have any money in a business-only savings account?
  • Do you have for-serious business goals?
  • Do you have a marketing plan?

If you answered 'no,' or were even a little undecided, then you are not ready. Trust me.

Some solutions:

  • Clearly define your brand. Either do a ton of research and business discovery, or hire a professional. (P.S. People who just "design logos" [including me] are not usually brand specialists. I know I much prefer it if a client comes to me with a full brand summary before requesting me to design anything. There's definitely a difference.)
  • Clarify your goals by getting your plans for the next 12 months down on paper.
  • Develop a marketing plan. This often-forgotten element is key to reaching sustainability in your desired growth.
  • Budget, budget, budget. Budget. Got it? And make sure it's sensible.

EXPECT TOUGH LOVE

If you're not quite there yet with yourself and your business, and you make the jump anyhow, I hope someone stops you in your tracks with a little (or a lot of) tough love.

If you hire me and you're not ready, I will tell you. And I will make you get ready. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, I'm trying to show you the way.

If you hire someone else, I hope they'll give you tough love if you need it, too.

Designers and other indie biz professionals can only help you build your business if you're ready. And if you're not, you're just wasting everyone's time.

LET SOMEONE HELP

It's time we indie business owners get over this Superman/woman complex we all inherently have and ask for help when it's needed. Stop cutting corners, and invest in your business.

These very issues are why I have created Indie Shopography. If you think you're ready to start heading in the direction of business growth online, then it's a great place to make sure you're ready with the knowledge required to get you there.

If you're one of these indie business owners thinking of taking a leap - whether it be with a new brand, a new site, a killer marketing plan, whatever - don't do it blindly! You won't be doing yourself, your business, and definitely not your wallet any justice by just taking the leap.

Let's be real here, guys. Let's show the world how awesome indie business are. Let's show them how we will make it past that dreaded 2-year statistic. We will succeed. We will turn the economy around.

But we can only do so if we're smart. If we're ready. And if you're open to the tough love.

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