Worrying about the economy? Struggling to make sales? Wondering why you’re not making money? Been in business for a while but you feel like you’re going backward? Then this episode is for you.
Three themes that have been present in my conversations with experts running service-based businesses have been
- “What was working doesn’t seem to be working anymore”,
- “I don’t know what’s going on with my target audience but something has shifted”
- “I’m spending more of my time searching indeed for the perfect job.”
I always know we are in a bit of a predicament when people are either looking for their perfect job or wondering whether or not it might be a better idea to go and apply for a job as a barista. That’s always my fallback. I’m like, “I’m just going to go be a barista.” That’s how we know when we need to have a little bit of a check-in. To say that we’re in a perfect storm right now would be redundant because that seems to be the most-used word this year. It’s akin to 2020’s use of the word unprecedented.
There is a quote that I used to reference a ton when coaching athletes and high-performing leaders and it goes like this: “You will never rise to your expectations but you will always default to your level of training.” In a nutshell, I think that’s pretty much what’s happening today for the majority of people, which is good because we can always increase our training, we can always reset and find a new default.
Most small-business owners fall into the trap of executing reactionary tactics rather than training themselves to do the more, let’s face it, grueling work of learning and carving out the time to think strategically about their businesses. This reason is pretty simple. They’re just too busy. They’ve taken on too much. They have the weight of the world on their shoulders so they spend their days fighting fires and focused on activities that look good, but just don’t really move the needle that much.
It’s a pretty safe place to be when you’re firefighting, believe it or not. It keeps you from really stretching yourself because you have the excuse of, “Well, this needs to happen now.” It’s not just with individuals, this is human behavior, and this is organizational behavior. The majority of the time, organizations won’t progress and won’t get their most important work done because they are just too busy.
We are currently in a time that is going to require you to raise the bar on your energy management, your mindset, and on your skill set.
This is really not your fault. You haven’t done anything wrong. You’re operating from the context of what you have today and you are now going to have to operate from a different context.
Your ability to adapt from one context to the other context is pretty much what would make you a high performer or not, is the reality. Because our businesses require a level of performance and a level of optimal performance from us and from the business itself.
I say this isn’t really your fault, because you might not have been exposed to a context like this that you need to adapt to, but also an online-business culture.
Let’s define online-business culture because some of you might not identify with it.
I mean, I don’t, I have a whole episode on why I don’t run an online business. Whether you do or you don’t, you are most likely a part of this culture, even if you’re adjacent to it or watching it from the sidelines. Anytime you consume business content on a social media app, in my opinion, you are engaged in online-business culture, including me, we’re watching it happen in front of us. We are subjected to it. We are taking in those messages, sometimes at a very alarming rate, pace, and volume and it does impact our thinking and our conditioning.
Anytime you are consuming business content from a social media app, you are engaged in online-business culture. Now most of us are hanging out on the fringes watching this shit show thinking, “Dear god, I don’t want to be like them” or “Why the hell is that person with less experience than me crushing it over there and I’m spinning in circles?”
Typical online-business culture is culty.
It’s steeped in quick fixes, atypical results, and psychologically harmful levels of manipulation, and continues this proliferation of profiting off of hustle culture, cronyism, and misogyny.
A male colleague of mine commented to me as we were doing a breakdown of somebody’s data and their launch because they posted it online. He said, “Half these people wouldn’t generate the level of revenue they do if they weren’t good-looking. That’s what I mean when I say misogyny. We as women, I know primarily women listen to this, we are subjected to our own internalized misogyny, where we make those decisions as well.
After the 2020 election cycle, I was in a deep, dark place known as Twitter. When I stumbled upon a tweet thread by a Yale professor named Timothy Snyder, who very simply in 10 tweets unpacked what we were seeing called the big lie, which I’m going to share with you right now.
The big lie is a propaganda technique used for political purposes. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kamp.
Here’s what Timothy Snyder had to say: “The claim that Trump won the election is a big lie. A big lie changes reality. To believe it, people must disbelieve their senses, distrust their fellow citizens, and live in a world of faith.”
Now, I see this as being parallel to what we see with internet marketers. Internet marketers sell a dream like it is reality, and to believe it, people must disbelieve what they already know. They must start to distrust anyone who questions that dream and live in a world of faith where this is just going to materialize and manifest, and we wonder why we get so twisted up and turned around.
Like I’ve said in the past, and I hate to use the word stupid, but I see a lot of smart people come online and kind of become stupid in the sense that they forget the things that they already know. Well, that’s intentional. Think about it. He goes on to say, “A big lie demands conspiracy thinking, since all who doubt it are seen as traitors.”
Now, internet marketing, and selling the dream requires you to believe them without any critical thinking. If you doubt the web celeb, you are shunned through being told it’s your mindset, or your inability to get results and they have the power to revoke your sense of belonging in that community.
“A big lie undoes a society since it divides citizens into believers and unbelievers.” We see this in the polarity of internet marketing and how it splits people into factions of what they believe, who will drink the Kool-Aid versus who won’t drink the Kool-Aid. If you don’t drink the Kool-Aid, you will continue to be not enough and unworthy.
“A big lie destroys democracy, since people who are convinced that nothing is true but the utterances of the leader ignore voting and its results.” A big lie destroys personal agency since people who are convinced that nothing is true, but the teachings of the web celeb, so they ignore basic fundamentals, their own intuition.
“A big lie must bring violence, as it has.” He’s obviously referring to January 6th Commission. While I want to be careful in how I make this distinction between what Timothy Snyder is talking about and the online business space, the marketing messages online do cause harm. They keep people stuck. They keep people undervaluing themselves, they keep them underearning, and with heaps of debt from continually investing in these programs.
“A big lie can never be told by just one person.” He goes on to say, “Trump is the originator of this big lie, but it could never have flourished without his allies on Capitol Hill.” I think that we see this when we see these web celebs surrounded by their peers of other web celebs all propping each other up in this form of cronyism, affiliating for each other, and requiring a peer group of influencers with a large social following. This is how it gets supported.
I’m not saying that they understand what they’re doing. I’m actually going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and say that this is coming from a good place. But when we see it play out online with tools from big tech that we know are meant to change and manipulate what you actually are exposed to, what you see, so it changes what you think and believe, there is something there that feels like we need to have some caution around.
He goes on to say, “Political futures now depend on this big lie. Senators Hawley and Cruz are running for president on the basis of this big lie.” The future of web celebs depends on this big lie. Many of them have protegees who have created huge followings and millions of dollars off of their proximity to someone, off of their access to someone, off of the basis of the big lies that are told in the online marketing space, even though they know that they either don’t work as well as they’re being advertised or that they are causing massive amounts of debt or mental and emotional health issues for the business owners.
The cure, “There is a cure for the big lie. Our elected representatives should tell the truth, without dissimulation, about the results of the 2020 election.” Any brand with influence, no matter how small, should tell the truth. That is what I hope to do. That is what I try to do here.
I really appreciate all of you who show up for this kind of conversation and who share it. I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m absolutely not perfect. I am a part of this system, just like everybody else.
It has taken me years to reflect on and look at where I am upholding parts of this system that I don’t want to uphold. I see all the time, people teaching tactics without talking about what they’re teaching. Here’s a familiar one. I see all the time people teaching NLP in copywriting. I don’t have an objection to NLP. I just know that some people don’t use it for good. Some people use it for manipulation and for reasons that feel a bit slimy and gross.
I can count on one hand how many people who are NLP practitioners that I genuinely trust and believe. So it’s not about NLP per se, it’s about who is teaching it. The fact that they often don’t share what they’re teaching is NLP. Then we all tend to pick up on these things and use them unknowingly, especially if you’ve been trained by somebody who hasn’t told you that that’s what they’re using or why they’re using it. Again, we’re all in this together, unfortunately.
The last point that he makes is that politicians who do not tell the simple truth and perpetuate the big lie, they further an alternative reality. They support conspiracy theories, and weaken democracy. Internet marketers who aren’t honest perpetuate these lies, they further this alternate reality that so many of us have bought into in one way or another, one time in our businesses or another. It weakens a business owner’s ability to actually make real money so they can provide for their families.
That is really why I wanted to share that with all of you because if we’re going to talk about why you’re not making money, we have to talk about some of these lies and how we’ve been swept up into them, the impact that they’re having on our businesses, and that it’s not your fault.
I want to unpack three big lies that I have been thinking about.
Big lie number one: Anyone can run a business that provides a steady and reliable income long term.
That’s not true. Not everybody was meant to be an entrepreneur. Not everybody was meant to be a business owner. It’s hard. It takes a lot of risk. It takes a lot of confidence. It takes a lot of support. It takes the ability to sell from a place of empathy and service, not manipulation and persuasion.
Big lie number two: Starting an online business is a low-cost low barrier to entry.
That is not true. All businesses require continual capital investment, and a leader who takes risks with their money. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s going to cost you money. But that is how you become a better business owner. There is no low-cost low barrier to entry. This is a combat sport. You’re going to get nicked and bruised. But I personally think it’s worth it.
I think we can make it fun. I think we can take the pressure off. I think we can make it more enjoyable. This is what I’m here to do. However, we cannot change that until we accept the truth, until we can walk away from the lie and accept the truth, then things can change.
Big lie number three: Starting, growing, running a business is easy.
Because it’s online, success happens quickly. Your business is not an ATM. It’s not a slot machine that only hits jackpots. No tactic is going to help you create money overnight. I know people like to talk about cash injections and cash infusions, and we can absolutely accelerate revenue. I have a whole curriculum worth of that material inside The Bold Profit Academy. But it’s not a faucet that we can turn on and turn off.
Just as an example, I have a business line of credit and I wanted to switch banks. I needed to apply for a new business line of credit and I wanted to apply for more money because the last time I applied for it, my business wasn’t making as much so I wanted to increase my line of credit and switch banks. That took two weeks. That was not overnight. I can’t even get money from a bank overnight. There’s an application process. There are things that I need to do consistently during that application process. There are conversations that need to be had in order for me to get that money.
Now, I can get money overnight, because I have a business line of credit so if anything happens, I have a business savings account to which I’ve been regularly and consistently contributing money because I implement Profit First. If you forget about “I need to make money now” and you focus on long-term sustainability and foundations, you won’t ever need a cash injection, in my opinion. Your business is not an ATM.
There’s a fourth big lie here around everybody being told it’s their mindset.
Yes, how we think about our businesses, sales, making money does matter. We absolutely want to look at our conditioning, our family of origin, beliefs and attitudes and we want to engage in learning how to navigate the realities of business and still be able to find joy, exhibit a growth mindset, and have an optimistic and hopeful world view, but there are also skills, steps, and sequencing to how you start at zero and progress towards way more than zero. Going from zero to more than zero, there are steps, sequences, and skills that you need to build along the way.
Things that you can consider as you assess why you’re not making money right now.
First, why do you want to make money and how much of it do you want to make?
You need radical clarity here. Otherwise, you’re going to get distracted and you’re going to wind up building a business for someone else’s needs and not your own.
When I work with my clients around this question and we dig really deep under the surface, the reasons for wanting more revenue in their business are real, poignant, compelling, and serious.
They want to feel empowered. They want to feel powerful. They want to be able to provide safety for themselves, and they’re worried about their financial futures. What if something happens to their spouse? What if something happens to their health?
What about the special-needs child that they want to provide additional care for that is outside of the insurance or that child might need care for longer than they expected? Or the baby they want to have through IVF, which is going to cost them money. Or the abuse they’re trying to escape, or the confidence they need to leave a relationship that is meh, but they know they deserve better.
Personally, for me, what drives me a lot is I really worry about the lack of social support in this country and how that’s going to impact my children’s future and my community. I see it all the time. Parents are so spread thin, they’re working so hard. They’re working jobs that they might have to travel a distance for to get a better income to provide for their families. They’re not as available for driving to and from activities or so on and so forth.
That’s one of my favorite things to do, owning my own business I do have that time freedom and I do have ways that I am in control of my finances and my financial future so I can give more of my time, I can pick up more of the carpooling, I can drive kids, I can be the person they call, even if their parents may be unavailable. That’s something that really hits home for me. We all have our own thing, but we really need to know what it is and we need to dig deep for it.
Two, energy management is your number one job and there’s a good likelihood that you are not prioritizing this.
We’re really big on what I call an EMS framework (Energy, Mindset, Strategy) in that order. I find that when women join The Bold Profit Academy, a lot of the times, that’s their work, they need to be focusing on that energy, that energy management.
When we feel good, it changes everything including our confidence, and it’s that confidence piece that will hang you out to dry every d*mn time from not asking for the sale, to undercharging, to over delivering, to spending too much money on random tactics. When we feel good, good things happen.
Excitement and enthusiasm are critical. Not in a fake it till you could make a kind of way, I mean, because people can smell that shit from a mile away, but in a way that embodies your commitment to being at your best.
Three, you believe that making money has to be hard, so you make it more complicated than it needs to be.
There are an infinite amount of ways to make this complicated, especially if you are doing what I said in the beginning, opening an app and seeking business information, and education from social media. Everybody has a different perspective. I have a different perspective. I have my own skill sets. That’s why I try to be very, very clear and explicit on who I can help and where my strengths lie so that you get the right help and you are listening to the right person.
I am speaking to service experts running service-based businesses in the broadest sense of the term. A lot of them are doing one-on-one work. They have a goal of paying themselves six figures because if they were working a traditional nine-to-five, that’s what they would be earning right now. Some of them are scoping indeed, already, seeing what’s out there.
These are my people, high-touch service providers, with a depth of knowledge and expertise, who are prioritizing wanting to get paid, mainly so their partner can shut up and stop asking them when their business is going to start providing. (Just kidding, just kidding.) That happens to none of us, I know. Listen, infinite ways that you can make things more complicated.
Four, the strategies you’re using are not aligned with your business model, which I see a lot with service-based businesses.
Are you following the people who are talking to you, or are you following the advice of somebody who’s talking to somebody with a different business model?
Example, selling low-dollar products or programs when the right buyer for you is actually more mature and willing to pay top dollar to be supported. Or maybe they’re further along in their business, or in their health journey, or something like that, and you’re selling them a real entry-level solution. It’s not going to happen. Or you’re using Facebook Lives when your audience doesn’t consume Facebook Lives. We have to be really sure that the strategies we’re using are aligning with your business model.
This one’s not a great one and some of you are going to need to hear this, but you think you know it all.
Even when you want support, you show up like you already know the solution, like you know everything. I get it, as experts, we have been rewarded for being the most knowledgeable, we have been rewarded for having our sh*t together. We have been rewarded for having all the answers. We have been rewarded for being the most-competent person in the room so we’re given all the things. We are used to being self-reliant and all of that.
However, you gotta put that down, and you gotta pick up a beginner’s mindset because you are most likely not seeing things that you need to see if you already knew it all, you would be where you want to be. There is absolutely no shame in adopting a beginner’s mindset. As a matter of fact, that is where the juice is.
I love working with people who have similar skill sets to me or even the same skill set to me because I get to see my work through a different lens. I get to pick up on tweaks, tiny tweaks and optimizations that I might not have found, instead of going and learning something that I know nothing about where I truly am a beginner. Learn how to be both expert and beginner. Because if you think you know it all, that is really going to stop you from making the money you want to make.
Here’s another one that I see, and I don’t think people realize they’re doing it, I think people are just tired.
I think that the incredibly excruciating learning curve that comes with small business, running a business, and making money is exhausting and fatiguing. You’re not necessarily intentionally doing this, but we need to correct it. You want to acquire knowledge without doing the learning of the knowledge, and you think that you can acquire the knowledge by osmosis.
Without learning, without failure, without mistakes, without taking risks, it’s not possible. That is just all a part of the game. If this is a behavior that you identify with, or you’re like, “Ooh, Tara just pulled something back here,” what I want you to consider is expanding the time horizon. You don’t have to learn it all now. Mastery comes over years and years and years.
I can show up here with the knowledge that I have because I have over 20 years of experience under my belt, and I’m still learning every day. I have time on my calendar where I am looking at a piece of research that’s in my area of expertise, or I am reading an article, reading a book.
I learn from my clients, honestly, they’re my best teachers. I learn from all of you when you come into my email, you DM me, or whatever, you reach out and you start a conversation with me. I can’t have these podcasts, I can’t do these podcasts if I didn’t have these conversations. I learn from all of you. You’re often my best teachers. I think learning is a critical competency for entrepreneurship, probably the most critical competency for entrepreneurship even above something like sales.
Here’s the seventh one. You’re not truly listening to what your audience wants.
You want what you want without considering their needs and desires. I feel so passionately about understanding why people buy, understanding the people who you want to go all in on and you want to make a difference in their world. Well, you have to first understand their world.
Offering services in a slightly different way to ensure my customers received exactly what they wanted mattered. You can’t always say things the way you want to say them. Sometimes you have to say things the way your people need to hear them.
Trust me, I have tantrumed over this. I have supported business owners who tantrum over this, who tell me, “Well, that’s baiting and switching. This whole concept of tell them what they want, give them what they need, that’s such a bait and switch.” I’m like, “No, it’s not. It’s speaking to them and meeting them where they’re at right now.” That’s what that is. You have to ask yourself, are you here to serve or are you here to fluff up your ego? That’s it.
Eight, you’re resentful of your community or your current customers because you give, give, give and don’t feel like they value your work.
Meaning they aren’t paying you for your work or they aren’t paying you enough for your work so you wind up giving a ton and not getting what is fair and equitable in exchange.
Reality check, this is about you and not them. You have to have boundaries. Let me give you an example of something that came out. I’ll never forget, this was years ago, but I sat down with an attorney who was local. I met them at a networking event. It was hysterical because I was dressed. I was in one of my finding myself moments and I’m all in this bohemian type of flowy outfit and he walks in and he’s in a black pinstripe suit. The juxtaposition was comical.
He spends 15 minutes telling me about his cheap clients. I’m using kind words when I say cheap clients, he was not as kind. He was on a tear. Once he was done venting, he looked at me and said, “So my phone isn’t ringing. Nobody’s calling. Maybe we can brainstorm marketing or sales strategies. Can you help me with that?” I was like, “No.” No. That’s not the actual problem. It’s his energy and his mindset that we need to talk about, not another strategy or a tactic. Just something to be present to.
I will tell you that I 100% have women say to me, often and frequently, how resentful they feel about their businesses. They come and they want to burn down their businesses and 75% of the time, I can draw it back to who, who they’re doing business with, how they’re in relationship with their target market, and the boundaries that they are not creating.
My final reason why you might not be making money right now, which has nothing to do with the economy, you haven’t decided it’s done.
Decide that the outcome you want is here now. How would you show up in your business? How would you show up in your life? Who would you be if what you wanted was here now? If you are paying yourself six figures, how would you show up? What decisions would you make? You have to decide that it is done.
Now, let me paint you a picture and help you clarify what you want. I said I was going to do this in the beginning, that I don’t run a “online” business. I have a podcast episode on that. I want to help you qualify what I think you want when you are engaged in this space, in this culture, and it’s sucking you in, even though you know that there are some big lies here. It can be alluring. It can be very sexy.
But here’s what you actually want. You want a business that is fully remote so you can spend the majority of your time working asynchronously, not live with people, asynchronously, which gives you the opportunity to have a flexible schedule while getting paid great money for the work that you do that brings you meaning and purpose.
I know that was a lot of words, but instead of “online” business that has a special business model to it, I want you to know that your business can be digital, it can be fully remote, whatever you want to call it. It can be remote first, so you can spend the majority of your time working offline asynchronously, which gives you that opportunity for a flexible schedule while getting paid great money to do work that brings you meaning and purpose.
You want to find ways to attract your very best clients without jumping through hoops and pimping yourself for the algorithm. You’re done being a court jester, you’re done jumping through the hoops, you’ve done that your entire career, your dues are paid, thank you very much. Here’s your receipts. You’re done. That’s how we should be. No more hoop jumping. We’re in command. We’ve earned that.
You want to have what feels like predictable revenue so you know exactly how much you can pay yourself each month. You want it to feel easy on your energy because you’re all already exhausted. Yes, you. You are already at capacity with the other things that you have in your life, with the state of the world. You’re already exhausted. We need things that feel easy and effortless on our energy while still creating a high impact. We want that low-lying fruit.
You want to radically reduce the feelings of pressure, stress, and worry—and do not tell me that you don’t fit into that category, most of you do, 61% of women small-business owners experience daily worry and stress—so you can actually go and enjoy the quality of life you dreamed of when you left that fluorescently lit cubicle farm in the dust. The majority of us left because we wanted a better quality of life.
If I’ve somehow managed to read your mind and now your big desire, then I want you to join The Bold Profit Academy waitlist now.
Each month I reach out to the entire waitlist and I reach out personally. I check in and I invite you to join us. I invite you to have a conversation with me about joining us.
We take four new people a month so we onboard people smoothly and get everyone on the best foot. That’s how that works. That’s why we roll it that way. We are moderating our growth so we can provide as best of an experience to you with the least amount of friction in your onboarding as possible.
Now, you might feel like you’re not ready at this moment but you’re still interested, I want to encourage you to still sign up for the waitlist. You can always just respond to me and say, “Hey, now’s not the right time”.