One of the commenters on my previous post about emotions wrote that she gets discouraged in her business. It made me nod my head. Yes, indeed. Emotions and business are not good bedmates.
I’ve run the business side of my music for many years now. It didn’t actually become a functioning business until I got clear that I wanted to get more orderly and business-savvy. That’s when I hired someone to help me. On his second day, he sat in my office while I tried to figure out what he could do. It was complete chaos. I burst into tears and sobbed about what a mess I was, and how I had no idea how to begin. At first he looked like a deer in headlights. Then slowly he began to help his hysterical new boss find a starting point.
I’ve come a long way since then. A long way. And yet, the biggest obstacle I still face in having a business is the emotional side of me.
I’ve read countless blogs of writers, artists, self-employed women, and healers. Many of them rant about clients, or agents, or about how hard it all is, and on and on. This isn’t helping.
I would never encourage anyone (especially artists and healers) to lose their sensitive side because that side is what makes them fantastic at their work. But I do know that this side can wreak havoc on the business end of things. The good news is that there are opportunities aplenty for all kinds of people, and there are ways to work through that emotional side so that we can function well as business owners.
Here are Christine’s Fifteen pieces of business advice for artists and sensitive types alike. May we all prosper.
1 – Learn how to say no.
This is the first one because it’s the biggest one. If it’s not an absolute yes, it’s a no. So many people are fueled by the desire for money or the need to please everyone that they say yes to everything. If this is you, and you are tired, take the biggest risk you can ever take. Start saying no. Say no to clients who drain you. Say no to employees who drain you. Pay more for better service. Ask more for your services. Start saying no. Even when it’s scary. Especially when it’s scary!
2 – People don’t need to know how you feel about everything.
Lots of times, emotional types think that they have to let everyone around them know how they feel because otherwise they’re being inauthentic. “I’m insecure today.” “I’m frightened today.” “I’m nervous about this new employee.” This kind of stuff is fine for your best friend. But not for someone who’s working for you, redesigning your site, or hiring you. Stop talking about your emotional-self constantly.
3 – Most people assume you know what you’re doing. Let them.
Many young performers will get on stage and start apologizing for their mistakes or for their next song or for the fact that they messed up in the last song. Here’s a secret: The audience wants you to succeed, and they want you to be confident because they don’t want to feel sorry for you. That’s just plain uncomfortable. If you’re walking onto a stage, the audience assumes that you know what the hell you’re doing. Play along with them. I don’t care if your audience is a new client or if it’s the biggest gallery owner in the city. Go with it. The whole world doesn’t need to know that you feel like you’re out of your league. Fake it til you make it.
4 – Find your values and live by them.
A lot of people ask themselves what they want before they even get clear about what they value. This can compel people to do things they never really wanted to do. For instance, I value time, silence, and space. I absolutely must work that into my schedule. I used to perform about 200 dates a year. Then I became an unhappy person who, in spite of good shows and sales, wasn’t doing well emotionally. I kept pushing myself because “that’s what musicians are supposed to do.” Now, I’m doing what I love to do without being on the road constantly. This is a different approach than just letting my schedule get filled with travel. It can be a challenge to order your life by your own values, but it will lead you to a clearer picture of what you want, and what to say no to.
5 – Segment intend.
This technique is from Ask and It is Given. I’ve been practicing “segment intending” for months now, and I’m amazed at the results. If you’re an artist and you’re about to do your art, then intend that the next 3 hours (or whatever) is dedicated solely to that. And that it’s fun and creative and productive and you love it. Then, if you’re about to head to the office to deal with clients, get really clear about that next segment. In other words, don’t start any activity without intending how you want it to go and what you want to do during that time. This is a miracle process. I’ve worked through much dread of business just by doing this one thing.
6 – Bathe in Seth Godin. Then rinse. And repeat.
If you feel like “there’s no use” or “I’ll never be huge” or “Wal-Mart rules everything so why bother,” you need Seth Godin. If you ridicule yourself because your success is only tiny, and your sister-in-law has made millions as a consultant for BigExpensiveThings-R-Us, then you need Seth Godin. If you conjure up the same lame ideas over and over again, you need Seth Godin. I recommend that you listen to him because he’s a GREAT reader. And I recommend that you get over to audible.com PRONTO (see link below) and start listening to samples of his books. Start with The Purple Cow. Then get them all. Take what applies to your work, and leave the rest. Something about his writing opens little doors in your brain so that you say, “Hey! I never thought of it that way! I can do this!”
7 – Create a business alter ego.
Make up a name. Then make up an identity for that name. (Pamela R. Stinson. MBA from Wharton. Valedictorian at Columbia, 1993. Great business mind, sexual preference undetermined, doesn’t take no for an answer.) Then, become that person when you’re working on the business side of your art or your product. You don’t have to use her name in your business dealings, but you might find that the energy of that person can shift your own body language when you’re in your office facing issues that scare sensitive-artist-you. Either way, it’s a fun game to play.
8 – Grok good customer service.
Go to Nordstrom. Buy something. Watch how you’re treated. Then, go to Macy’s. Do the same thing. Witness the difference. Apply that lesson in whatever way you can to your own customer service. It’s all service, no matter what you’re doing. Find a way to take the Nordstrom route. From now on, pay attention in all of your business transactions. Listen to language. Feel what inspires you, delights you, or makes you want to never go back to that establishment. And learn.
9 – Learn how to think.
Emotional people believe that their feelings are the facts. This will always get you in trouble. Learn how to think about your career. Take two hours every Sunday to drive and think. Or just to sit in the office and think. At first, you might feel totally stupid, but you’ll start to get it soon enough. Experiment, analyze and don’t go into massive drama when something doesn’t work. Just think again.
10 – Never send an email when you are emotional.
Email is a volatile communication form. I have received (and probably sent) some of the most damaging messages from people who had gotten my intentions all wrong, and then fired off a response filled with venom and vitriol. The danger (and the advantage) of email is that it’s immediate. If someone emails you something that triggers you, wait AT LEAST 24 HOURS before responding. Start using email etiquette. Use greetings, and acknowledge the human who’s reading the email prior to launching in to your business speak. And never ever send out an email when you are emotional. (Apply this to returning phone calls as well.)
11 – Never do ANYTHING when you are emotional.
See above. And say to yourself often, “I respond. I don’t react.”
12 – Be clear up front with anyone you hire.
Is this you?
“Oh my GOD! I met the COOLEST graphic designer and we’re going to do a trade! And we just totally clicked, and we laughed a lot, and we’re both Leo with Aries rising! I can just tell it’s a great match!”
Expectations, desired outcome, hourly wage, estimates — these are things that emotional people forget to be clear about right up front. They want to have that “cool connection!” And then it all falls apart because neither person expressed her true expectations.
This isn’t to say that cool connections can’t happen. They can. But boundaries are essential up front. And if some weirdness comes up after the project starts, stop and say, “I need to be clear here. I had thought you were going to include this service in the estimate – did I get that wrong?” Or whatever. Clarity scores big points, and for some reason, emotional people prefer to “hope it all works out” rather than review expectations and plans.
13 – Focus on what you want.
This may seem obvious. But I’m amazed at how easy it is for the sensitive artist types in the world to fall prey to the hardship stories. And there are lots of them going around. In my line of work, there are people out there begging for gigs. They’ll do anything. They’ll play for free. They say, “It’s so hard to be a musician.”
Here’s my advice: “Step AWAY from the stories!” Focus on what you want. And stay with that. I’ve taken time off, I’ve had rotten reviews, I’ve had full schedules and light schedules – and I’ve never been dropped on my butt. Keep moving in the direction of your vision or your dream. Be vigilant about this.
14 – Get very very very clear before you do your finances
If finances are ever scary for you, here’s what to do before you log on to your on-line account, before you open your bills, before you open Quicken:
Pray over your checkbook. Know that you are abundant. See your dreams coming true. Make up an amount that’s in your account. Say thank you for all that is perfect and wonderful in your life. Say thank you for the tiniest progress you have made.
Then proceed with your finances.
Emotional people tend to get shame-y around money. Shift that energy. And really work at shifting that energy. If you get one thing from this post, let this be it.
15 – Only YOU get to decide if “You’ll Never Work in this Town Again!”
Everyone has an opinion about who’s through, who has had it, who’s washed up, etc. This kind of talk can run through your head and keep you in a constant state of anxiety about “the end of the line.” I had a dramatic experience when I broke up with someone who was also in the music business. The break up was not a good one. And in an apparent rage that lasted, oh, about eight months, this former partner of mine called clubs, bars, record labels, agents, and, from what I hear, did his best to encourage them never to book me or work with me. Whereas I’m sure some of them took his advice, and whereas I was really dumb and believed he could “ruin” me (this was even before I had gotten my office in order), I kept “minding my own business.” And guess what? I wasn’t ruined. My end did not come. You know why? Because I didn’t agree that it could or would. You have the power. Yes, the obstacles may seem insurmountable at times. But only you get to decide when to call it quits. Your emotions may scream at you that you’re ruined. But that’s just your emotions.
And if it weren’t for all of those emotions, you wouldn’t have to be reading this post in the first place!