Back when you started your business, 6 months, 1, 2, 5 or however many years ago, I can almost guarantee that there is one thing, one thing with lasting repercussions, that you did wrong at the very beginning. Um, I know, because I did, too.
I know, right? Who likes to talk about what they did wrong? I know I sure don’t. I remember a really stupid argument with my husband once when he said I was using the can opener wrong. The can opener. As I recall, I’d complained that the stupid thing kept not cutting all the way around the top of the can, requiring me to repeatedly squeeze the sides of the can and re-cut, then get in there with a butter knife and pry the lid off. Really. I was so annoyed. So when he said I was using the can opener wrong, it wasn't pretty. I tell you this, so you know that I get it: being told that you are doing or have done something wrong – nobody’s favorite. I personally hate it.
But I am pointing this out because, just like the can opener, sometimes there’s a problem, something’s just not working and it’s important to acknowledge it instead of Making It Work, instead of using a butter knife to accomplish your goals.
Yes, sometimes the fact-finding that follows that problem-acknowledgment includes some uncomfortable soul-searching along the lines of Really, do I actually not know how to use a god damn can-opener correctly after all these years on the planet? And, then, too, that fact-finding needs to extend to the tool itself, not just the user.
In the case of that damn can opener, let me tell you that it was a cheap piece of shit from the supermarket that corresponded 100% to my earning ability in my early-20s. Please trust me when I say that there is zero /skill/ involved in operating a can opener – I swear, no Know-How required AT ALL. That piece of shit just genuinely did not work. After that ridiculous argument, I bought myself a decent KitchenAid can opener from Sur La Table that I could then afford, & voila, problem solved. Well, mostly. There’s still going to be, every once in a while, a dented can.
Here’s the deal though: If there’s a problem with opening a can now, I know it’s the CAN, not me. The CAN OPENER, not me.
So anyway, back to your business.
The #1 mistake you likely made when you were just starting out was NOT not having a gorgeous website. It was NOT not having a gorgeous Instagram feed fully integrated with your Twitter and Facebook, and a thorough editorial calendar governing your every content-marketing communication with your clients, present and future. It was certainly NOT not having a great idea, enthusiasm, drive, fans, clients, supporters.
Your #1 Mistake was that you set your prices too low.
I get it. It’s so common to do this. Hell, I did this, too. I was new to having my own business, selling my own services on my own. I talked to someone who was doing similar work, and thought I’d just try her hourly rate + $10/hour, and see if people said Yes. They did. A lot of them said Yes.
So I was busy.
And that was fine. That was good. At first. Because it gave me the opportunity to work, to test my value proposition, to get clients, to get feedback, to get testimonials. To learn what it was like to have a business, to work for my own damn self.
The trouble is that when you go out soft with your pricing -- which so many of us do, because we're testing our own voices, our own ideas -- well, that soft will actually hobble you down the line. It will keep you working a bit small, certainly not with the people who can afford to pay you what you really want to charge for the work you really want to do. It will prevent you from making a profit, it will block you from hiring, it will make sure there isn't enough money in your bank account. When you start soft, which so many of us do, then you get stuck. Stuck like what?
Just like, you guessed it, a cheap-ass can opener. You had to know that was coming, right?
Sure, you could raise your prices by X percentage. Sure. But the problem is that small increases to too-small prices result in prices that ARE STILL TOO SMALL, and that's not going to cut it for you, either. Because by now, you realize that incrementally increasing your prices is just more of the same:
Using a butter knife to do a can opener's work.
When you find yourself there, stuck with your too-small prices, a lot of experience and success stories and not enough money in the bank, what you don't need is a butter knife.
What you need, to fix that #1 Mistake you made when you started out, is a total overhaul, a bold re-think of your business model and pricing, in order to bust you out of the corner you put yourself in and take you where you really want to go.
I'm not saying it's easy. But if you want to grow, if you want to honor what you've learned and really use it to move forward, then the overhaul is inevitable.
The Really Great News is that you have a business – you’ve clearly proven your concept, your leadership, your viability, right? You have clients, you know how to work for yourself, you know how to set up an idea, develop it, pitch it, sell it, deliver it, wow people, rinse and repeat. So now it’s just time to sit back like the bad-ass CEO you are and consider all of that from your new vantage point. Now comes the really fun work of connecting the big value of the transformation, the change, the outcomes you’re offering to the right clients using your price as the bridge.
Your price is the bridge that brings your ideal clients to you. Build it.
That's big work. It's a whole other order of magnitude. It's way beyond butter knives and can openers. You are so ready. Build it.