Finding your way out of the business wilderness

We’ve all been there – the unbearable space between where you are and where you want to be in your business. 

Perhaps the current version of your business feels too small, safe, and limiting. Maybe you’ve outgrown your clients, revenue, and business model. Maybe you’re not even sure what your business model is (hey, there’s no shame in this game, most of us start with the default model!). 

You know there’s a next chapter waiting to be written – something more expansive, captivating, and motivating – but you’re darned if you know what that looks like or how to get there.

Can you relate?

Let’s give this unsettling place a name: The Wilderness.

Being in The Wilderness might manifest as feeling lost, overwhelmed, or having lost your mojo. Maybe you feel resentment, even shame that your profit and loss sheet does not reflect the talent, potential, and hard work you put in. The Wilderness can feel scary because we don’t know how big it is, how long it will last, or what it means/says about us.

As a business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers (and a business owner myself), I’ve come to realize The Wilderness is somewhere we all visit. Rather than being something to fear, I’ve come to view it as a big old signpost that we need to make a change.

Ready to move through The Wilderness and fully embrace the next fulfilling and profitable chapter of your creative business or career?

Read on for three actionable steps to be on your merry way:

1) Get it out

When we’re in The Wilderness, we tend to turn inward, meaning we keep all the confusion, discomfort, and fear inside where it morphs, grows, and generally wreaks havoc. In the last 24 hours alone, I’ve coached two clients who, when presented with a well-placed question and non-judgmental space to talk, came to some pretty profound realizations. In both cases, these insights unlocked the story that was holding them back from the next big thing and gave rise to some surprisingly simple next steps.

How might you get it out? Maybe your support person is a coach (maybe me?), partner, collaborator, and/or therapist.

Not a verbal processor or in a position to hire a coach or therapist? I’m a later-in-life convert to journaling, specifically the Morning Pages. The most important thing is that you get your ideas out so they can be processed in the light of day!

2) Hang out with folks further along than you

OK, this one can feel scary because you’re already feeling a little wobbly and now I’m asking you to put yourself in the company of people that will make you feel even more stuck. Nope, not at all! This is about intentionally finding communities – from local networking groups to high-level masterminds, expert-led retreats, or coaching programs – that support individual and collective growth.

Caveat: there are a whole lot of “experts” out there promising the world and delivering very little. Choose your mentors, groups, and people wisely. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Check out the credentials of the professional or group. What is their experience? What is their process? How do they get results? Hint: if it means getting dragged out of bed at 2 a.m. for a fire walk, it’s probably a “no” for me. What are other people saying about the experience?
  • What is the quality and caliber of the people you’ll be in company with? Reach out to a past client or participant and ask them to share their experience as well as the results they got.
  • Do your homework. Ask lots of questions. Trust your instincts.

3. Do the thing

Exciting, expansive, and lucrative new chapters in your life and business don’t just happen. You’ve got to create something, put it out into the world, test and refine it, and do the whole thing again. This, my friends, is not for the faint of heart. But every great leap is on the other side of discomfort, vulnerability, and experimentation.

OK, that’s the pep talk. Now, how do you make it happen? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Clear the decks: What has to go so you have the time, energy, and bandwidth to dedicate to a new idea or project? Maybe it’s a “legacy” client (you know, the one you’ve not raised your rates with for years for fear of losing that revenue).
    Sketch out the simplest possible version of this offering. What do you need to put it out there? Do you need advice, more information, a resource, or an introduction? Who could help you?
  • Reach out to the folks you think could help and ask for what you need. Don’t forget to offer them the same should you be in a position to support them.
  • Put time in your calendar to do the work. Business advisor and author, Charlie Gilkey refers to this time as focus blocks and advises they be 90-120 minutes. For reference, the other blocks of time are social blocks, which are not what you might think i.e. hanging out with your friends, but your daily work (for me, coaching is a social block), recovery blocks, and admin blocks. If you’re anything like most folks, focus blocks are sorely lacking. Make sure you have at least 3 of those in your week.

How are you feeling? Are you still feeling lost or a little more hopeful that The Wilderness is something you’re moving through on your way to something bigger and better?

I’d LOVE to hear what your biggest takeaway from this article was. Drop a comment and let me know!

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