In the world of startup success and swanky entrepreneurs, it’s easy to feel like you need to fit into a certain mould to succeed.
To have shiny hair, glowing-white teeth, and the self-assured confidence of a toddler rocking a tiara.
But what if you feel a bit like a misfit? What if you look at those glowing beacons of business goodness and feel, well, a bit wonky and a little scruffy?
Guess what? I’m a misfit entrepreneur and proud. And I believe embracing your inner (or outer) misfit can actually be the secret to business success.
1. Don’t have a plan.
Think you need a business plan to succeed? Think again.
Despite now heading up three successful businesses, I’ve never had a formal business plan. I’ve based my decisions on instinct more than intellect, and have gone with the flow – some things work, some things don’t, and I’m learning as I go.
My business journey certainly hasn’t been linear. I’ve gone the long way round a few times, but I’ve also discovered some amazing shortcuts.
So instead of feeling overwhelmed about creating a business plan and then feeling beholden to it, I’d suggest it’s more important to be clear on your ‘why’. Why do you want to have a business? What does success look like for you? And then put one foot in front of the other to get there.
2. Not everyone will like you.
You’re not going to be everyone’s tipple of choice, and that’s OK.
When I first started out in business, I spent far too much time worrying about what other people thought of me, and trying to please everyone, all the time. It made me feel a bit vanilla. And it felt like hard work. My cheeks were aching from my people-pleasing smiles and my neck hurt from nodding yes to everything.
But then, I started to be more myself. I embraced my quirks and oddness. I started sharing more of myself on my social media and with my clients, and embraced my ‘Toonisms’ – the words I use on repeat which have become part of my Tooniverse.
Not everyone loves me and my approach, but the people who do love my misfit aspects are the people who want to work with me, who sign up for my courses and memberships, and who leave glowing five-star reviews on Google. By not trying to be everything to everyone, I found my people and my ideal audience.
3. Competitors or cheerleaders?
Are you wasting valuable time obsessing over your competitors and what they’re doing? Stop.
Ignoring your competition is one of my tips for success. While it’s useful to keep an eye on others in your industry, there’s no-one else doing what you’re doing in exactly the same way, so focus on yourself and invest that time into improving your own business, rather than doomscrolling Instagram every day.
It’s easy to feel like others out there are kicking goals, scoring wins and generally winning at business life, but even the most glossy successful entrepreneurs have their days of doubt and imposter syndrome.
When I The Clever Copywriting School, my online membership community for copywriters, many people thought I was crazy. Why would I want to share my templates, tools and top tips with my competitors?
The truth is, there really is enough business pie to go around, and when we treat our competitors as colleagues, collaborators and even cheerleaders, we’re going to create new opportunities for success.
4. Embrace emotion.
You’ve heard it said before. It’s business, it’s not personal.
But when you run your own business, it’s pretty impossible to keep the personal out of it. And it’s no secret that I’m an emotional beast. I wear my heart on my sleeve and feel all the feels. The side-splitting laughs and the highs, the ugly-crying and the woes.
I used to think I had to hide my emotions in order to succeed in business, but I’ve found that sharing your doubts and failings openly makes you much more relatable and trustworthy.
I’m not saying every social post or share needs to be about your shortcomings and business failures, but ‘keeping it real’ is so much more endearing than living an unattainable reality. And it’s helped me connect with thousands of people in a very real way.
5. Shiny object syndrome.
Oooh, what’s that! Something new and shiny? The perfect distraction from the daily realities of running a business? Where do I sign up?
Shiny objects are the frenemy of the business world. With so many new things coming online all the time, and new ideas brewing daily, it’s easy to get caught up in wondering if this new shiny thing is the shiny thing for you.
And I’ll admit, some of my biggest business successes have been as a result of trying shiny new things and making the work.
The key here is to fail fast. Try the new things, but if it isn’t working, then quickly move on. If something feels hard and like it’s not going to work, trust your gut.
And think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Is it serving your audience? Is it something you enjoy? Is it making you money? I usually try to have a yes answer to at least two of these questions before I jump in to something new.
6. Fading enthusiasm.
To be successful in business you need to love what you do and be relentless in your enthusiasm. Wrong.
We all have business wobbles. Some days I really can’t be bothered. And it’s normal to feel that way. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur or running your own business, it just means you’re human.
No-one is 100% enthusiastic ALL the time. Even if you love what you do, some days will be tough.
You can’t be ‘rah rah rah’ all the time, nor do you need to be. It’s okay to put down the pom poms every so often and admit that running a business of any size is a tough gig. After all, if it were easy then everyone would be doing it, right?
The key to success is to just keep showing up. Even on the days you really can’t be bothered, and start to fantasise about a regular income and an office stationery cupboard.
7. Think small.
In the world of business, we’re all striving to grow. Be bigger. Scale-up. Control the universe!
But how about thinking small?
I’ve scaled the dizzy heights of entrepreneurial success. I’ve cracked those 7-figures and built three successful businesses.
But honestly, being bigger comes with its own set of challenges. Those big course launches take a LOT of work. Those keynote speaker gigs are exhilarating but exhausting.
It comes back to your why. What do you actually want to achieve with your business? How much do you need to earn to enjoy your ideal lifestyle? Are you prepared to employ a team or do you want to keep working on your own?
Instead of getting swept away on the growth train, think about your own reality, and if small suits, then stick with it.
About the author:
Kate Toon is a Google-beast-taming, straight-talking, digital-marketing-demystifying guru who’s constantly finding new avenues to connect with and create value for others. Between hosting three podcasts, running her Facebook group, overseeing content drops for her courses and interacting with her clients, Kate has been speaking at events and running Australia’s only dedicated copywriting conference CopyCon.