Let's talk about moving the needle in your business.
For most budding entrepreneurs, simply saying "let's do things that move the needle" usually sparks either one of two reactions:
"Oh yes, I need that, I'm tired of wasting my time and running in circles." (Maybe that's you)
"Actually, I'm enjoying being creative, going with the flow, and just doing what I'm already doing." And that might be a better fit for you right now.
This episode is geared toward those of you who fit into the first reaction. Yes, let's move the needle, I am so distracted, I'm chasing shiny objects and have squirrel syndrome and I'm ready to get focused.
First step: Label the needle you want to move. The phrase "move the needle" comes from the idea of looking at a dial, like your speedometer or a compass or something with a needle that you want to point to a certain thing.
You need to decide which needle you're focusing on, and where you want it to point.
For a lot of us, it's the income needle. "I want to make more money." That's the default, because we're heavily influenced by advertising on social media - in your Facebook and Instagram Feeds - to believe that the ultimate goal is to reach six figures. The ultimate goal is to replace your day job income of whatever it is. $50,000 per year.
So I want to ask you - what kind of needle are you wanting to move? Be specific. This is where the SMART goals come in -- remember that? Specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, timely. You can't just say "I want my business to make more money!" because there's no specific number associated with the word "more."
Let me give you some examples that are related to money for your business:
I want to make $1,000 in income from my business by April 30th, in this upcoming launch.
I want my digital course to bring in $1,000.00 each month for three months in a row.
Those are income examples.
But it doesn't always have to be an income number.
Other money examples might be SAVING money. "I want to have $50,000.00 in savings, and at that point I'll make a timeline for when I can quit my job or take a sabbatical."
"I want to sell 50 copies of my eBook." That one's not that great, because technically if you do anything for long enough you'll hit that number, so you'd have to be more specific about the timeline. Like if you've only sold 16 eBooks, and you say the needle you want to move is "I want to get that number to 50" then you had better set a "by when" date.
So you have an income needle you might want to move. Or a sales number or quantity that you want to reach. Or an amount of money you want to save from your day job.
All of those are valid goals. In fact, I don't think there's any such thing as a bad goal. But if you're at the point where you're like, "Oh my gosh something's gotta give, I can't keep doing this, Rochelle" then we need to dig into what numbers actually mean something to you. Which needles matter.
There are other kinds of needles to move, and these are the ones I prefer to use for goal setting, personally. Maybe you're very numbers based, and you don't get intimidated by sales goals, and you come from a sales background where you have the ability to not take things personally when someone says no, or when you have to put extra hours in. If you're that type of person (truly) then it's just a numbers game. Keep going, keep knocking, keep calling, keep emailing, and you'll get there eventually.
But for someone like me, who's very energy and feelings-based, that can get exhausting, real quick. And it starts to not feel very meaningful, and it's really easy to lose sight of the bigger, happier vision you have for yourself.
So here are some other needles to consider moving, instead:
The needle of "opportunities sought out." I have a personal practice that I highly recommend, which is called the "100 Doors Project." The idea is that you set a goal to hit 100 Doors, and a door can be any kind of opportunity that you open for yourself. You emailed the co-working space and pitched a workshop. You called the nearby college and asked who you need to talk to to get on their guest speaker program. You keep track of these things, and stay open to what might happen, because you're literally ONLY measuring how many things you apply to, until you get to 100. I call them "doors" because it's not you being timid and thinking about doing something. It's not just knocking. It's actually opening a door, saying "Hi, who's in here? How can I help? Nobody? Okay, I'm moving on but holler if you need me."
Now I have to warn you-- this works VERY well. Once you get to the 50th or 60th door, you'll see that all the doors you've opened (if you can imagine running down a long corridor and leaving every door open behind you, got that visual?) people end up peeking their heads out and going "WAIT! I need you now!" It just works.
So If you're going to pick a needle to move, choose that one. Don't get too fancy with it. Just write out a list on a Google Sheet or in Trello or in your journal and track them. If you get to 100 doors, then circle back and follow up, starting with Door number 1.
Another needle you might consider is the feelings needle. Now it's hard to quantify feelings, so this one you may need to have some fun with. We all want to feel more freedom in our lives. That's why we started our businesses, right? We want to feel joyful and free and we want to feel like we're making a difference related to the thing we care a lot about. So let's say you care a lot about empowering moms to remember who they were before they had children.
Well, you can't really quantify "I want to help 100 moms feel empowered." Because you have no control over how empowered someone else feels. They might be doing exactly the things you teach them to do, but they still feel awful and small, and that's not your responsibility or even within your power to change.
But you probably have quite a few tricks up your sleeve, with your experience working with clients in the past, on how you can teach people to empower themselves. So maybe you have your own system. You know of 5 core, daily practices all women should implement every day, to set a good example for their teenage daughters. I dunno. Something like that.
In that case, ask yourself what your favorite way to teach and educate is. Is it in a discussion with other coaches? Is it as a guest on a podcast? Is it via your blog?
THAT is the needle you're focusing on. It's kind of the same as the 100 Doors Project, but it's more specific and it makes you feel good, because you chose the thing that feels good for you to do.
So in this example, your needle would be "I want to write 25 blog posts this year about those 5 core, daily practices." And you might set a deadline that you want to batch them all out in the next 90 days. Cool! Now when you sit down to write, you know you're moving your needle toward that "Blog Number 25" goal, and you know that with every blog you write, you feel better and better, because you decided that writing is your favorite method of teaching, and you wanted to get these blogs out into the world.
Now here's the tricky part...
You have to acknowledge which needle you're still watching and intentionally decide when it's time to stop moving it.
For example, if you're on blog post number 11 and you're feeling crummy but you're like "yeah but I set this goal for myself!" then something's wrong. Because the point of moving that particular "feelings" needle was for YOU to feel better. If you don't feel better with every blog you're writing, then you're no longer moving the feelings needle. You've just become a content slave, which was never the intention. You're allowed to let go of watching that needle.
Here's another example: Let's say you went down the 100 Doors of Opportunity route. You're trying to move the needle so that you have many, many more opportunities in front of you. If at some point you stop, and start getting frustrated because you're doing all of these guest posts you have to write but you have no time and you're losing sleep because you've got kids and a day job and you can't imagine doing this much work for free forever and now you hate marketing, then it's time to stop watching that 100 Doors needle. It's time to say okay, I opened 25 doors and I'm up to my neck in opportunities. Now I want to focus on something else.
Here's one more example for you, going back to the income needle. Let's say you're doing the savings needle and you want to save $50,000 and only then will you decide whether you should take your sabbatical. Let's say you've got it up to $27,000.00 and your boss is driving you nuts and you're kind of dying a little bit inside because you spend 4 hours every day inside a car, commuting. That's going to have some major wear and tear on you. And the "nice" thing about day jobs is you can sort of predict how long it will take to save whatever amount of money. Let's say you do the calculations, and with the cost of day care, and the $29/month you spend on your email service provider, and factoring in that your rent will probably increase every 8 months by $200, how long is it really going to take? You might not get there for another 5 years. It may be time to re-evaluate.
Maybe you're the type to get lots of side jobs or flip things on eBay that you buy at antique shops and you'll feel good about how that will speed things up.
Maybe you're like, forget it, I'll reach $30,000 and I'm resourceful, I'll figure it out. (That was my method by the way... I had a certain amount -- NOT ENOUGH, I will admit -- in savings, and I took a leap of faith and just started doing what I wanted to do). But it really depends on you and what's most important to you.
I've got one more example for you that isn't quite as dire and life changing, just so you can see why being clear about what your current focus is is SO important. This one's more of a vanity and ego-centered needle that I had to drop, personally.
So, who here has a hard time with the algorithm? You take beautiful photos, find the perfect quote, livestream about the exact topic your surveyed email list said they wanted from you... and only 10 people see it.
It's super frustrating.
That was the kind of thing I was thinking about earlier this month when I started using the Tailwind app. For those of you who don't know, Tailwind is an app that auto posts to Instagram and/or Pinterest for you, so you don't have to do it manually every day.
I finally got into batching my IG posts (and I'm talking about the grid/feed ones, not the stories, which I don't mind doing live, daily) after having a talk with myself.
I was torn because I've noticed a significant jump in my engagement and reach on IG when I use the Facebook Creator Platform to batch my posts for Instagram.
It's a bummer because holy heck, that interface isn't meant for batching. But the organic reach is better, because Facebook exists to help Facebook. And they like it when you use their tools instead of 3rd party tools.
I had to admit to myself that the needle I wanted to move wasn't organic reach. If I really wanted more organic reach so that my posts randomly show up in the feeds of people I don't know on the internet, then I'd keep using the native Facebook tools to schedule.
The needle I wanted to move was the efficiency needle. I know my marketing plan. It is not centered on SEO or organic reach or hashtags or any of that. It's centered on me showing up at networking meetings, having coffee chats with people I want to get to know, and collaborating with people who have similar audiences. I had to admit that i have more of a deeper, grassroots marketing method, and that's perfectly okay.
And The only reason I want to pre-schedule my posts on Instagram is mainly so that I can continue to put my message out there. The people I have coffee chats with, the people I meet at networking events who are going through their stack of business cards and actually look me up because my card is in their hand -- I want them to see a grid or feed that accurately reflects what I'm all about right now, as a brand and a thought leader. That's all.
So yeah, I'm using Tailwind. I'm remembering that the needle I want to move is the one related to efficiency, and building a better habit of batching because that's essential to long term success as an entrepreneur.
So! With that in mind... I'm wondering if you have ideas on what your needle is pointing to. What does your needle say, and why do you want it to move? Remember that it's not always about income, unless you want it to be. And even then, there are lots of ways to make some extra cash without ignoring your feelings or your personal values.
If you'd like to ask me more about this, join our community! You can go to The Self Employed Nerd dot com and you'll see a link to join us and start a conversation about moving needles and being self employed and all that fun solopreneur stuff. Visit The Self Employed Nerd for more resources and to keep in touch with me!
I have some virtual co-working sessions coming up where we can get together for 90 minutes, and move our individual needles together so you feel like you're making progress toward your long term vision for your business and your life.
I hope to see you there! Visit theselfemployednerd.com and have a great week!