How & Why I No Longer Play by the “Rules” of Online Business

There’s a shift in the way I’ve been approaching my business lately, and it’s all about how it feels to me. Which means no longer playing by the “rules” of online business.

How & Why I No Longer Play By the Rules of Online Business

When I started my business in 2008 it wasn’t intentional. I couldn’t get a job, I found some freelance work online, and I needed the money. I kept going, kept writing, kept working and eventually realised that this had potential – this was actually a real “business”!

But my focus was often on what I “should” be doing. On growth, on numbers, on some version of success that I read about in a blog or read in a book.

The key thing missing from all this was how I personally felt about what I was doing.

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve taken a step back from the day-to-day running of my business to consider my values, my strengths, my weaknesses, my time constraints and, importantly, my feelings, to tweak and change what I’m doing to completely suit me. And what suits me might be completely different to what suits someone else, which is why a formula for success would never have worked.

I regularly take steps back in the day-to-day running of my business, and also through regular “big picture” meetings with myself to ask questions like…

  • Does a certain marketing strategy feel “icky”, even if I’m not sure why, even if other respected business owners do it? You don’t have to do it.
  • Am I a customer of someone else’s and didn’t like the way they did something? Make a mental note not to do that for your own business.
  • Is everyone raving about a certain marketing method, or way to make more money, but it doesn’t sound exciting to me? Doesn’t matter – set it aside and focus on what feels good.
  • Did some expert write it in a bestselling book? Or share it on their Instagram account that has 1 million followers? Still doesn’t matter.
  • Am I feeling under pressure to go bigger, to grow, to hire other people, to do anything that doesn’t feel right? It’s fine to keep things small and simple.

That’s not to say I won’t revisit what I’m doing if things aren’t working for me, financially. But I’ve realised that it’s often possible to make a business financially sustainable without doing all the things you think you need to do.

For all the exercises I use in my regular meetings with myself, click here to check out my program - Clarify: Your Big Picture Business Kit

Staying True to Myself

If I’m honest, it sounds simpler than it is. It can be quite scary to forge your own path. And a lot of the fear and uncertainty around doing things differently to how everyone else is doing it comes from the fear of being myself.

I really and truly thought I wanted to be like other people, or that others “knew better”. I’d constantly compare myself to others on social media, thinking I had to create like them, to market like them, to be as loud as them, as intelligent, as productive (or more so!). Not to mention the “noise” of so many people’s opinions coming at you from all directions on social media.

I think it helps to start by defining your own version of success. Once you know this, it’s way easier to ignore what other people are doing, ignore the stats and stay in your own lane.

Whenever I start chasing the Instagram followers, an arbitrary income level, or anything else in my business, I try to notice and ask myself “why?” Why is it that you think you need those things to be considered a true success in your online business? Is this really my inner voice, or somebody else’s version of success? And who is even keeping score?

It’s a lot easier said than done, I admit, but getting deeper and defining my real goals – like being able to donate some of my profits to charity, to have a flexible balance of work and life with my son, or to prioritise creativity in my day-to-day – can help give me some much-needed perspective.

I fully admit to still making mistakes – often! And I regularly unfollow people on social media, not because they’re doing anything wrong, but because I am triggered in some way by what they’re saying.

There Are No Rules

Underlying all this is my core belief that there are no rules. And believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money trying to figure out the rules. But what we are doing is still so new, so full of possibility, that we get to make them up as we go. For each rule you read about online business, social media, marketing and money there are so many examples of people breaking every single one of those rules.

The rules may work for some, and I do set some rules for myself, but they can be bent, flipped or totally ignored if you want. I am slowly and surely trying to eliminate the word “should” from my vocabulary (and if you see it on an old post here – please forgive me! I am slowly editing them all – and that’s OK too!)

The thing I realised is that nobody else is working in this business but me. It’s OK for me to take time off, to reduce my hours sometimes, to forget about a certain way of making money if it doesn’t feel good for me, or to work on things a little more slowly if it means enjoying life a little more right now.

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