Some preliminary work with a business coach this week forced me to do something I’m very bad at: look closely at the numbers in my business. As well as throwing up some very interesting patterns, doing this made me realise how much I’ve learned about money over the past four years in business.

 

You may need to change the way you think and talk about money

When I first left my job I used to say things like ‘I just want to make enough money to pay the bills’. And guess what? That’s what I got. And of course I’m not knocking that – lots of people aren’t able to manage it (I’ve been there myself) and it creates huge problems. But in my experience, if you say you want just enough to live on, the universe will take you at your word. When I realised the pattern, stopped framing my thoughts about money in that way and started to think about what I really wanted, that’s when things started going better for me.

It’s not about greed. That’s part of the problem I think – some of us are raised to think about money as a negative thing, and it influences our unconscious behaviour as adults. Obviously, if you’re only in it for the money that is not a good thing… your ‘why’ has to be about more than financial reward. But if deep down you’re thinking negatively about money and what it means, then it’s going to be that much harder to make any.

When I started to think more positively and more clearly about money, and stopped associating making and having money with greed and guilt, I started earning more.

That might sound a bit ‘woo-woo’, but it’s certainly been true for me.

I am so grateful for what I’ve managed to achieve over the past four years. It’s been – and is – a lot of work, and no one ever got anywhere worth being without that. But having the right mindset is definitely part of the picture.

 

It’s okay to set audacious goals for yourself

I first became self employed after 15 years of being an employee. I had never negotiated my salary or thought about what I should earn. Mostly I worked in the public sector, where salaries were fixed – and when I worked in other sectors I just passively accepted what I was offered. It never occurred to me not to.

So the very first time I sat down with a business coach and she asked about my financial goals, I didn’t have a clue. I really hadn’t ever thought about it. My old salary was all I knew, and as high as I could think, so that’s what I said. And as goals go, it wasn’t a bad one (and it certainly seemed as far off as the moon that first year, when I was still doing supply teaching to make ends meet while I set up the business).

I’ve done a lot of mindset work since then, and I’ve come to realise that when I was a teacher at the top of the payscale, I didn’t really feel I deserved my salary. I was too removed from it; it just landed in my account each month.  It seemed generous to me, because I wasn’t thinking of it in relation to what I did, but in terms of my background and previous salaries. We never had a lot of money when I was growing up, and as a teacher I earned more than either of my parents ever have. I was proud of what I’d achieved, but deep down I was always worried that I’d be ‘found out’.

So even the goal of making that salary back was almost too far a mental leap for me to make.

Of course, it’s easy for me to sit here now having achieved that goal and say ‘Wow, my goals were really small!’ But the important thing is not the size of the goal. It’s that if I’d known then what I know now, I think I would have got there quicker. It was only when I increased my goal that I managed to achieve my original goal. (The old ‘shoot for the moon’ cliche in action!)

The past four years have taught me to set goals that are higher than I think I can actually achieve – because once I started doing that, and changing the way I thought about money, things started happening for me a lot faster.

 

Do the work, be grateful and look for the solutions

I wish I’d known not to worry so much. I remember months when I’d be seriously concerned about being able to pay the rent.

But stress and worry drain your energy. And there is absolutely no point in it – worrying gets you nowhere. All it does is paralyse you, leaving you unable to concentrate, think straight or make decisions. So instead, just focus on doing the work in front of you.

I’m not naturally all that optimistic, but I am a good problem solver, and so I learned to look for the solutions. Instead of looking for the next bad thing about to happen (and sometimes it did!) I trained myself to look for the opportunity, the solution, and what positive things I could do to improve the situation and help myself. Sometimes just the positive action of looking for a solution will lead to you to good things, directly or indirectly. Positivity = rewards.

Example: I’ve been getting a bit bogged down in issues around time management lately (I’ve got busier but I am still only one person, with a finite number of hours!). That’s why I was doing the exercise with the coach last week, as a positive step towards fixing that problem. After sitting up until the wee smalls doing the exercise, appreciating how far I’ve come and thinking about my business goals for 2019, I received an email the very next morning from a previous client. I did a very small, one-off piece of work for this client a year ago, and had totally forgotten about them – and now out of the blue they were getting in touch to discuss a potential HUGE project that was exactly aligned with my goals.

Coincidence? I really don’t believe it was. Focusing on my goals, gratitude and positive next steps helped me to attract something awesome.

 

Keep an eye on the numbers

I wish I’d done the money work before – and on a regular basis.

Who are my best clients?
What type of work is bringing me the most money?
How much money and time am I investing to generate my business – and how much return am I getting?

Aside from a vague idea, I really didn’t know for sure. Looking at those figures has made me wonder if I might have made different decisions in my business had I taken the time to sit down regularly and do my sums.

Doing it has definitely made me more focused. And I got some nice surprises in terms of business growth (seeing an actual figure is quite reassuring) and it’s made all my goals look more achievable.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions (plus we’re nearly into February now – how late is too late?!) but if I did, mine would definitely be to look at the numbers regularly – and use them to help guide me.