There are three types of blog post in this world. Wait, no...
There are four types of blog post you generally find on the internet.
Type One: The Actually Useful Post.
The kind of article or text that you actually get a strong take-away from; that you save in your bookmarks and refer back to regularly. Examples of some I have saved? 10 Professional Photography Tips Guaranteed to Make Your Photos Amazing (great blog & seriously invaluable when I got my DSLR & barely knew how to turn it on...), The Search for Your Heart Dog (FOUND HIM!!!) & Entrepreneur's, Don't Stay 'Positive' (I literally read this, sent it to everyone, shared it EVERYWHERE & let it reaffirm the basis of my business).
Type Two: The Wannbe Useful Post
These posts are usually published in the early days of a blogging career before the turning point - either the author gives up on blogging & probably didn't really have much passion for it in the first place, or it becomes pretty clear that the posts aren't actually useful...
Type Three: The Opinion Piece
These aren't so much about quantitive takeaways, but rather general thoughts around a subject. They usually have some click-baity cleverly enticing headline & when shared on Facebook end up with hundreds of comments underneath from those who spend hours either vehemently agreeing or debating the initial point. Said points tend to revolve around vaguely important topics: politics, business or Game of Thrones.
Type Four: The Blurb
This is a spin off of The Opinion Piece - it's all about self opinion but is led by the heart rather than the head. Think teenage angst & fluffy journals. It's about spilling out everything that's circling around your mind; no filter....just words.
When it comes to growing my business I know I need to make my blog posts more like Type One - offering some incredibly valuable nuggets of information that will inevitably alter the life of the reader so much so that they feel compelled to share it with the world. I need to provide some amazing life (or business) lesson that leaves the reader signing up to every opt in around my website they can find, following me on every form of social media they can find me on and running to find the nearest credit card so they can purchase whatever it is I have on offer. That's the business dream isn't it?
I haven't quite made it that far. The blogs I find come most naturally sit somewhere between Type Two & Type Four. Often, the most common themes I come up with seem more like confessionals. I feel like I have something useful I want to say, then it mostly just comes out as an epic & rambling brain dump. Beautifully curated & well researched posts take time beyond my patience at the moment & to be honest, I'm not sure I have much to say that's any more valuable than what's already available.
This is one of the huge hurdles I've been having with my business at the moment - the direction to take it in & that constant doubt that creeps in around whether what I am offering can actually be a successful business?
Ah, the honesty begins, which is mostly what this is about really. ..
Recently I ran two one day mini retreats for business owners who want a bit of time out without feeling guilty about it. During both afternoons we had a business brainstorm session - a chance to just chat as a group about various challenges everyone was facing within their business. For many people this was one of the most valuable parts of the day. Why? Because it was a space to simply talk. There was no training, no agenda, no presentation to watch or questions to answer. Someone described it afterwards as 'a comfortable environment to talk openly and vulnerably'.
Vulnerability. That's a word that came up more than once across the days & in the discussions since. Vulnerability. Authenticity. Honesty.
This is something we don't get enough (if any?!) of in business. It was one of the key motivators in creating The Selfish Start Up Co - the opportunity to offer an open & safe space where people didn't feel like they had to put on any sort of front.
I'm not very good at putting on any sort of front, in anything that I do - especially not within business. Whether I'm hosting a retreat or simply just teaching a class in my studio, what you get is the authentic me & you'll pretty much always know where you stand. Love me or hate me, what you get is the truth.
As a general rule, I've discovered that I can't usually get on board with the whole "fake it till you make it" brigade; overt positivity can work well if you're in the right frame of mind to be motivated, other times it just results in you feeling lonely, useless & like you have no-one you can be your honest-self with. If you're outwards presence is constantly radiance, positivity & a million dollar smile, it can be hard to admit that some days can be really bloody hard.
It can be even harder amongst peers - whether in person or online - to admit that you're not always keeping up. When it's 11am on a Monday & everyone else looks like they're already smashing their '7 day goals', it's near impossible to admit that you haven't even been able to face getting out of your pyjamas yet & the most productive thing you've achieved is establishing that you do in fact pronounce Primark as 'Pr-eye-mark' & not 'Pree-mark'.
Shit. If people think I'm not constantly working at my laptop productively with a beautiful piece of latte art in hand, a full face of make up & a winning smile plastered to my face, how on earth will they trust that I can run a successful business?
Yet if we can't be honest with each other - with the people in the exact same boat that we're in every day, who can we be honest with?! I'm buggered if I know. Maybe that's what life coaches are for? I don't know, I've never had one. Ooh maybe someone needs to come up with the idea of 'business therapists' - for all your self employment meltdown needs...
Or we could just start being a bit more honest with each other?
My core business is my beautiful yoga studio in the Cotswolds. We've only been open just under a year so are still finding our feet & this May we had an AWFUL month. Where the hell had everyone gone? Classes were so quiet I had to cancel a load, bookings were down & I mostly just thought 'shit...this is the start of the summer dead season, already'. Having quit my full time job at Christmas, I was convinced this was it for the business & we were never going to make enough money to be able to stay open beyond our first year lease term in September. At the time, I don't think I even let onto Chris how worried I was about finances within the business. Somehow, in the last few days of the month & throughout June it picked up enough to survive, but there were definite moments of panic & anxiety there.
Turns out I could have saved myself at least some of that stress...
A few weeks later we got a new puppy & when he first started going out for walks, he had this fascination with wanting to go into every shop doorway we walked past in town. There are some amazing local businesses along our street & having Roo was the perfect chance to dive & have a long overdue catch up with some of the business owners I knew. Being a bit too honest as I am, when asked how it was going at the studio, I couldn't help but open with 'Oh my God...May was horrendous'. Much to my surprise, more than once I got the response 'it was terrible for us too!'.
Whilst it still wasn't great for business (or the books!) this response meant that it wasn't just my business that was feeling the pain that month. It wasn't anything we'd personally done wrong. I hadn't made a terrible faux pax which had my students running for the hills & people weren't boycotting the studio, they just weren't anywhere. There was probably little I could have done to prevent it - everyone was in the same boat. Had I known that, maybe I could have toned my freak outs down just a little bit & kept my cortisol levels in a reasonable state.
The problem is, no-one wants to be the first to let on that there is a problem. We'd rather put on a brave face & struggle on through alone. It's not until someone puts their hand up first to show a little vulnerability that we might brave it enough to step forwards & admit 'me too'.
So I'm doing it. I'm putting my hand up. I'm throwing my hat into the ring & declaring that this is really fucking hard work.
I'm creating my own safe space to ramble & share all the niggly bits of what's going on at the moment & I'll be sharing these posts as a more authentic view of my business life. They will probably be a bit random, potentially very grammatically incorrect & almost definitely peppered with terrible language, but they'll be real.
They're not tied to my business (other than being hosted here as I don't have the mental capacity (or bank balance!) to manage a separate website right now..) but having seen first hand the amazing impact of holding honest & open conversations in person, I hope they'll act as a relatable & worthwhile space for some of you too.
There are already a ton of amazing & supporting business groups over on Facebook, but sometimes I just need to share things that are maybe a bit (dare I say it...) less 'professional'. When your weekly goal is 'don't eat cereal for dinner' because you haven't had time for a big shop, these groups don't always feel like the most appropriate forum...
So I thought I'd create my own instead. You can join me & my ramblings in the Raw Business Facebook group - I've literally just created it so it'll be a small party; I won't be asking you to share your top Twitter tips or hosting online networking sessions because there are plenty of groups already nailing that out there, instead it'll simply be a safe space where hopefully you can get some more off the cuff insight into the realities of the self working life. You can ever start a conversation or two...
Vent. Let it out. Scream from the rooftops (or just type furiously) & get out all those frustrations, worries & rants. Ask for help on those things you feel like you can't ask anywhere else or just take the opportunity to be yourself.
Trust me, it's cathartic.
About Raw business
This is a different kind of blog...