I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I get in my own way and end up making my life more complicated than it needs to be – especially when it comes to my business.
I’ve worked with enough clients to know I’m not the only one who does this and not the only one who wonders what is happening.
Why do we put off doing a simple task that moves our business forward?
Why would we hesitate to send an invoice for our work?
Why would we continue to put ourselves in frustrating situations?
Of course, there are legitimate reasons for some hesitations and hiccups including needing another piece of information before moving forward, anxiety, not knowing how to talk about what we do, or a little bit of stage fright. But I’m not talking about those situations. I’m talking about the times we know we’re getting in our own way and let it happen anyway.
I’ve been thinking about self-sabotage and the different ways it manifests. For this blog post, I’ve broken them down by Thoughts, Financial, Business, and Personal. I have no doubt that there are many, many more ways self-sabotage can appear, but I wanted to focus on the four I mentioned because these are the ways I see it manifest in my clients’ lives.
I often work with new business owners who are just branching out for the first time or business owners ready to grow their business. They are excited, but nervous, and not sure where their business is going.
I hear statements like:
“I want to be busy, but not too busy.”
“What if I have too much business? Then what will I do?”
“I want to make money, but I don’t need a lot.”
“I don’t want to be one of those people who only cares about making money…”
On the surface, most of these statements sound plausible and worth considering. But if we dig a little deeper, we may find lurking insecurity and self-sabotage.
If you focus on not filling up your calendar or not making too much money (and who decides what that is, anyway?), you won’t be focused on finding clients and providing amazing service. You may hesitate to talk about your business out of fear of actually getting the clients you know you want. You may also have unspoken fears around not being able to meet goals you set. After all, if you don’t set any goals you can’t miss any goals, right?
If you feel weird about taking and having money, you will be less likely to value your work and charge accordingly. You may have stumbling blocks around money picked up from family, friends, popular culture, and personal experience that get in your way (its ok, most of us do!)
If you see someone who has money as someone you don’t want to be…then you won’t be working towards finding clients and getting money because you don’t want to turn into someone you won’t like.
And speaking of ways we practice financial self-sabotage, let’s dig a little deeper here.
This is the kind of self-sabotage that has a more clear and direct impact on your bottom line and may include:
Not sending invoices (or not pursuing overdue invoices)
Chronically undercharging for your work.
Not responding to client inquiries/keeping up with email
Not providing the level of care you think your clients deserve (and you want to give them)
I promise you that I’ve done every single one of these things at least once and so have many of my clients.
Two of my examples above are tied up in money stories and self-worth and valuing yourself – but I think they can still be self-sabotage because they can prevent others from wanting to work with you or bring you clients who aren’t the best fit for you.
Not taking care of your customers and not keeping up with email CAN be a symptom of taking on too much, not having enough time overall, and being overworked…BUT it can also be an insidious way for self-sabotage to creep into your routine.
Let’s talk more about taking on too much and being overworked. Why do we do that to ourselves? Sometimes it is simply luck that has us in a season of abundant clients and lots of work. Or maybe it is rooted in fear of not having clients and you take on everything – just in case.
How else do we sabotage ourselves in business?
This kind of self-sabotage can be easy to overlook...until you notice a pattern.
Running out of needed items because you didn’t get around to ordering more
Insisting that you can only work under certain conditions.
Holding back from launching or creating a new service/offer – especially if you could work on it and choose not to.
Trying not to be visible in your business (writing a blog post, posting on social media, etc.)
Running out of ink for printing once is an easy mistake, but if you are consistently forgetting to get ink (or paper or some other basic supply you need), take a look at why. How is it benefiting you to put yourself in that position over and over.
Everyone has a favorite way to work. Whether it is favorite music that helps you get in the groove or a favorite location – when everything aligns, you can get to work in a way that is perfect for you. However, that doesn’t always happen. If you find yourself avoiding work or believing that you can only work during the full moon when the lavender is in bloom…you’re either a werewolf or throwing up barriers.
Putting something new into the world and being vulnerable is a big scary task. When that is a new service, product, or offer it can be easy to keep putting it off until the right time. Again, there may be legitimate reasons to take your time when it comes to launching something new, but if you are stuck around *why* you can’t bring yourself to put it out there…maybe self-sabotage is at work.
Because our businesses can be an extension of ourselves, these business self-sabotages can start to feel intensely personal as they stir up all sorts of feelings and reactions.
Which brings us to my last example of ways we sabotage ourselves – in very personal ways.
You’re here to take over the world, and you can’t do that if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Not taking time for self-care
Spending so much time “recharging” that you fall behind)
Not eating properly
Not getting enough sleep
As small business owners we’re supposed to run our business (and manage all of the things that make up a small business), take care of our families, practice regular self care, and make it all Instagram worthy so we can show off how we manage it all.
Let’s forget making it pretty, and focus on making it real. Self-care looks like different things to different people – if a massage is what you need, make time for that. If a bath and a book is your thing, go for it. If the best you can do is go for a walk by yourself for ten minutes, do it.
However, if you notice yourself putting off self-care (in whatever form it looks like for you) when you know you can and should do it…you might be working against yourself.
On the other hand, if you find yourself making more time for your latest Netflix binge instead of the work you know you need to do maybe look at what you are avoiding doing and why.
The last two on my list – eating and sleeping – aren’t something you can skip, but you can do it poorly or not enough to the point of making yourself feel run down, tired, and even sick.
Clearly, self-sabotage has many components and pops up in many ways!
Last fall I created a survey asking people how they interacted with a business’ website and social media pages. My purpose was to help business owners better understand what their customers cared about when it came to business websites and social media pages.
Most of the questions had set responses and participants could select more than once answer. For two questions, the participants could add their own answers. 1,028 people responded over the course of four months (October 2017 to January 2018). My goal was to get more than 1,000 responses. Once I did that, I ended the survey.
I’m not a professional survey designer. Looking back, I can see that my wording could have been clearer in some places and my options more streamlined.
The interpretation I’ll share is my own based on over 16 years’ experience working with small businesses, digital marketing, and website design.
None of the responses shocked me (except maybe how passionate people are about typos – wow), but since I designed the questions, it is possible I missed topics that are important to participants. For example, I didn’t ask about pop-up windows or music/video that plays automatically – yet participants listed both of those as things they dislike in the open-ended question at the end of the survey.
The ages of participants
The ages of participants are mostly clustered in the 31-40 and 41-50 age ranges. This survey was shared primarily via Facebook, so that makes sense. However, I wish all age groups had been better represented.
When You Hear About a Company for the First Time, How Do You Learn More About Them?
Participants were allowed to check multiple boxes.
The options for this questions were:
Go to their website
Go to their social media page
Send an email (using your own email, not a website form) requesting more information
Participants added some variation of:
Check out review sites
Ask friends/family/network about them
The majority of participants seem to go directly to the business website. This makes sense since your website it your “home base” on the internet. It is the ONE place you have complete control over and the place that should best represent you and what you do.
The next most popular response is “Go to their social media page” – this supports something I have believed for quite a while – your social media pages are seen by more than your followers. Someone wanting to learn more about you and your business will be checking out what you are doing in different places.
“Call them” received 10 responses out of 1,028 and those participants spanned most of the age groups.
There were a similar number of responses for “Send them an email – not using a contact form,” and I didn’t ask about emailing using a contact form – I expect it would be higher than 10 or 13, but I’m not sure how much higher because someone just learning about a company may not be ready to talk to them yet.
When You are on a Business' Website, Do You Also Click from Their Website to Visit their Social Media Pages? (Assuming there is a link)
I asked this question because I suspected people did this and was curious about how often they did it.
The options to this question were:
I think it is fair to say that MOST people will visit your social media pages from your website if the option is there. Which, again, points to your social media audience being more than just your current followers. Again, the No (Never) and Sometimes (Rarely) answers spanned nearly all of the age groups.
I’m pointing this out because it is easy to segment things by generations instead of looking at specific user behavior based on multiple factors.
When You are on a Business' Social Media Page, Do You Also Click from Their Social Media Page to Visit Their Website?
The options to this question were:
Again, if it is there and available to click, it seems as if most people hop over to your website to see what is happening there.
This is a great reminder that no part of your marketing exists by itself. It is all connected (or can be) to give your clients and potential clients a better experience.
When Visiting a Business' Social Media Site, What Turns You Off?
The available answers were:
Too many sales posts
Not clear what they offer
Haven’t posted in more than a week
Haven’t posted in More than a month
Haven’t posted in more than 6 months
They don’t post frequently (less than once a week)
Typos in posts
As a human who uses social media and has seen social media posts, I’m guessing none of this is surprising to you. No one wants to feel as if they are being sold to or as if they’ve stepped into an spammy ad.
Posting frequency is a little more varied, and I wish I’d made this question a little more clear. I think it is important to post regularly if you have a business page – especially knowing that your audience may not just be your followers. I also realize that Facebook consistently suppressing business page reach has many business owners wondering if they should abandon Facebook entirely. Social media, like any of your marketing channels, is a piece of the puzzle and not the only place you should show up.
Participants also clearly don’t want to see typos, so proofread your posts and edit them if you catch an error. My best guess is that this refers to many typos over a series of posts and not an occasional typo.
What Makes You Abandon (Leave) a Website?
The available answers were:
You can’t find what you are looking for
Not enough information on the website
Poorly laid out website (too much text at once, giant photos, etc)
Slow to load
Poorly written copy
Bad photos (dark, grainy, poorly composd, clearly stock photos, etc)
As I mentioned above, your website is your home on the internet. It is the place people can learn the most about you.
I think the biggest takeaway from these answers is to make sure your site is clear, easy to navigate, attractive, and loads quickly.
Your users’ experience is most important – give them something that helps build their trust in you and your abilities – not something they have to figure out before they can get to know you.
When Visiting Someone's Website, in Which Order Do You Typically Explore Their Website?
The available answers were:
Home, About, Services, Blog – 43%
Home, Services, About, Blog – 36%
Home, Blog, Services, About – 2%
Services, About, Blog, Home – 3%
About, Services, Home, Blog – 10%
(about 10 responses each)
No typical pattern – depends on business/reason for visit
Never look at blog
Always read About page
What does it mean? It means people click around on your site to learn more about you and what you do. In fact, your About page may be doing more work than you think to tell your story.
So take a look – is it updated? Do you have a current headshot? Does it really say what you want it to say?
Do You Look at a Business’ Reviews?
The available answers were:
No surprise here. Most people will look at reviews about your business.
How Many Bad Reviews Does It Take for You to Question Whether You Should do Business with a Company?
The available answers were:
I read the bad review and decide it if is likely an issue I will run into also.
I don't worry about individual reviews, I look for an overall pattern.
Reviews are HUGE for small business owners and they stress over any bad review.
The good news here is that most people don’t avoid a business because they have one bad review. I also find it interesting, and encouraging, that most people read several reviews and look for a pattern.
It also means that if you have a bad review, addressing it clearly makes the most sense. You can also use it as a chance to make sure there isn’t a pattern problem emerging.
Share What You Would like Businesses to Do on Their Social Media Pages and Their Websites. How Can They Improve Your Experience?
This was an open-ended question.
Most of responses centered on:
Be honest and human
Don’t be salesy
Put pricing on your website
Have great images
Offer free things
Have clear information on your website
If you are a brick & mortar, list your phone number, address, and hours
If you are a restaurant, list your menu
Create more interesting social media posts
Be clear in what you offer/your services
After reading over all 1,028 individual responses, the biggest theme I see is that no one wants to be sold to and participants want their interactions with businesses to be pleasant, easy to navigate, and easy to understand.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.