Five Fatal Flaws that are Killing Your Writing Business

What stops your writing business from being successful? Start a discussion with any group of writers and the same topics come up over and over again. That’s why this month’s Word Carnival is so timely, inviting me to Vanquish that Nemesis – identify the things that get in the way of small business success and figure out how to beat them. Here’s my list of five fatal flaws that can kill your writing business along with tips on how to solve them.

Five Fatal Flaws that are Killing Your Writing Business

1. Small Biz Dyscalculia

You’ve heard of dyscalculia, right? A few people close to me have this syndrome and they tend to get very panicky about anything to do with numbers. The funny thing is that even people who find it easy to add and subtract can suffer with something similar when it comes to crunching the numbers on their writing business. I should know. Sorry, but you just don’t have the luxury of being high-minded and saying “I’m a writer, not a numbers person”. It’s your biz, so you need to know what’s going on.

How do you solve small biz dyscalculia? I have three suggestions:

  1. Push past the pain and force yourself to do it. I’ve done this, gradually moving from a basic Excel spreadsheet to a full accounting program (listed recently among the tools I love for my writing business).
  2. Educate yourself about numbers so they’re not so scary (fellow carnie Nicole Fende, aka the Numbers Whisperer, is a great resource and her How to be a Finance Rock Star makes great reading).
  3. Hire someone you trust to do it, but make sure you have followed steps 1 and 2 so you know what they are doing.

2. Headless Chicken Syndrome

Have you ever heard the expression ‘running around like a headless chicken’? It’s something we Brits say a lot. Cut a chicken’s head off and it continues to run for a while, but it can’t see where it’s going. Do you want that metaphor to apply to your business? I didn’t think so.

Often, we start a business with no plan – and I’m not pointing fingers here, because when I went freelance my plan was to write. As far as plans go, that was a pretty crappy one. You need to have an idea who you want to work with (your ideal client), where they are, how to target them and much more – and you also need to know what you are offering them.

How do you escape headless chicken syndrome? I recently finished the three month long Prosperity’s Kitchen series, originated and masterminded by the fabulous Tea Silvestre, and I have used the guidance given there to get even clearer about who my ideal client is. If you don’t know who you want to write for and where your business is going, head on over to the Prosperity’s Kitchen site and follow the missions and the entries in order – it’s the best business education money can’t buy. I don’t know how long it will be up there (the series is now finished), so I’d do that today.

3. Online Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia – the fear of (among other things) open spaces. Many agoraphobics find it hard to leave the safety of their home. By online agoraphobia, I mean the inability to move out of the work at home box and get out there to promote your business.

If you’ve been following the writing advice on this blog, I assume you at least have a website, but are you on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the other places where your clients hang out? And if you are, are you participating or just lurking? Don’t be held back by the conviction that it’s all too difficult and you can’t do it. Instead, come out and join the party, starting small. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  1. Find one social media site where clients hang out and set up a profile.
  2. Respond to 2 or 3 discussions each day.
  3. Share 1 thing per day and reply to any comments.
  4. Rinse, repeat and expand as you build confidence.

4. Social Ubiquity

Of course, some people have the opposite problem – they want to be everywhere and do everything. Those are the people who spend so much time on social media, ostensibly promoting themselves, that they forget to do any work – that’s how social ubiquity can hurt your business. Life is a balance, people.

In my case, it’s not so much the desire to be everywhere as the lure of shiny new web stuff (or even old fun web stuff) that’s the issue, but in both cases the best approach is to keep it manageable. Here’s one strategy I use:

  1. When I am working I shut down all social media windows so I can’t see or hear notifications.
  2. If I come across good stuff to share while I’m researching articles, I add it to Pocket so I can look at it later.
  3. I set aside time slots for interacting on social media.
  4. I try to keep my twitchy brain under control, darn it!

5. Sisyphus Implosion

This final syndrome can happen when you hit that not so sweet spot where work is coming in but you’re not quite making enough money to hire someone to help you – Sisyphus implosion is also known as burnout and it can seriously derail your business. (If you’re wondering about the Sisyphus thing, it’s about pushing a huge boulder uphill every day only to have to start all over again the following day – that’s how burnout can feel.)

I recently talked to a friend who was so burned out that she took a one year sabbatical from doing anything unnecessary online. Can you imagine what that would do to your writing business?

I’ve been on the edge of burnout and even tipped over a few times. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. You do no-one any favors by overworking yourself – it just takes longer to recover.
  2. Recognize the signs and pull back a little to take time to rest.
  3. If you’re writing something and get stuck, change topic for a while.
  4. Outsource what you can till you get through it.

So those are my five small biz busters and what I’ve done to tame them – what are yours?

This post is part of the awesome Word Carnival. Read more posts on this month’s theme: Vanquish Your Nemesis: A Guide to Conquering Small Biz Evils.

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