Welcome to another behind-the-scenes episode, where I share a glimpse behind the curtain of my own business. I’m firmly on team #keepingitreal, and I’m sick of only hearing the success stories, and nothing about the hiccups, and that’s why I want to share about some of the less glamourous things that happen in a business.
In this episode I pull back the curtain on a recent setback and how I’m using it to drive change in my own business.
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If you’re on my email list, you will probably recognise a lot of what I am about to talk about. I’ve sent out a couple of emails to my list recently, where I shared how I got myself into a bit of a money pickle. Turns out that just as you think the days of rookie mistakes are over… the rookie-monster comes back to bite you in the arse.
After a total of almost 13 years as a business owner you’d think I’d be cruisin’ it, right? Yeah, I thought I was too. Turns out, I’m not. Long story short: ever since I started my solo business back in 2016, I’ve been diligent about putting aside money for my taxes throughout the year. And every year I’ve set aside more than enough to pay my tax bill. So when I opened the email (that I knew was coming) from my accountant, I was fully expecting it to be a case of “Same procedure as every year, James!”
Except this time… it wasn’t. 😳
I was in my car outside the grocery shop, and I saw the email come through and thought I’d just open it quickly before driving home. I opened the email, and my heart plummeted. How the heck had I managed to miscalculate this badly?! So there I was, in my car, in a parking lot, feeling like a total failure.
Were there tears? You bet. Panic? Yep. Feeling like a complete worthless piece of shit? Also yes.
It was the mother of all clusterfucks. My immediate reaction. “Shit, I’m gonna have to get a job or something.” My next reaction: “No, I can’t go back to being employed, I’m practically unemployable anyways!” My third reaction: “I have a job, my business is a job!”
Thankfully, that was my hubby’s immediate reaction too, when I got home and immediately burst into tears, blurting out all my woes. Sobbing “Fuck, I need to go get a real job!” his response was. “You already have a real job!” That kind of support is priceless, and it’s also a huge reason why I am able to get out of that funk and start to do something constructive instead of wallowing in self-pity.
Now for the learning opportunity, or the silver lining if you will.
I’ve noticed a pattern emerging: whenever I am facing a challenge, a hurdle, or a pivotal moment I tend to react in the same way. There’s a sequence of steps I go through, and this time was no different. So the process generally looks something like this:
1: PANIC 😱
The kind of numbing “OMG I feel like I can’t breathe” panic.
2: CRYING 😭
And I’m talking red face, snot everywhere, puffy eyes, shoulder-shaking sobs… They call it ugly crying for a reason! Nonetheless, I am big on crying it out (not in the parenting way of using the CiO method to get your baby to sleep through, that’s just mean!) – it’s a fantastic way to relieve stress.
3: ACCEPTANCE + IMMEDIATE ACTION 👊🏻
Once I’m done ugly crying, the grit comes out and I’m like “OK, it is how it is, what can I do to fix it?” For this scenario, I thought “Let me put out some limited time offers in an attempt to recoup and avoid living like a student for the next six months”. No shame on pot noodles, and my kids would probably be elated, but I was kinda hoping my pot noodle days were numbered. Anyways, I decided to reward people for helping me out of this pickle 🥒 by offering the chance to save some money on my products and services. That’s how my Pickle Sale came about, and it’s still going at the time of recording this – so if you want to grab my brand strategy course (The Lone Brandit) for half price, or get a 3 for 2 deal on Brand it! power hours you still can! There will be links in the shownotes, and you need to use discount code PETCHYPICKLE if you want half price on the course. The 3 for 2 on the power hours comes up as an option in the cart, so you just select that and you’re good to go. I honestly don’t know how long I’ll keep the offers up for, so go check them out sooner rather than later.
Once I’ve started to take action, I usually start to feel a bit better about things. I am no longer passive and helpless, I’m not just letting things happen and giving up, I am actually doing what I can to rectify things. That’s quite a powerful feeling, actually. And once I reach that stage, that’s when I often suddenly realise that:
4: OMG, I ❤️ MY PEOPLE!
This is where I lean on my network, so they can remind me that I don’t really want to pack this business thing in and find a [gasp] “real” job. I have some truly extraordinary folks in my orbit, who will support me, cheer me on, and generally help glue the pieces of me back together. There are too many of them to mention individually, but if you listen to this and you are one of them, then you know. Please know that I am forever grateful, and at any given chance I will 100% pay your kindness forward. You’re amazing.
And then the final phase is:
5: WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE? 🧠
AKA the “Well, this sucks, what can I do to make sure it never happens again?” phase. And this is where I am currently at.
This was a wake-up call that even though I’m almost six years into my solo business journey, and despite how far I have come – I am still stuck in feast and famine mode, I still don’t have the financial stability and freedom that I need. I have to level the fuck up and earn enough to be able to set money aside and have a crisis fund for whenever something unexpected happens. I’m working hard, but not seeing the financial rewards that I want, and that sucks.
So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve had some a-ha! moments – often as I’m out hiking.
Realisation #1: I have outgrown a huge chunk of my existing clientele, and I need to shift towards working mainly with established business owners, with budgets that allow me to produce outstanding work without sacrificing my own financial freedom and mental health in the process. Boom! There, I said it. In branding terms, that means I will need to shift my positioning – and with that also tweak my messaging and pricing. Because it’s not as easy as just saying “I serve these people now” – repositioning takes some time, and it takes a deliberate and strategic approach. When I repositioned myself from a design generalist/freelancer (gosh, I hate that word – freelancer – I’ve never really used that about myself) I did, deliberately, target startups and new businesses. Because I knew I wanted to pivot and niche down to work mainly with brand strategy and brand identity design – and who is an obvious candidate for brand identity design? New businesses. But new businesses often don’t have big budgets. This was a tradeoff I was willing to make, in exchange for the opportunity to establish myself as the go-to person within my chosen area of expertise. So I put a package together, where I cut my offering down to the bare minimum in order to achieve results I could confidently put my name on, and it worked. Not overnight, but it worked. Since then, I’ve been slowly and incrementally increasing my prices – but I’ve never really had another complete audience overhaul. So it’s time.
Repositioning can bring up all. the. feelings. And I’m no exception. As I’m preparing for this shift, I feel fear – that my plan will go tits up and that nobody will want to hire me once my prices increase. I also feel guilt – because it means that some people won’t be able to afford working with me. It’s the harsh reality, but there’s no way I can serve clients at every price level and still be able to make a living for myself and my family. It sucks, but it is how it is.
In the coming weeks/months, as I start to make the necessary adjustments, you will probably notice this shift if you follow me on my various platforms. If you want to get on my schedule at the current pricing, now might be a good time to reach out 😉
Realisation #2: I’m starting to seriously despise the social media hamster wheel. It’s eating up so much of my mental capacity, but the ROI just isn’t worth it. And that’s coming from someone who used to love hanging out on Instagram. I don’t want to quit IG, but I also don’t want to feel the pressure of constantly coming up with ideas for things to post. I am seriously considering burning my entire feed down 🔥 and replacing it with an evergreen feed grid – whilst still using stories and DMs to foster connections and conversations. I’ve seen some people do this brilliantly, and I have to say: that would free up so much brain space that I could instead use… to focus on further developing this podcast, and growing + serving my email list better. Generally just nurturing fewer but deeper connections. When I think about it, that’s how I operate outside of the online space too: I’m the kind of person who prefers to have a few close friends, rather than a whole bunch of superficial friendships.
On that note, I’d love to know: What do you want to learn from me on this podcast? And on my email list, if you’re on it. I’d love it if you would reach out and let me know!
Realisation #3: I need more of the right eyeballs 👀 on my stuff. I need to get myself in front of more like minded people. I need to level-up on visibility! So I’ve been focusing on reconnecting with a lot of the business friends I’ve made over the past six years. Not in a sleazy “buy my stuff” way, just as a way of staying in touch so they remember me if they come across someone who could benefit from my services, or who might have collaboration opportunities.
I’ve also decided that I would love to make more guest appearances. So if you’re listening to this, and you happen to have, or you know of someone who has, a podcast or a community and you want someone to come in and do a guest episode/training around branding related topics: Please do check out my brand new media page/digital one sheet at petchy.co/media
I think that’s about it. Yes, that’s it. That’s the episode.
I hope that by sharing, I am helping you see that “everyone else” don’t always have their ducks lined up in a neat little row – so next time you are facing a business pickle, you can remember that behind all those perfect IG reels and polished websites, there are real humans, and in most cases, multiple hurdles and fuck-ups that nobody talks about.
In the next behind-the scenes episode I’ll spill the beans about why I went back to custom proposals, when “everyone” says you need to productise and package up your service offerings in order to be successful.
Until next time,
Pssst! If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one! I’d also be super grateful if you’d share my podcast with a biz friend or two, or leave me a review.