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Rad Lady Enterprises
Brand strategy & website design for purpose-driven women-owned businesses

Make Good Business Decisions (Even When You’re Scared)

Trista, Web and Brand Designer

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No matter who you are, every business owner has bad days and makes bad decisions 'cause we're scared. Here's some help.

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It happens to all of us. At some point, every business owner finds themselves in a difficult situation with their business. Maybe revenue is down. Maybe new clients are scarce. Maybe you’re getting a bunch of returns on a new product. Maybe your coaching clients aren’t making the progress you’re hoping they’d make.

It’s enough to bring on a full-fledged anxiety attack.

These kinds of rough patches are normal in business, even if you’re Rachel Rodgers or Marie Forleo. When you’re having a difficult time with your business, it definitely doesn’t feel normal.

Nope. ❌

You’re scared. You’re overtired. You’re overworked. You’ve stopped creating.

And none of this is really helping to reduce the stress that came with the original problem.

I don’t think I need to tell you, but this is not great. 😬

Not for you The Business Owner, and not for you The Person.

When you’re not doing great, chances are you’re doing one of these:

  • Taking on clients that are not a good fit
  • Committing to projects that are not in your zone of genius
  • Agreeing to a fee well below what you normally charge (or are worth)
  • Working way too many hours just to make ends meet
  • Spending money on products or services you think will save you
  • Giving refunds to make folks happy (even if there’s a better remedy)

The things on this list can mean the difference between continued success and business-killing burnout.

So, let’s not do that. Let’s figure it out instead.

What's happening when we're scared

When things aren’t going great and we’re panicking, we’re probably making decisions from one of these four places:

  1. We’re worried about money: This is a pretty reasonable and rational fear in our late-capitalist society. We’re worried that if we don’t say yes to every client or every opportunity, there won’t be another one (or we won’t be able to pay our virtual assistant, or perhaps, the rent). Sometimes this isn’t as life and death as paying for food. Sometimes this can come from our inner competitor or from a belief that money, opportunities, and clients are scarce. (None of those things are true, but our brains don’t know that.)
  2. We’re worried people won’t (or don’t) like us: Most humans will experience this at some point, but women entrepreneurs suffer from this especially. In general, women are socialized to be helpful, competent, and of service. Doing these things are rewarded, while standing up for ourselves, enforcing boundaries, and saying, “No, thank you,” are seen as aggressive of difficult behaviours. This is the kind of fear that makes you say yes to projects that are well below your fee because you don’t want to say no and be disliked.
  3. We’re worried there will be conflict: A lot of people are conflict-averse. I’m not talking about conflict for conflict’s sake, but often people see an issue coming up as a bad thing no matter what the issue is. The problem with avoiding conflict no matter what is that it can manifest in anything from not following up for an invoice to be paid to putting up with terrible client behaviour (or being blamed for issues caused by the client) to keeping a contractor on for way too long. (And more!)
  4. We’re worried about being judged: Woof, right? This one holds everyone back from time to time. Or a lot of the time. Or… every day? This one is last on the list because it’s the biggest issue, IMHO. Judgement likes to team up with the other kinds of fear and keep you from making good decisions, sleeping, working in your zone of genius, finding joy in your business, and generally being a functioning person. Was that social post too political? Will I look dumb in that reel? Is my sales page good enough? Will people point and laugh at me on the street??? You get me.

How to make good decisions

So, if we’re worried about there never being another client, we’re worried about being liked, we’re worried about conflict, and we’re worried about being judged, how the heck are we supposed to ever make decisions that support our businesses and protect our peace??

Well, there are a few things you can do to sort out the panic from reality, and I’m going to detail those here.

Before I do, however, I gotta note that privilege plays a huge part in how we manage our stress. It’s really easy to say, “If it feels like that client isn’t a good fit, then just say no!” But when you’re staring down bills and mortgages, sometimes you just need to take the job in front of you and find a way to manage the stress that comes from a not-perfect client.

It’s also really easy to say, “Just set some good boundaries!” But when you’ve never set boundaries before, setting them with clients who have had full access to you 24-7 is likely to cause some very rocky waters (some of which will likely impact your income, which might not be feasible for you).

My point is, these tips aren’t gospel. They’re a helping hand. Deciding to put boundaries on your relationship with your very best client might be the place to start. Then, you can work towards setting them with new clients, which will make talking to the big offenders on your roster feel much more safe.

And with that caveat, let’s look at some ways to make good decisions, even when you’re scared.

Learn to recognize your fear

Knowing what you’re feeling — and when it’s fear — is the first step to making decisions from a more solid place. The next time you’re making a decision, consider the following:

  • Why am I scared right now? Sometimes the basics really work. Asking this question creates a lot of room for exploration. You might ask why you’re scared to say no to a meeting. The answer could be that you don’t want to have to fight for your boundaries. It could be that you don’t want to let someone down. It could be that you feel if you don’t take the meeting then (or suggest a later time), that client might book with someone else. It could also be that you’re scared because you’re very excited to work with that person and you’re nervous about making a good impression. These are all different types of fear, but they all factor into making a good decision for your well being.
  • What does my gut say? I put this one first because it’s the one I always do first and it’s always helpful. Do you have a feeling like this might not go well? Do you feel irrationally excited? Those initial feelings are always a good place to start. Even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what’s creating that feeling, there’s a feeling. And that’s when you move on to the rest of this list.
  • Am I worried about money? If you’re staring down an empty calendar next month, you are more likely to fill it with a client who has some major red flags. So take a moment to consider whether money might be a factor in this decision. Knowing that you’re taking the client because of the money is hugely helpful in how you’ll manage them (and your mental health).
  • Does this outcome align with my goals and values? This question can shake you out of even the biggest fear spiral. If a client, commitment, or opportunity doesn’t align with your major goals or would make you feel icky about your values, then it might not be the best idea.

Cultivate good boundaries

Last year, I took a course about streamlining my workflow and delivering services to clients on an accelerated timeline. The first module was all about our boundaries.

The most surprising thing about this module wasn’t the ways in which I could create my work and personal life with some (fairly basic) boundaries.

The most surprising thing was that I had already set a lot of excellent boundaries for my business but I was the one who wasn’t keeping them.

I was the one who was taking meetings on a no-meeting day.

I was the one who was letting clients get away with not paying invoices on schedule.

I was the one who was answering emails during times I specifically said I wasn’t available.

I was the one who was still setting up meetings by email (even after I paid for a service and spent hours setting it up so I never had to do this again.

And you know why? Because I was being motivated by fear of judgement, fear of conflict, and fear of being disliked.

That’s a lot of fear.

Once I realized that’s what I was doing (and why), I started gently and lovingly enforcing my boundaries.

You know what I found? My clients not only respected my boundaries, usually without any issue at all, but they liked my work and referred me more often than before. It was wild. And affirming.

This isn’t going to be true in every case. But it’s a great illustration of how when you stand in your power and harness your own agency, things definitely improve and you make better decisions.

Say yes with gusto and commit with intention

Let’s be real: most people won’t immediately go with another service provider if you say your calendar is full for two months. Most people won’t be mad if you only have two days a week you do meetings on. Most people won’t be offended if you ask them to pay their invoice on time. Most people don’t want to be the job you took for the money.

When you make decisions from a place of strength by harnessing your agency, you’re going to commit with intention and say yes with joy.

That means you’re taking good care of yourself and you know why you’re saying yes. You’ll know that you’re acting in alignment with your values and goals. You’ll know how it impacts your schedule and you’ll be ready to take on the challenge.

On the flip side of this, if you’re in a place where you feel like you can’t say an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and commit to bringing your best to the outcome, that’s probably a very good sign that you shouldn’t do it.

Summing it all up

No woman who has ever started or owned a business is immune to the panic spiral (sometimes even when things are good!). Certainly, I’m not. (Nor do I succeed at making good decisions all time, every day. Who does? That’s nuts.)

These strategies and identifiers are designed to give you a starting place to make decisions that support you as a person, maintain your love for your work, and help you in the long-term.

And more than anything, I hope you remember that you’re awesome, your business is awesome, and you’re working hard to make an impact in the world. 😘

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