Saturday Sidecar: Can You Use Your Job Skills To Rock Your Business?

Written by Gina Blitstein on August 6, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

Sidecar drivers wear many hats: CEO, CFO, manager, assistant, chief cook and bottle washer…There’s a lot of power in wearing all these hats – and a lot of responsibility. When the business is yours and yours alone to operate, you will occasionally feel ill-prepared to wear a certain hat. You may be adept at flower arrangement, which is the technical and creative backbone of your sidecar as a florist but feel less than capable of keeping your books or sourcing your flowers from reputable wholesalers. 

While it’s true that you probably aren’t an accountant, bookkeeper – nor a wholesale buyer – you most likely have experience upon which you can draw that will guide you through those uncharted waters without sinking your ship. Whether you realize it or not, you possess and employ skills, knowledge and talents in your everyday life and in your ‘day job’ that will serve you well in your sidecar endeavor. 

So what might these skills, knowledge and talents be? Let’s break down the common elements of running any business in general and fit your existing abilities to what is required. 

Business management – This area pertains to managing time and resources. If you’ve done any of the following, you have skills valuable to managing the business-end of your sidecar. 

  • Established long and short term goals
  • Created a to-do list
  • Stuck to a schedule
  • Planned a vacation or outing
  • Organized a party or event
  • Planned a week’s worth of menus in advance
  • Made significant decisions pertaining to a loved one
  • Made difficult choices
  • Showed up on the job even though your heart wasn’t in it that day
  • Thought outside the box 

Finance – This area pertains to the influx and outflow of money and budgeting. If you’ve done any of the following, you have skills valuable to managing your sidecar’s finances. 

  • Balanced a checkbook
  • Established a budget
  • Stuck to a budget
  • Handled credit responsibly
  • Survived a money crisis
  • Hunted down a bargain
  • Selected a winning proposal
  • Invested money 

Interpersonal relations – This area pertains to people skills. If you’ve done any of the following, you have skills valuable to dealing with the people you’ll need to work with and manage. 

  • Handled conflict
  • Negotiated for benefits
  • Purchased a car
  • Soothed hurt feelings
  • Consulted an expert
  • Worked solo
  • Worked within a group
  • Lead a group
  • Delivered a persuasive presentation
  • Evaluated another’s performance 

Most people have commonly encountered these situations in life or on the job. While you may not be professionally trained in those fields, you just may have more competence than you initially give yourself credit. While there’s no shame in consulting a professional when it’s necessary, don’t underestimate the depth and breadth of your day-to-day experiences to help you run your sidecar like a pro! 

Sidecar tuneup tip: Sidecar operators often drive solo, which means that the bulk of the work falls on our shoulders alone. While it can seem overwhelming, we have more experience at running the various aspects of a business than we may think.

 

Saturday Sidecar: Success – It’s All In Your Attitude

Written by Gina Blitstein on July 30, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

What fuel makes your sidecar run? How do you keep your tank from running low? As the operator of your sidecar, it’s all up to you: motivation, work ethic, attitude… You can’t let setbacks, disappointments and obstacles cause you to lose momentum. Ultimately, the success of your sidecar depends upon your ability to keep your engine positively humming along.

Perhaps it’s human nature to internalize our problems, personal and professional, by taking blame for things that, in reality, are out of our control. As those blessed with an independent entrepreneurial spirit, it’s our strong desire to succeed that leads us to take on more than our share of responsibility.

Let’s explore a technique that can help you to keep a good attitude – even when you feel discouraged or uninspired. A positive attitude can make all the difference in how you deal with the challenges inherent in running your business. It really comes down to your internal monologue.

Your internal monologue is the messages you deliver within your own mind about yourself.

Yes, what you tell yourself and how you frame it affects the way you look at any set of circumstances. But don’t wait until you’re feeling unappreciated, discouraged or generally negative about yourself and your business to challenge your own way of thinking. Start adjusting your internal monologue to reflect a more positive attitude today an you’ll begin to reap the benefits of a more energized outlook.

You can make this a daily exercise – in fact, put it on your to-do list. Think about an area of your business upon which you’d like to improve. Consider how you are thinking about it and how you could adjust your thoughts, with a more positive spin.

Ask yourself questions such as:

●     Is this as big an issue as I believe it to be?

●     Is my way of thinking about this sabotaging my ability to solve it?

●     How can I think about it more positively?

Frame your answers to those questions in a positive way. Give yourself all the credit you deserve for being competent, hard-working and intelligent. Chances are, none of those issues are really your problem. The problem most likely stems from the fact that you are blaming your perceived deficiencies for your business challenges. Be kind to yourself by affirming the positive traits that help you when things so smoothly in your sidecar, like:

●     I am skilled at what I do.

●     I am talented and creative.

●     I have a strong desire to help my clients.

●     I am intelligent.

●     I can keep things in their proper perspective.

●     My business is sound and valuable.

●     I am adept at solving problems.

Affirmations like these, when used on a regular basis, will keep you constantly aware of all you have to offer. Brainstorm your own personal affirmations that will energize your self-image. Make these positive statements a major part of your internal monologue so they become second nature. You will thank yourself.

Sidecar Tuneup Tip: Your positive attitude is among your strongest assets as a sidecar driver. Nurture your attitude to hotwire your success.

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Saturday Sidecar: Troublesome Clients Don’t Coddle Em – Fire Em

Written by Gina Blitstein on July 23, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

Sidecar drivers soon learn that all clients are not created equal. While most will grant you the respect you deserve, some won’t. Call it human nature or the trap of micromanaging or a general bad attitude – but there will be clients you’ll come to wish you’d never met. Unfortunately, a select few will bring more toxicity into the relationship than you need to deal with and the only solution: Fire them!

 

While everyone has their individual breaking point, here are some of the qualities that these clients may display that will eventually cause you to reach yours:

 

●     Try to do your job for you

●     Belittle your efforts and expertise

●     Are blatantly abusive

●     Attempt to change your offerings to suit their wants/needs

●     Disrespectful of boundaries/expect more of your time and attention than is reasonable and appropriate

So what’s a freelancer to do? Before you blame the client, perform a self-evaluation to make certain that you aren’t to blame. Ask yourself:

 

●     Am I truly the right person for this job, or is the source of the friction the fact that I’m a square peg trying to fit into their round hole?

 

●     Have I clearly and explicitly spelled out exactly what I will provide as far as product and service? Do our expectations align?

 

●     Have I reminded the client of the terms of our original agreement?

 

If you feel that you’re clear on those three counts, it’s safe to assume it’s not you, it’s them. That doesn’t make the process of letting a client go easy but at least you’ll feel justified. To fire a client is to, in essence, say, “No,” to money. Just as important as making income from our Sidecar, however, is creating a business of which we’re proud. We can’t feel proud of our business if we’re letting others dictate our priorities and sap our enthusiasm. Isn’t that why we work our Sidecar – to express our autonomy and passion?

 

When you realize the client is proving poisonous to your attitude, tell her so, kindly and in no uncertain terms. Fire that client who’s more trouble than she’s worth with honest but cautious wording, like, “Based upon your expectations, I don’t think our company is a good fit for your needs.” If you know of a better-suited company, make a recommendation.

 

Never accuse the client of  being unreasonable, pushy, abrasive or disrespectful – even if that is precisely what she was. Taking the high road is best because even though you’ve parted ways, there won’t be hard feelings and blame. If you really convey that the problem is that your offerings are incompatible with their expectations, they may even recommend you to colleagues to whom you’ll be better suited.

 

Driving you Sidecar is challenging enough without tolerating negative interference from your clients. You’ll do your best work when you’re working with clients who treat you with respect.

 

Sidecar Tuneup Tip: Firing a client may sound negative but when done for the right reasons and in the right way, it can be an assertive action that best serves your business and keeps ex-clients from being hostile.

Saturday Sidecar: Use All 5 Senses To Create A Productive Workspace

Written by Gina Blitstein on July 16, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

We’re most productive in a workspace that’s conducive to our individual work style. Our surroundings have a lot to do with our attitude, so optimizing our work environment to our individual preferences is a good way to invigorate ourselves as we work our sidecar business. 

And what’s more individual to the way we experience our environment than our own five senses? Pleasing as many of them as possible will make our workspace a pleasant place to be and therefore a pleasant place to work. 

Whether it’s in a spare room, basement, garage or a corner of the bedroom, here are some factors to consider when setting up a workspace destined for personal productivity: 

1. Sight – What do you prefer to see in your work area? Does it face a window? Is that a good thing because you are energized by the daylight streaming through the open blinds? Is a bad thing because you are easily distracted by neighbors, passing cars and frolicking squirrels? 

Also consider the visual characteristics of your direct workspace – Is there adequate lighting? Is your monitor clear and big enough to perform your work optimally? Is the space distractingly cluttered? 

2. Hearing – What do you prefer to hear in your work area? Do you enjoy listening to nature, distant children playing or perhaps music? Alternatively, does silence suit your work style best?

Take into account ambient noise that may be distracting, like a washing machine or the annoyance of a squeaky door or dripping faucet. These things can break your concentration even without your conscious awareness of them.

3. Touch – Make sure your furniture suits your work style. Your chair should be comfortable and supportive if you sit, as should your shoes if you walk or stand. Your work station should be at an appropriate height for you to perform your work. 

Temperature is tactile too – if you are too hot or cold, you will not perform as efficiently as you would at a more desirable temperature.

4. Smell – Do you prefer a scented room or your air ‘au naturel?’ Smell is our most evocative sense so take the smells in your surroundings seriously. When setting up your workspace, take a deep breath to determine air quality. Do you smell mildew, pet odors, garbage, smoke or other unpleasant and distracting odors? Even good smells can distract, like heavy perfumes and deodorants or cooking aromas.

5. Taste – With a little artistic license, let’s use the word ‘taste’ in a broader sense, to mean aesthetic preference. Simply speaking, you should find your own taste in your work space. Are you a glass and chrome kind of person or is walnut or oak more your style? If the surroundings remind you of an operating room or a bedroom, they’re not going to inspire productivity.

Our senses guide us through the day – we should use them to make our days pleasantly productive. 

Sidecar Tuneup Tip: Consider all five of your senses when creating your personal work space and you’ll give your sidecar another advantage on the road to productivity.

Saturday Sidecar: Indispensable You

Written by Gina Blitstein on July 9, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

You are indispensable. You know it – but do your clients? You see their needs and have the solutions right here in your trusty bag of professional tricks. Oh, how you could help them, if only they would give you the opportunity! 

How do you show existing clients and new prospects alike the many ways in which hiring you is the greatest thing they can do to solve their problems? The answer lies squarely on your shoulders to put the decision on your clients’ shoulders, my friend. The key is helping them to see what pain points your offerings will alleviate. 

Here are some tips for helping your clients and potential clients see that they can’t live without you: 

●     Listen. You can’t save their skin if you don’t know where they’re bleeding. Find out precisely where/what their deficits are by really listening to how they explain what they need. Does she have wrinkles and dry skin? Do her rose bushes have blight? 

●     Restate her issues. Once you hear the client’s take on what she needs, repeat it back to her so she can hear that you heard precisely what she said. Hearing her problem repeated cements the need for a solution in her mind. She hears, “I have wrinkles and dry skin.” “My rose bushes have blight.” 

●     Suggest specific solutions to specific problems – Of course your client would like to know that you are a trained and experienced professional in your field but don’t overwhelm her by pulling out every solution in your bag of tricks. Narrow your focus to addressing her specific needs, convincing her you are the pro for the job! Discuss the benefits of your SuperSoft skin cream to treat her dry skin and wrinkles and explain that you know precisely what to do for rose blight. 

●     Let the client draw conclusions about what she needs. Once you inform the client as to how you can ease her pain point, step back and allow her to summarize and conclude what she needs from you. She will do a far better job convincing herself that she can’t live without SuperSoft skin cream or your treatment for the roses than if you try to do it yourself! 

●     Value your services accordingly. Give her problem – and your solution – the “weight” they  deserve by charging appropriately. Even if the problem is easily remedied, if it’s worth fixing, it’s worth charging for. If the problem can be solved too cheaply, it will appear that it isn’t much of a problem – or much of a solution. Your expertise in knowing what to do for skin or roses has value in and of itself. 

Give your clients every opportunity to realize they have a problem and you have the solution. When provided the right circumstances, they will come to the conclusion that they can’t live without you every time. 

Yup, it’s true – you ARE indispensable and your clients should know it! 

Sidecar Tuneup Tip – Convincing clients that they can’t live without you is key to closing new deals and keeping existing clients depending on you.

Saturday Sidecar: Turn Your To-Do List Blues into a To Done Celebration.

Written by Gina Blitstein on July 2, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

Operating a sidecar brings with it a to-do list a mile long. You need to market your business, find opportunities, procure actual work, do actual work, stay consistently busy and always have more work coming down the pipeline. It’s a never-ending cycle with a seemingly never-ending list of tasks associated with it.

Sometimes your to-do list may seem manageable but more often than not, you probably feel that it’s conquering you rather than you conquering it. What can you do when the individual tasks on your to-do list threaten to swallow you up? The answer is, set it aside for the time being.

Rather than resigning yourself to feeling like a failure over what your to-do list says you haven’t done, stop to consider what you have accomplished. Look at the big picture instead of focusing on the minutia.

Try this when you find yourself suffering from the “to-do list blues:”

Take some time to reflect about your sidecar’s journey from inception to its present location. Maybe even chronicle the history of your sidecar for future reference. Reach back into your memory and recount the story of why you began your sidecar, considering these questions:

●     Did you want to (or need to) earn extra money?

●     Did you need an outlet for your creativity?

●     Did you need to be able to work independently?

●     Did you wonder what it would be like to be an entrepreneur?

●     Did you need a personal or professional challenge?

Your answers to those questions will remind you of “where you were” when you decided to embark upon your side business. Once reminded of “once upon a time,” begin thinking about the “here and now” of your sidecar, considering these questions:

●     How much have I earned operating my sidecar?

●     How am I able to express my skills and talents through my sidecar?

●     Do I appreciate the opportunity to work as I see fit?

●     Do I enjoy owning a business?

●     How does my business challenge me personally and professionally?

●     How, overall, is my life better as the operator of my sidecar?

Now that you’ve made the mental circle from where you were to where you are, try looking at that to-do list again. Flip back the pages, literally or figuratively, and contemplate what you’ve accomplished. Reviewing your “done” list with this new outlook will give you perspective about the amount of work you have accomplished. While your to-do list represents the minute details of working your business, and can in a very concrete way demonstrate that you indeed have accomplished many tasks which you may not remember individually, the real story is in the big picture.

Use your to-do list to remind you of what you need to do and what you’ve accomplished. They are of equal importance and can help you appreciate the bigger picture of how far you’ve come in your sidecar.

Sidecar Tuneup Tip: Looking only at your to-do list can be daunting and disheartening. Take a big picture view of your sidecar before using your to-do list to gauge your progress.

Saturday Sidecar: Use Color to Jazz Up Your Brand

Written by Gina Blitstein on June 25, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

Power ties are red and Boy Scout uniforms are blue…

Colors are important to branding, it’s true. 

Your business’ brand is the overall representation of your company – in print, on the web, in person – everywhere customers will encounter it. The more consistent and effective you are at branding your business, the more easily people will come to recognize it. One crucial aspect to your brand is the use of color. 

Color is a powerful visual element – it can create or enhance a mood simply by coming to the party. Color communicates as vividly as sound or words (and probably more-so)! That’s why it’s important to choose the colors that identify your business’ “look” carefully. Color can help create the image you want your business to project if you understand what each color can communicate. 

Even if you’re basically happy with your business’ color scheme, consider the opportunity color represents to breathe some excitement into your branding. Perhaps a new color will jazz up your eye-appeal, making your branding more memorable. 

How do you know what colors to choose to represent your business? Let’s explore basic colors and their common connotations – at least in the Western world: 

Red

●     Eye-catching

●     Projects vitality, love, energy, excitement and movement

●     Too much can overwhelm, becoming ineffective 

Blue

●     Can be calming and restful

●     Reminiscent of nature

●     Projects wisdom and loyalty

●     Certain shades (or too much) can look cold 

Yellow

●     Projects cheerfulness, optimism and happiness

●     Effective when used to highlight

●     Too much can be overstimulating and disturbing 

Green

●     Reminiscent of nature and life

●     Pleasing to the eye

●     Lighter tints project  peace, calmness and harmony

●     Darker shades reflect conservativeness, masculinity and prosperity 

Purple

●     Creates a respectful mood

●     Projects a royal vibe, wisdom, sophistication, and an air of mystery

●     Too much can appear pretentious 

Orange

●     Elicits feelings of excitement and ambition

●     Projects fun and happiness

●     Creates an energetic and warm feel

Black

●     Creates a serious, authoritative feel

●     Projects intelligence, strength and stability

●     Can add drama or convey sadness

●     Too much can overwhelm 

White

●     Associated with cleanliness and purity

●     Projects creativity and neutrality

●     Too much is boring, not enough is overwhelming 

Gray

●     Associated with a timeless, practical feel

●     Projects rock-solid stability when used in moderation

●     Can come across as wishy-washy or dull when used too much 

As you can see, colors have strong associations in our minds. Make certain your branding conveys the right message about your business. What image does your brand impart to viewers? Is it energetic enough? Does it project an air of authority? Does it catch the eye? Perhaps a new use of color will add just the spark to liven up your brand. 

Don’t underestimate the impact of color in your branding. A dash here or a change there could be just what it takes to get your brand noticed and remembered.

Sidecar Tuneup Tip: Effective use of color can help your branding do what it’s supposed to do: Create an eye-catching and identifiable image to represent your business.

Saturday Sidecar: Do You Have Steely Focus?

Written by Gina Blitstein on June 18, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

Remaining productive is a challenge when operating your sidecar. With limited time to work on your business, you want to make the most out of every bit of effort you put forth. How can you make sure those precious hours spent working your side business are productively spent instead of frittered away? The answer is personal accountability. 

Personal accountability begins with an assessment of what you want to accomplish, how and when: 

  1. Envision the outcome you desire.
  2. Create a road map to guide you there by taking that big goal and breaking it down into manageable chunks, comprised of definitive tasks for you to accomplish. Those chunks represent the benchmarks – or indicators – of progress toward the larger goal.
  3. Create a system to hold yourself accountable for completing those tasks which tracks your progress. Maintaining awareness of where you are along the path to reaching your goal provides inspiration and direction. 

Here are some tips to help you develop the steely focus necessary to stay on task as you reach your benchmarks along the road to accomplishing your business goals: 

●     Time your work sessions, including a planned break. Provide yourself a timeframe for focusing on a task. Literally set a timer for, say, 50 minutes. When the time is up, step away and freshen your focus for a few minutes before going back at it. This will revitalize your motivation and help your mind avoid wandering. 

●     Avoid as much extraneous distraction as possible. No one can focus when the phone, Facebook, unrelated conversations or other shiny objects draw our attention from work. 

●     Individualize your benchmarks to your own work style and business. Create your own yardstick and measure your progress on your own terms. 

●     Measure everything you can to ensure accountability. Provide yourself concrete goals (with charts and graphs if necessary) so you can actually track your progress and see what you’ve accomplished.

●     Reward your accomplishments. Remember to acknowledge the progress you make with every task you complete.

●     Don’t let missed benchmarks discourage you by making you feel inadequate about the progress you have made. The reality is, you will have delays, setbacks and even failures. Keep your focus on each task as it arises and remain mindful of what you’ve already accomplished.

●     Frequently reassess your benchmarks and goals to make sure you are still moving in the appropriate direction. Circumstances, needs and resources change so make sure your ultimate goal and benchmarks continue to represent where you want to go and the best way to get there.

Set the stage for success by creating smaller tasks on which you can more easily focus and accomplish. Doing so helps you to more easily stay on task and accomplish more.

Sidecar Tuneup Tip: Developing the discipline to stay on task is the way to accomplish goals in the limited time sidecar drivers have to work your business.

Saturday Sidecar: Is It Important Or Is It Urgent?

Written by Gina Blitstein on June 11, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

Anyone who runs a sidecar knows the secret to keeping its engine humming smoothly is managing the constant influx of to-dos. You undoubtedly live and breathe by your to-do list – it’s how you organize, prioritize and ultimately get it all done. 

The key to prioritizing your to-dos is to establish a criteria as to which tasks have the greatest weight – and which ones can wait. How do you determine which of your to-dos need to be tackled before others when they all seem critical? It comes down to defining a couple terms that will help you determine how to most effectively allocate your time. You must distinguish between that which is important and that which is urgent

This is an apt time to refer to dictionary.com for some definitions: 

im·por·tant  

1. of much or great significance or consequence: an important event in world history.

2. mattering much (usually followed by to ): details important to a fair decision.

3. entitled to more than ordinary consideration or notice: an important exception.

ur·gent

1. compelling or requiring immediate action or attention; imperative; pressing: an urgent matter.

2. insistent or earnest in solicitation; importunate, as a person: an urgent pleader.

3. expressed with insistence, as requests or appeals: an urgent tone of voice.

 

Let’s make the assumption that there are several items on your to-do list at any given time that you consider important. Determine which of them are either time-sensitive (of the “do it now” variety) or so critical that you will lose a client or damage a relationship if you don’t complete it when promised. Those are your urgent to-dos, what we call fill or kill tasks in our office. 

The other to-dos, which are no less critical, but lack that element of “do or die” are your important ones. They should be included on your to-do list as important and completed as soon as you are able. 

When determining what is important and what is urgent, it’s also important to be certain that you have a firm grasp of others’ definition of important and urgent. For example, some people use the expression “as soon as possible” to mean, “as soon as you can get to it” (read, “important”) while others mean, “as soon as humanly possible” (read, “urgent”). Personally, I opt for an expression such as, “at your earliest convenience” to distinguish between that on which I would appreciate action from that which is urgent. Whatever wording you prefer to use, make sure you give and hear the degree of importance/urgency accurately to avoid misunderstanding. 

When operating your sidecar -

It is important to separate what is important from what is urgent.

It is urgent that you allocate your time accordingly. 

Sidecar tuneup tip: Distinguishing between that which is important and that which is urgent will help you prioritize your workflow, keeping you on top of your sidecar tasks.

Saturday Sidecar: Is Specializing For You?

Written by Gina Blitstein on June 4, 2011. Posted in Saturday Sidecar

What do you do? It’s a fundamental – and deceptively simple – question. It is, however, one of the most important questions to answer as you begin – and operate – your sidecar business, You need to have a decisive answer long before your clients begin asking. Fully exploring this question will help you define what you have to offer in the marketplace.

Does being a specialist suit your personality?

Determining what sets your business apart from others will help you to clarify your business’ goals. This is an apt time to evaluate your strengths and decide whether you’re a generalist or a specialist.

If you have specific talent, knowledge or experience to offer a particular customer base, think about specializing. It’s well-worth your time and effort to consider because:

Specializing makes focusing on your sidecar easier. Specialists dig deep into their specialty, edging out the competition with only casual knowledge of your particular niche.

Specializing makes marketing easier. When your skill set is very specific, you can more easily attract those specific clients who need precisely what you offer.

Specializing allows you to charge a premium for your services. Clients are willing to pay more to hire a specialist because you bring expertise which makes you a valuable commodity.

To help you decide whether you are able to offer specialized services ask yourself these questions:

In your general field, what elements attract you most?
At what parts of your field do you excel?
At what parts of your field do you have specific knowledge or experience?
Are you a people-person or more of a loner?
Are you hands-on or more of a manager?
How do you like to work – with flexibility, or with structure?
How do you see those factors combining to help a particular group of clients?

Specializing may not be for everyone. There’s no shame in being a generalist who may enjoy more varied work experiences and clients which suit their sidecar aspirations perfectly. Specializing is an exciting consideration, however, especially if you want to exercise specific skills or knowledge or desire to work with a particular group of clients.

Are you able to offer specialized services?

Sidecar tuneup tip: Specializing may be the way for you to set your business apart from the rest. Ask yourself these pertinent questions to determine if specializing is for you.

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