You’ve Got…Hate Mail?

My first piece of hate mail arrived last week. And boy, was it fiery.

Here’s how it began: On Monday night, I posted the job description I had created for a developer on Stack Overflow. Business has been booming lately, and if I want to help more people, I need someone to help me with website development. I wrote up what I was looking for and a little bit about myself and my business. Résumés started to come in.

But in the middle of all the cool cover letters and crazy qualified applicants was a message from one developer who clearly hated me. He doesn’t know me at all, but that didn’t stop him from writing a really angry email to me. I won’t repeat anything he said, but I will tell you the gist of it was this: if you don’t have a degree in the field, you’re a fraud.

Now, while this may not be true of some fields (like medical professions, for instance), we live in an age where experience creates experts. In living through something, in experimenting daily, in immersing yourself in a field, you can gain a significant amount of knowledge and know-how that can be shared with the world. Am I the best developer in the world? No. I’m not the most knowledgeable either. But I do know much more than my clients, and I know how to create websites for them that are intuitive and easy for them to use, because I was once where they are.

The hate mail upset me for a moment. How could anyone be so cruel to another person? I found myself going to that place and nearly agreeing with him when I remembered: his reaction says everything about him and nothing about me. Thank you, Second Agreement! (If you haven’t read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, do. The Second Agreement is “Don’t take anything personally” and trust me, it’s a game changer. It pulled me right out the downward spiral the email brought on.)

I can’t speculate what his story is, but with that much negativity, I’ve no doubt it’s been filled with hardship. And so rather than cuss him out or get angry (or even worse, respond), I sent him loving energy and forgave him for his hurtful words.

I choose to live from a place a love, from a place of service to others and holding them to their highest selves. In my business. In my life.

So maybe hate mail means I’ve finally arrived, but more than anything, it’s shown me how far I’ve come. My past self would have wallowed for days in that negativity. My present self can see the situation for what it is.

(Consequently, I totally got some love mail the same day too, from a developer who wrote: “I commend you for having a great perspective on web development and coding in general. I know a lot of developers that would be much happier with that outlook.” Love.)

2 Simple Questions to Help You Make Space for Your Future

I realized that if ever wanted to gain control of my life (see my last post), I needed to start by scheduling time for me first. Because there will always be work, there will always be emails to answer, there will always be a myriad of little tasks that will take up time.

To live in the future, I had to start with my present.

No change happens overnight, but it became obvious to me that I had to change the way I prioritized if I wanted the future I so dream about to arrive. And all of that starts with intention.

So, I asked myself two key questions:

1. What can I eliminate from my life?

What were all the little things hovering around the periphery of my attention that silently drained me? I drafted a list, and then I took some advice I’ve been hearing for a long time and placed an ad for a personal assistant. The right one hasn’t manifested quite yet, but I know she will. Just the thought of being able to eliminate the items on that list has let me breathe easier and see where there is space.

2. What feeds my soul?

In years past, I’ve made New Years and Birthday resolution lists that have been largely composed of things I thought I should be doing, like running a half marathon or learning another language. But once you’ve had all of your personal time stolen from you, your perspective shifts. These days, anything that makes it onto my calendar has to be precious to me. Calls with friends. Time wandering around art museums. Hours spend exploring somewhere new.

 My future arrives now.

I’m done putting off my happiness until I have everything in my business figured out. My business is always going to be evolving, and there will always be work to do for it. But if I keep postponing my life? I’ll just watch it pass me by entirely. And that’s not something I’m willing to accept.

Planning a Business – The Foundation

At a recent business retreat I attended, we were asked to “reverse engineer” our year. Essentially, we started with the number we wanted to make and worked backwards. When I first started my business, this was essentially how I handled things: I had a number and worked backwards to figure out what my hourly rate should be.

The problem? I had no foundation.

I had a viable business idea, but I didn’t understand the full value of the business.

The Three Things You Need To Start A Business
1. You need to know your ideal client

Trust me, you don’t want to be everyone’s go-to source for whatever service you provide. Your history, your story aligns you to work with specific clients. Get to know your ideal client — their dreams, their fears, their mistakes, their potential. Interview past clients who have been a joy to work with and find the common threads.

2. You need to know your value

How are you helping people? You might be coaching or teaching or providing a service, but look for the bigger picture. What does working with you help your client achieve? How are you supporting them? What space are you creating for them? This can be unexpected sometimes: you may think your housekeeper is cleaning a home, but the housekeeper is really freeing up your time so you can focus on your genius work or spend it fully with your family. There’s always a significant hidden value to what you do.

3. You need to know your client experience

These days, it feels like every industry is saturated. So how do you set yourself apart? By creating an amazing experience. How do you want to feel when your work is done? How do you want your client to feel? Work on what each step of your work together looks like. Where can you add unexpected value? Construct a memorable experience and you will shine.

I’m prepping my first monthly Notes to Soulful Entrepreneurs and there’s some goodness inside! If you haven’t signed up yet, GET OVER HERE and do that.

Dreaming Big

When I first started my business, I saw two great advantages in my new endeavor: (1) Escaping the cube that I had been chained to at my non-profit job, and (2) traveling.

I had no business plan.

I hoped clients would find me. I had thought maybe I’d make about as much as I had in the job I was leaving. I really hadn’t given much thought to what I was doing.

Last week, I attended Click, an event hosted by Christine Kane and her team down in Asheville, North Carolina. During my time there, working on my business and speaking with other entrepreneurs, I realized how small I’d been dreaming, both in my business and in my life.

I’d been staying small because I was afraid of the consequences of playing big.

Playing big means taking big risks. It means envisioning a future for my business beyond self-employment — a future in which I find myself creating an organization and, eventually, an empire. It requires skill and sense and levels of savvy I have to grow into.

And it means making some people uncomfortable, especially myself.

I felt really bad about this. I knew it was hard for my ex-boyfriend that we were in such different places financially. He wanted to be the provider, but I was in an easier position financially. I never minded or complained, but I know it stressed our relationship silently. And yes, it was definitely uncomfortable at times.

I have to live in a place of discomfort because I’m growing in that place.

The moments of uncertainty (where I just wish someone would tell me what to do) are moments that lead to my expansion. I’m learning. Every new experience bends me and teaches me.

At first, I was really uncomfortable talking about money, even dealing with money. I charged so little in the beginning that I failed to make rent one month. I hated asking people for money because I thought it made me sound greedy. Learning to value myself and my skills took time.

There were also the moments that I broke the “don’t talk about what you make” taboo around people. (My mother was particularly squeamish in these situations, a feeling I had inherited and was trying to break.) I admitted where I had been, where I was, and where I was going, because in all honesty, I was done with the old ways of doing things. I want to have real conversations about life. I wanted to open myself and share my failures and my success.

If we’re going to help others be successful, we need to model that success.

That means talking about money and business and life without bragging, without flinching, without flagellating ourselves because we’ve been successful where others haven’t. It means discussing what has been challenging, when we’ve wanted to give up, how we overcame the demons lurking in our shadows.

Andt means dreaming big and playing big, to show others how possible it is to turn a whisper in our hearts into a force of nature in this world.

It doesn’t happen all at once.

We are called by life to be happy, in every way. Now, that sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? But it never feels that easy.

Along the path, we self-sabotage. The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks talks precisely about this. We’re not used to success and happiness and abundance.

Learning how to be comfortable with abundance is a process.

Evolutionarily, we’re hard-wired to expect the lurking predator; we stay small to stay “safe”. But the world has changed.

I don’t expect myself to make a quantum leap in my happiness levels. Right now, I’m focusing on my business, my health, and my friendships. At some point, I’ll think about dating again as well. But I’m not pushing myself to have it all right away.

There’s something beautiful in the process of becoming and I’m just enjoying the journey.

Where are you playing small? Where are you dreaming big? And how has being in uncomfortable places helped you? Tell me your story.

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Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.