This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclosure page here.
Note from Lisa: I “met” Ashley at the very beginning of my freelance journey, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her over the past couple of years. She’s an amazing writer, and a friend. I’m so honored to have her here today wrapping up my blogging baby break for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your business, this post is for you! Ashley shares how to get maximum results with less effort <=such great advice!
Take it away Ashley…
As work-at-home moms who want to do our work well, it’s easy to fall into a few traps that keep us drained, overwhelmed, and maybe even a little bit sad.
We want to do well! We want our businesses to grow. Ideally, we want them to look like all the So-and-so’s over there. They’ve hit six figures, after all, and that’s our goal, too. So we sit at the firehose of information and advice, and we make our mile-long lists of what we should be doing, and every now and then we pop our heads up to look around and see where everyone else is in this business journey. And what we get reflected back to us is polished professionalism, big wins to celebrate, and maybe even some heart-pumping income reports.
In other words, we overload our expectations, overwhelm ourselves, and then compare our overwhelmed state to the sleek image presented by our colleagues and peers. And then we despair.
First, I want you to know that we all do this. We all do this to some extent. We all want to put our best foot forward, make ourselves look as good as possible (we call it “professional” and “credible” in these circles), and get cheered on when we do something awesome. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best and make a good impression.
But if you feel discouraged every time you “look around” and see what all the other mom-preneurs are doing around you, I want to offer another way.
And that is to stop working so flipping hard, and start doing the minimum.
Why the Minimum Wins
Yes, I said it. Do the minimum. Do the least you can possibly do and still get by. But I don’t mean slack off.
What I’m suggesting is that you take a hard look at all the recommendations and must-dos coming your way, and then another hard look at all the resources you have at your disposal (time, energy, babysitting, etc.).
I’m going to guess that you have WAY more must-do tasks than you do resources to complete them. Am I right?
Ok. I want you to remember something.
When you’re sitting at the feet of someone whose business is significantly more developed than you are, you need to remember that she’s got a lot more resources than you do.
She’s executing a social media strategy across several platforms, AND publishing regularly, AND managing courses and a student load, AND producing everything else she’s producing, because at this point in her career, she can buy the support to pull it off.
When she was sitting where you are right now, I can almost guarantee that she wasn’t “being everywhere” and “doing everything.” She got to where she is one step at a time, and that’s what you have to do, too. Start where you are, do the ONE thing that you think will pull you furthest ahead right now, set it up as quickly as you can, and build out over time.
MVT for MVP
I use the phrase Minimum Viable Thing, or MVT, pretty loosely. Everywhere in my business, I look for the minimum-viable version of whatever it is I’m focusing on. This means websites are simple, with just a couple of pages. Technology is as simple as I can keep it. My content strategy is also as streamlined as I can get it, with a focus on repurposing as much as I can so I don’t have to expend time and energy coming up with new stuff across a bunch of platforms.
I still don’t have a Twitter, and guess what? If I can grow a business without Twitter, so can you.
Perfectionism will Cripple You
One of the struggles I see with the idea of doing the minimum basically boils down to perfection. We have in our heads the idea of the perfect website, the perfect profiles, the perfect branding, the perfect everything… and we don’t want to put anything out in the world until it meets that high expectation. That’s what all the big earners do, right?
But the idea of perfection is absolutely crippling, especially when you’re in the early building phase.
I’d encourage you to adopt the attitude that DONE is better than perfect.
Yes, a sleek, robust website with a beautiful logo and high-end design would be really, really nice. But if you’re bootstrapping and can’t afford to spend a few grand on a fabulous website, how many hours will it take for you to figure out how to DIY it? I’m guessing weeks, if not months. And if you’re trying to build a business, you don’t have months to wait.
The MVT approach also looks like focusing on ONE social media platform — if you’re even going to do social media at all. ONE marketing strategy at a time, the one you think will be most effective. ONE solid idea for branding. Pick something (quickly!) and go with it. Don’t spend 3 weeks debating what domain to buy or comparing brand mood boards. Just buy a domain and pick some nice colors, knowing you can change it all later if you need to.
Release the perfection, focus on the essentials, and let everything else go for now. It will all be ok, I promise.
Benefits of the Minimum Viable Approach
What I love about looking for the minimum viable version of anything I do is that it lets me move with a lot more speed.
Not only am I executing on my plans a lot more quickly when I look for the minimum viable version, but I’m finding out what works and — perhaps more importantly — what doesn’t work, a whole lot more quickly.
This means I’m more productive, which translates into more income, more quickly. I’m also wasting a lot less time, because issues are making themselves known earlier in the process.
If I spend 6 weeks developing the perfect services packages (and creating all the collateral, and fancying up the website about them) and then I realize that my ideal clients actually want *different* service packages, then I’ve just wasted those 6 weeks. But if I spent 5 days working on a minimum viable package instead, with just a single page on the website and limited collateral, I’ve made the same important discovery in substantially less time.
Moving quickly is incredibly valuable when you’re getting your business established and learning the ins and outs of your clientele’s needs, desires, and expectations. The faster you can shift, the more business you’ll be able to win.
How Does It Look in the Wild
I’ve already mentioned a few ways you can take the minimum viable approach in work — for example, the stripped-down social media strategy or a simple website that you can put up quickly. You can also do a minimum viable course launch, a minimum viable email welcome series, and even a minimum viable opt-in for your blog by using something you’ve already done and repurposing it (like offering a webinar or Facebook Live recording as an opt-in).
The minimum viable concept is great for work as well as the home front. It reduces workloads and can help eliminate decision fatigue, which is great when you’re juggling home life and a business.
Lisa’s annual meal plan is a fantastic example of the MVT, with the “thing” in question being meal plans. I also will employ MVT to folding laundry (I won’t fold undergarments or kids pajamas, for starters). I’ve heard of families going down to one plate, cup, and bowl for each child to reduce the constant pile-up of dishes. Minimalism itself is rooted in the minimum viable idea.
How Will You Turn the Minimum into Maximum Results?
I know I’m not the only mom-preneur who falls victim to comparison-itis when I look at someone who’s further along in their business than I am. It’s such a mental trap, and so easy to set off! Getting stuck in perfectionism and unreasonable expectations for ourselves is the common refrain many of us are singing.
If you can step out of the cycle and focus on what’s true for your own situation (and not the situation of a colleague or mentor you have!), you can begin to adopt the minimum viable approach for yourself. It’s liberating!
Because there’s simply not enough time to do everything I want to do in my business, I’ve had to learn the art of the minimum viable approach. Let’s face it — with 3 small kids at home, there’s no time for the kind of perfection that many of my freelancing colleagues can aspire to (you know, the ones with nannies, or kids in school all day, or *gasp* no kids at all).
This is the ONE thing that has made the biggest difference in my business. I stopped listening to the experts telling me I had to be everywhere and do everything. I stopped looking at the business checklists with all the different bits and pieces I supposedly needed to get my business off the ground. Then I slashed the to-do list down to the basics and focused only on the things that would let me put my best stuff out in the world, and in front of the right people.
All the rest can wait.
So tell me this: how might things change for you if you took everything down to the minimum and focused only on the things that mattered most for generating income in your business?
Ashley Gainer is a no-fluff, all-action digital marketer and content strategist specializing in blogging and web copy. Since 2010 she has helped dozens of bloggers and entrepreneurs build their businesses through engaging blog posts and solid copy. Want to get started as a freelance writer? Take the first step with her FREE niche-picking course.