According to spiritual philosopher Marianne Williamson, the term "playing small" refers to that part in each of us that's focused on short-term comfort, security and validation. It's the part that keeps us stuck inside of our comfort zone, worried that if we step out, everything we've worked so hard for up until this point will come crashing down. These feelings can creep in no matter how successful you are now or how successful you've been in the past. I can relate to this.
Despite starting my first business 13 years ago, having credentials and happy clients, I was still hesitant to step outside of my comfort zone for quite some time. It hurt my company, and if you're playing small, I bet it's hurting yours, too. Here are five ways playing small is sabotaging your business.
- Playing small shows that you don't take your offerings seriously. The last time someone asked you if you ran a business, did you respond with, "Oh, yeah, I do a little something on the side." Even if it's true that you have one job from 9 to 5 and then work your passion for only an hour a day, you need to speak like your business is important. The person asking you about your company may have been going to refer a customer to you, but since you responded with a half-hearted answer, that referral is going somewhere else. When people pay you, they expect you to treat them as well as you treat your company. If you treat your business like "a little something you do when you have time," you are telling your potential customer you are going to treat her business the same way. Minimizing the importance of your company could come from fear. Maybe you're scared that if you get that big customer, you won't perform. You can't do that. If you are committed to making your venture a business that can sustain you and your family, then speak about it as the important thing it is.
- Your offerings are so general that you're not seen as expert. If someone asks you what you do, and it takes 10 minutes to rattle off the 30 services you offer, then you are doing too much. Customers hire experts. If you tell me you can paint my car, build my web site and remodel my kitchen...you lack focus. As a potential customer, not only am I confused, but I also don't trust that you can perform all those services well. Selling everything at one time and under one company also makes marketing your business nearly impossible. Find your niche and specialize. Then direct your efforts there. It will be easier to market, and the more you share, the more you'll be seen as an expert in your field.
- Customers don't know your true voice, so they can't figure out if they know, like or trust you enough to spend money. You're so worried about getting things right that you don't trust your own voice. Instead, you spend hours researching the top people in your field, copying their methods with the hope it'll work for you. If they start doing daily Periscopes, you start doing daily Periscopes. If they use words like "awesomesauce" and "juicy," then you add them to your copy, too. This doesn't come off as authentic. Your potential customers will pick up on that and run the other way. People pay for you to show up, not somebody else. Your voice is just fine and will resonate with those you're supposed to attract.
- You get taken advantage of regularly because your prices are too low. You're so happy to get a client that you charge next to nothing for fear of losing the business. Sometimes, you'll even start the sales portion of a client call with, "My rates are X, but let me know if that's too much because I can probably give you a discount." I've been guilty of that, but now I confidently share my prices when asked because I know the value I can bring to a customer. It doesn't matter how big your company is at the moment. It's the quality of what you're offering. Take your background into consideration as well. Maybe you have a special certification, years of corporate experience or a long list of happy customers. That alone may give you the right to charge more than your peers. Be comfortable with that.
- You have a ton of great ideas but never release them. The light bulb goes off, and you get to writing. Before you know it, you have pages of content for a program you're sure will serve your clients. Then fear creeps in. What if no one likes it? I think I need to refine the idea a bit more before I share it. You close your notebook, put it on the shelf and the idea never comes to light. I want you to understand something. Your idea doesn't have to be "perfect." It just has to help someone else. If you're not ready to release it widely, consider going to a few of your trusted clients and run them through a beta version of the content at a lower price in exchange for a testimonial and tips on refining the program.
As you can see, staying inside your comfort zone when it comes to your business does not serve you long-term. Outside is where the magic happens. This doesn't mean you need to grow your business into something bigger than you want. It does mean you need to recognize the things that are holding you back from having the business and life that you want.
Getting the right support is also crucial. If you're looking for a supportive, engaging space to grow your business, join Dequiana's Facebook community for women entrepreneurs: http://bit.ly/BecomeYourOwnCEO.