First of all: don’t feel guilty!

If you are like me and most of the rest of the small (one owner) businesses, we all feel like we are not getting anything done. And we even feel a bit guilty from time to time. This is not productive. Please give yourself a hug before we go any farther.

To be clear: I am not a therapist, nor have I ever played one on TV. However, I do know from years of helping others with their small businesses, especially artists and makers, that the to-do list is a momentum killer. We are easily intimidated by all the new things we need to learn. I hear it all the time: “I don’t know all this computer stuff”. Or the more common one, “I can’t find the time!”.

And then there is something I call the “hole-in-the-bucket syndrome“. Click that link – it’s worth the 2-minute read.

The hole-in-the-bucket syndrome can paralyze your efforts. It’s that chain of events in your brain that leads to a complete breakdown in your confidence or even your interest in trying. Basically, the hole-in-the-bucket syndrome is a type of catch-22. The issue (as laid out in the original song) was that water was needed to mend the bucket, but because there was a hole in the bucket, the water couldn’t be fetched.

I see this syndrome ALL THE TIME! You suddenly realize that you can’t get anything done because the tools you need are still not under your control or can’t be used or can’t even be purchased.

It looks something like this:

  1. I should do more marketing
  2. I need to put all those names on my email list
  3. I should get some kind of email system
  4. I need to learn how to use the email system (mailchimp/robly/constant contact) I have
  5. I should figure out how to do a Facebook ad.
  6. I need to have something to promote
  7. I need to fix (or build!) my website so I can feel good about sending people to it
  8. I should get a shopping cart so I can send people to buy things
  9. I need to figure out how to set-up payments online
  10. I need to take a nap

I hope you are not faced with all of the above, but if you are, don’t go take a nap yet. I could say to each of you, “Just do it!”, but that won’t get the work done. If you need a website, for example, you really have no way of selling anything so “marketing” is not even relevant.

I know that you just want to be in your studios making art and all the other stuff is just a lot of background noise. It’s time to tackle your guilt-ridden list of “I need to or I should”. Especially if you really don’t know how to do the things you think you need to do.

Taming the Orchestra

Let’s break it down starting with #1: I need to do more marketing.

Of course, you do, but to whom? And by what channel? Do you need photos of your work? Do you need to spend time drilling down on who your target market is and how to reach them? Just posting a photo on Instagram is not marketing – that’s just sharing. Posting and linking to your shopping cart is marketing. Sending an email campaign to a specific list of people who have given you permission to stay in touch is “real” marketing.

Which brings us to #2: I need to put all those names on my email list.

The hole-in-the-bucket syndrome is insidious. It will mess with you. Especially if you are ill-equipped to do anything with those names. Maybe you have some names in your Gmail account or outlook, but now what? You know you can’t be effective sending out regular emails. Therefore, you aren’t motivated to add more names to your personal email list.

And then you realize #3: I should get some kind of email system so I can have a professional email to send.

Uh-huh, you absolutely should! And, if you are a regular reader of my articles, you know I love Constant Contact. There have been some significant changes in the past several months and it is morphing into an even better program than seems possible. But don’t take my word for it, get a free 60-day trial. (And let me know, and I will do some magical things to help you get started!)

But what if you already are signed up and just not using your professional email account? Are you stuck at #4?: I need to learn how to use the email system (mailchimp/robly/constant contact) I already have.

Well, yes, you do need to take control of your messaging and figure out how to use your email system. Furthermore, you need to learn how to create true marketing campaigns. If you are an artist reading this, then you might want to consider a very comprehensive course I co-wrote with Carolyn Edlund all about email marketing for artists.

The noise in your head

It’s only going to get louder as you continue to create without successful sales. And what I fear most for anyone who is trying to make a living as a one-owner operation, especially artists who face a more personal crisis of confidence when they don’t find homes for their art, is that this list from above just crushes your spirit. That bucket’s hole never gets repaired.

You need to quit believing that you can’t do it. You need to quit saying to yourself, and others, that you just can’t figure out how to do the things that others are doing every day. What makes you so “special” that you can’t figure out how to drag and drop a photo onto a webpage? (The technology is easier than ever. You CAN do this!)

I have had four people contact me just in the past two weeks who all suffered from the hole-in-the-bucket syndrome. All four asked for my free website reviews. Of those four people, only one has stayed on task and gone on to set up a free brainstorming session. We start on their new Wix.com website next week. The other three need to DO MORE –  a lot more, but I am guessing they are all just taking naps.

I don’t blame them. Their websites were close to useless. I know it feels like a big darn mess to them. But not fixing their websites will keep them from DOING MORE in every other part of their businesses.

It will keep them from sending emails because of their embarrassment about their 5-year-old websites that they never felt good about, to begin with.

It will keep them from asking for emails at shows or in their stores because they know they won’t be sending emails because they don’t have any place to send people to buy things.

It will keep them from returning my emails or phone calls because they don’t want to face the facts that they are in need of fixes that they don’t believe they can fix. They are needlessly overwhelmed.

They think that they are simply not able to do all the “online stuff” and they just want to take a nap.

Here’s a workaround if you have “hole-in-the-bucket syndrome”

Usually, we try to tackle the little things first; the quickie tasks on our to-do list. It’s one thing to do some dusting around the house. It’s another thing to clean out the garage. But your business chores have a different rhythm. If you tackle the harder parts – whatever is hard for you to do – the other parts become easier and easier.

On occasion, you might not have the skill-set needed for parts of your business’ needs. That’s why you need someone like me for brainstorming some marketing plans or a financial advisor for your retirement or a tax consultant so you only pay your fair share. It’s perfectly acceptable to get experts involved.

But in today’s world, with the myriad of online courses, YouTube tutorials, and Facebook Groups you can join and monitor, there is almost no one who can legitimately say, “I can’t do this stuff”. You can say, that you don’t have the time to learn this stuff and I will grant you permission to hire someone. But even when you hire someone to do your website, YOU should still try to understand some basic tasks. Same for Email Programs. Same for Social Media. Same for marketing, retailing, and wholesaling your products.

You need to have confidence that you are a business, not just a product. You need to believe in yourself and strengthen your foundation so you can continue to grow even more confident and capable in your business.

Stop the voices in your head that keep telling you that you can’t do this. You can. Others do. Why not you?

Okay… I have surely said enough. You now have my permission to take a very short nap! But when you get up, go tackle that bucket. When you get that bucket repaired, you will be able to do so much more!