It’s time to get honest about the behind the scenes of my business because I’m 99.9999999% sure that whatever you may be experiencing as you start and design yours, you are normal!
(Side note: this turned into a longer post than anticipated but I’m so happy I was able to articulate my experience in hopes that it will help you as well:)
I’ve learned a lot over the past 3 years and guess what, none of it is a mistake.
So don’t let anyone tell you that you could’ve done things differently because I believe we are all learning each step of the way.
I always tell my clients that as soon as they’ve embarked on the journey ( i.e made the commitment to be more aware, taken the step to be conscious and intentional and grow themselves and start their businesses) everything coming up from this point forward can be viewed as helpful towards their own healing, highest good, development and yes, success. No exceptions!
So what did it look like when I took my second shot at an online business?
(The first was back in 2012 which I will share in an upcoming post!)
Well, it all starts out sounding great.
3 years ago I started an art business because I’d developed a passion for painting and was painting up a storm!
My reasons were:
I always wanted an online business.
I was on a serious healing journey going on 8 years and counting,
Art was a release and my true self expression without needing words and it felt like such a reprieve from the often emotionally heavy focus of therapy.
It also felt like it was completely about me which was an amazing feeling!
After being a lifelong caretaker (which unsurprisingly led me to do therapy in the first place) I felt like I was regaining a huge aspect of the real me.
So per usual I got excited about art being a monetary prospect as well.
You see, that was my MO.
Acknowledging what I was good at and using it to the best of my ability to survive.
I grew up in a single parent home on welfare so my smart little child’s brain learned how to make the skills that I had useful.
Cut to my first real “business training” for my new venture.
It was on Instagram Marketing because that’s where I started sharing my art and I felt called to learn more about it. I quickly jumped in and initiated a pod with fellow students as a way to keep motivated and “get the algorithm working” for us.
I didn’t have any experience with selling a product.
This venture was actually quite different than my first business: an in person, service based private therapy practice with individual clients, groups and retreats.
So I started off blindly in this arena.
However, my passion was on fire!
(Side note: just like any relationship, passion can only sustain a business for so long if there isn’t a structure to support it. )
Fast forward and I grew an instagram account to almost 10k followers.
Sounds great doesn’t it?
Oh the coveted 10k.
Those promises of the algorithm kicking in, collaboration requests with the social “big-wigs” and the magical swipe up option in the stories feature.
I wanted all of that and more! It sounded so exciting- and profitable!
The problem was, I was downright exhausted, spending all of my energy on Instagram that I didn’t have time for anything else that would make a business run!
I would find myself worrying about contorting myself into a box to beat the algorithm.
This was sensitive territory for a recovering perfectionist like I am.
I would get tons of adrenaline hits from getting into top posts and a quick increase in followers but then I crash emotionally when certain posts didn’t do as good as I thought they would.
I remember I posted my first live painting video and it got over 20,000 views!
That’s what viral looks like and it does feel amazing.
A flood of new followers rushed to my account.
“Yes I thought. It’s happening. This is it. I’ll just repeat this!”
My second video probably got 800 views.
I was crushed and immediately started feeling bad.
This is the nature of the roller coaster I was on. Because I didn’t have a foundation, a why, coaching that acknowledged the emotions behind getting visible and enough experience to see that this was normal, I shied away more and more.
I started to get inconsistent with doing video because I was unconsciously avoiding rejection and the “crash” feeling.
Growing an Instagram account of that size without a business plan or the type of support I needed stirred up all sorts of stuff behind the scenes.
I was terrified to not post the suggested 3-5 times a day out of fear I’d “lose” followers and that would translate into me not being successful.
I thought I would be rejected if I couldn’t do all the things that I was told worked for the successful mentor I looked up to.
I saw other students worrying about the same thing and I interpreted the teacher’s response as disapproval.
My anxiety/excitement was at the forefront (anxiety and excitement are on the same continuum) and despite knowing short term gratification and excitement could be quite addictive for me, the highs so high that I couldn’t get off the roller coaster..
Most importantly, I didn’t understand how transformational knowing my why and committing to my message would be (not because I did anything wrong but because I was still learning how to show up online!) Now this is one of my favorite things to teach the women I work with!
And you know what else?
I could see a lot of this happening the whole time.
I had developed my awareness enough to recognize what was happening and yet the ride had taken off.
I see now that I just needed time. I needed to witness and experience and retry the same things so I could get to a point where I had enough information.
That information was a combination of how I was feeling, what results I was really looking for and what results I was actually experiencing.
All of that was intel to understand that this Instagram strategy wasn’t the right strategy for me.
It also meant really seeing how my art had become this commodity along the way that was having the joy sucked right out of it.
And there was more!
I wasn’t giving myself credit:
I made sales 1-2 times a month. “Hardly enough for a car payment,” my critical voice would chirp.
This was a milestone, yet I couldn’t give myself credit for it because perfectionism kept telling me I needed to be farther along than I was.
“Look how much that person is selling,” my critical voice would moan.
I didn’t realize I was comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle and that I was exactly where I was supposed to be in the process of building a business.
This is why I’m so transparent about the process so you can not be so hard on yourself too!
It’s very easy to use social media as a jumping off point for fantasy (as poster and viewer) and my mind made up all sorts of stories. What I was seeing was a snapshot, a crowded room with a lot of noise and without going deeper, I literally wasn’t getting the whole picture.
We need more honesty about the behind the scenes of what an online business takes.
No matter what you see, no one is an overnight success and a sustainable business is not built on virility and short term wins. It’s built on consistent actions taken over time that breed long term results.
While I was worried about not being good enough because according to the critical voice I wasn’t making enough sales, I was distracted from building long term connections with the right audience and implementing the strategies that would actually help me make more sales over time! (Self fulfilling prophecy at it’s finest :) !)
This is where I learned that followers do not = sales.
I’d heard it many times before but I needed to experience going down that road for myself.
I also learned that what I really needed was some solid business training and a foundation from a teacher with an attentive personality and a lot of experience.
Instagram marketing was one piece of the puzzle that could work for some and even be a nice addition to my marketing plan, but I was putting wayyy too many eggs in one basket.
My critical voice constantly compared my likes and comments to other people and wondered how they were doing “it” (i.e. getting so much engagement and traction.)
Again, this was totally dismissing my own accomplishments and not giving myself credit because the “not good enough” mantra was playing in my head.
This is also why the numbers don’t matter.
I was getting over 200 likes on a post and my critical voice was still comparing myself to the people who were getting 500, 800, 1,000. You get the picture.
If your critical voice is running the show it doesn’t matter how successful you are, how insta-famous you seem, it will feel like nothing is ever good enough.
Above all else, I needed to really honor that I had something important to say and share.
This is my heartfelt foundation that I use to remember why I am showing up and sharing my message in the first place. Do you know what yours is? I’d love to help you!
I would write a vulnerable post, get lot’s of comments, and then I’d never respond to them because I didn’t have the energy.
I wasn’t validating myself that vulnerable writing takes energy.
I was burning myself out trying to post 3-5 times a day using the strategy taught to help me grow quickly, yet that left me no energy to actually respond on the most engaging posts and comments! Or really do anything else for that matter.
Instead of building connections I was unintentionally abandoning potential friends, buyers, collectors and students because I was abandoning myself by not listening to how I was feeling with the strategy I was using.
Since I wasn’t taking care of myself or honoring my needs because I thought I had to do things a certain way (perfectionism again), the pressure began to build up more and more.
In addition, sharing my art was extremely vulnerable to me in the first place. It felt like the most raw thing I’d ever shared publicly.
I had resentful thoughts and feelings when I saw the vulnerable posts of others.
”Yes they have a story,” the critical voice would whine, “but you have an even “bigger” story. Why are they getting all of the attention and you aren’t? You must be doing something wrong. They must be more interesting than you.”
Cue my inner child who wanted attention and put down someone else in order to feel better.
Instead of acknowledging that the strategy I was using wasn’t working for me, I just kept distracting from the discomfort, feeling like a victim and like there was something wrong with me. Which is why it’s so important to keep doing your inner work as you grow a business because old thought patterns will get drudged up and repeat until you can clear them.
If you haven’t noticed the critical voice is my default programming.
It’s a great help to start to get to know yours.
It’s shows up as those all too familiar automatic responses that we learned at an early age to function in the world.
What finally changed it all?
First and foremost, staying curious, aware and continuously checking in with how I was feeling on a daily basis kept me learning from all of this.
The realization was finally able to sink in (after I’d burned out all the passion and excitement and was left with exhaustion) that I was doing what I always tended to do: pimp out my genius before I understood what or why I was doing what I was doing in the first place.
I had to admit that the way I was feeling was for a reason!
As I discovered my true heartfelt why, I realized the why I was using the the art business was based more on instant gratification and the short term reward of approval.
I wasn’t even enjoying sharing my art anymore because I felt so crushed. I found myself creating just to have something to post on instagram!
What I learned
I was feeling so beat up from my own thoughts of rejection I felt like I couldn’t expose myself one.more.time.
Ahh talk about stifling !
I learned, once again, that I always need to take time to receive and absorb my own inspiration first before sharing what I had learned with others, otherwise I would keep feeling like an emotional pimp time and time again.
I also realized I was accepting teaching from people that didn’t exactly resonate with me because I needed to internally decide that my learning style and needs were valid and deserve the right fit!
For example, noticing that I wouldn’t always get a response from my teacher helped me see that I want to show up differently for my students.
Despite all of this I am still grateful for those experiences because I needed to go through them to learn that I wanted to do things a different way.
I strongly believe that despite the bumps these were things I needed to work through, just as you will have your own journey.
Simultaneously, while we are doing our own work we are deepening into our raw truth the whole time.
When we use our experiences for their higher purposes it all turns into goodness that keeps aligning us and course correcting us onto a path that works for us.
And this will keep happening and continuing because there is always something new to learn!
These experiences aren’t failures. They are what makes you human and helps others connect to you as well.
So where am I now?
I had to take several long periods where I just let myself be off of Instagram.
I felt guilty about it at first, like I was missing out.
I would hear my teachers' words echoing in a judgmental voice that wasn’t even her own, “well if you don’t show up and take breaks than definitely no one will see you.”
It took me several breaks to actually listen to what my body was telling me which was “something is not right!”
I completely reorganized my business so that my art was a side component that would first and foremost honor my self expression without any pressure whatsoever.
I learned that for now keeping my art free from it becoming anything feels the most sacred at this time.
I started working with a business coach, Jessica Rodriquez, who aligned with this awesome idea that doing less can be better than doing more. Yes!
She is all about scaling online businesses and this sounded like heaven because my 1:1 capacity was capped and this could also give me more time to do my art!
I decided to let my art Instagram account be and just post when I felt called to.
Yes, the followers started going down, something the old me was so terrified about.
I remember when it actually started to feel like a relief to see the numbers go down.
This is when I knew things were changing for the better.
I was listening to my heart and needs instead of following someone else’s claim that I needed to do things a certain way.
Who wants to feel like they are forcing themselves to do something?
I know I don’t!
I started to pay attention to what felt good and I noticed that I was being led to start working with women in business.
I created an online program, signed a consulting client for a company with 100+ employees, cleaned up my website, my message and truly put myself first.
Now I’m working with creative, passionate, heart centered empathic ladies 1:1 and in online group programs to help them start their online businesses while honoring their hearts at the same time.
In the meantime, I hired a virtual assistant and I’m so happy I did!
It’s so amazing to have support and has freed up so much more time for me to create content and work with women like you directly because that is my favorite part.
So things are actually going better than ever and my new business is making wonderful progress.
Most importantly, I feel excited, open and expansive working on it and don’t feel pressured to fit myself into a box because I started and continue to show up with this business in a way that works for me and not anyone else!
I also am creating and painting again with a new level of detail and patience.
The Most Important Takeaway
When you are stuck or don’t know what to do gently observe yourself.
Take note without judgment, your experiences and your reactions as you go through trial and error.
Keep getting information about the people who are supporting you and the people who are not.
Keep paying attention to how you feel when you show up.
It is a process.
There are growing pains. And you are going to try out things and work with people and realize they aren’t the right fit.
However, what you will find along the way is what IS working.
You will discover who your people are, who your huge supporters are and things will start to move forward in a way that works for YOU.
That is why we want to have our own businesses in the first place, isn’t it?
I’m here for you!
I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.
Have you had a similar experience with social media?
Are you feeling like it’s overly stimulating for you as well or that it’s making you a bit crazy?
If so, you can grab my free cheatsheet “Your not crazy, it’s social media!” here so that you can see the 5 point framework I developed to approach all of my social media interactions with meaning instead of from the old perspective that had me running for the hills!
P.S. Just starting your online business and have no idea where to begin?
Not ready to invest in a 10k coaching package but need a business foundation that honors you and your heart centered dreams?
I’ve got you! 💕
I’m sharing my FREE resource library for designing and upleveling your business with heart.
This has ALL of my printables, ebooks and mindset tips in one place to help you release self doubt, stop second guessing your genius and create your sustainable business foundation so you can become visible online with confidence! 💪
These resources combine practical business strategy with an intuitive foundation because this is the only way that has worked for me and my clients: the smart, empathic, creative types that we are 😉
I hope you enjoy opening your gifts!! You can access the resource library for free here: jennifermele.com/freeresourcelibrary