If you've been in the consulting business for any amount of time, you already know how tough it is to be an entrepreneur with a passion for helping people -- let alone doing it all as a young woman. We've got the enthusiasm, the expertise and even the networks, but somehow these assets don't necessarily translate into financial success in our consulting businesses. Why is that?
Something I've noticed -- especially among women -- is that we often get stuck when trying to grow our practice; not for lack of knowledge, but simply lack of confidence. We get stuck because we’re holding a subconscious belief that we shouldn't be charging for something that we love doing so much we'd do it for free. Other times procrastinate on starting that Big Project due to a fear of failure.
While women have great entrepreneurial potential, we often fall into various "mind traps" that sabotage our businesses and keep us doing what we need to do to achieve our full financial potential.
Here are six mind traps to watch out for.
- You're not selling. Most women hate selling with a passion. We'd rather make friends with people and have them turn into customers organically. As a result, we often find it difficult to put ourselves out there and market our businesses and ask for sales.
- You're not charging enough. Women often have a hard time asking for what we're worth. According to research by negotiation expert Linda Babcock, women are two-and-a-half times more likely than men to feel "a great deal of apprehension" about negotiating. This is very common in salary negotiation and also shows up in how we price our expertise, services or products.
- You're not charging at all. When you're starting out as a consultant, it can be easy to fall into the mindset that you have to offer your services pro-bono or at a deep discount to get some experience or encourage word of mouth marketing. The problem with that is if you provide too much value to your customers for free, they won't want to pay you when you start charging for it.
- You shy away from the press. True story: Last year, a local reporter emailed me, asking me to meet him at the television studio in two hours for a story about Generation Y. I'm an extreme introvert, so the idea of getting on camera initially scared me, but I knew the exposure would be good for my business. As a result of the TV segment, I began seeing an uptick in my speaking income from groups who wanted to better understand the Gen-Y demographic. Unfortunately, many women shy away from press opportunities like this, not realizing what an impact it can have on their bottom line.
- You're afraid of social media. While women dominate many social networks online, we don't use the tools as much as we could to promote our businesses and engage with potential customers. If you're already on Twitter and Facebook, you might tend to use it for personal use rather than as a marketing tool because you're afraid people will unfollow or unfriend you. But social media offers an enormous opportunity for marketing your business. The sooner you take advantage of it, the more income you can bring in. Fun fact: 99 percent of my business comes through my blog and Twitter!
- You're choosing money over passion. When I started my consulting business, many people advised against it because of the economy; they said I should pick something more stable. Instead, I chose the rather unpredictable path of earning a living from helping others. But guess what? I'm loving every minute of it, and this passion helps me stay motivated through the rough patches. When you prioritize your passion, it can keep you from starting a business doing something you hate just so you can make money. And the sweet irony is that when you do what you love, the money follows.
If you're not making any money in your consulting business right now (or not making as much as you want to), don't agonize over it -- you're not alone. Ask yourself if you're stuck in any of these six mind traps and what one small step can you take today to overcome it?