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3 Ways Having a Gratitude Practice Has Improved My Business

The Weekly Wine Downs are officially LIVE! Last Wednesday I went live on my Facebook page, and now you can watch that video on YouTube (or below). I'll summarize the points in the blog post below, in case you prefer to read!

Practicing gratitude used to sound like a very strange idea to me. Why was it something to practice? It wasn’t like a sport or trying to do calligraphy. I was so confused about this concept of a ‘practice’, or even a ritual (if you prefer to call it that), until I actually sat down one day and was ready to give this whole gratitude thing a try.

I didn’t know what to do.

It was the same feeling I’d get if someone handed me a football and said, “okay, throw a perfect spiral”. I was just sitting there, a little dumbstruck, and thinking… well, now what?

Then I realized why we call it a practice. Because it takes time, energy, and commitment to incorporate gratitude into your life and routine. It, sadly, doesn’t come as naturally as you think it should. The good news is that a gratitude practice a) is not very hard, b) requires no hand-eye coordination, and c) has pretty immediate results.

I started incorporating gratitude into my daily life over a year ago, though I wasn’t incredibly consistent at it at first. Over the past few months, however, gratitude has become part of my morning ritual. It’s become something that if I skimp on, or miss altogether, makes me feel a little bit off. It’s improved my stress levels, my happiness levels, my productivity levels, my income, and my overall view on the world (just to name  few things, haha).

The best times in my business history, if they were plotted on a graph, would coincide very well with when I am taking time to practice gratitude daily. I don’t think that’s a fluke at all. In fact, I think gratitude is to blame for nearly all the positive things I have in my life, and business, lately. But for purposes of this TALK, let’s focus on what a gratitude practice can do for your business.


LESS STRESSFUL DAYS

On a personal note, I don’t handle stress well. My natural ways include bottling everything up and then having a meltdown over some incredibly small trigger (the latest episode of this happened because the gym was too full and I couldn’t figure out where to do a workout that I was kind of embarrassed to do - burpees - privately enough). Other alternatives to that include lashing out against people, crying in public, and laying on the couch unable to do anything for a day or two. Real good stuff over here.

I won’t begin to pretend that I understand why I do that, or why anyone handles stress the way they do, and I won’t lie to you and tell you that writing 3 things I’m grateful for makes that stress disappear. It’s still very much there, but this practice (over time, of course) has helped me to have a better handle on stress.

What practicing gratitude has opened up is my ability to stop when I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed and figure out what’s going on and how I can fix it. It’s allowed me to start to zoom out a bit, and see that in the larger scope of whatever is going on, this small issue is just that - small. Now there are probably people who say that practicing meditation works in this way for them, or going for a run, or having a glass of wine helps.

I did a little research, and there are scientific studies apparently going on (because gratitude is such a hot topic right now), that having a gratitude practice shows up physically in people - and one big way is with lower cortisol levels. I am not a sciencey-person, but I do know that cortisol is the stress hormone, and we don’t want too much of that. I can’t tell you whether or not my cortisol levels are any different, but I can tell you that days when I am consistently practicing gratitude are some of my calmest, easiest, least-stressful days. And the same life and business things are always happening, but I can cope a lot better.

As entrepreneurs stress is inevitable. We are out here, trying to make something out of nothing and profit from it. That’s risky, and scary, and definitely stressful - but having a gratitude practice can help ease some of that overwhelm and let you think and produce good things easier and with less PANIC crying-at-the-gym-over-burpees moments.


SEE MORE OPPORTUNITIES

Another huge benefit I’ve seen since incorporating a gratitude practice into my daily life is seeing more opportunities for growth and success. Now, maybe that sounds far-fetched, or just like a happy coincidence, but there is logic to this idea.

Without getting too into the Law of Attraction, or anything too ‘woo’, have you heard of the idea (or had it happen to you) that you express an interest in something and suddenly it’s everywhere? A common example is when you buy a new car, and suddenly it seems like you see that car everywhere - at the grocery store, in line ahead of you at Starbucks, coming out of your neighborhood… what gives?!

It’s actually a real thing, called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (also known as a frequency or recency illusion). The concept is actually really simple - all those instances of the car were there before, but because you put it into your mind and went out and spent time researching the car and buying one, your brain starts to give that more attention. You start to subsciously think about the car, and it’s always sitting in the back of your brain, ready to jump at the excitement of seeing it. And then you do see it, and you feel validated and like ‘it’s popping up everywhere’, which continues the cycle of you thinking about it…

So, here’s how that applies to gratitude: you think about things that you are grateful for, you take time to appreciate the good things in your life… and you start to notice them more and more. It’s not magic, or mysticism, or anything from the land of ‘woo’ (though that is a totally fun land), but instead your brain just doing what it does best - looking for patterns and connections.

In business, an example of how this works happened to me a few weeks ago - it’s something I could see clearly after the fact. I wrote one morning how grateful I was to have clients that I view as friends and have a real connection with. Then, an opportunity presented itself later in the day to send a nice, friendly message to one of my clients congratulating them on something in their business. We had a nice exchange, which resulted in her setting up a referral for a new client for me because she knew our personalities would be a good mix.

Now, that’s not to say this whole moment couldn’t have happened otherwise, but it does seem like because I put out into the world that I am grateful for friendships with clients, that maybe at some level that made me more likely to randomly reach out to my client about something unrelated to us working together, which led to a friendly exchange and resulted in me gaining another friendly client.

Other ways that I see gratitude impact my business, that are maybe less obvious than that example, are just in the ability to again see that bigger picture and see opportunities that maybe I would normally gloss over because it’s not something I need or want at that exact moment. You also start to see things that seem potentially bad as opportunities (yes, you become one of those silver-lining people). An example of that is ending relationships with 2 clients that cause you stress and anxiety, to gain room in your schedule for 1 new client that is a better fit - which also happened to me recently. I could’ve been very negative about the clients that I stopped working with, but it was amicable and not personal, and just finished some projects that we had started together. I started to feel a little anxious, but remembered that some of our work together had been not my ideal situation and too stressful, and maybe there was an opportunity to replace that income with a better fitting client. The next day, I did.


BETTER QUALITY WORK

The last big effect I’ve seen on my business since putting gratitude at the forefront of my mind is overall my quality of work has just drastically improved. I’m not specifically talking about my ability as a graphic designer, but as a business owner in general. I respond to emails quicker, I get through my to do list with ease, and I take time in the middle of the day to do a little meditation and relaxing.

Again, this could be a testament to a lot of things in my life: I’m also working out more, eating a ketogenic diet, and practicing intermittent fasting -- all things that can be tied to better productivity and less brain fog. But, I can’t do any of those things with getting my mind in the right place and that, for me, all starts with gratitude.

Because trust me, when you really want to eat some carbs, you’ve got to find a way to be grateful for the salad instead. Just kidding. Kind of.

But you may be wondering, why do I give gratitude the credit for all of this? Because it’s the first thing I do in the morning and sets the tone for my whole day. I promise you, this ketogenic diet thing is not even remotely easy, if someone were to offer me a cinnamon roll right now I’d probably push babies and puppies out of the way to get it (jk, don’t get mad), but taking just a few moments to remember why I am doing it, that I’m grateful for some of the immediate results I’ve experienced, etc. help me to stick with it. And that example could be anything - running a business is also hard AF, but taking the time to reflect on why I am glad I do it, and how I am grateful for the opportunities it has given me helps to stick with it. It pulls you out of the *~THIS MOMENT SUCKS~* and lets you get back to realizing how good things really are and can be.


Have you started your gratitude practice yet? If not, this journal is what initially helped me get started and one I highly, highly recommend. I’d love to hear how gratitude has impacted you, or if you have any thoughts of questions! Leave a comment below and let’s connect.




I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!


4 Questions To Ask Yourself When Building A Business That Fits YOU

Hey friend! The Weekly Wine Downs have gone LIVE! Last Wednesday I went live on my Facebook page, and now you can watch that video on YouTube (or below). I'll summarize the points in the blog post below, in case you prefer to read!

Starting my own business wasn’t something I really thought about growing up or throughout college. In fact, the idea of being freelance seemed terrifying and I know of numerous occasions where I said, very determinedly, that the idea of being my own boss was a big fat NOPE.

Well, after doing this whole freelance-be-your-own-boss thing for over 2 years, I can say -- y’all it’s pretty great. Yes, it’s hard, and scary, and challenging - but it’s also got a loooot of perks. After year 1 in my business I started to gain an understanding that not all businesses are or need to be the same, and using your own personality and desires and needs to build a business that works for you was an option.

This isn’t what I’d consider an ‘all encompassing guide’ to building a business around your needs - but rather, a discussion or reflection on things that have come up for me over the years that have shaped and molded my business into what it is today (and will continue growing to be in the future).


ARE YOU INTROVERTED OR EXTROVERTED?

Technically, according to my Myers Briggs I am extroverted - but I think I fall into literally the most introverted extrovert there is. In knowing that, a few things came up in shaping my business:

I didn’t want to be on the phone with new/potential clients all the time. That’s just a fact - it overwhelms me to have to put on that ‘meeting new people’ smile. I’m great with people I already have built a connection with, but the idea of new makes me break out in a nervous sweat, makes my hands all clammy, and makes doesn’t bode well for my business’ bottom line. In year 1 of TheCrownFox I was doing branding design and that entailed a lot of calls with potential clients - cue the gag the reflex. In shifting into a retainer model, I focused on more long-term commitments and have way less client turn over - which ultimately equals me getting to be in my quiet little space, working, with no worries of multiple new client calls in a week.

"Build a business that fits into your dream lifestyle." (tweet that!)

Based on posts I see in Facebook groups, and articles I’ve read through Pinterest, it seems the online business community is split pretty 50/50. There are plenty of people who are extroverted and great at that initial connection - and their business model reflects that. Maybe they do 1:1 coaching with weekly calls, or 4-hour intensives where they have a new client or two every week! And if you fall into that category - you know, you thrive on change and new, you love that first meeting that is full of questions and excitement, and you are good at small talk - then maybe building a business that encourages that is the right move. In fact, you might get lonely if you don’t have that. For me, I don’t need to leave the house or see another human for a day, and I’ll be fine just working away with some candles lit and soft music on - so I adjusted my business to encourage that.


ARE YOU ONE:ONE, ONE:FEW, OR ONE:MANY

Right around the time I started my business online courses BLEW up. So, naturally, I thought I had to go that route too. And I did actually try for about 2 months to make that a thing! But within that span of time I realized that I am not a one:many (at least not yet, or maybe ever, who knows).

In reflecting on that, I realize that I would struggle to teach in a one:many capacity, because I would find it overwhelming as both the teacher and the potential student (I don’t do well with one:many courses, either). Being more of an introvert doesn’t mean that I hate people or anything dramatic, for me it just means that I need quiet time and space to grow and learn and refuel. That same mentality applies to courses, teaching, etc. I need time and space to foster connections with people, and I need one:one or one:few to not feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of anything and just stop dead in my tracks.

If you’ve taken a large course and felt it helped you, you might fall into a category of someone who is more fit for the one:many approach. In thinking of your own business, and potentially scaling it, maybe courses and those sorts of programs are an option because you can have a large number of people depending on and looking to you for answers. I, on the other hand, have to approach it as me and this one other person, or maybe 4-5 other people, are working together to better their business or lives. That’s the most I can handle, and as soon as I realized that I walked away from trying to create an epic course immediately.

In the future, I do see scaling through programs and not directly ‘design-for-hourly’ (like now). But, in knowing my personality and limitations, I think that it will be capped at a small number of people so I can best serve them and vice versa. This question for you truly may take time and reflection, if not trial and error, to figure out how you best operate.


HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR SCHEDULE/TIME?

This is another question that I have asked and reflected on, and probably the one that has given me the most difficulty in my own business. A lot of us get into this entrepreneurial world for time freedom - but then fall into regular expectations of working 9ish-5ish, especially when we have clients and meetings that require those hours.

My first few months of business I was maintaining my ‘but I’m a creative!’ rebellious attitude and adamantly rejected ‘normal hours’. I worked from 10pm-2am, slept until noon, etc. This did NOT bode well for my business… because despite the fact that we want and crave this ‘freedom’, things still essentially operate on a normal schedule.

I’ve since adjusted and keep pretty regular hours (I even try very hard NOT to work on weekends). It’s been a fine transition for me, I need some structure in my life, but I do reflect on one day being someone who travels more and wonder how to adjust my ‘hours’ to fit that.

The good thing about how I work now is with the exception of a few meetings, I can keep pretty irregular hours. So, if something does come up in the middle of the day that I need to do or take care of, it’s not the end of the world. When I switched into this retainer type model that was something I really relished in - because time freedom is at the top of my priorities.

For you, when it comes to shaping your business, take time to reflect on how you best work and what your real desires are, and if a more rigid schedule is a good thing for you, etc. My advice, based on my own experiences, is to try and maintain some sort of hourly structure (even if it’s not ‘normal 9-5’), so that you can tell people when to contact you, etc. If you want a business with no actual hourly expectations, you might need to look into a product based business or something that doesn’t involve team meetings, client calls, etc.


DO YOU GO ALL-IN, OR PLAY IT SAFE?

Something else to consider is whether or not you want a small number of BIG clients or a lot of smaller clients (or one really expensive product, or multiple smaller products). Both have their pros and cons. Having a few number of BIG clients means less ‘switching gears’ in the middle of your day, less ‘oh shit panic’ from the clients (well, just less clients to have last minute requests all at once), and more comfortableness on the team. However, if you lose one of those clients, that could be huge to your finances. Having a lot of smaller clients means that if someone doesn’t pay an invoice you’re not scrambling, because there are plenty of other invoices coming in…

For the first year of doing retainer work I was in the ‘a lot of smaller clients’ realm. That felt safer to me, plus I hate saying no to people. Lately though, there has been a shift in the caliber of client I attract (thanks to raising my prices, gaining more experience, and better showing off my sample work), and that has resulted in having a few BIG clients. Right now I am sort of right in between but shifting towards a few BIG clients - which is both scary and exciting, but I realized, moving back to my first point, that I work better with less on my plate and with really fostering a small number of relationships.

Deciding which approach is right for you, here, might take experience in both sides to see where you feel most comfortable. Though, I can say, if you are someone that can handle hustle-bustle and not get overwhelmed (unlike me), having a lot of clients probably won’t phase you.


Those are some of the main questions and sort of bumps in the road I’ve hit over the past two years in shaping a business for myself. Where I’m at now leaves me plenty of time for reflection and self-care, let’s me only need to ‘get presentable’ 2-3x a week, and has me feeling confident in the money coming in each month to cover my expenses and pay myself. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of other factors that come into play, and that we aren’t constantly evolving. In fact, for 2018, I see my business evolving even more as I plan to introduce more products, templates, and workbooks into my shop - but those developments all come from reflecting on the above questions.

Some other questions that have helped in shaping my business now, and will have an effect on the future of my business include: “how can I run a business if/where internet is spotty/not always available” (I want to travel more), “how can I create more autonomy without losing personalization and communication?” (This is important to me, I never want to be sterile sounding), “if I sell products, does working to convert a few BIG sales seem harder or easier than many SMALL sales?” (I’m leaning towards smaller products). Just some things to think about…!

How have you built a business that best suits you?



I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!