The first client I worked with outside a content mill, I closed for a 5 figure contract. What nobody else knew was that while I was on the sales call with them, I was Googling the name of the tasks they were asking me to do because I didn’t know what the fuck a nurture campaign was, much less why anyone would want one.
Skimming frantically, I thought to myself that it didn’t seem that hard. So I took a breath so deep my toes started tingling, said, “Absolutely, I can do that,” and I signed her.
It was make or break time.
You know the saying that you should bite off more than you can chew, and then chew like hell? I was chewing like hell and then some.
I labored on that thing. I gave myself a crash course in writing everything they had hired me for, I wrote draft after draft, I spent way more time on it than was reasonable, because dammit, I was going to get this right.
And I did.
She was blown away by the work, it drove her sales like crazy, and I was off and running in a whole new level of business.
Here’s the thing though: when I came to that make or break moment of frantic Googling, I already had over 10 years of published writing experience under my belt. I had spent over two years studying content, content strategy, and business for at least four hours a day. I was writing my heart out, learning what worked and what didn’t by experience, and that’s why — this is the important bit — I could make a risky, though deliverable, promise.
There’s a big difference in chewing like hell on a reasonable deliverable and taking a blind flying leap when other people’s businesses are on the line.
But that’s not the kind of narrative that goes around the smallbiz world. You know the one I’m talking about — the whole “If you really really really care about what you’re doing, then it’s OK if you screw it up, because you care, and caring is enough.”
Caring is not enough.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s essential that you care about what you’re doing. That’s what gives it the little extra boost of greatness, it’s what makes you go the extra mile, and it’s what gives you the drive to keep going long enough to develop a mastery of your craft.
But as important as they are, your good intentions are not enough to make up for incompetence. If you’re putting yourself out there for other people to hire, then you need to be able to follow through on what you say you can do.
And yes, I know that anyone can start a business these days. And yes, I’m delighted that the barriers to entry into the smallbiz world are lower than ever. But what I’m not OK with is this (ultimately selfish, damn near sociopathic) idea that it’s OK if you use other people’s businesses as your batting practice, because hey, you gotta learn somehow, and if you’re really, really passionate about what you’re doing, that makes it ok to screw up!
Don’t be the most enthusiastic fuck up anyone ever hired.
Because the businesses that you’re working for? They’re for real. They’re somebody’s means of earning a living. And in many cases, they’re their heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, and cash all wrapped up in a WordPress site.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn, or practice. But it does mean that you need to be incredibly honest about what you can and can’t do. It means that you have to follow through on those big promises that you make, and it means that you gotta get the little pain in the ass things just as right as the big ones.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Because it makes you a better business owner.
And because if you want your business to be one of the 15% of small businesses that makes it past the first couple of years, enthusiasm isn’t enough. You need devotion. And as I always, always say, the devotion is in the details.