I’m a Success, but Not Financially

Imagine it’s family game night. Fun right? (I know, not what you expected when you clicked on this link, stay with me…)

You pull out Jenga. Because everyone likes Jenga and it’s simple: re-stack the blocks without f’ing everything up and making it fall over.

I play Jenga every single day of my life. Only this edition of Jenga is called, “finances as a start up business owner.” It’s not quite as fun, or simple…

If I pay the gas bill today, will it be too late to pay my AT&T bill in 3 days without my phone shutting off? Because if it does get shut off, how on earth do I run my business? Can I buy groceries today without having to ask for another extension on my rent due date? How big of an anxiety attack will I have if I spend an hour catching up on my bookkeeping today (which I’m so behind on because I avoid it like the plague) having to sit face to face with my current financial circumstance? Probably shouldn’t open Quickbooks because that anxiety will halt me from getting other things done. Am I the worst person in the world if I splurge on a new pair of CALIA leggings (if I buy the ones in Plum, they’re “on brand”, which means they’re a business expense, right?).  

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It’s getting better. I can proudly say that for the last few months, my rent has been on time and my bills are mostly on time. It’s taken me about 3 years since starting my second business to get there. For some people (especially the ones that say to me, “Allyn, maybe it’s time to get a real job”), they might say I’m failing at this entrepreneurship thing. I say hell no. Going from eviction threats and having to spend nights 3 days at my mom’s two winters ago because our electric is shut off to where I am now, that’s a win (especially because I’ve taken out no loans and I have not borrowed money from one person – well, my mom is paying my student loads if we’re being honest. Thanks mommy.).

I thought starting a business was going to be like Chutes & Ladders. Take a few steps forward. They might climb you up. They might slide you down. But you get to spin again and keep going. I wasn’t expecting Jenga. With Jenga, one wrong move and everything falls to shit and you’ve got to start completely over. I mean with Chutes & Ladders even the most humungous slide doesn’t dump you allllllllll the way back at the beginning.

Having that stress, the possibility, that all the building blocks could topple over if one financial decision was made too fast or too impulsive (like walking into Target for milk and coming out with $60 worth of things… and forgetting the milk) or too vulnerable (because stress doesn’t always allow us to make the best choices) or not effective enough (Tailwind sure makes Pinterest easy, which drives lots of traffic to my site, but is my website traffic more important than putting that towards my bills?) was enough to make me want to stop playing the game on multiple occasions.

Not to mention, there’s this really shitty relationship between finances and creativity. How can I be creative if I’m always stressed about finances? If I could just break even this month and take some of the financial stress off my plate, I could be so much more creative and I could get my business to where it needs to be. Was pretty much the daily – the minutely – pattern of my thoughts. How can I possibly make enough money for this to work if my creativity seems to be showing up in a half ass state… like putting socks in the dryer and only having one half of the pair coming out. Both are very frustrating.

A few months ago, once I really decided to shift my focus to helping business owners find strength in their business through personal stories, I said this to my coach, Vanessa, in a moment of resistance:

“Honestly, I think I’m stressed and overwhelmed (overall I feel much better that I have a more direct/clear vision for my business established, but it’s also brought up a lot of ideas to comb through, and a lot of inspiration to get a hold of – it’s a challenge to get it all organized enough to start implementing) and I can’t think straight when it comes to focusing enough to form compelling/creative words on how my offerings successfully serve my audience… I’m trying to take my time and work through everything in manageable, small chunks, but then the financial stress comes back and I’m like “I need to figure this shit out and get my hustle on to pay the bills” – which is exactly the kind of life I’m encouraging people not to live, but it’s still a challenge to get out of that mindset sometimes.”

Her response BLEW MY MIND:

What if you could separate the financial stress from your vision, offer and inspiration. Of course they are linked, because the sooner it’s a working operation, the sooner that goes away. BUT what if, to create mental space and less overwhelm – when the financial stress shows up you have a mantra like: ‘Yes, the stress is real – but it doesn’t actually have anything to do with creating my vision’.”

WAIT WHAT?! My stress and my creativity don’t have to be linked?

At first, frankly, I was like, this is such a coachy thing for a coach to say (I never thought I’d have a coach. The idea never really appealed to me – because I’m stubborn and strong enough to do this on my own, right? – but the first time I sat down with Vanessa, I was no longer wearing my shoulders as earrings and I had an unforeseen amount of clarity that’s allowed me to streamline by business). But then, that concept settled in. I thought about what I could accomplish if financial stress wasn’t on repeat in the back of my mind. I thought about the impact I could make if my creativity decided to show up completely. It felt damn good to think about that version of living.

Maybe I’ve been playing this game all wrong. Maybe the blocks aren’t bills or finances, but blocks of creativity. Pieces that when stacked the right way, build extraordinary things.

And then I tasted it. I put the PR knowledge I have, my passion for storytelling, and my desire to show entrepreneurs the power of their stories and run a test group for a program I had the crazy idea to start – From Struggle to Shine. For the first time ever, people paid me $800 for something. That felt fantastic. They don’t know this, but every new member that signed up resulted in a embarrassingly energetic happy dance from the comfort of my living room.

Because of the financial stress, because it pushed me out of my comfort zone, and because I practiced detaching this scarcity from my creativity, something finally worked. More importantly, I didn’t start FSTS to make money (I have tried many other failed ideas out of thinking they would be profitable). I started it because sharing my story changed my business (more on that here) and I want to help other people find that power. It was the first idea in awhile that created more excitement than anxiety when I thought about putting in the work.

And now that the test group is over and I’m enrolling for the next session, that financial stress keeps creeping back in and I’m fucking over it. I deserve the business that I want – with a new MacBook, a much more professional website, and VACATIONS for goodness sake. And damnit I’m going to get it!

One of the assignments I have the members of FSTS do is pick an almost impossible challenge to set for themselves and invite their audience to follow the journey. I call this telling an “active story” or a story that you’re going through right now. Its one of the most powerful storytelling techniques (and the one that’s hardest to master) I teach because they give people the opportunity to be apart of a transformation you’re currently going through. So, I thought this would be the perfect time for me to set a challenge of my own. Let me introduce you to an active story of mine, “My Story to Making $10K a Month”.

Most success stories start at the end – people who have done whatever “it” is don’t tell you about it until they’re out of the trenches, until they’ve found the pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow. But I’m still where you are and I want you to see a success story that starts in the middle. So, I’ve created a goal for myself to figure out how to have $10K months consistently (no, I’ve never had one yet) and I’m inviting you to follow along.

I’m going to make this goal happen without sleazy sales tactics, crazy sales funnels, or taking on clients paying below what I’m worth (been there, done that, doesn’t work). I’ve got some creative, authentic, outside of the box strategies I want to try that won’t compromise my integrity. And, I’m going to be exploring lots of contradictions. When do you do things to serve others and when do you do them for money? How long do you wait before you decide something isn’t working? How do you have an effective sales conversation without giving up your soul? You have to spend money to make money, but what if you literally have no money to spend? 

Through my mistakes and victories over the next few months, I want to create an open, transparent conversation on finances as a business owner. I’ll be spilling all the details – what’s working, what’s not working, strategies I’m implementing, strategies I’m dropping – so that you can get yourself unstuck financially, too! Simply drop your email in the form below to get updates.

I’m not doing this so that down the road I can be like, “OMG online creative community, follow my steps so you can have 5 figure months!”. I’m doing this so that you get to see me at the start of this journey (my income for 2017 so far hasn’t even hit 4 digits sooooo there’s that). I’m doing this so no matter what your finances look like right now, you can say, “I saw where Allyn was and if she can do it, so can I!”. I want us to get out of the choke hold that is financial scarcity together.

Take it from someone who has been letting the lack of money take far too much of a toll on her quality of life. You can’t let the lack of money control your creativity. Nothing can grow from a foundation of scarcity. That being said, it’s also important to remember your net worth is not related to your worth as a human being in any way, shape, or form. Success is not defined by the amount of profit you bring in, it’s defined by the number of lives you impact. That’s my definition at least.

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I have some things to say about finances as a small business owner.

Photo By: Kate Stutz