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The 15 Biggest Challenges Of Solopreneurship And How To Overcome Them

Forbes Coaches Council

Working for and by yourself seems like a dream come true. But solopreneurship does have its share of challenges that business owners who work with teams and partners don’t typically face.

Here are some of the biggest challenges solopreneurs face and how to overcome them, according to the leading members of Forbes Coaches Council.

My answer is #11 – I hope you get value from it!

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/06/27/the-15-biggest-challenges-of-solopreneurship-and-how-to-overcome-them/#2be6dae835bb

An Idea is Only as Good as the Implementation

What is implementation?

im·ple·men·ta·tion /impləmənˈtāSH(ə)n/ (noun)
the process of putting a decision or plan into effect; execution.

As a creative business owner who loves what you do, you are probably inundated with great ideas every day. You probably get them in the shower, as you’re driving, while you’re sweating on the treadmill. But how many of those great ideas do you put into action and see through to fruition?

That’s what I thought. I know, I know, it’s hard! You’re so busy running your business. It’s hard to find the time for something new. A new idea may require you to learn new skills to bring to fruition. It may involve getting help, spending money, investing time.

And new is scary. What if it doesn’t work out? How do you know if its the right idea at the right time?

Of course, there are no guarantees. But think about it. What if Steve Jobs had never moved forward on the iPod? What if Ford never invested in the assembly line? What if John Adams and Thomas Jefferson quit before writing the Declaration of Independence?

What world changing, business revolutionizing, life impacting idea have you set aside because you just don’t have time?

So, how do you, as a ridiculously busy entrepreneur make your ideas a reality?

“It is not always what we know or analyzed before we make a decision that makes it a great decision. It is what we do after we make the decision to implement and execute it that makes it a good decision.”

–William Pollard

Create the Structure for Implementation

idea, action, implementationIf you are not implementing ideas, it is likely because you don’t have an existing system or structure for taking an idea, developing that idea into a plan of action and then implementing that plan. So the seed of the idea floats around for awhile but doesn’t find the fertile ground to settle into and begin to grow.

Put a few simple structures into place and your ideas will have a place to land:

  • Have a notebook (online or a physical notebook) to record your ideas when they come to you.
  • Schedule time in your week – every week – to explore and develop new ideas. Back in the day (they aren’t doing this anymore, I don’t think) Google used to allow their employees to take 20% of their time to work on ideas. You don’t need to spend 20% of your time – but set aside an hour or two every week. It’s the quality and consistency more than the quantity of time that’s important.

Implement One Idea at a Time

I recommend serial monogamy when it comes to projects – 1 project at a time! Too many projects means you won’t effectively deliver on any of them. So pick one idea and for all the rest, keep them in your idea notebook for the future.

So how do you decide which idea to pursue?

  • Remember, you’re jotting down your ideas in your notebook – is there an idea you’ve written down more then once? Is there an idea that keeps popping up, over and over? That might be the first one to go with
  • Maybe go through your list and pick the one that seems most exciting, most shiny to you.
  • All your other ideas, go into the notebook for later. Keep writing them down – but don’t let them distract you.

Once you’ve picked your idea:

You may discover from this process alone that your idea isn’t really going to work. That’s OK – it’s not wasted effort. Because you will have learned a lot – and you may find a way to pivot your idea or this may open up other ideas or clarify ideas you’ve already had. Just pick the next idea and move forward.

Put Your Idea into Action

Once you’ve made the decision that this idea is the one you’re going to move forward on, make a specific schedule in your week for when you will work on it. Get coaching and support and most importantly get into action.

Let me know how you do in the comments!

 

 

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Magic of Action Video

Check out this fun little video I made!

Boundaries – The Key to Time Management Sanity

boundariesDo you know what your boundaries are?  Most of us have some vague notion of what a boundary is and how it feels when someone has crossed our boundaries. But what are they really?

Boundary – Something that indicates bounds or limits; a limiting or bounding line.
Dictionary.com

In the context of time management, your boundaries can have many references.  It could refer to:

  • The beginning and ending of a block of time set aside for a particular activity.
  • The difference between your needs and another’s needs
  • The defining line between different projects or jobs in your life
  • The bounds between work and play, activity and rest, inner and outer focused energy

All of these are critical concepts when it comes to your ability to manage your time well.  Understanding what your boundaries are can help you prioritize, make decisions and create a sustainable business.  Burnout is generally caused from insufficient boundaries. (For example, working too much or putting other people’s needs/demands over your own needs)

Three Steps to Creating Time Management Sanity

1 – Creating A Clearly Defined Schedule

If you don’t know your boundaries – how can you defend them?  The simplest method of creating clear boundaries around your activities is working with a schedule or Time Map that has clearly defined time blocks in it.  This is different than a task list.  This is an organization of your time in which you have decided what category or area of your life you will be focused on during a specific block of time.  I go into more detail about exactly how to do this in The Artists Marketing & Business Academy – Track 3B Classes.

Once you’ve created a schedule that allows for balance and clear beginnings and endings, then you can practice maintaining those boundaries for yourself.  Also, when someone comes to you with a request for your time, you will be very clear on your availability. And if you choose to say “no” to their request (see #2), you don’t have to tell them it’s because you scheduled to do laundry during that time.  You can just say, “I’m sorry, I’m not available.”  (Practice that answer by yourself over and over if this is difficult for you!)

2 – Making Clear “Yes” or “No” Decisions

It is human nature to want to say “yes” to the people we care about, to the people we want to think well of us, really to most everyone.  Saying “no” is not a skill we’re taught as children.  In fact, quite the opposite, we’re taught that saying “yes” is rewarded and saying “no” is punished.  This is a skill you MUST learn as an adult.

As small business owners and solopreneurs, particularly those of us who work from home, we often receive requests for our time.

It is easy to say “no” to the stuff you don’t want, those are not the “no’s” we are talking about. We are talking about the challenging “no’s”, the ones that come when you have to say “no” to something you DO want, or to someone you care about, or want to help.

Indrani Goradia, Indrani’s Light Foundation – Global Solutions to Gender Violence

But if you know your schedule (see #1) and you’re clear on what your goals are and WHY you created that schedule and want those goals, then saying “no” becomes easier.  As Indrani taught me, when you say “yes” to one thing, you are saying “no” to everything else.  So, you better be clear on what you are saying “no” to when you say “yes”.  Here’s what I recommend when someone asks you for something that will take your time away from your goals (even when it’s something fun and fabulous):

  • What does the request entail?  Specifically, how much of your time, energy, and resources will it take?
  • When do they need your answer by?

Then end the conversation WITHOUT GIVING THEM AN ANSWER.  Promise you’ll get them an answer before their deadline and walk away (or hang up the phone).  Give yourself time to think, time to make the decision away from them.

In order to make this decision, ask yourself:

  • If I say “yes” to this, what am I saying “no” to, specifically?
  • What are the benefits to me personally if I say “yes” to this?
  • What will I lose if I say “yes” to this?
  • What will I lose if I say “no” to this?

These questions should help you come to a decision that enables you to honor your boundaries.

3 – Managing Expectations – Yours and Everybody Else’s!

Our tendency, particularly if you are a new or struggling business owner, is to promise your prospective clients the moon.  This can damage both your own life as well as your business.  Because you promise more than you can realistically achieve within the time allotted, you will either kill yourself to keep your promise, or break your promise and kill your reputation.

There is a saying, “Under promise and over deliver.”  I actually recommend, under promise and deliver on your promise with excellence.  That doesn’t necessarily mean over deliver.  It just simply means, promise only what you’re absolutely sure you can deliver and then deliver it with excellence.

Setting clear time boundaries is another important aspect of managing other people’s expectations.  For example, if someone calls you and asks if you have a minute – you know that they’re asking for more than a minute.  But you can respond with, “I can give you 5 minutes.”  And when that 5 minute period has ended, you can say, without guilt, “I have to go now.” and hang up.  Because you managed their expectations at the beginning of the conversation, ending that call becomes much easier.  I often do this when calling for technical support.  I start the call with, “I have a client in 15 minutes.”  And it’s amazing how much less time I now spend on these calls!

But you also need to manage your own expectations.  For example, creating a To Do List for today that has 16 hours of work, but you only have 4 hours available is a habit that can kill your self-esteem.  You will never get all of those things done, and every time you don’t, you feel like you’ve failed.  Have a master To Do list (ideally organized by category, see #1).  And then put on today’s task list ONLY what you are confident you can accomplish in the time available.  Hey, having to go back to the master list because you finished faster is a happy problem, right?

So how are you doing with your time management boundaries?  Let me know in the comments what new insights you got and any questions you have.

 

 

Goals – What Are They Good For?

I’ve been reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink.  I expect I’ll be writing an article about Motivation when I’m done with it.  But while the book does question the value of setting goals, I am still a big fan of them.  In Drive, the studies seem to discount the value of external drivers toward accomplishment.  And I agree that externally motivated goals are not the way to go.

Goals, Vision, PlanningBut that’s not how I teach you to write goals.  A well-written goal must include your internal motivation, your experience of what your life will be like when you have accomplished the goal.  Because while we benefit from external rewards.  We are driven by our internal needs.  Your goals need to reflect and express your life’s purpose.  And when well-written, I believe that goals allow us to create our lives with volition.

In my experience, goals serve two main purposes:

1 – Definition of Your Path and Your Direction

When you set a goal, you are by its very definition determining that you are going in this direction and you are not going in that direction.  The more specific the goal is, the more defined your direction and the more options you have eliminated.

I believe that’s a good thing.  Very often people become completely paralyzed because they have so many choices, they don’t know where to start and so they just don’t … start….

In my experience with clients and in my own life, it is better to start down a road in a specific direction and change your mind than it is to wait until you know for sure.  Very often, if you begin to move in a particular direction, you can discover information that you would never discover if you wait.  Finding out that this path is the wrong path is extremely useful information. You can decide what you don’t want, which can lead you to more specifically determine what you do want.

And you will develop skills in the process that will greatly enhance your abilities to create success once you clarify your path.

I don’t believe there are any mistakes in life.  Because as long as you are in a learning process you will benefit from your experiences.  And your experiences will feed the next choice.  I have often “accidentally” discovered an amazing opportunity that I would never have seen had I been waiting for the “right” path.

2 – Placing Your Order With the Universe

So, first, I believe in the Law of Attraction.  As a reminder, here are the two main tenets of that law:

  •   What you focus on expands
  •   You get what you expect

So, in terms of goals – when you are focusing on your goal, you are actually expanding your opportunities in that direction.  And since by the very action of setting a goal that you believe is achievable within the time frame you’ve set – you are setting the stage for the achievement of the goal – because you expect it.

I look at goal setting as placing your order with the Universe.  You are inviting the Universe to align with your intentions and support you in manifesting what you want.  You’ve heard the expression – be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.  That’s what this is.

And it’s better to place a specific order than a general, vague order.  Think about it.  What if you went into a restaurant and said to the waiter, “Hello, yes, I’d like some cow, please.”  Do you know what you’ll get?  You might get a steak, but you might get tongue (yech!).

On the other hand, if you say to the waiter, “I’d like a filet mignon, with a baked potato, sour cream on the side, and an order of steamed broccoli.”  You’re more likely to enjoy that meal.

So, what are your goals for 2013?  And does this help you begin to think more specifically and clearly?  Please share your insights!

How to Use Goals, Actions and Strategies to Craft a Plan

In Part One of this article – Goals and Actions and Strategies – Oh, MY! – I clarified the differences between goals, actions and strategies and talked about why that is a difference that makes a difference.

In this article, I’m going to explain how you can design a plan that employs all three aspects.

In my experience, most people have a focus level that is their comfort zone.  There’s the big picture thinkers and the detail-oriented folks.  Which are you?

Big Picture Thinkers

goals actions strategies vision planning

  • You are a dreamer.
  • You are excited by big goals for the future.
  • You love new ideas and starting new projects, but when you get bogged down, you just go on to start another project.
  • You have little patience for the details – the details seem hard and even boring.
  • You get overwhelmed easily by details
  • You are often unhappily surprised by the outcomes of your big plan, because you forgot a simple detail.
  • You make a lot of big plans, but don’t seem to get very far in executing those plans.  And usually those big plans are very sparse on the details.

You love to fantasize about your big success, but when you look around, you don’t understand why you’re not there yet.

music business coach, success, promotion, marketing, artistsDetail Oriented Folks

  • You love to feel busy.
  • You are constantly thinking in terms of, “What should I do?”
  • Thinking about long term goals feels uncomfortable, even frightening.
  • You’d much rather focus on this email, that paperwork, those phone calls…
  • You have lots of lists and every time you listen to an expert or read a book you add lots of items to those lists.
  • You can tend to over think things and feel the need to get all the details and plans perfect before taking action.

You work really hard all day long, but when you look around, you don’t understand why you feel like you’ve gotten nothing accomplished.

I don’t think either focus level is right/wrong or good/bad.  Actually, in order to be successful in life and in business, you need to be able to pull focus. You need to have some facility with both levels of thinking which will enable you to think big, create useful plans and then implement those plans to take consistent and productive action.

Whether you go from microcosm (the details) to macrocosm (the big picture) or vice versa, when designing your plan doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that:

  1. You create the big picture outcome (goals and vision)
  2. You choose some guidelines for making decisions (strategies)
  3. You develop a step-by-baby-step action plan for accomplishing those outcomes with a specific order and time frame to get you from where you are now to where you intend to be
  4. You implement that plan on a daily basis
  5. Assessing and adjusting as you go

goals, plans, vision action

Start with Your Comfort Zone

The order is less important than doing all 5 parts.  If you’re a big picture thinker, start with the big picture, but don’t stop there!  And if you like the details, but thinking big scares the bejeezus out of you, then start with the details and extrapolate out.  Here’s how:

If You Start with the Big Picture

Close your eyes.  No, wait, read this part first, THEN close your eyes!  OK, think about one year from now.  And as you’re imagining one year from now …

  • What do you see around you?
  • What do you have?
  • Who are you working with?
  • What are you doing?
  • What do you hear?
  • Get specific.

Now, open your eyes and write down everything you saw.  Do it in bullet point form.  Create a brainstormed list of all you want to have and be.

Once you’ve got your list:

  1. Go through and turn each bullet point into a specific, measurable goal with a deadline.
  2. Group those goals together by category (such as fitness and health, business, relationships, etc.).
  3. Within the business category – you can use the 5 Hats of the Business Owner to group your items in more specific categories.
  4. If you see other goals that need to happen in order to create that goal, add them to your list.
  5. Put the goals in the order that makes the most logical sense
  6. Then break out the objectives and action steps for each goal.

You will end up with a specific, step-by-step actionable plan for each goal.

Now if that feels overwhelming, don’t do it for each and every goal.  But do it for the first group of goals that put you on the road to those longer term goals.  What are the goals that need to be accomplished in the next 3-4 months?  Develop a plan for each one of them and then get busy making them happen!

Or You’re Starting with the Details

To do listIf all you think of when asked “What do you want?” is all the stuff to do, all the steps to take, all the different things you’ve been thinking about, “If I only do these things, I’ll be successful.”  Then start there.

Make a big brainstormed list of all the actions, all the steps, all the ideas of actions, all the things people have told you that you have to do.  Make a big list.  Now I recommend doing this in excel, where column A is your long list of stuff to do and each action item is in a separate row.

Now, take that long list and:

  1. In Column B, put the categories of your life each action falls into (such as fitness and health, business, relationships, etc.) and again, you can use the 5 Hats of the Business Owner to break out the work category further.
  2. Then, use the sort function in Excel to sort by category.
  3. Cut and paste the sorted list into a separate worksheet for each category.
  4. One category at a time, ask yourself, which actions go together?  And group them together.
  5. And then ask yourself, if I do these 6 actions that seem to go together (for example) what will I have?  What will that give me?
  6. Write a specific and measurable goal or objective to express that.
  7. Put a deadline on that goal and add start dates and completion dates on each action.
  8. Fill in any actions that are missing in order to create those goals
  9. Think about all those goals together, and create a vision of what that life looks like.

And here too, if creating a full-fledged plan with start and end dates on every action feels overwhelming, just work with the goals for the next 3 months.

StrategyWhere do Strategies fit in?

Strategies, by their very nature, fall into the category of big picture thinking.  Because they apply to everything.  When you choose a strategy, it will effect:

  • How you state your goals
  • Which action items you choose when creating your plan
  • How you implement your plan

For example, if you have a strategy of

Always be learning!

And you apply that to your goal.  It might change:

A CD of toe tapping songs

to

A CD of toe tapping songs with expanded musical influences

Your action plan might include studying Cuban and Jazz music styles in order to help you expand those musical influences.  It might also include taking a songwriting class or studying recording techniques.  It might include participating in a songwriting circle to get ongoing feedback on your writing.

Without that strategy, your goal and your actions might be very different.

So, start with creating a few strategies and test them out.  Apply them to your goals and action plans and see how they change.  And work with them for a few weeks to decide if you like how the strategies are affecting you and whether you want to keep them or change them.

It’s also an interesting question to analyze what strategies are you currently using, unconsciously?  But that’s a subject for another time.

What are your goals, actions and strategies?  I’d love to hear them!

 

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Are Goals Really Necessary?

I was having a conversation with a client the other day.  He’s an engineer and is always working on cutting edge, invention type stuff.  He said that setting goals doesn’t work in this type of  design.  Because when you are inventing something for the first time, you don’t really know what you’re going to end up with.  And that it rarely looks like what you were thinking about inventing when you started out.

I suggested that you had to at least have some general framework of what you were creating.  Even if only in terms of a problem you’re looking to solve, otherwise how could you even begin? I suggested that setting an umbrella goal, a goal that determines the general direction is better than no goal at all.

Create Your Vision, Goals, DreamsAnd if you up with something different than you expected, that’s all good.  It doesn’t invalidate the original goal – you just assessed and adjusted as you proceeded down your path.  That’s step 6 in the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Roadmap to Success!

After we finished our session, I got to wondering about this and thought, perhaps that’s one of the challenges for artists as well.  If you’re sitting down to write a piece of music, do you know what you want to end up with?  Or is discovering the music part of the process, just like discovering a new invention?

And even if you don’t know what you’re going to end up with, don’t you need to start with at least a framework?  In music, don’t you at least start with a key, a mode?  Do you decide the rhythm or B.P.M.?  With a painting, do you start with at least the size of the canvas?  What medium you’re going to use?  The style?

Don’t you have to start with some general idea of what you are creating, even when you are inventing something from scratch?

What Does This Have To Do with Goals?

This process is true with all goals, not just in design but in all areas of your life.  You are inventing something from nothing.  You are bringing choice and direction to your path in the present and creating the vision of your life in the future.  The pursuit of your goals is always an invention of something you didn’t have before.  And you won’t really know what you have until you are there.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know.

Goals are Always a Leap of Faith!

But that doesn’t mean you don’t set Goals, specific and measurable.  As you work through the process of birthing those goals, you will hone and sharpen them, even completely rewrite them.  But if you don’t set specific ones now to the best of your ability, with what you know to be true now, then you won’t get to work bringing those goals into fruition.

So what if it changes as you go?  That neither lessens the validity of the goals you set today nor undermines the life you are creating for your future.  It’s just part of the process.

What are your leaps of faith for 2013?

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How to Implement the Learning

Artists MBA, Foundation ProgramThere is a lot to learn about how to succeed in your business – whether it’s Music, Art, Film, Dance. Here at the Artist’s Marketing & Business Academy, we strive to teach you all that you need to know to create the career of your dreams.

But it’s not enough to simply learn. Knowledge without implementation is worthless. You must put what you learn into action and sometimes it’s hard to see exactly how to do that.

It is not always what we know or analyzed before we make a decision that makes it a great decision. It is what we do after we make the decision to implement and execute it that makes it a good decision.

William Pollard

In this class you’ll discover:

  • How to overcome your blocks to implementation
  • How to prioritize which pieces to build first
  • How to plan your implementation
  • Where to get support for implementation

Joining the Artist’s Marketing & Business Academy was a great decision to learn how to succeed. Now get busy and implement what you are learning into your business!

Listen to the Class:

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Enroll in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy Foundation Program
to access the following classes today ($5 for first 10 days/$27 per month Tuition):

Read the Class Transcript

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Next Class:

Goals and Actions and Strategies – Oh, MY!

I was on the TAXI Forum and I came upon this thread “Post your Goals after attending the Rally” (the yearly conference for TAXI Members). While reading through people’s responses to the question, I noticed that most posts were a combination of goals, actions and strategies, with the posters conflating their intended actions, strategies and goals as if they were all goals.

I believe that this confusion can actually create some of the struggles and road blocks that many of you experience as you pursue your dreams. So, in this article I will explain the difference and why it matters.

In short, the difference is:

  • Actions are WHAT you do
  • Strategies are HOW you do
  • And Goals are WHY you do

Strategies

“Henry Mintzberg from McGill University defined strategy as ‘a pattern in a stream of decisions’.”

“In game theory, a strategy refers to the rules that a player uses to choose between the available actionable options.”
Wikipedia 

So, strategy has to do with:

  • Your methodology
  • How you choose to think about your goals and actions
  • And the underlying principles you use to determine which path to take to achieve your goals

Strategies affect how you prioritize each project in the larger scheme of things as well as which options you choose in your pursuit of your goals.

Actions

“Basic action theory typically describes action as behavior (emphasis added) caused by an agent in a particular situation. The agent’s desires and beliefs (e.g. my wanting a glass of water and believing the clear liquid in the cup in front of me is water) lead to bodily behavior (e.g. reaching over for the glass). In the simple theory (see Donald Davidson), the desire and belief jointly cause the action. Michael Bratman has raised problems for such a view and argued that we should take the concept of intention as basic and not analyzable into beliefs and desires.

In some theories a desire plus a belief about the means of satisfying that desire are always what is behind an action.”
Wikipedia 

Belief, emotional intelligence

 

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is your beliefs about yourself, the universe and your place in the universe, as well as your emotions induced by your beliefs which, at a minimum, color your actions and more likely completely determine which actions or behaviors you choose.

Although these choices are generally occurring in your unconscious mind. These behaviors then lead, seemingly inevitably, to your outcomes.

 

Goals

“A goal is a desired result [snip]. It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value.”
Wikipedia 

 

So, a goal is an outcome, an objective. It is the result you seek. But very often when asked, “What are your goals?” People respond with their actions and strategies. I elaborate on how I design goals with my clients in “Goals and Success”.

So, what does it matter?

Well, if you are only focused on WHAT to do, without a clear picture of the PURPOSE, it is very easy to become confused, discouraged and even completely derailed.

If you don’t know WHY you are taking these actions, if it gets hard to take the actions or they don’t work out they way you think they will, then you may give up entirely.

But when you are clear about your objective, your WHY, then if one action doesn’t get you there, you simply find another way. You think about your strategies. You brainstorm your options. You ask for help and advice.

You figure it out!

But if you are only thinking in terms of actions – then what happens when the one idea you had of something to do doesn’t work out? Well, what else is there to do, but quit?

Having a strategy may help you think of other things to do, but how do you evaluate which are the right things to do and when is the right time to do them, if you don’t know what you want!?!

Or as one gentlemen said to me in a workshop years ago – if I don’t know where I’m going, how will I know when I don’t get there?

If you still aren’t sure whether you’re thinking in terms of goals, actions or strategies – share them below and I’ll be happy to help you figure it out!

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S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Step 5: Implement the Plan

Artists MBA, Professional ProgramGET INTO ACTION – Finally

So, you’ve explored your starting point, created your vision of the ending point, explored all the ways to get there and created a plan. And now, finally, it’s time to put that plan into action!

In Step 5 of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Roadmap to Success, you implement the plan that came out of all the groundwork you laid in Steps 1-4.

In this class, we’ll explore:

  • How to build this into your already hectic life
  • How to handle all the “What If” fears that stop you from starting
  • How to create steady sustainable momentum with your plan

Thinking, wishing, dreaming, planning is all well and good, but you’ll never achieve your goal until you get into action. Ready? Set? GO!

Additional Resources for this Class:

Prerequisite Class:

Listen to the Class:

Thank you for your interest. This content is visible to ArtistsMBA Professional, Mastery Program members only. Click here to access.

Enroll in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy Foundation Program
to access the following classes today ($5 for first 10 days/$27 per month Tuition):

Read the Class Transcript

Thank you for your interest. This content is visible to ArtistsMBA Mastery Program members only. Click here to access.

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