Are You In Business, or Busyness?

Owning and operating your own service-based business has many advantages. Your commute is usually just a few steps from your bedroom. You get to be your own boss and do what you want, when you want.  But for many solo-professionals this is a dual-edged sword. They are often challenged to stay focused and actually work ON or IN their business, because of the many distractions that surround them. And I believe many also aren’t really working in their business when they think they are. If they were to ask themselves this question: “What would my boss say if she was watching?” they might be surprised by the answer.

So what would your boss say if she was watching?

If you did have a boss, like you did when you had a job, what would your boss say when he realizes you are spending the majority of your work day not really working. Perhaps you are spending time on Facebook or Twitter,  or reading blogs, surfing the Internet, on email, listening to teleclasses, or any of the other things so many solo-professionals are spending their time doing that are not “technically” work?

Yes, that’s what I said – These things are NOT work.

Ah, but you say that you’re “marketing” yourself when you spend all that time on the social networking sites.  Okay, I’ll bite, but I have a question. When’s the last time you got a paying client as a direct result of all the time you spend on Facebook and Twitter?  Or at least a high quality prospect?  If you’re getting business from it, then by all means continue…you ARE marketing your business. If however you are not seeing a measurable result in your business, then it may be social networking has become more of a virtual water cooler for you – you know, that place we all stood around when we worked in a job and “shot the breeze” with our coworkers instead of actually being at our desk working?   Yes, connecting with others is important, especially when we work virtually or by ourselves, however, if the profitability of your business is suffering, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities and how you are spending your time.

But all those teleclasses are continuing education … they’re helping me build my business.

Look, I’m the first one to applaud any business owner who invests in their own personal and professional development.  But if that’s how they’re spending ALL of their time, and their business is not generating a profit, then they’re not really in business – they’re PREPARING to be in business (and there’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure your expectations match the reality of the situation).  The bottom-line is, if you don’t have the clients or income you want, then you ought to be spending all your time doing whatever you need to do to generate prospects, making offers to those prospects (selling them something), and then servicing those clients who say yes. THAT should be your number one priority.

After all, think back to when you had a job, when did you do personal or professional development work?  Usually after hours, on your “own” time, or in dedicated blocks of time by attending a weekend or week-long conference. It wasn’t something you did every day, because you were far too busy accomplishing all the tasks you were being paid to do.

But the reason I have my own business is so I can do what I want and so I don’t have to answer to a boss.

If you want your business to be successful and profitable (the definition of a “business” after all is an enterprise that MAKES money), you do need to answer to someone. If that someone is you, as is the case for most solo-professionals, it’s time to take your business seriously and re-evaluate how you are spending your time IF you are not happy with the number of clients your business is serving, or the revenue it’s generating. It’s not about the hours you spend per week, it’s about making sure you’re spending those hours productively and toward accomplishing the goals you set for your business when you first started it.

Owning your own business can be extremely rewarding and profitable.

But it does take self-discipline. When you approach it that way, it rewards you with amazing gifts: the satisfaction that you’re helping and serving people, the opportunity to make a difference in the world, and yes a great income so you can live the life you desire. But to accomplish this, you need to spend your time intentionally, by setting goals, identifying your priorities, and then sticking to them.

If this seems harsh to you, consider this…

The majority of all new business ventures fail within the first few years AND only about 5% of Americans earn six figures. That means those who are succeeding are a very small minority.  I have been fortunate to have an enjoyable and profitable business for over 12 years.  The reason is because I have always taken it seriously. And when I wasn’t generating the clients or the revenue I needed or wanted,  my top priority was to start doing whatever I needed to do to turn that around quickly.

My mission is to inspire, educate and empower others to be able to make a great living, making a difference and doing work they love. So if a little tough love furthers that cause, then so be it!


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. Now she helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

11 comments on “Are You In Business, or Busyness?

  1. Once again Debbie you are “spot on.” I have been one of those who spent hours listening to teleclasses hoping to hear some advice, idea, etc. that would catapulte me to success. What I found was that listening to too many of these classes actually paralyzed me as it took my focus off how my business was to develop with my own insight. I did learn from each of these classes, if only validation for what I already knew, but the cost in time and the false sense that I am “working on my business” wasn’t worth the price. Thanks for a dose of ‘tough love’ and the reminder to remain focused on the metric of generating paying clients.

  2. Thanks for sharing Bonnie. Yes, it is easy to get “caught up” in too much advice and lose yourself. I’ve been there, too. Education is great, when it’s strategically focused on your specific goals and when it’s balanced with working in your business.

  3. Excellent points, it is soooo easy to get sidelined and I have been going through that lately. Thank you for the part, what would my boss be thinking if they saw me working now? Ouch! That really helped bring me back and focus. Also because of your comment on P90X I am now doing their program and love it. You are a wealth of info.

  4. Colleen – congrats on re-focusing yourself AND on starting P90X! Both will move you forward by leaps and bounds! Keep me posted on your progress. I just started round 2 myself. 🙂

  5. Debbie, I especially appreciate that you don’t present all this as a list of black and white hard and fast rules. If social media is getting results, do more of what gets results; if hanging out on Facebook isn’t making stuff happen, maybe do less of that, eh?

    Far too few entrepreneurs pause to do a commonsense check on what’s growing their business and what’s just burning daylight.

  6. Thanks Joel. That is an important point – that there are no hard and fast rules about what to do and what not to do. Other than do what works for you, and stop doing what’s not working. Seems simple enough, however you’re right, many people don’t track the effectiveness of how they spend their time, or their marketing, so they don’t know what’s working and what’s not. And that is so important to do if you want to be efficient and effective.

  7. Debbie, great article. I am in business for R-E-A-L! After re-branding and living my passion as a “brand” new mommy it all started to make dollars and sense. Thanks for always keeping us on our toes.

  8. Great article. I have been too guilty in the busyness, and preparing to have a business, that I am missing the business! Really looking deeper, I think I am afraid of putting myself “out there”. As long as I stay in busyness, somehow I have convinced myself it’s OK. But it’s not..

  9. Hi Debbie,

    I was lucky enough to hear you speak in Brisbane, Australia a couple of years back. I grabbed a business card and have been a subscriber since. I purchased your 10-step marketing plan back then and used it Friday to create my business plan.

    I feel very fortunate. I’ve just spent the last hour working through part 1 & 2 of your “Why Smart People Struggle in Business” and this article. I knew I was in busyness, but you helped me realise something further – I’m not in business, I’m PREPARING to be in business. Big difference.

    I feel very blessed too. While I was working through your articles, a friend called. “Why does my sh*t always hold me back” was the topic of conversation. Through our discussion, we realised that a lot of our habits have been passed down to us from our fathers e.g. “The only way to get something done properly is to do it yourself”, beliefs around perfectionism, etc. And we’re sick of them.

    VIa a combination of reading your articles, my own insights about myself and a very serendipitous phone call from a friend, I have decided to outsource all of the technical work in the business I am creating. Thank you!! And thank you Oleg!

    I’ve got some work to do – branding, planning and defining our ideal clientele – but I now know I have a reliable resource in your site to depend on as I do this over the coming hours ahead.

    Thank you so much for your insights, they have literally changed my life. You are a gift from God.


    P.S. We won’t be doing the branding design work ourselves, we’ll be enlisting the good folk at for this – an excellent site for all of your web and design requirements.

  10. Tony,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to post a comment and share your update. I’m so glad to be able to help you move forward. Best of luck with your business and if I can be of further service please let me know.


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