As long as I can remember, I always envisioned working for myself and running my own businesses. For a long time, I struggled to conceptualize the idea that if my company were ever to become successful and high in-demand, I’d have to give up doing what I love – designing – to manage the business and future employees instead. Because that’s what you have to do to run a successful business, right?
I no longer agree with his train of thought. Mainly because back then I didn’t know any better. I didn’t realize that you can keep your business small, without turning your freelance design practice into an agency, and still have a successful and fulfilling business. I work with people who I can genuinely help. I can still make an impact without aggressively scaling my business and giving up what I truly enjoy and love. Nor do I have to give up the mission I set out to achieve (which is to help small female-owned businesses grow their companies) for higher profits and client roster.
The people in small numbers
There are some causes which require large numbers to make a valuable impact. “You can’t end world hunger by feeding a single person.” I do what I do to help individual people create fantastic brands and websites. I can only do so on an individual scale and not en masse. If I were to do so on a large scale, the impact would have been minuscule because it would have become automated, forced, and probably half-assed rather than customized, detailed, and personal.
Often times, it’s important to remember that no matter your numbers, there is an individual person behind each one. Having a large roster of past clients is simply not what I am aiming for. My email list is comparatively “embarrassingly” small. But, each time someone joins, I get so delighted! I see it as another person listening to me, willing to hear what I have to say, and that fills me with great joy and gratitude. This mindset and acknowledgment that we’re here to help a particular group of people and do so meticulously well are how small businesses make an impact and a different.
Our legacies aren’t about us. They’re about the impact of our work.Paul Jarvis
A company that only has a few hundred signups a year or even a month isn’t a large one if we mostly hear about giant, global companies and the multimillion marketplaces. Yet, each one of those few hundred people is, in fact, a person who wants your help. It’s a person who is giving you permission to make an impact on them.
If you spoke with them individually, you’d get a great sense of the positive effect you had on them which I’m sure would fill your heart. That, to me, is why I got into business in the first place. I’d rather have 15 people tell me I’ve helped them greatly then 10,000 who forgot about me as soon as they made a purchase where no measurable or significant influence was made.
There is a person behind every number, every sale, and every business metric you have. It has helped me exceedingly to remember this every time I start comparing myself to someone else boasting about their company.
Yes, profit is important
Don’t get me wrong, you must make a profit in your business. There is no reason to martyr yourself or your business. Let’s leave the starving artist cliche to the movies. We need to reach a certain revenue mark to sustain the company, its expenses, and see a good return on our investments as well. Being profitable isn’t a bad thing. Frankly, it means we can continue to make an impact to even more people while fulfilling our business needs too. And that’s an incredible thing!
It’s a great sign when a business grows, no two ways about it. What I pay attention to is the line at which point businesses sacrifice quality and positive impact for higher profits. Chasing more and more means adding more employees, services, products, offers, and so on. Often times, to the point that many great businesses lose sight of what made them special to enjoy the initial growth in the first place – case in point Walmart.
Today, I know better about what growth means to me as a business owner. I know that I can still make an impact without following the traditional business trajectory to chase down more money because “that’s what you do.” By staying small, I am able to keep things personal, intimate, and authentic for my clients while doing what I set out to do in my business in the first place.
And so, to each reader, each client, and each person I’ve helped: thank you. I see you, and I appreciate you. Thank you for allowing me to do so.