Business owners: Stop focusing on yourself

Since starting Elle & Company two and a half years ago, I’ve become increasingly aware of the many blessings involved with running a creative business. 

4 major blessings, in particular.

First, that I would be given some sort of creative gift in the first place. (Because, as helpful as it was to go to design school, creativity is innate to a certain extent.)

Second, that I would enjoy design and have a passion for creating brands and websites for other creative business owners.

Third, that I’m able to bring in an income from my lifelong love of design.

And fourth, that I’m able to help other creative business owners in the process. 

If you have your own creative business (or hope to start one in the near future), you can probably relate to all of the above. In fact, these blessings probably sparked your interest in creative entrepreneurship and led you to take the leap.

1  |  You have a creative gift
2  |  You have a passion for it
3  |  You want to make an income off of it
4  |  And you want to use it to help other people

It’s easy to focus on the first 3 on the list because they’re self-focused: My gifts, my passion, my income. 

We take courses and spend time honing in on our craft. We read how-to posts and soak up strategies on how to gain more subscribers and customers to eventually make more money and increase our income. 

But that fourth one? It seems to get easily get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of running an online business. 

In an industry where it seems like more and more people are trying to share tips, build courses, and get ahead, I think there’s one thing that’s often lacking: a genuine interest in the success of others, without focusing on self gain.

Business owners: Stop focusing on yourself - Elle & Company

I’m not saying that you don’t need to hone in on your craft or make wise business decisions. I continue to hold tightly to the phrase, “Passion gets you started, but strategy keeps you going.”

However, I do believe that you can never go wrong building your business around helping others. I think it should be on the forefront on every creative entrepreneur’s mind.

Focusing on helping others...

Informs business decisions

When helping others becomes your primary focus and motto, you’ll see all aspects of your business through a new lense. Seemingly difficult topics come into focus and hard questions are more easily answered.

Like, “What should I be sharing on social media?”

What could you share that would benefit your audience? Helpful articles? Encouraging quotes? A behind-the-scenes look at your process? Links to your newest blog posts on topics that solve their problems and answer their questions? Or maybe it’s a combination of all of the above.

The same approach can be taken with the content you share on your blog and in your newsletter. When your focus is on helping others and providing value, coming up with content isn’t so difficult.

This approach has helped me tackle some seemingly “gray areas” of my business, like whether or not I should answer every email that comes my way (because if I’m honest, it’s often a struggle to keep up with my inbox). 

But if I’m truly out for the best interest of others and seek to help the people who follow along with Elle & Company, that means answering every email, even if I have to reply a few days late and recruit some help from my assistant. 

I’m not suggesting that you drop fundamental business tasks and focus on others to the detriment of your business. 

But I do believe that gearing your focus toward serving others will help you make business decisions that will leave a larger, lasting impact on those around you.


Weeds out what you should and shouldn’t be offering

All too often, entrepreneurs come up with a product idea first and then try to find an audience that would be interested in buying.

But those who are in the habit of helping others are already on the lookout for offerings that meet the needs of their audience.

Instead of racking their brain for a genius idea, they’re asking:

What does my audience need help with? How can I use my gifts and talents to help meet that need? Will my product/service idea actually help them and benefit them?

By seeking the needs of others before yourself, you’ll come up with a more fitting offering that people will actually be interested in instead of randomly pulling ideas out of a hat.


Builds trust

It’s easy to trust someone when they have your best interest at heart.

And the opposite is also true: It’s easy to become skeptical of someone when they’re self-seeking and trying to use you for their own benefit.

In business, that often looks like continuously selling something, focusing on yourself all the time, and pushing your own agenda. 

There’s a time and place for selling and if you want to stay in business, you need to sell your products and services. You can’t escape sales as a creative business owner.

But it’s a lot easier to sell something when (a) there’s a genuine need for it (like I just mentioned above) and (b) you’ve already built trust with your potential customers. 

There’s a reason that some bloggers and online shop owners feel like a friend to you, even if you’ve never met them in person. You trust them! And that’s usually because they’ve helped you, encouraged you, or provided entertainment. 

But you don’t often share those friendly vibes with the salesy, pushy type.

When you’re out for your own interests, it’s easy to forget that there are people on the other side of the screen, and that those people are smart; they can easily judge character and whether or not someone is being genuine.

Nowadays it’s all too easy to hide behind a computer screen and create a persona on the internet. Some people may seem helpful, but when it comes to the unseen, less publicized areas of business, they don’t follow through.

Instead of focusing on your own gain, I would challenge you to be the kind of person that is the same online and offline. The kind of person people meet at a workshop and say, “You’re exactly who I thought you’d be!” The kind of person that provides valuable, reliable information that people will benefit from, not just fluffy words that sounds good. 

Because those helpful acts lead to trust. 

And ironically, trust leads to sales down the road. Would you rather buy from someone who is out to make a quick buck, or from someone who is genuine, helpful, and reliable? 

Helping others not only builds trust with your audience, but it also builds trust with your employees and peers. 

Larger companies like Zappos and Squarespace know this, which is why they put so much of an emphasis on the culture of their business. 

They provide a great workplace environment and awesome benefits because they want their employees to enjoy working for them (see how they do it in this interesting article). By focusing on their employee’s best interest, they’re building trust.


Leaves a lasting impression and larger impact

Money is necessary to keep your business afloat. You need to be profitable in order to bring in an income, pay the bills, and give your employees a paycheck.

But when money becomes the primary focus of your business and you’re constantly trying to make more and more of it, you can easily lose sight of the bigger picture.

Because money doesn’t last. You can never really have enough of it (the more money you have, the more money you want). And you can’t take it with you when you’re gone.

I’m not trying to be morbid, but the only thing you can leave on this earth when you’re gone is your legacy and the impact you’ve made on other people.

When you’re 80 years old, are you going to be concerned with having a glamorous lifestyle, or are you going to be concerned about the difference you made throughout your life?

Instead of thinking about how your business can benefit you, I would encourage you to think about how your business can make a difference through helping others. 

Not only does this have a larger impact in the long run, but it gives you endurance and makes the day to day tasks so much more rewarding in the long run when you have something bigger to work toward.

I’m not guaranteeing that by focusing on others, you’ll end up making more money in the long run. And I’m not telling you to pour out and help others to the detriment of your business and your family.

But I am challenging you to consider how others are benefiting from your work. 

What if you focused more on pouring out than filling up? What if, instead of seeking your own agenda, you started seeking the benefit of others?

I can guarantee you that your business will only benefit from making others the focus of your business, and 20 years from now you’ll be able to look back and see how it made a difference in the lives of others.

How does your business make a positive impact on your audience?