If You Can’t Make a Living, How Can You Make a Difference?
What made you decide to go into business for yourself? Did
you want to make more money, gain more freedom, enjoy
yourself more, or make more of an impact on the world? For
many independent professionals, the desire to help others as
well as themselves plays a significant role in their
decision. Helping people may even have been your primary
motivation for choosing the type of work you do.
However, not all of us who set out to help others through
our businesses succeed at it. In fact, many of the
best-intentioned professionals fail at building a
sustainable business or private practice. It seems that the
skills and mindset of helping others don’t always match
those needed to build a profitable business.
If you’re in business because you want to make a difference,
help others, and contribute your unique gifts, you may be
handicapped in marketing and sales because so much of your
focus is on other people’s desires and needs. You may feel
that asking someone to buy from you is an imposition, that
talking about yourself doesn’t serve others, that
self-promotion is somehow inappropriate if your primary aim
is to help people.
But here’s the reality. If you can’t make a living doing
what you do, you won’t be able to make a difference. If
people don’t hire you, you don’t get to share your gifts. If
no one knows your business exists, you won’t have the
opportunity to help people. If your business fails, you’ll
have to go back to making a living some other way, and never
get a chance to make the impact you know that you could.
As long as you’re stuck in the struggle of not quite making
a living, not only are you not making an impact with your
business, you are held back from making one in other ways
too. You don’t have enough time available to volunteer for
causes you believe in. You don’t have the money to support
those causes with donations. You may not even be able to
adequately support those most important to you — your
When you look at the disparity between your present
situation and your goals in that light, you may begin to see
that perhaps sales and marketing is not such a selfish
endeavor. When the purpose of your business is to help
people, letting more people know what you do contributes to
much more than your own pocketbook.
In the standard airline safety briefing, they advise that in
case of emergency, you should put on your own oxygen mask
first. What would happen if you began to look at marketing
this way? To be in a position to serve other people, you
must be able to sustain yourself. When your own survival is
guaranteed, you’ll have the strength, resources, and peace
of mind to assist others.
The next time you find yourself fearful, resistant, or
immobilized about marketing, remember that you are not in
business for yourself alone. Picture in your mind’s eye the
people you most want to serve. Visualize how you can make a
difference in the world by helping more people. Determine
that your business will not only survive, but thrive, so
that your gifts will be allowed their fullest expression. In
order to truly help others, you may first need to help
C.J. Hayden is the author of Get Clients Now! and a business coach who specializes in serving social entrepreneurs. Since 1992, she’s been helping people build businesses that make a difference. Find out more about C.J. at http://www.getclientsnow.com and www.socialentrepreneurcoach.com