10 Ways You’re Playing Small in Business

Have you ever looked around your office, at the projects you’re working on, the space you occupy and the life you’ve built for yourself, and wondered why you didn’t feel inspired, ecstatic and thrilled to be there?

Maybe you’ve caught yourself watching the clock a lot lately or felt your shoulders droop when you realized Monday was here…again. Anyone who has ever worked for a living (for themselves or someone else) has been there, and it’s a sign that we’re playing small. In other words, we’re not feeling stimulated, challenged or motivated enough. It’s a serious problem and if we don’t solve it, it can be a death knell to our business (because if you don’t want to be there, why should anybody else?).

Today, I’m here to dish out some truth bombs and help get you on the right path, so buckle up!

Here are 10 ways you’re playing small in your business:

1) Not knowing your goals – you can’t get somewhere until you know where that is

If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country or even planned a road trip, you know one of the first things you need is a destination. Why are you taking this journey, and where will you end up? It’s the same when it comes to business. If you don’t know where you’re going, the best maps (or workshops, coaches, etc.) in the world won’t help you.

‘Realistic’ is only one criteria in the SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound, Exciting and Relevant) goal formula. They need to excite you enough that you can rally yourself and your team around them and put in the work every day to reach them.

Related: 6 Goal Setting Tips for your Small Busines

2)    Not showing up. You’ve got big goals? Work to achieve them!

Almost daily, I hear people talk about their BHAGs. But the ones who reach them are – surprise! – actively working towards them. Whether it’s growing your email list, bidding for projects that inspire and motivate you, speaking at a large conference or taking that once-in-a-lifetime trip, create an action plan and work it, because that’s the only way you’ll achieve your goal.

Side note: working your plan doesn’t mean giving up all your free time, it simply means making a plan (with milestones!) and following through.  

3)    Listening to people tell you to “charge what you’re worth.”

Truth bomb: No one gives a rat’s furry behind what you’re worth! I might think I’m worth a million bucks, but no one’s going to walk through my door and plunk down a duffel bag full of cash to chat with them for a half hour.

You need to charge what the work is worth. The secret is in communicating that value to your prospective client. Your client has a thorn in their side, a pain point, a struggle, a major pain in the a$$, and they need some relief. Your job is to tell them how your product/service not only solves that problem but also how it slices, dices, and julienne’s fries!

So remind them what their goal is and then tell them everything you’ll do to not just help them reach it but to blow it the heck out of the water.

For example, if someone needs VA support I could say:

Based on our discussion I feel a 10-hour plan would suit your needs. It is $750.00 per month

or I could say

Based on our discussion of your goals, including x,y,z we can support you here, here, and here by doing a,b,c each month as well as d, and e. The monthly package is $750.00 and includes a one-hour planning session each month to continuously review your goals, and the path we’re on to get you there, make adjustments to the plan as needed. It also includes 10 hours of implementation time, weekly updates, a continuously updated 90-day timeline, and unlimited email support.

It’s the exact same package in both cases, however being able to communicate the value of my work is critical to justifying my hourly rate, and my client’s continued trust and support.

4)    Staying in your comfort zone.

Do you find yourself networking with the same people, on the same projects, and in the same spaces year in, year out? Or worse, not networking at all and going it solo? Time to shake things up and get the heck out of that bubble! Exploring beyond your comfort zone could mean discovering different networking events or even pursuing prospects through a method you’ve never tried but always dreaded.

Real-world case: I hate cold calling, and I don’t do it for my own business because it’s not an efficient way to find the types of clients I want to work with. I’m more into relationship marketing, and that involves attending networking events – meeting people and being seen, even though this still makes me extremely anxious.

I’m not always successful and I’ll admit that sometimes even I play a little small, but the fact that I go to these events (and stay) is really big. If I talk to six or seven people per night, that’s a worthwhile time investment.  

Ask yourself: Do you really hate cold calling because you’re genuinely opposed in principle and because it doesn’t match your business, or because you’re scared of potential rejection? What other methods will you try that you may not love but could result in meeting your ideal clients?

Related: Leave Your Comfort Zone Behind  

5)    Saying yes to everything.

Venturing beyond your comfort zone doesn’t mean you have to say “yes” to every opportunity that presents itself. In fact, saying “yes” too much can leave you feeling overwhelmed, frazzled and resentful of the commitments you made, and can even lead to burnout.

A better alternative to saying “yes” to all the things is to ask yourself how new opportunities align with your goals, your current workload, your niche and other defining factors, and saying “No” when something just isn’t a fit. Being honest with yourself and the person you’re speaking with will never steer you wrong.

SIDE NOTE: this is a huge one for me. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to say “no” – which is why I had my friend (and designer extraordinaire) Jen Schmaltz create this printable poster for me. You can grab a copy here.

6)    Not accepting compliments.

Remember how you felt as a kid when you did well on a test and your teacher gave you a gold star sticker? You took it home and hung that baby on the fridge for a week (or had it framed and hung in your room if you’re anything like me). But somewhere along the way, you learned to be embarrassed when being recognized you for your hard work. You learned to downplay the compliment or automatically reciprocate others’ praise.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said any of the following in response to a compliment.

“Oh, hush.” “This old thing?” “Thanks. I love your shirt too.” “It’s nothing. Anyone can do it.”

It’s time to relearn that it’s okay to accept genuine compliments and recognition, whether they come from clients, employees or colleagues in the industry – they’re sweet rewards for putting in the effort.

The next time someone compliments you, simply say, “Thank you very much!” and leave it at that.

7)    Making excuses for where you are.

This one is a doozie and one we’ve all been guilty of at one time or another. If you’re not where you want to be in your business (or life for that matter), you need to figure out why. What’s keeping you from defining your goals and working towards them? Dig deep and be honest with yourself. There’s a BIG difference between knowing what’s keeping you stuck, and making excuses for why you’re there.

For instance, you could say “I really want to do this super awesome thing for my business but I don’t have time.” OR you could say “I really want to do this super awesome thing for my business. I’m frickin’ scared that it’s going to blow up in my face though especially as I have a pretty heavy workload right now. I’m going to figure out how to lighten my load a bit so I have the best chance of making this a success.”

Once you’ve done that soul-searching, it’s time to create an action plan and get moving.

8)    Not knowing your niche

So many people are scared to death of finding a niche because they’re scared it will severely limit their lead pool. There’s also a ton of confusion around what a niche is or can be. Many people think it has to be someone in a specific industry or location but it’s actually a combination of characteristics.

When you don’t know your niche, you end up playing the playing the field – trying to get as much work as possible from as many people as possible. When you’re talking to everyone you’re talking to no one and end up working with people who aren’t a fit.

My niche is in continuous development and it gets tighter every year as I learn more about the things I love to do, the people who bring me joy to serve, and of course the things I don’t want to do. As a result, I’m finding it easier every day to reach my ideal clients – heart-centered entrepreneurs who want to play big and bring their goals to the next level. They know what they want and who they want to work with, and are kind, loving and considerate. They also need someone to help them with planning out the path they need to take to reach their goals which just so happens to be one of my favorite things to do.

9) Not facing your money drama.

News flash: Money is not the root of all evil! If you’re constantly shaming money and shaming people with money, guess what? You’ll never have it. Your goal may not be to be a millionaire, but what if you could touch 1 million lives? You’ll need money to do that!

10) Not expanding your circle.

This one goes hand-in-hand with staying in your comfort zone. If you fall into a rut where you commute between work and home, hanging out with the same friends who have the same joys and problems, and never meet anyone outside your regular circle, you’ll start to feel stagnant. And if you pay attention you’ll also notice you’re in a huge echo chamber hearing the same message and energies you’re putting out being fed back to you on repeat – which isn’t a great recipe for cultivating new ideas, ways of thinking or seeing the world around you. Innovation dies in an echo chamber.

Besides, people are built for connection, so get out there and meet new friends! Try searching for groups related to your hobbies on meetup.com, joining Facebook groups, volunteering, hanging at a co-working space and more.


11) Making everything about you.

If you’re in business and every time you think about anything it’s about you, what you want and what you want to do, your focus will be too narrow. Don’t forget about your team members, subcontractors, employees, clients, family, friends, and community! All of these people keep you grounded, connected and clued into opportunities. So be sure to invest time in those relationships.

Related post: The Importance of Asking Questions  

Do you recognize yourself in any of these? What are you doing to challenge your self-perception and to play big and take your business to the next level? Tell us in the comments!

Want a little reminder of how to Play Big? Download our kick@ss printable poster!

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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