“When we turn pro, we give up a life that we may have become extremely comfortable with. We give up a self that we have come to identify with and to call our own.”
~ Steven Pressfield
If you are struggling to see positive and financially sustainable results in your business, theres a good chance you are still treating your business like a hobby rather than showing up for it as a true professional. Before you read on ask yourself if you genuinely feel that you are doing all you can to make your business a success? Are you taking full responsibility for your business and what happens in it?
Early on in my entrepreneurial journey after years of trying to begin with my business, I read a book called Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield (all quotes in this post are from the book) and it changed everything for me. His approach in the book is direct to say the least and in it he compares what he calls the amateur and the pro and refers to his life in two parts, before turning pro and after. Stating in no uncertain terms that “After is better.” I most certainly agree.
Having begun the transition from amateur to pro myself, in this post I want to share with you the four ways in which we can begin to turn pro in our businesses and reap the rewards of doing so, which I might add are not purely financial.
1. Change your mindset
To turn pro is a decision. And it’s a decision we often avoid taking because in avoiding the decision we also avoid risking failure. It’s a decision to take yourself and your business seriously. Because if we don’t take it seriously, we can’t expect anyone else to. I’ve worked with a lot of people who resist turning pro because they fear that if they truly take their business seriously and show up as powerfully as they possibly can and they fail…then what? Where do you go from there?
So instead of turning pro, we stay small, telling ourselves (often unconsciously) that if I don’t give it my all then when things go wrong I can say, “well I didn’t give it my all so that’s probably why it didn’t work” Can you see how illogical this is? Personally, I like to think that it’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all. What if truly making the decision to turn pro and to show up to your business with all the power you can muster, means that failure no longer has the same hold on you, because as a pro, you turn your failures into opportunities to course correct and grow.
“What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads. At last we find the courage to identify the secret dream or love or bliss that we have known all along was our passion, our calling, our destiny.”
You might be asking, how can I be sure if I’ve turned pro or not? My answer to that would be when you don’t need to ask the question. You know when the decision has been made and you know in your heart when you have turned. Everything is different. Having said that, turning pro is definitely a journey. Once I made the decision to turn pro it has been a decision that I have returned to, day after day, and year after year and in doing so my professional self has evolved and got stronger over time. I’m showing up more professionally today than I was six months ago for example.
“Turning pro is like kicking a drug habit or stopping drinking. It’s a decision, a decision to which we must re-commit every day.”
Adopting a professional mindset means not allowing self-doubt to derail you. It’s not an absence of self-doubt because that’s highly unlikely, even our greatest heroes suffer from self doubt, but what distinguishes the pro from the amateur is that the pro continues to show up powerfully in spite of her self doubt. Take a moment now to think back to a time when you started a new job. For sure you had some fear and self-doubt going on right? But did you allow it to stop you from showing up and getting on with your job? Of course not, because if you had you would probably have been fired. So regardless of that fear and self-doubt, you got up every morning, you showered and dressed and you got yourself to your place of work on time and ready to work. Why then do so many of us resist this when it comes to our own business, our own calling, our own livelihood?
“The amateur allows his worth and identity to be identified by others. The amateur is tyrannised by his imagined conception of what is expected of him. He is imprisoned by what he believes he ought to think, how he ought to look, what he ought to do, and who he ought to be.”
Turning pro means that your work in the world, the mission you’ve chosen for yourself, the calling you’ve answered all become far more important than the troublesome worries of what others might think.
2. Cultivate pro habits
“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habits. The human being is a creature of habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones. We can trade in the habits of the amateur…for the practice of the professional and the committed artist or entrepreneur.”
To give you some examples of this. The professional keeps regular working hours while the amateur works when she feels like it. The professional maintains habits that support her to reach her fullest potential and the amateur has habits that keep her playing small such as getting lost, comparing herself to others, on Facebook. The professional sets goals and makes plans, bringing much needed intention to the way she spends her hours. The amateur goes with the flow and allows mood and circumstance to dictate her day. The professional prioritizes deep work and focused time and the amateur lives in the shallows, flitting from one shiny thing to the next.
The professional reviews her progress and seeks feedback so that she can adjust accordingly and make necessary improvements. The amateur is so preoccupied by concerns of rejection that she submits to failure before she’s ever really tried. The professional makes her work in this world a priority. The amateur puts everything and everyone before her business. When discussing what needs to happen to make their business a success, people often say to me, I will get to that soon but first I have friends visiting or I have a festival I’m going to or I have a trip I’m going on and then they wonder why they’re not getting clients.
I have people coming to visit regularly and they all know ahead of time that between 9-6.30pm, Monday to Friday (with the exception of Wednesdays and a 2.5 hour lunch), I work. There are no exceptions to that unless I take a pre-planned holiday. People still come and they respect my work time. If I had a regular office job, I couldn’t just fail to show up for work because some friends from out of town came by. If I wanted to take some time off, I’d have to request it in advance and makes plans for my work to be covered in my absence. Why? Because that’s what’s required to be sustainable in business.
That’s not to say that you have to work on your business full time, you can absolutely work on your business part time. But you must then factor in that it will likely take you longer to achieve the same results as someone working full time. You can also take time off for holidays and to spend time with loved ones but you need to plan ahead so that your business doesn’t wither in your absence. It’s also important that whatever hours you do decide to work, you stick to them with a degree of consistency. Your audience and your clients need this from you because consistency equates to reliability in the mind of your customer. The professional spends time regularly mastering her art. The amateur creates the conditions for overwhelm and then swims in it.
If you are lacking certain skills to succeed in your business then it’s crucial that you schedule time to learn them. In this day and age there is little we can’t teach ourselves online. Break what you need to learn down into achievable chunks and make a plan. Look for the best teachers (not the ones who have the slickest marketing). I keep Wednesday mornings in my schedule free from coaching calls for this very purpose.
3. Maintain a professional environment
The professional ensures that her working environment is conducive to focus and that it is distraction free and contains the right tools for her trade. The amateur works on her bed in her PJs. The pro prioritises business equipment over other purchases making sure that she has the right tools for the job. A good computer, the right stationary, a dedicated desk, good quality earphones etc.
Having a professional environment to work on your business is essential. When we honour our work in this way, we honour the sacredness of our art. If your work in this world is important, which I truly believe it is, then create a space that honours that. If your work is in service to making the world a better place then have your working environment reflect that importance. Keep it clean, organised and clutter free.
“A practice has a space, and that space is sacred.
There’s a wonderful book called where women create. It’s a compilation of photos of studios and workshops where various female artists do their magic…Just look at these sacred spaces. What you’ll see is this: Order, Commitment, Passion, Love, Intensity, Beauty, Humility.”
4. Create pro systems
The pro has systems in place that are professional and create positive experience for the customer or client and that automate tasks that would otherwise take you out of your zone of genius. The pro sees a problem and puts in place a system or a process to fix it.
For example, I began using Zoom because it allows my clients to record our sessions. I used to use Skype with a Skype recorder but then I was always too busy to upload the recording and send it to the client. Switching to Zoom saved me time and benefited my clients.
I started using Calendly because I was always having issues with time-zone differences and because I can automate session reminders and the sending of pre-session questions and instructions. It saves me a lot of time and gives a much better experience for the end user.
Over the years, I have put in place systems for planning my week, for capturing new ideas, for planning content, for welcoming new clients, for invoicing, for capturing to dos, for goal setting, for financial tracking, for project planning and so on. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re winging it a little. Much of the systems I have introduced have come over the years as I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and what wastes my time when I could be doing more meaningful things.
It’s also important to note that many of the 3rd-party solutions I use in my business come with a free version that you only need upgrade when you’re business warrants it.
So there you have it, 4 ways to further your journey from amateur to pro. Which of these feels like a priority for you? Where do you find yourself on this journey? Please do share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you and if you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out the additional resources I’ve shared below.
Because the concept of Turning Pro is such an important one for me, I have over the last year or two created a fair bit of content on the topic. To watch a replay of a live workshop I ran on Turning Pro, head here and to get immediate access to the accompanying workbook head here (no opt-in required)
SIGN UP FOR MY SOULFUL STRATEGIES WEEKLY
Once a week, in the form of an e-letter, I share the best of what I know about building a business with integrity for conscious business owners.
The intention behind these letters is to be a voice for integrity within your (undoubtedly) cluttered inbox. To be the one email you can count on to contain strategic and soulful advice for building a business without selling your soul.
If you want to receive the Soulful Strategies Weekly, simply share with me your name and email address below and you’ll start recieving emails right away.
Thank you Caroline for sharing these 4 ways to further your journey from amateur to pro. I feel like 1 and 3 are the areas I need most to focus.
One of the reasons I joined the content creation challenge is because I want to show up more pro! It definitely requires a shift in mindset.
The professional environment is something I’m excited to implement. I moved house 6 months ago. It has the space (a spare bedroom) that can become an office.
Time to set an intention and goal to make it happen!
Hi Emily, thanks so much for sharing. #1 is a big one and I think environment is one we often overlook as less important but it makes such a difference in how we feel as a professional showing up each day to our business. Excited for your new office, what fun to get that set up. I recently completely rearranged mine and I really feel the difference!