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If You Can't Make a Living, How Can You Make a Difference?
C.J. Hayden, MCC

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 family.

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 yourself.

Copyright © 2005 C.J. Hayden
You may reprint this article in its entirety, as long as the copyright notice and the following source information appears:

C.J. Hayden is the best-selling author of Get Clients Now! and Get Hired Now! Since 1992, she's been helping entrepreneurs build enterprises that make a difference. She is a frequent speaker on topics of social entrepreneurship, activism, and purposeful careers, and an advisor to social ventures. Find out more about C.J. at www.socialentrepreneur

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