15 Minute Freelancer

57. Build your own board of directors

May 06, 2022 Louise Shanahan
15 Minute Freelancer
57. Build your own board of directors
Show Notes Transcript

Who's on your imaginary board of directors? In this episode, Louise shares a fun strategy for figuring out business problems with a little help from your (imaginary) business friends).

Say hi to Louise:

Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.

LinkedIn: Louise Shanahan
Twitter: @LouiseShanahan_
Website: thecopyprescription.com

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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.

Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of 15 Minute Freelancer. I'm Louise Shanahan and today we are putting on our sharpest power suits, grabbing our blackberries and oversized coffees and heading into the boardroom. Your boardroom, that is. Yes, today we're going to talk about building your own board of directors or board of advisors. 

Before we get on to that though, I want to ask you a question about how you see yourself and your business. Do you see yourself more as a freelancer or a business owner? Maybe you see yourself as someone who is self-employed, who works independently, who helps other people with specific services in their business. But maybe the idea of actually being a business yourself doesn't really fit. And then there are other people who prefer not to use the word freelancer and instead refer to themselves as running a business. Being an entrepreneur, being a consultant, that sort of thing. Maybe that makes sense. If you sell products or courses and you're not just selling time for money, or you have a team of people working for you, maybe freelancer doesn't really fit if it's not just you. People have a lot of feelings about the word freelancer, don't they? I mean, personally, I think it's something to be proud of. I especially love the free part. Freedom and autonomy are two of the biggest drivers for my decision to work for myself. But I do know for some people, the word freelancer can feel maybe a bit negative, maybe a bit "less than", a bit pejorative. And I think that's kind of a shame. I mean, obviously, I've tried to get around that by including the words in the name of this podcast. You know, we're not just bums on seats, we're not order takers. We're experts who are sought out to solve specific problems for our clients, for businesses for organisations. And we happen to work independently. So maybe we need to rebrand the word freelancer. I think Seth Godin makes the distinction between freelancer and entrepreneur. I think he says something like a freelancer gets paid when they work and an entrepreneur gets paid when they sleep. Maybe one feels more natural than the other? Maybe you feel like one represents success more than the other? To be honest, I don't think it matters too much personally, I can identify with aspects with both of those words. 

But in my view, if you're a freelancer, you're absolutely running a business. If you're a freelancer, you're not just doing the work that you're hired to do, you have to do all the same things as any other business, the finances, the taxes, the sales and marketing, the business development, the HR, I mean, that's probably not too complicated if it's just you, but my point is, you are running a business. And what does every business need a board of directors, you are the chief executive of your business, you don't have to put that in your email signature, although I know some people like to do that. But I find that it does help to think of yourself as the chief executive of your business and get into that CEO mindset. For me, a big transition point in my business came when I shifted from thinking that I worked for myself to I run a business. It helped me take myself more seriously, and it helped to separate the work and this entity that I'm building from me, Louise, the person. It helped reframe the decision-making process from what do I want to do to what does this business need me to do in order to achieve what I want it to? And I'm sure I've said before, it's this decision-making part that becomes the tricky bit, isn't it? For me, the responsibility of making those decisions is both the best and worst part about working for myself. You know, I love the freedom I love getting to decide what I do or don't do, but it's also exhausting. And decision fatigue is a real thing. You know, I find it so hard to decide even what to make dinner sometimes! And it's like, this is an easy choice. It's not that big a deal to make anything. But when you've been making so many decisions all day, even if those are also easy decisions. It's just like no, I have run out, I can't make any more decisions. Sometimes it'd be nice to have someone to share that load with. 

And that's where the imaginary board of directors comes in. For your business, not for your dinner, just to be clear. In most businesses, there is a board of directors or an executive team or some sort of group of advisors that set the strategy for the business. That would be kind of ridiculous for a one-person business or a business with just a few employees. But what if you had an imaginary board? What if you had a group of people that you could turn to when you were feeling stuck on a decision? Or if you needed a sounding board? Or you wanted a second opinion on something? If you work alone, where do you go when you need feedback? So that's where the imaginary board comes in. 

And this isn't a formal arrangement. They're not actually your board. They might not even be real people. You're not paying them dividends. They're just people that you turn to for specific support. So these could be real people, or famous people, or just people in your industry that you don't know, but you maybe look up to and you like the look of their business. Maybe they are other freelancers, maybe friends or family, maybe a partner. Maybe they're a podcast host or a YouTuber, or an author who's approach you like. These can be people that you know who you have a mentoring or co-mentoring relationship with. Or maybe they're just people that you chat business with. 

This isn't a new idea. It's not my idea, just to be clear. Though I'm not 100% sure of where it originated. The usual format is to identify some famous big thinkers that inspire you so that whenever you're stuck on something, you can imagine them sitting around the table in your boardroom, and mentally consult them on some sort of problem that you might be facing. You can give them specific roles. Maybe you say that Beyoncé is your chief marketing officer, then if you need to get some new leads, let's say, you might ask yourself, what would Beyoncé do? Maybe you really like how Gary Vee talks about solving problems and thinking about how he manages a team. When a challenge rears its ugly head, you might remind yourself of something that he said on a YouTube video or whatever. Maybe you'll choose Steve Jobs, or Oprah or Joanna Wiebe or Chris Do. You know, you can have anybody you like on your imaginary board. You can even print out some photos of these people or quotes that they've made that resonate with you and stick them up next to your desk so that whenever you start, you just look up and think, what would they do?

For me, I've got a mix of people on my imaginary board of advisors and my imaginary board of directors. There are certain business writers and personal development people and speakers that I like, so often, I'll ask myself, what would they do in this situation? And I've also got some in real life friends as well that I turn to. Some of them have actually been guests on this podcast. For example, if I'm stuck on a pricing question, I'll often chat to André Spiteri, who I know will give me a straight answer, an honest answer, and probably tell me to charge more, which is always good to hear. If I've got a mindset block, I might talk to Jen McKeown, we did an episode on journaling in business together. If I need a bit of inspiration, or a pep talk, I'll usually go to the Content Club UK folks or one of my Slack channels. 

I'm also a big fan of investing in groups that offer this kind of support. And in some ways that can be a bit more productive, it's a bit more formal, you're actually putting skin in the game, because you're all paying to be there. So you don't need to feel guilty about asking for support, because that's kind of the point. I've just joined a new business mastermind, actually, I'm really excited to literally have the opportunity to sit around a table with people, okay, maybe it's not literally because we'll probably be on Zoom. But we'll be able to offer that two-way support, and have people that you can trust to talk business with. So I'm a huge fan of that sort of approach too. 

So I encourage you to have some fun with this. Think about who you would appoint to your imagining board of advisors or directors. And then when you have a challenge to deal with, or a big decision to make, you can consult them. For real if they're a real person, or in your mind if they're less accessible. And hopefully you'll find a way forwards. It should be a collection of people that you admire, who inspire you who you feel have skills that you would like or who might offer a fresh perspective, whose values align with yours. You know, also think about people who might challenge you who would play the role of the critical friend and play around with it. You know, what role do you play on this board? If you were advising someone else in your shoes, what would you see? Maybe you can put yourself in 10 years time on the board, what advice would you be giving yourself? 

Okay, so that's about all I have to say about this today. I just wanted to jump on and record what I was thinking about this because it's something that's been on my mind this week. I really liked this approach. It's a fun and creative way to solve problems. And it does have real value to you know, who you surround yourself with is important in business. And if you work alone, you do need to be a bit more deliberate about who those people are. But just because you work alone doesn't mean you have to be alone. And that seems like a nice note to finish on, doesn't it? Just a short one today. So yeah, as always, I hope this has been helpful for you. If you enjoyed it, please do leave a review, share it with a pal, and if you're feeling extra generous, feel free to leave a wee tip at ko-fi.com/15minutefreelancer, I appreciate it very much. Thank you, and I shall see you next time. Happy freelancing.


You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.