We all have them. Comfort zones are everywhere. In our relationships, in our business life, and personally, it's easy to slip into one without even noticing it, and then *boom* and we're wondering what just happened.
"I had this problem in my work life earlier in the year!"
2017 was a good year for my business. It just grew organically as I didn't do much marketing. People seemed to just get in touch with me and wanted my blogging and social media services. I was at the tail end of the depression from my cancer journey so getting new clients and not having to put much effort into it was wonderful.
I also have a highly optimised workflow that I created when I had cancer and was going through treatment. Editing blog posts when full of chemotherapy and radiation meant that I had to do things quickly and efficiently. Throwing up and being knackered all the time meant I only had a small window of opportunity each day for working. Hence the highly optimised workflow.
So, I was most definitely in my comfort zone at the start of 2018. Editing three blog posts a day, doing social media drip feed for a few clients (again, highly optimised so it was quick and easy to do) and even sending out blog mailers to my client's mailing lists using the systems I created ... well I was loving only working mornings because it meant I could relax in the afternoons.
But then I lost a couple of high paying clients. One closed the door when a premises move went wrong and another got bought by a larger company and were forced to use the parent company's social media team. I lost a massive amount of income within a couple of weeks.
But I was still in my comfort zone. Based on my experiences from 2017 I believed that I could just keep calm and carry on and new clients would appear. I didn't need to do any marketing did I?
Any business owner will tell you that clients come and clients go. There's a natural churn and you can't please everyone all of the time. You'll never keep all of your clients forever. I had a retailer leave because he wasn't into ongoing brand awareness and was only looking at his sales figures from Amazon and his online shop, and then another client retired.
"And suddenly, *boom* my entire profit margin had gone!"
Thanks to my comfort zone, I was suddenly making a loss. I had a huge cashflow hole in the middle of the month. Imagine an inverted bell curve. Plenty of money coming in at the start of the month and plenty of money coming in at the end of the month ... and nothing in the middle.
I had to review all of my outgoings. No more Chinese takeaways (£80 a month!), no more wine (£50 a month!), no more long-distance trips to see friends because of the amount of fuel I was using, cancelling all those frivolous little subscriptions we build up as business owners for this that and the other service. Not pre-ordering a whole bunch of films on my Apple TV, not going for coffee just to get out of the house.
I paired back my personal and business outgoings as far as I could take them all because I was in my comfort zone, thinking new clients would come to me without me even trying and limiting myself to just wanting to edit three blog posts a day ... because it was easy.
"I knew I had to break out of my comfort zone!"
Things had to change. I had to remove the limiting believe that I was happy only editing three blog posts a week. Secondly, I had to stop napping during the day because I was depressed (which took out most of my afternoons) and thirdly, I had to get out there and actually go talk to people as I had become quite the introvert post cancer.
I discovered Brad Burton's Now What Club and became a member. Brad sets daily tasks for us all. It could be creating a video one day to calling a bunch of expired prospects the next. But the nice thing is that as the NWC Facebook group is private, you can rant and rage, ask for advice, help others ... and get a good Bradding on occasion. it's a very supportive environment and it helped me to start changing.
Secondly, my mum and dad stumped up the membership fee for 4N (thank you guys). I went along to my first meeting in Milton Keynes, met a load of lovely people and within a couple of weeks, and after a number of chats, had made my first sale ... others have followed and thankfully, my inverted bell curve of cashflow is slowly flattening out.
"Eventually, I was offered the position of 4N Area Leader!"
I had to think hard about taking that task on because it was quite the commitment. I ummed and ahhed about it for a few days then decided to just go for it ... much to the surprise of my best friend Kirsty. And suddenly, because I had to go out networking regularly (no excuses now!), my comfort zone started to slowly dissolve.
The daily depression naps became less frequent. I had my hair cut and started wearing makeup again. I was out there, talking to people, eating scrummy food and rather enjoying myself.
As I was collecting loads of business cards and my desk was getting messy with them, I decided to create a contact management system. My brain got really engaged with that project and within a week, not only had I created an awesome new module that I could use to organise all the details of the people I met, it was something I could offer to clients too.
"And that's when the comfort zone completely dissolved!"
I haven't had a daytime nap since ... I still get tired during the day, but I don't go and curl up on the sofa anymore, I just drink another coffee and get on with working through that day's todo list.
I want to grow my business properly now, and won't be stopping at 3 blog posts a day, I'll just train up and outsource them to editors. I actually want to be a proper business owner now, and I won't be stopping networking again. I will always be looking for new clients to help and not just aiming for the maximum milk for the minimum amount of moo that has worked for me in the past.
A lot of people have unknowingly got me to this point. My parents, my best friend Kirsty Parris, the lovely Alison Mead, the awesome Brad Burton. And to all my loyal clients, the fabulous people I've met since I started networking again, and even to the members of the Now What Club and more generally 4Ners ... thank you, you've all made such a difference to my life and I'm moving forward again and most definitely out of my comfort zone.
See how dangerous a comfort zone can be? In my case, it was damaging my business and I didn't even know it. For you, it could be a relationship, it could be your business of course, or it could just be that it's damaging you as a person.