Episode 16. My Biggest Business Regret (Don’t Do This Mistake)

The biggest mistake I’ve made in my business in my journey is something I do wish I’d handled differently. Fortunately, I’ve learned many important lessons which I’ll share. I do believe that if this mistake hadn’t happened, I would be much further along in my business and I would have made maybe an additional 30k to 60k in my business.

I know that business can feel hard sometimes. Maybe you’re struggling to see the results that you want. Whatever it is, I hope this post will serve as a gentle reminder for you to keep taking action, keep growing as an entrepreneur, and keep showing up for your clients or audience.

In this episode:

What contributed to my biggest business regret and how you can prevent it

Let’s rewind back to the beginning of my business. 

I launched my first paid program on March 6, 2019. I published my sales page on the quarterlifeproject.com, my new website then, and I shared about my program on Instagram. 

It was essentially a soft launch. The incredible thing was that within a month of that launch, I had signed two clients at $1500 USD and one client at $2000. 

When my very first client paid me in full, I was blown away. When my second client paid in full, I was once again blown away. And when my third client paid, again, I was mind blown. 

I couldn’t believe that people wanted to work with me. It didn’t register in my mind that I am capable of making money online. 

And here’s where the big mistake began to develop ever so subtly without me even realizing.

I was immensely grateful and had also seen my beta client who I worked with for free get awesome results. 

My beta client was able to get her own paying clients during our time together. Also, I’ve collected multiple testimonials and pieces of social proof from people I’ve worked with for free via free coaching calls and strategy sessions. 

This meant I had created evidence for myself that what I was doing was of value to people, and I was working daily to improve my skills. 

These are things that I am proud of newbie Cheryl Lau for doing. And these are things I would recommend any new entrepreneur or online coach to do as well. 

Start working with people for free, hone your skills and develop your craft, and collect social proof and testimonials. 

In August 2019, life started coming at me from all different angles. 

Because I didn’t have a simple, streamlined business that could operate sustainably and I didn’t have the mindset, identity, or belief in myself as an entrepreneur. 

This led to my biggest mistake in my online business journey.

First, I found out my mom had thyroid cancer. That shook me to the core. 

I didn’t see this coming at all. Even though my mom and I may not have the closest mother-daughter relationship, finding out that she had some form of cancer was extremely overwhelming and stressful. 

Luckily, she eventually got a surgery in late 2019 and has been extremely healthy and happy since. 

But, between August to November 2019, I was stressed about the news. This was the first thing that contributed heavily to my biggest business regret.

Second, I was not taking care of neither my physical health nor my mental health since starting my business. 

Actually, I didn’t take care of my physical or mental health for years. 

For instance, throughout university, my mental health was absolute rubbish and I also gained about 25 pounds by the time I graduated university. 

Side note: Depression and anxiety is something I would love to chat about at some point in a future post. The thing I want to share is that I was not taking proactive measures to cope with stressful situations and thus I was constantly experiencing episodes of anxiety or depression for the majority of my university and post-university life.

After university, I went to law school for one year. From law school till August 2019, I had gained nearly 20 pounds. For a 5 foot 2 female, weighing at around 158 pounds or almost 72 kg was considered overweight by medical standards. 

But the more pressing issue here is that I felt horrible both inside and out. I had NO energy. 

I constantly felt out of breath and felt some sort of constriction around my chest and felt like I had trouble breathing. 

My body constantly expressed physical symptoms of anxiety. 

For some reason, in August, I decided to get a health check up. And I’m glad I did, because the doctor told me I was pre-diabetic. When she first said that, I was in utter disbelief. ME????? Pre-diabetic??? What does that even mean? What should I do? 

She then proceeded to explain to me that one thing I could start doing to reduce the likelihood of me becoming fully diabetic is to lose weight. And then a light bulb went off. 

The third contributing factor to my biggest business was that I was hustling in my business 24/7. 

I was wasting so much damn time on things that weren’t actually useful in making sales or working with clients. 

I was creating way too much content and focusing on quantity over quality. I was creating content for multiple platforms, including Instagram stories, Instagram feed, my private Facebook group, Facebook live streams, podcast, email newsletter, and blog. 

I was spending so much time creating as opposed to selling and working with clients. 

I was also working with, I believe, 6 or 7 one-on-one clients at that time. This was on top of my full time job too. 

I was doing coaching calls in the morning, during lunch breaks, and in the evening. I was also trying to consume a ton of free information and joining every single webinar or masterclass, and going through every single lead magnet other coaches were offering. 

This meant I was spending way too much time consuming as opposed to using my brain to create original fresh new content. 

I was also so caught up in planning things. Planning for a potential group program launch. Planning for a potential course launch. Planning two months of content at a time. Planning and planning.

Finally, the fourth thing was that even though I was able to sign clients, it felt so damn hard. 

Every time I signed a new client, I would once again stress out over where the next client would come from. 

This led me to feel extremely stressed even though I was attracting paying clients consistently. 

Of course, when I am stressed about signing clients, that meant my headspace was constantly spinning out and hence I was also experiencing a lot of comparisons and self doubt.

Long story short: I burnt out. And then…. I quit my business…. For six. Whole. Months. From August 2019 to around February 2020, I was completely quiet on social media, and I took down all of my online profiles and social media accounts. 

For my clients at the time, I had explained the situation to them and continued to work with them privately and quietly behind the scenes. I literally just disappeared off the Internet.

This was my biggest business mistake. Quitting my business for 6 months when I had so much potential for growth and improvement. 

From March to July 2019, I made around 22K USD in my business. I was building my brand and creating demand for my programs. 

Because I wasn’t doing things sustainably and without taking care of my well being and my mindset, I crumbled and quit when things got tough.  

How I gave my business another try

During my absence between August 2019 to February 2020, I focused heavily on my family and relationships, my own physical and mental health, and my career. 

During this time, I applied to a PhD program and got accepted, and I am currently in this PhD program and am extremely happy with my decision to pursue this program. 

I spent a lot of time with people I cared about. And I finally learned to prioritize my health! I ended up losing 40 pounds during this time, and kept it off until COVID hit. 

Then, in January 2020, after I felt a lot more stable in my personal life, I started to remember the sense of fulfillment, impact and joy I experienced during my business journey in 2019.

I decided to reactivate my Instagram account in January. In January and February, I thought I wanted to just become an grad student influencer and create inspirational Instagram content for fellow PhD students, because there’s actually a lot of accounts like that! 

But, I really missed the work I was doing. I started having conversations with people I connected with back in 2019. And wow, I really missed these interactions and I really wanted to give my business another try.

But this time, I was going to do things differently. And that’s exactly what happened.

I reopened my business coaching program around March 2020, and since then, I operate my business in a completely different way. 

If you follow me on Instagram stories, you’ll know that I talk a lot about running your business in a way that’s simple and streamlined, ideally in just 0-2 hours a day. 

This is because ever since my business burnout and quitting my business for 6 months, I deeply appreciate the importance of not running your business in a way that feels like a second full time job. 

I hope you’re now also able to understand why I truly believe in this message. 

Five lessons I learnt from this regret

Lesson 1: Master just a few key things and do them really, really well 

Right now, it’s January 2021, and my business is as simple as it gets. 

All I focus on in my business is:

1) serving my clients, holding space for them, coaching them HARD, and helping them get results

2) showing up on social media maybe 4-5 times per week, and posting really solid and value packed content on Instagram

3) creating high quality podcast episodes every week. 

The amazing thing is that when I simplify and streamline the activities I do in my business, I end up creating more time. 

I have been allocating this extra time to either thinking of even better, more thought provoking content for you guys or ways to deliver even more value to my 1:1 clients, or I would allocate this extra time to my personal life. 

One thing I’ve been able to do recently is create a portal of video training and resources for my clients. 

These are an exclusive portal of over twenty trainings that only my private clients get access to, and I’m so incredibly grateful that I was able to create time and energy to work on this massive project. So far, this portal has twenty-two video training sessions, and it’s sitting at around 420 minutes of content.

Time is something you get to have more of when you simplify and streamline. 

This is particularly important if you’re a side hustler working a 9-5 or you’re in grad school.

Whether you want to go full-time in your business or not, simplifying and streamlining is really important because you want to operate your business sustainably so you don’t end up burning out and thinking, “Well, it looks like I wasn’t cut out for this after all,”.

Instead, I want you to remember that you don’t need that much in your business to make consistent 5k or even 10k months. You can actually get very far doing the bare minimum. 

When I say bare minimum, I’m NOT saying give the bare minimum value to your audience or clients. 

Rather, master just a few key things and do them really, really well before diversifying your efforts and adding more to your to-do list.

No one wants to be stretching themselves way too thin in their day to day. But the reason we fall into this trap of trying to do so many things is because we see other successful people doing so much in their businesses. 

But, you need to think about a lot of different factors here – Are they running their business full time? Do they have a team? What systems and structures do they already have in place? How long have they been in business for? 

Rather than trying to add more items to your to-do list or more offers to your product suite, focus on serving your audience and clients as best as you can and doing the strategies that are clearly making money in your business.

If you simplify and stick to the key things that work best in your favor, and you master this “bare minimum”, business gets to feel easy.

Lesson 2: You can take care of the other areas of your life, even on top of your 9-5 and business

You can take care of the other areas of your life, even on top of your 9-5 and business.

Whether it’s family, physical health, mental health, social life, or whatever it is, you get to create your own schedule. 

You call the shots on how you operate your business.

If you choose to simplify and streamline, you’ll end up freeing more time in your business to take care of other parts of your life. 

You don’t have to sacrifice what’s important to you just to make your business work. 

That said, there will be a certain level of exercise, but you get to choose which sacrifices you make. 

For instance, you can choose to not indulge in scrolling on Instagram and instead choose to do a 30-minute workout. You can choose not to watch two hours of Netflix and instead choose to have a meal with a friend. You can choose to not spend three hours planning your Instagram feed, and instead spend 30-minutes doing lead generation. You have the choice.

Everything you do in your business is your choice. If you don’t want your business to feel like a second full-time job, you can choose to build your business in a way where this isn’t the case. 

Choose wisely how you want to spend your time. 

Lesson 3: Your identity as an entrepreneur is so important

Your identity as an entrepreneur is so important. 

Back in 2019, even though I was signing clients and making an income and impact through my business, I didn’t believe that I was truly capable of being an online coach. 

That’s why I was always operating from a place of desperate energy. 

As soon as I signed on a new client, I would freak out again because I would immediately think, “OMG this is a fluke, I won’t sign on another client.”. 

This sense of panic or desperation is what drove me to hustle. As opposed to figuring out what are my strengths as a business owner and analyzing what’s working and not working, and simply doubling down on what has been most effective for my business. 

Instead, I was trying to do many things at once and consume a lot of new information so I can do even more things. 

This is because I haven’t integrated my wins and successes into my entrepreneurial identity. 

That’s why I was constantly questioning as to whether I can sign on more clients and hence felt the need to do more.

I didn’t believe that I was capable of signing clients consistently. I didn’t believe in my identity. 

That’s why even though I was seeing results in my business, I continued feeling like things weren’t working and continued to spin out and run my business from a place of hustle, self doubt, and desperate energy.

The reason why this happens is because you don’t realize that every single result in your business was created by you.

We’re literally creating our online business out of NOTHING. 

We are using our own perspectives, experiences, ideas, and thoughts to create a business and personal brand from scratch

Every discovery call you’ve done, every client you’ve worked with, every dollar you made, every piece of content, everything in your business – YOU DID THAT FROM NOTHING. 

Like, holy crap. That’s incredible. 

But if we don’t fully embrace the fact that we did this, we’ll continue to spin out, despite having made enormous steps forward in our business and creating amazing results in our businesses. 

This is the reason why since resuming my business in 2020, I was very adamant about working on my mindset as an entrepreneur.

Lesson 4: Your energy matters so damn much in business

Your energy matters so damn much in business. 

You’re showing up in your best energy, sharing your best and most original content and thoughts and ideas, and truly mean what you say and genuinely care about the work that you do.

This converts clients so much quicker than if you were to put out half assed content that even you’re just like “meh” about. 

I find that when I worked on my thoughts and was very intentional about the things I told myself, this made it a lot easier to show up in the best energy.

You see, when I shifted my thoughts from, “OMG how am I going to sign my next client?” or “What else do I need to do so people want to work with me?” or “OMG can I hit 5k or 10k this month?”.

When I shifted away from these thoughts, and instead started to think thoughts such as, “How can I better serve my current clients?”, “What content can I create that will help people become aware of the things that are keeping them stuck?” and “What additional value or new perspectives can I offer my audience and clients today that will move them forward in their journey?”. That’s when my energy started to change. People could tell. 

Truth is, if you aren’t thinking thoughts that serve you and letting your mind spiral out of control and cave into self doubt, FOMO, comparisons, jealousy, and other limiting beliefs that honestly don’t help your business, your clients, or your audience… people can sense that energy from you. 

Strengthening your identity as a successful business owner is so, so important. 

If you’re able to stop thinking, “Oh my God, I can’t do this or I can’t sign another client.”, and instead start to believe that what you’re doing is already working, people can tell. 

When you start focusing on serving your audience and ideal clients and constantly thinking about ways to serve your people, people can tell. 

When you believe in yourself and in the work that you do, people can tell. 

The reason this works is because people can sense the energy behind what you’re doing and what you’re saying.

This energy is what attracts clients to you because they want to be in that energy and learn from you to achieve whatever it is that you help clients do. 

And guess what? 

You’re not going to want to think these thoughts consistently every single day. You’re not going to feel that self-belief every single day. 

You’re going to have moments where you spin out over small things in your business. Like maybe your Instagram post only got half the number of likes you usually get or maybe you noticed your follower count drop by 10 people in two days. 

This is why it is so important to get coached on your thoughts. Whether this means you coaching yourself or working with a coach who is experienced in helping their clients navigate their thoughts and self-belief as an entrepreneur. 

You need to work on being able to reframe your limiting beliefs or other thoughts that are keeping you in your comfort zone and not taking the actions you know will help you achieve your business goals.

Lesson 5: Consuming more information is usually counter productive

Consuming more information is more often than not, counter productive. 

The reason is because when you’re consuming more than you’re using your own brain to create new ideas and perspectives or even offers and frameworks and methods. Then what ends up happening is that you’ll end up wasting a lot of time not just consuming information from others, but you’ll also waste a lot of time following the herd. 

When you’re following what others are doing instead of standing firm behind your own opinions and thoughts, then you’re wasting time creating content or offers that honestly aren’t very compelling for your ideal clients.

This is important to note because with so many online coaches and entrepreneurs, your original thoughts and perspectives on issues and topics within your niche is one key thing that’ll help set you apart. 

It’s a hell of a lot easier to not be a thought leader. 

It’s way easier to just look at what other successful entrepreneurs and coaches are talking about, and simply model your content after theirs. To model your business structure after theirs and create the same offer as them. 

The danger of this is that people can instantly sense the lack of creativity, originality, and thought behind the things you put out. That’s not a good look for your business. 

This is why when I resumed my business in 2020, I made a commitment to myself that I would drastically cut down how much content I consume from others. 

Now, I may scroll through my Instagram feed or tap through Instagram stories, but I’m not deeply reading or listening or watching the content on Instagram anymore.

This is because I don’t want other people’s opinions to infiltrate my own brain when I’m actually sitting down to create.

Instead, I want to make sure that everything I create is from my own brain, using my own experiences, and created from the perspective of my own opinions and values and beliefs and ideas.

A reminder for you if you’re feeling discouraged in your business

Whether you are someone who’s currently struggling in your business, or maybe you’ve experienced some frustration in terms of growing your business or finding it difficult to stay motivated in your business, I want to strongly urge you to take a step back and look at your business from a bird’s eye view. 

I know it’s tempting to want to quit and close everything down especially when things feel hard. 

Remember: Your business success is inevitable. Things will happen. Clients are coming. 

However, that can only happen as long as you don’t quit. 

The entrepreneur you admire, I 100% guarantee that they’ve had moments where they wanted to quit. But luckily, they didn’t give up. 

They kept going, figured things out, got coached on their thoughts and strengthened their mindset, and ultimately became stronger, more resilient entreerns through the process. 

Even though I technically quit my business for 6 months, I am so damn proud of myself for learning the necessary lessons and decided to commit to my business once and for all. 

Rather than repeating the same mistakes I was making in my first couple of months of business, I now operate both my business and my mind in a completely different way.

Even though business feels a lot easier, signing clients consistently feels a lot easier, that doesn’t mean business in itself is easy. 

I still push myself to do uncomfortable things because growth can only happen when you push yourself out of your comfort zone.

In order to take the big, scary action steps in my business, I also had to change the way I think, develop the self-belief that I am an in-demand business coach who provides unparalleled value to my clients, and also work on my thoughts whenever things feel hard and uncomfortable.

Moving forward, I’m going to do even more uncomfortable things to grow not just as a business coach but also as a person.

And I know each of you reading this right now is also capable of doing uncomfortable things and achieving the success you want for your business.

The reason why I’m so passionate about seeing you achieve your business goals is because I want to see you create a path that you paved for yourself. 

I know each of us are capable of defining our own definitions of success. 

Whether that means starting your own business or going full-time into entrepreneurship, it doesn’t matter. 

What matters is that you are able to pursue the big, audacious goals that you set out for yourself. 

While you’re at it, there will be challenges, there will be doubters and haters, and there will be moments where you want to give up.

But I truly believe that you’re capable of rising above these obstacles to go after the life that you’ve envisioned for yourself. 

As someone who has spent honestly the first 24 years of my life going after these career or life paths that I felt like others expected of me, and then defying all expectations by dropping out of law school, I am so passionate about being an example of what’s possible when you stay true to your vision for yourself and going after the life that you truly want. 

I hope this post gave you not just a deeper look into my business journey, but I also hope it provided the gentle push you needed to keep going in your business.

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