The power of asking: notes from a beach hut strategy session

I'm probably one of the least spiritual people you'll come across, so I definitely don't subscribe to the idea that angels help us to manifest our desires, or whatever. 

However, I do very much believe in the power of sharing what you want, and asking for help.

"The Universe" often seems to respond, but I feel like that doesn't give credit to the people who made it happen; you and those who supported you to achieve your goals. 

After returning from an amazing trip to Israel, I was missing the sea. I've got a WhatsApp group with some of my friends from Freelance Folk and so I sent them a message asking if anybody fancied some coworking by the coast. I had absolutely no plans about how we'd make it happen or where.

I live in the Peak District, which is basically about as far as you can get from the sea, so I could easily have dismissed the idea, but one of my mantras is "you don't ask, you don't get" (the other one is "you never know when a mouse might eat your trainers"). 

A short while later, the brilliant Katya Willems got in touch to say that she had a voucher for a seaside beach hut in Lytham St Anne's which was about to expire. She'd been wondering how to use it, and asked if I'd like to join her for a day out there. Erm, YES. 

Katya in front of our beach hut

Katya in front of our beach hut

It wasn't clear whether the hut had wifi, so we decided to focus on doing an offline strategy and planning session instead. Katya was very excited about this, and went off to buy flip chart paper and pens. We also invited our friend Michelle from Dive Deeper Development to join us as she's an awesome coach, facilitator and general amazing person. Plus we knew that she had some exciting ideas about her own business that she wanted to discuss, such as providing support for freelancers who don't have the formal structure of line managers and appraisals (this is such a good idea and she's far too modest which is why I'm talking about it here). 

We rocked up and found our beach hut, which was so cute and little but very cleverly laid out so we could all just about fit comfortably. The weather was amazing, but I reckon it would still have been inspiring to work by the sea even if it was a bit overcast. Even just a change of scenery and the right people can make a big difference. 

The lovely little huts! Photo courtesy of  Katya Willems . 

The lovely little huts! Photo courtesy of Katya Willems

Let's get strategic

After a yummy lunch courtesy of Booths, we all set out what we wanted to achieve from the afternoon. We'd all given this some thought prior to the day, and having that focus made the most of the time as we could delve straight into the areas we wanted to tackle. We decided to have an hour to focus on each person, so we looked at Katya's business strategy and how she could help really interesting and innovative food businesses with their social media, and then we had a bit of a brainstorm with Michelle around the support that freelancers lack, and how she could address this with her own skills. 

Our delicious lunch in the beach hut. Photo courtesy of  Katya Willems .

Our delicious lunch in the beach hut. Photo courtesy of Katya Willems.

Next, it was my turn... I wanted to explore ways that I could grow my business to focus more on providing training and support (particularly around using Squarespace). We'd taken a different approach for each person, making notes on the flip chart paper as we went along. For me, we wondered if asking questions would help me to identify the best approach for me to take, and then Katya remembered a technique that she'd seen where you answer a question in writing, firstly with your dominant hand (in this case, my right hand) and then answer the same question with your non-dominant hand. The idea is that it uses different parts of your brain, so you can get totally different responses depending on which hand you write with!

Let the questions begin...

This sort of activity is totally my bag, so I was very enthusiastic about trying it. I originally planned to write these up as notes on a boring Word document, but that seemed totally at odds with everything that I'd come up with on the day, and so this blog post was born. Here are the questions with my right hand answers, and my left hand answers. I've added links for reference, but otherwise these are my word for word responses, which include some swears. 

1. What direction do I want to take my business in?

[R] People ask me questions about Squarespace and I answer them. This is monetised somehow. 

[L] I want to run a B&B by the sea. Not just clients. 

Did I mention that I like the sea?

Did I mention that I like the sea?

2. What am I going to do next with my business?

[R] Training people how to use Squarespace for their business. 

[L] Be like Paul Jarvis (who is God).

3. How can I channel my inner Paul Jarvis?

[R] ☹ Make fucking time to write fucking content. 

[L] Be myself, don't try to do what everyone says I should, be useful to people. 

4. How can I be more useful to people?

[R] Set up Squarespace users group in Manchester, go on Squarespace Answers and Facebook group more often, do more speaking about being freelance (note - get featured on Being Freelance).

[L] Make myself more visible to people.

Katya hiding my right-handed answer to stop me from being influenced by it! Photo courtesy of  Michelle Pratt . 

Katya hiding my right-handed answer to stop me from being influenced by it! Photo courtesy of Michelle Pratt

5. How can I make myself more visible to people?

[R] Twitter, Facebook, Instagram? Squarespace group (see above). Make more of Freelance Folk, Union St, be in The Guardian, Paul Jarvis, IPSE, fellow finalists, MemberSpace.


6. How do I make money from this?

[R] One-to-one workshops/training/support, teaching people how to add Squarespace to their business, charge for Squarespace group/upsell a dropin Q&A before/after, advice line/office hours - free call.

[L] Charge a monthly fee for access to me and maybe other experts too...? Charge per question. Have a club of some kind. 1000 TRUE FANS (or 100). 

My very excellent left-handed writing

My very excellent left-handed writing

7. How do I get 100 true fans? i.e. paid ££

[R] Videos (social media) - video strategy? Interaction. Ask for questions about Squarespace on social media? Focus on the way I do it not what I do... My voice/tone/breath of fresh air/brand. Freelance Folk newsletter, The Wheel Exists newsletter, being a girl. Funny/silly/humorous, energy + ideas. Willingness to to things for free/run a million networks, sense of community. GIVE THEM SOMETHING OF VALUE to change their lives/behaviour. 

[L] Be myself, always, no compromises. Send a monthly The Wheel Exists newsletter. Find people who like animals. Make people feel good. Record my day more. 

But what does it all mean?

It was a fascinating activity just to try out, and the most interesting result was that my right-handed answers were often quite practical, whereas those written in my non-dominant hand tended to be more conceptual. This could be why a lot more right-handed answers have links than left-handed ones. I've got no idea if this correlates with science, but there did certainly seem to be a pattern for me. 

What am I taking away from all of this?

  • I want to be genuinely useful and help people
  • I don't have to follow conventional wisdom (my success has mostly come from when I've ignored traditional business advice)
  • My value is in who I am and not just what I do, and being different is a selling point
  • I like variety in my work
  • I need to put myself out there more ("there" being in front of my people who could be my 100 true fans)
  • Whilst passive income is always the freelance dream, I actually prefer interaction with people
  • Even though Paul Jarvis is God, I don't have to copy him exactly 

Interestingly, the day after our beach hut trip...

  • Michelle got two lots of amazing feedback from people that she'd trained or coached
  • Katya was approached by a prominent Twitter account with 8,000+ followers who asked to use one of her photos
  • I discovered that Freelance Folk had been nominated for the IPSE Ambassador of the Year Award for my work supporting the freelance community

So let's give ourselves credit for all our hard work getting to this point. And Universe? Good timing on the delivery. 

Katy Carlisle