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I hear these statements all the time because I so often work with start-up, or not-yet-successful, business owners:

  1. I’m not sure what I should charge.  I’m really just starting my business.
  2. I don’t have years of experience at this, I’m not sure I should charge the standard rate yet.
  3. I don’t know how to talk to people who ask me what I do.  I have no track record to show them.
  4. Can I really sell services for which I have no “proof” yet?

There is no reason anyone has to apologize or feel they don’t deserve to be paid because they are “starting a business.” Even people who have been in business for “awhile” often find reasons to downplay their skills and unconsciously apologize to their clients for not being “good enough – yet!” – often for year after year.

When “real, out-there-in-the-world” business people start a business they don’t worry about the fact that they are just starting and become apologetic about their offerings.  They say, “We are offering a new and great product!”  They just figure out how much they need to charge to pay themselves, keep the company running, and have a profit for future business development.  No apology.  Then they march out into the world to find clients.  (FYI – you don’t need to “march!” )

Small Business Owners need to approach the world in the same way!  A lot of us were taught as children and young people that we have to prove ourselves… FIRST… before we can stand tall and announce ourselves and our services/products to the world.  Not so!

Try embracing this statement:  “I  know I can do this.  Right now I have all the skills I need to to produce a great product for my clients or offer stellar service to my clients.”  Say it aloud until you recognize the truth of it.  Say it until it is inside your bones!  Say it until your truth-filled bones hold you up as you go out into the world!

Yes, you have to make a living.  Yes, you sell things that are more pricey than a pack of gum.  Yes, you need to find a way to connect with people who can pay you.  But those are marketing issues… not self esteem issues!

Start living the reality that:  “I have a place in the world and I belong here.  I can stand as tall as anyone else and market my products and services to the world!  I don’t need to discount.  I don’t need to charge less.  I don’t need to cringe.  I don’t need to gather years of experience.  I can start marketing myself now, from right where I am!”

That’s what “real” business owners do!  You do it too!  And then you take the feedback you get from the world and keep modifying until marketing becomes a “dance” with the world around you.  I can happen for YOU!


I am the “Passionate Personal Historian” for the church I attend.  I have been teaching Personal History classes there  for a number of years.  I wanted to share with you a handout I created for a “Recording Your Faith Journey” class.

This could just as easily be used in a non-Christian context , substitute the word “Spiritual” for the word “Faith.”

Recording a Faith Journey

15 Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Why do you want to write (or audio or video record) a chronicle of your faith journey?
  2. Who are you writing this for?  (Yourself, your family and friends, your descendants?)
  3. What are the major milestones of your faith journey?  Can you make a list so you are sure to talk about each one?
  4. Do you need or want to include anything about the faith of your ancestors? Did this affect your own faith journey? (parents, grandparents, great grandparents… etc)
  5. If you think of your faith journey as a whole – can you see a pattern or a theme?  If you were choosing “one word” that best describes your faith journey what would that word be?
  6. Are there any pictures that should be part of your written record?
  7. Are there any certificates (baptism, wedding, funeral of family members) that you could take a picture of and include?
  8. Who were the really significant people in your faith journey?  Remember there may be a few ‘stinkers’ that strongly affected your choices as well as truly inspirational people or mentors.
  9. How does your faith journey compare to the culture around you?
  10. Do you have a faith community?  Or have you had more than one in your lifetime?  How have they affected your faith journey? (either positively or negatively)
  11. Are there any books or writings that have been particularly inspirational or that you would highly recommend to others?
  12. What words of wisdom have you found that you would like to pass on to others?
  13. Do you have a favorite Bible verse or Bible story?  Why is it your favorite?
  14. If someone was reading about your faith journey 150 years from now – what particularly would you like to share with them?  Remember to include any best wishes you have for them or words from your heart.
  15. Who do you want to share your faith journey with?  Will you make a point of doing that?  Where are you going to store your faith journey writing so that it goes to the right people when you die?

As part of my own business development, I attended a webinar today:

To Sell Is Human: The ABCs of Moving Others.
Sponsored by The Harvard Business Review
Presenter: Daniel H. Pink and author of a book by the same name

I thought you might be interested in just a few of the key points of the presentation.


Point 1: The selling situation has changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 100 years.

Buyers have FAR more information than they used to. The “advantage” of knowing more than your buyer is gone. Buyer Beware have changed to Seller Beware as people have more information, are less likely to be snowed, and have lots of ways of speaking up and fighting back against unscrupulous sellers.

The selling environment has gone from “Seller Powerful” to “Seller/Buyer Parity.”

Point #2. The New ABCs of Selling

Old school sales: ABC = Always Be Closing (push, push, push. Run the numbers)
New school sales, (according to Pink): ABC = Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity

Attunement: Being able to see things from the Buyers point of view (I harp on this endlessly with my own clients and felt very validated on this point.) What are the buyers reasons for buying and how do you sell to those points? In what ways can you attune yourself to your potential client during conversations?

Buoyancy: I thought this one was the MOST  interesting. Pink quoted one of his sales friends who said “Every day I face an ocean of rejection.” (Yikes!) Pink talked about ways in which people can “bounce back, reframe a failure to make a sale, don’t take things personally” in short, become more Buoyant in their sales process.  (more about this below.)


Old school sellers were “problem solvers.”  These days people have so many options for finding solutions on their own.  They don’t really need for a sales person to solve their problem.

New School sellers are “problem finders.”  This means that if your potential clients are not thinking of what will happen if they don’t buy your service or product, you need to be good at presenting that in a way that is not pushy.  I, Dhyan, help my business clients with this by teaching them to ask:  What will happen if you do xyz?  What will haven’t if you don’t xyz? (Where xyz had to do with the value and importance of your service to YOUR target clients.)

More about how to become Buoyant:

One of the parts of the webinar I enjoyed the most was his description of what I call “self-talk” and how it affects sales skills. He said, as sales people we need to be able to see a situation realistically instead of emotionally and negatively?

Is a particular failure personal? Yes it is all my fault. vs. No, this was one situation. I have done well in the past and I will do well again.
Is this pervasive? Yes, this ALWAYS happens to me. vs. No, sometimes I close sales, sometimes I don’t. This is normal.
Is this permanent? Yes, I’m toast! I better go find another job. vs. No, I can learn how to get better at sales. I’m already learning how to get better at sales!

A few more key concepts shared

Sell a comparison: “I’m blind” (hold out the cup – few donations.) “It’s spring and I am blind” (build empathy- more donations happened)
Small Negatives enhance positives: VERY, VERY INTERESTING!  A long list of positives sells less well than the same long list of positives with one “small, insignificant” negative at the bottom. Huh! I, Dhyan, didn’t know that!
Don’t just sell your product, provide service information: Example: someone selling candy to small mom and pop shops. Sold more if they shared a study showing which kinds of candy sold best for this kind of shop even if it included candy from a competitor
Servant leadership: Not just focusing on selling your product but including a focus on how your product makes the individual better, their community better, the world better!

Point 3: Introvert vs Extrovert: Who is the better sales person?

Interestingly, Pink quoted research where a team went into a company, gave an assessment to all the sales people, divided them into introverts and extroverts and then sent them out selling. The results were interesting. I was betting on the introverts, actually, because they can be better listeners and communicators than extroverts but it turned out that

The introverts sold $120K

The extroverts sold $125K

BUT the Ambiverts (people who are a little of both) sold $155K.

Ah Ha! How interesting is that! This means that those of us who are not “pure” introverts or “pure” extroverts but are a bit of both have a huge advantage in the current selling environment.

I am not sure if the webinar was recorded or it that recording is available post webinar but you can look for it, if you are interested, with the information I listed at the top.

Best regards!  Dhyan

What Business Skills have you mastered?  Which ones do you still need to work on?

I share this Business Skills Assessment with my clients.

First of all, it is designed to run through what I consider to be the Five Essential Skills personal historians and ANY small business owner needs to have in order to successfully run a business.

Secondly, it gives both my clients and me a good look at where they are in business before they start working with me.  We often do the Business Skills Assessment again at the end of our work together to see how far they have come and to let them assess where they need to go next on their own.

I would suggest you copy and paste this list into a document for yourself and then mark next to each one whether it is a skill you use, or not, or maybe do half way.

Business Skills Assessment:


Yes No Yes/No  


Did you take the time last Dec. or Jan. to do a strategic plan for this year?   – Analyze the past year, set your goals for the coming year, create a timeline for goals and activities.


Do you set goals regularly?  – Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly?


Do you create any kind of a “To Do List” for business activities you want to get done in the coming week?


Do you regularly create a “To Do List” for “tomorrow?”


Are you meeting your financial goals for your business every month?


Are you clear about your financial goals for each revenue stream?


Do you think you are charging correctly?  – Not too high.  Not too low.


Are you clear about your target clients and their reasons for spending money for your services?  Do you have a defined “marketing message” built around this understanding?


Do you have a brief (30 seconds) description of your products and services, which you can use in any situation in which you need to describe your business?  (A “yes” answer should mean that people often respond with interest when they hear about what you do.  A “no” answer would include people listening to your description but you don’t often get very much response.)


Do you spend at least 5 to 10 hours per week marketing your business?


Do you have 3 to 5 marketing strategies, which get you DIRECTLY in front of your target clients or people who might refer them to you, and which you do consistently on an ongoing basis?


Are your marketing strategies varied?  – Meaning you do some active things like attend networking events, do public speaking, as well as  some passive activities  like posting articles on the internet, sending out a newsletter, doing mailings or e-mailings.


Are you ready, at a moment’s notice, to give a 10 minute presentation about your business?


Do you set and reach networking goals so that time at events is well spent?  Do you know how to get the most out of any networking conversation?


Do you have an efficient and organized contact management system for managing potential clients?   – You know who you have talked to, about what, and when you should contact them again.


Are you really comfortable doing marketing and sales activities?


Do you give preference to some of the activities you need to do to run your business and avoid others?


Are you a steady learner?  Do you seek out training and information to help you run your business more effectively, keep up to date with new opportunities, and be more successful?


Do you have a structure for your sales conversations with potential clients?   – Meaning a structure that guides your conversations with potential clients such that they are more likely to say “yes” and less likely to put you off while they “think about it.”


Is there time in your schedule for everything you need to get done for your business?  -Billable hours (working with clients), time to work ON your business (administrative functions, accounting, writing, setting up marketing strategies, etc), and Marketing time (actually going out into the world to find potential clients.)


Are you organized and is your office organized?  Do you spend a little time every day putting things in order?


Have you created an exit strategy for your business or do you just plan to eventually stop working and the income will stop there?

This is our last article in this 5 article series for beginning Personal Historians.

What should you do next?

Want a Free Consultation?  If you would like a free initial consultation with me about your business and your business skills, please contact me: Dhyan Atkinson 303-415-0243 or Dhyan at DhyanAtkinson dot com (go to the contact us page). I will also share with you, if you are interested, what services and programs I provide to personal historians.

Want 6 months of Business Skills Training to help you get up and running?  APH is sponsoring and I am teaching a six month class for beginning personal historians starting in March of 2014.  Each month you will receive an instructional webinar with handout materials to help you implement what you are learning in your business; a teleclass where we will have open discussions, the chance for you to ask questions, get help and learn from the questions of others.  Finally you have one 30-40 minute private session with me every month.  This is a GREAT opportunity.  For more information or to register go to: APH Events and Classes

Want to read more?  I will be posting more articles (probably not one a day!) on the business skills small business owners need and other current business issues.  If you would like to keep getting these kinds of informational articles, please sign up for the RSS feed or come back often!

What advantages and talents do Personal Historians typically bring to the table when looking for clients? I can think of four!

Personal Historians are some of the kindest, most interesting people I know – and I know lots of them.  I’ve been working with Personal Historians at APH conferences, in classes and teleclasses, in my one-on-one 12 Session Business Intensive and in private sessions since 2003.  Why did I choose to specialize in working with Personal Historians as my favorite client niche?

For one thing:  They share my own passion for saving personal history

I am the personal historian for my family.  I know the joys of uncovering family stories and saving them for future generations. Most personal historians I know started the same way – by doing a personal history for their own family.

Second:  They love hearing other people’s stories

Personal Historians are good listeners!  They give the gift to others of really paying attention to what they say. This is, of course, a prime benefit for their clients but it is also a gift to their potential clients as well.  Think about this: when was the last time that a stranger asked you about your life and then REALLY listened to what you had to say for more than 30 seconds?  How often do we go through the “How are you? – I am fine” ritual without really wanting to know what is happening in the other person’s life? Or have you ever been asked about your life experience only to notice that the other person’s eyes have just glazed over as you start to talk?  The “love of hearing” is a characteristic that only a few other professions share with personal historians.

Third:  Most personal historians come to the profession having had useable experience from a previous work life

Many bring skills that are of direct use in the personal history profession: having been a writer or journalist, having been a therapist of some kind, having had a career where they needed to listen to other people carefully, having the ability to do project management.  Even if their main “previous qualification” is that they have been the personal historian for their own family – this is a benefit they bring to the table.

Fourth:  It is often a great surprise to beginning personal historians that they already have some of the major sales skills.

I love the aspect of consulting and teaching business skills to personal historians because (if they do not bring a lot of fear of being a business owner with them) they catch on really quickly to marketing and sales skills.  They are ALREADY People-People.  And that is about 50% of all marketing and sales talent.  Potential clients look into a personal  historian’s eyes and see attention, listening, interest, curiosity, and friendliness.  Who would not want to consider buying something from a person like that?

Tomorrow is our last article in this series. Let’s end with a checklist of business skills that will tell you where you are in your business life and what things you might want to pay attention to in order grow your business.

IN THE MEANTIME:  If you are looking for a business skills training for personal historians check out the description of the APH sponsored 6 month class, starting in March, on the APH Events and Classes webpage. – See more at: APH Events and Classes.

How is selling a Personal History different from selling Tickle-Me-Elmo?

Tickle Me Elmo, a doll that chortled and shook with laughter when tickled, was introduced in the United States around Christmas 1996, and quickly went viral! The doll’s short supply due to the unexpected demand led to an increase in price and some instances of violence over the limited stock among customers. Newspaper classifieds sold the plush toy for hundreds of U.S. dollars. People reported that the toy, originally sold at US $28.99, fetched as much as $1500 on the black market.

Easy to see that “persuasive sales skills” didn’t have to be a priority for toy sellers with Elmo dolls in stock that year. People were eager and rushing to buy the doll.

Realistically, this is not the case for most products and services in the Consumer Marketplace but it is especially true of Personal Histories.  As I commented in article 1:  only a small percentage of consumers are actively LOOKING for personal historians (or books, audio recordings, and video documentaries for their family. ) Secondly, there is not much of a personal history you can make for $28.99.

Enter the necessity for being a good Sales Person for your business.


  • The first thing you need to know about Sales is that it does not come naturally for 99% of business owners; so you don’t have to feel badly if you are not a good sales person!
  • The second thing is that if other people can learn how to be great sales people… so can you! Really! (You couldn’t, for example, be any worse than I was when I started!)


  • The reasons your clients buy personal histories:  Not the reasons YOU think people should have but THEIR reasons for deciding to buy.
  • How to ask really good questions:  If you can lead the conversation with a potential client so that they do most of the talking and they TELL YOU about their reasons and feelings, before you talk about price, they are much more likely to buy.
  • How to listen more than talk.  If you guide the conversation well, potential clients will fan the spark of their own enthusiasm into a flame of desire to purchase.
  • You need to feel comfortable talking about money and confident that you have good products at a decent price.  (Meaning you are not going to lose money creating “heirlooms” and “treasures” for other people.)
  • What supplemental sales materials you need to have at a sales conversation, when to introduce them, and how to talk about them at the right time.
  • Finally, you need to know how to ask for business.  When you hear interest in someone’s voice, you need to be able to say “Shall we work together?  When would you like to start?  How about next week?”  And you need to be able to say those things in a non-pushy, enthusiastic way.

Tomorrow Let’s look at the BRIGHT SIDE! I will talk about the advantages and talents you bring to the table while finding clients.

IN THE MEANTIME:  If you are looking for a business skills training for personal historians check out the description of the APH sponsored 6 month class, starting in March, on the APH Events and Classes webpage. – See more at: APH Events and Classes

Okay, yesterday I talked about the fact that of the 317.5 million people in this country (insert your own statistics if you are not in the USA) only a pittance are looking for a personal historian to do a book, audio recording, or video documentary for their family.

It behooves personal historians to also be good marketers!

Another Major Challenge for the Personal History Business is that…

Personal Histories are not inexpensive.

If you find someone who is offering inexpensive personal histories,
you are  most likely looking at a personal historian who is giving away his or her work!

Not a smart business idea!

What can you do to head this challenge off before it cripples your business?

  • First you have to sit down with yourself and have a good long honest look at whether or not you have issues talking about money.  
    • Do you cringe when you have to talk about the price of your products?  
    • Did your family talk easily about money or was money a hush-hush subject?  
    • Are you still “wobbling” about what you charge because you are afraid to set a real price?  
    • Are you “certain” every time you have to open your mouth and say what you charge that the other person is going to be in shock over the impertinence of your price? 

The sad truth is that if you are not comfortable talking about money, your potential clients are going to pick that up through your voice and body language and THEY will become uncomfortable talking to you about money… even if they are one of the lucky few who don’t generally have this issue.

What can you do about it if talking about money does not come easily to you?

    • First you can become very sure about the legitimacy of the pricing for your products.  If you really feel what you are charging is fair and provides you with a decent income, then it will be easier to talk about money. If you are continuously wobbling, being apologetic, and wavering about what you charge, talking about money will never be easy FOR YOUR CLIENTS.  And heaven knows you don’t want to put any obstacles in the way of your clients saying “yes.”
    • Secondly, you need to learn how to have a conversation professionally and confidently with your interested potential clients.
    • Thirdly, it can be very hard to identify and work with issues and feelings in your own “shadow.”  We all have blind spots when it comes to things we are afraid of.  Sometimes the easiest way to get over this issue is to get some help dealing with it.

Tomorrow I will talk about WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE PROPER SALES SKILLS if you are a beginning personal historian.

IN THE MEANTIME:  If you are looking for a business skills training for personal historians check out the description of the APH sponsored 6 month class, starting in March, on the APH Events and Classes webpage.

Every business has its own challenges.  
The Personal History Business is no exception.

The first and foremost “sad and unavoidable truth” about the Personal History business is that

Personal Histories are not “hot” consumer items. 

You don’t see people searching madly on Google for the best deals on a personal history.  In fact, as far as Google, the largest search engine in the world, is concerned, “personal  history” doesn’t really exist. In the 12 years I have been working with personal historians, Google has never put “personal history” into it’s list of  searchable keywords or adwords. As far as Google is concerned,No one” is looking for personal historians on the internet.

Of course, “no one” is a relative term.  The current population of the United States as of this minute when I am writing is 317,545, 522 (if you are from another country, plug in your populations statistics here: _______) .  I am taking a guess, based on my long time work with personal historians, that in any given year only a handful of those 317.5 million people come up with the idea on their own that they would like to find a personal historian to do a book, a set of audio interviews, or a video-documentary of their family’s stories and memories.

With the exception of personal historians who have done their due diligence and marketing … for years… and have a large portfolio of completed work and a long string of satisfied customers – ‘no one’ is looking for a specific personal historian or the personal history business in general.


  • It means if you don’t know how to do effective marketing, it would be a good idea if you learned!
  • It means if you have an aversion to marketing, it is good news that you can “change your mind” about that!
  • It means if you want to do the work you love – and you CAN and SHOULD be doing the work you love – you need to embrace the fact that you are in an industry where, mostly, your clients are not looking for you and you need to do the best you can to make it EASY for you to find your clients!

Tomorrow I will talk about the second major challenge: Personal Histories are not inexpensive. Talking about money to potential clients.

IN THE MEANTIME:  If you are looking for a business skills training for personal historians check out the description of the APH sponsored 6 month class, starting in March, on the APH Events and Classes webpage.

My client describes for me the torment of facing into her resistance about technology. “When I think about doing the updates I need to do on my website I just feel this dread in the pit of my stomach. I sit down at my computer and I just want to jump up and do anything else  first. If I MAKE myself stay in the chair, my brain starts to cloud over. It’s like I can’t even think.

Logically, I know what I have to do is not all that hard, I’ve done it before, but I simply don’t want to get started. It feels as if I am opening a Pandora’s box. If I do this, then I have to do that and I can’t do that until I do a third thing. I feel so overwhelmed.

The truth is, I’ve been procrastinating for the past 14 months. My website is now WAY out of date. I am ashamed when people actually go there and then contact me. They ask, ”That class you have on your website.. the one that is supposed to start in April. Is that LAST April or NEXT April? I really want to take that class – will you be offering it any time soon?”

So I put “update web pages” on my weekly To Do List AGAIN!  and promise to start working on it … next week.”

STEP # 1:

The worst thing about resistance is that we totally forget that we created ‘this response’ to ‘that situation’ all by by ourselves. There is nothing either inherent or genetic about our feelings of dread. The good news is that: If you created it – you can uncreate it – and you can create another response; one that is more helpful and more useful to your life.

The problem is that creating another response is easier said than done. Very few of us have ever had any training, at all, in “How to Change Our Own Minds.” (Wouldn’t THAT have been useful in High School.)

SO Step # ONE is embracing reality. This resistance you feel is a response you have created and it is NOT in any way permanently “who you are.”

STEP # 2:

The second step is to start increasing your tolerance to discomfort. Yes, you read that right. DIS-comfort. We create feelings of discomfort so that we can avoid specific situations. The response is a ghost from the past. At some point we had a bad experience and in order to give ourselves permission to avoid it – forever – in the future, we create feelings of discomfort, uneasiness, panic, anxiety, avoidance – in a word, “resistance”  – so we don’t have to face that situation again.

Unfortunately, most of these decisions about our future life got set in place at a very early age. That fear we didn’t overcome in 1st grade about being on stage and saying ONE line now keeps us from standing up comfortably, looking our audience or the other person in the eye and telling them what we do in our business. It is time to update our internal software!  No one “dies” by having a decent 30 Second Commercial.

By letting yourself just “be uncomfortable” and “staying put instead of fleeing” we often find out over time that the situations we dread are really NOT as awful as we think. By doing something different instead of trotting out our old trusty behavior pattern again and again, we are cutting new neurological pathways in our brain that will eventually strengthen and give us a new set of behavioral skills – ones that help us instead of hold us back.

But the key to allowing ourselves to experience something new is letting ourselves face the discomfort and not give in to it.

Step #3:

The third tip I have is to start by thinking what you would suggest to someone else experiencing the same problem. Why? Because we always know what the other person should do, right?  Let yourself create a step-by-step plan for getting someone else through that (often thin, even if terrifying) wall of resistance.  Then apply the advice to yourself.

“Okay,” you say to yourself, “I’ll do just 10 minutes a day this week and then evaluate if I can do more next week.”

“My main problem,” you might tell yourself, “is that I don’t really know HOW to do this and I’m such a perfectionist, I can’t STAND doing something I’m not good at. Who do I know who could teach me or give me sound advice? What consultant do I know who I could hire for one or a few sessions to work with this problem? Where on the internet could I go to find out what I need to know? Do I have a friend who is good at this and could give me a few tips?”

“All right,” you say, “I’ll set a timer. I WON’T get up until the timer goes off.” OR “I won’t stop until I’ve made five of those follow-up calls.” OR “I will reward myself at the end of the 10 minutes by having a cup of tea out on the porch.”

Use the same structure and reward systems you would offer to someone else. And then follow your own advice!  Get an accountability person if you need to. Do anything that works!  – just get some experience knocking a hole in that wall of resistance and slipping through to the other side.

Remember!!!!  You CAN change your own mind. About lots of things! You may find that overcoming this ONE area of resistance opens up a whole new world of possibilities, opportunities, and enjoyment!

It happened for my client! We started small in working together. She did 5 minutes a day and emailed me every day for two weeks to let me know she had done her five minutes. Near the end of the 14 days she was voluntarily spending more time, because she got interested and involved and when the timer went off she didn’t want to stop. She completed the update far more quickly than she thought she would and was so thrilled about having an updated website that she told everyone to go look.  As a result (What do you suppose happened?  I bet you already guessed!)  she started getting new clients. Simple as 5 minutes a day for two weeks.

What business activities are you resistant to?
Can I be of help?

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