The Exceptions to The Rules: Part 2!

ColorOutsideTheLinesColor Outside the Lines by JM Design

I wrote The Exceptions to The Rules back in December, and have been keeping the idea of a follow-up to it in my back pocket since then. It sparked lots of comments & conversation as well as kudos & thanks, so I can’t stop myself from busting more Rules & finding even more Exceptions!

The Rule: “You have to be an expert before you can offer up your services!”

The Exception: I have a feeling I can point to anyone here (including myself!), but I wanna point ya to Halley Gray. She doesn’t have a marketing degree and never had her own full-time biz, but yet her sweet spot is absolutely working with creative entrepreneurs on their marketing strategy (seriously, she’s super smart & passionate ’bout it). Did she say she had to get a master’s or write a book or work in PR or get 10,000 followers before she put an offering on the table? No. Instead, she reached out to her peeps & offered them a package where she gives the once-over to their site/shop/online homes & sends ’em actionable items to implement right away that’ll fill the gaps in reaching their ideal clients/customers. About a year later, that’s translated to a $1200 offering with just 1 spot left before October!

How to adapt: OK, there’s absolutely a line here. Sure, it’s pretty difficult to work with someone on, say, writing copy if you have NO IDEA where you’d start, what it’d look like, and what you can be sure of delivering to them. So, spend some time (but not too much!) mapping out what your process would be for that offer (i.e. ask if they’re interested via email -> book consultation upon confirmation -> set deadline(s) -> check in weekly -> deliver copy by July 1 -> ask for testimonial) and make sure you tell them upfront that they’d be your guinea pig. That way, you’re able to confidently Take Charge while giving yourself permission to be a bit messy. And if you’re having trouble figuring out how to shape that offer, hone in on what’d be Fun and Easy for you + whatever Phase One is (aka the quickest way for you to get your stuff out to the world). This can also help, because everything worth doing takes time!

The Rule: “You won’t succeed unless you offer something radically different than everyone else!”

The Exception: Me! I couldn’t resist this one because I’ve been conducting this experiment a lot lately. Humor me and click on this link to go to a Google search for “creative career coach.” Now, open all the non-video links on the first page or two into new Tabs & take a look at all of us. We all have the same title, but aren’t there differences between us? Who does it seem our target audiences are? What’s our site design + copy trying to express? What are the similarities and the differences in our offerings? Conduct this experiment and then tell me that we should all call ourselves something else and/or there’s not room for all of us and the work we do. (This is obviously hypothetical ‘cause I know you can’t/won’t. We CAN all share this title and there IS totally room for all of us!)

How to adapt: As Twyla Tharp says in The Creative Habit, “Honey, it’s all been done before. Get over yourself.” It’s called “ballet” or “impressionism” or “folk music” because everyone knows what that means. Take the pressure off that you have to be the one to create “farfeling” or The Schmoover Dance. (Although I encourage you to tell me what those are in the comments!)

The Rule: “You can’t be a successful entrepreneur AND an introvert!”

The Exception: Beth Buelow is the easy choice here, because she created a business around this! The Introvert Entrepreneur focuses on what it means to be an “innie” in an “outtie” world. Her results speak for themselves. Can we say 16,000+ Facebook fans plus a thriving coaching, speaking and writing biz?

How to adapt: Uh, this probably seems obvious, but dig in to Beth’s stuff from the links above! This and this also offer great tips. Remember, the most outgoing does not always win! What does win is being authentically yourself, as cliche as it sounds.

The Rule: “You can never change your business/name/offerings once you’ve been established.”

The ExceptionJessica Lively. I remember getting Jess’ announcement that she was closing her jewelry shop back in December and being so super excited for her (if not a bit shocked!). You can tell that she was so passionate about her blog, Makeunder My Life, and the Life With Intention platform that it created for her. But walking away from a successful business that you started at the age of 15 & have worked full-time on for 5 years is no joke. It’s been amazeballs to witness her transition & see all her recent success in being someone who “help(s) people refine (or define) their purpose and determine the next steps to make their vision a reality”, whether it’s in their lives, their homes, or their businesses.

How to adapt: If you know what you’re working on now isn’t your Forever Career, make some Baby Steps every week towards what your Forever Career might be – start a new series on your blog around your passion, join a Meetup group to meet people who love what you love, start telling your audience about your upcoming transition, etc. I have a hunch Jess would say that attaching her initial blog, Makeunder Your Life,  attracted the people who now look to her as an expert in designing lives With Intention. That makes the announcement/transition easier for your people and lets you keep the majority of the audience you’ve spent so long engaging with.

Did I miss any other rules? Any exceptions? I’d be happy to make a Part 3 if there are more Rules to break and/or more RuleBreakers to spotlight. Let me know in the comments!

Tiffany Doten



  1. says

    Ahhh Michelle…..doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read info like this, it still takes time to sink in to my bones, and every time I read it I get the “Helz Yeah” feeling…then I close the page, get on with life, and forget…This is going straight to Evernote!!! in the ‘read every day’ notebook.
    Thanks as always for your inspiration.

  2. says

    Thank you Michelle, you articles are alway true, passionate and honest… this one goes directly in the “Inspiration for days when I feel that I have no chance in hell to make an abundant living off my biz”

  3. says

    Thank you so much for sharing my story, hun! These exceptions are so great to hear and I love your awesome adaptations of them for people as well!

    And yes, especially when you change your business name to your actual name, the business transition is quite easy. The offerings part? The blog really did help there, and was already providing the clients needed to go full-time in that direction (thankfully). But it can be done even without this pre-work, if launched well!

    • michelle says

      Thank you, Miss Jess, for chiming in! You made the transition so smartly & flawlessly…it was like it was your plan all along! But yes, agree that even if it’s not a gradual work-up it can still absolutely work.

  4. says

    I don’t think I’ve got all that many rules running me but then I read this and … holy wackanetta Batman, I do. Daaamn. Time to do some rule busting. (yay)

    • michelle says

      Ooh, any others that ya thought of that I might’ve missed, Deb? I’ve already got Part 3 simmering…

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