As a small business owner, are you motivated or desperate? Imagine if Anne of Green Gables was discussing her business strategy with Marilla:

Anne Shirley: Can’t you even imagine you’re in the depths of despair?
Marilla Cuthbert: No I cannot. To despair is to turn your back on God.  Anne of Green Gables

Last week I shared a very personal story about being taken for three thousand dollars by an internet scammer. Prior to that post, only the police and one other person knew about the incident. Once my story was out, others shared their own personal stories of being duped. What I noticed was at the root of it all, we were feeling desperate when it happened. Desperate for love, for success, or for attention in one form or another.

While there are a lot of heroic stories of people turning their life around when they were down to their last dollar or worse, I think too many of us (especially solopreneurs) confuse desperation with motivation.

During the time of my “duping” I was knee-deep in a high-level millionaire mastermind, focusing every day on pushing myself to get business. One of the key phrases the leader repeated was, “Say yes, then figure it out.” Not only was this program way above my head for where I was in business, it was several steps beyond my comfort level. Regardless, I was convinced that this blind ambition would turn my life around. I stopped considering that some discernment (and a little home-grown common sense) would be in order. After all, this was a millionaire who was dispensing this advice – it must be true!

While we think our desperation is a deep, dark secret masked by extra hard work, packed schedules, and an endless stream of sales pitches, Dan Kennedy, the marketing guru extraordinaire, says prospects and customers can smell desperation. We are a little too eager, too pushy, too willing to give away our value. The result? We lose that opportunity to someone else who appears confident rather than desperate, or worse, they take advantage of us to their benefit.

How does desperation look to you? Did you discount your price as soon as you encountered resistance? Did you offer to work for free until they decided they liked your service? Did you take on a project that drained you mentally, physically and emotionally just because you needed the money?

Hey, if you did, you’ll get no criticism from me. We all have situations in life where things look beyond bleak. We must do something; make a move, take a chance, make that leap. Sometimes it surprises us and is a success. Other times it appears to be the worst move we ever made.

There are several ways to recover from this. For me, the first step is to slow down. I often have people ask me right away what it would cost to write a book or rewrite their website copy. I tell them it takes time to prepare a fair and accurate proposal rather than an off-the-cuff price. If they push, they are in a hurry and maybe even have that air of desperation, I know it’s probably not a good fit for either of us.

Second, I remind myself of the times I did respond while feeling desperate. How it felt, how the “push” didn’t ring true. If I have to hold my breath and grit my teeth while saying yes, then it’s not in alignment with my values or my overall business. This doesn’t mean I won’t take on challenging projects, it just means I view everything through lens of experience to cull the challenges from the train wrecks.

By all means be motivated in everything you do; your business, your family’s well-being, your walk of faith. But don’t be desperate. Take the time to investigate, ask for wise counsel and listen carefully before saying yes and figuring it out.


Susan M Sparks offers copywriting, publishing services and coaching for aspiring authors. She is the author of four books and ghostwriter for many entrepreneurial non-fiction titles. She can be reached at