Tips for Success for the Solopreneur
Solopreneurs find personal and financial success by creating their own work and making their own rules. It may be a scary thing at first. After all, how do you create work for yourself? Well, it takes time and dedication. If you are thinking about becoming your own boss, you can sure use some help. In this ‘success for the solopreneur’ blog post, I explain the difference between solopreneur, entrepreneur, freelancer and self-employed. Then, I give you six tricks to get clients to take you seriously, twenty-three tips for succeeding as a solopreneur and six solopreneur branding mistakes to avoid.
The difference between solopreneur, self-employed and freelancer
Solopreneur, freelancer and self-employed are all terms that seem to indicate the same: a person working alone without a boss. Is there a difference? Tom Ewer and two dictionaries explain the terms. Before you read about success for the solopreneur, you need to understand these differences.
Self-employed in Merriam Webster:
Earning income directly from one’s own business, trade, or profession rather than as a specified salary or wages from an employer.
Legally speaking, when you are self-employed, your clients have a say in the results of your services/products, but not in how you work/produce. In other words, you are your own boss. Unfortunately, the “self-employed” label is often looked upon as a euphemism for unemployed.
Freelancer in Merriam Webster:
A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization. A person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.
Freelancer is the most well-known (and oldest) label for independent workers of these terms. Freelancers typically work from home, for more than one client at a time, and have a flexible self-enforced work schedule. However, there is a disheartening misconception in some circles that freelancers work for free and there are negative connotations, such as being an amateur. Ouch.
Solopreneur in Urban Dictionary:
An entrepreneur who works alone, “solo,” running their business single-handedly. They might have contractors for hire, yet have full responsibility for the running of their business.
Either these individuals are entrepreneurs in the traditional sense — creating something from nothing— or they use the label as a way to stand out from the crowd. Solopreneurs have an entrepreneurial spirit in spades and it seems to be working in their favor. Since it is a fairly new term, old-school clients may look down on you when you introduce yourself as a solopreneur.
Success for the solopreneur: 6 tricks to get clients to take you seriously
No matter which label you prefer, freelancers, solopreneurs, and the self-employed are all hard-working individuals. How you choose to present yourself to your clients, how you handle yourself in the face of rejection, whether you choose to break through the negative stereotypes or succumb to them all comes down to you. How your potential clients perceive you, whether or not they take you seriously, is entirely up to you. Tom Ewer gives you tips to help you:
Commit to it.
No matter what you decide to call yourself — say it with confidence! It is all about attitude.
Call yourself by your other title.
The one that describes what you do, rather than how you are employed.
Know your target market.
What you call yourself does not matter nearly as much as what your clients call you. What are they looking for? If you are not sure, the easiest way to find out is to ask. When a new client comes to you, ask them how they found you.
Do not get defensive.
If someone questions your employment status, do not freak out. Stay calm and explain what it is you do and — even better! — how it benefits them.
Once you decide what you want to be called, stick with it. Do not use all titles. Rather than covering all your bases, you will just end up confusing people.
Take it seriously.
You are a business now. Act like it. If you take yourself seriously, your potential clients will too.
Success for the solopreneur: 23 tips
Amp up your personal branding.
Many people will tell you to use your name for all your online efforts. There is nothing wrong with that, but your primary website URL, Twitter profile, and Facebook page should brand what you do. When people think of you, they should think of your product/service; that is how you get work.
Start a blog.
When you write about your industry or any area that you know well, people will quickly think of you as the expert that you are. You get to show that you know your stuff without being salesy. Become that go-to person and people will listen.
Although we tweet and send status updates through a variety of social platforms, email is still the leading tool for written communication. Do not overlook the potential that lies within creating an effective email signature. Do not just put your name; tell people how you can help or what you can do.
Read, watch, and listen.
Never underestimate the power of knowledge. Whether you choose to read books or blogs, listen to podcasts, or watch video tutorials, learning new skills makes you more marketable. Then you can charge people for your newfound knowledge. See how that works?
Attend local events and major conferences.
Meeting other business people in person is essential for success. Many might have needs that you can fill or know people you should meet.
Go beyond your comfort zone.
Being comfortable is nice, but it never yields change. With change comes growth.
Have a plan and vision.
We tend to get caught up trying to keep up. Schedule a day away from the office to create a map for your business. What is your plan? How will your business grow? How can you plan for that growth? Do you have ideas for passive revenue? Will you add products or services? Understand where you are headed and you will get there much more effectively.
Do not go solo all the way.
Doing it alone limits your growth potential. Spending the majority of your time bringing in new business and building relationships will help you grow. If you provide a service that depends on you, think about product sales, hiring other service providers on a freelance basis, and perhaps joining a network marketing business that fits into your vision and that you feel passionate about. Outsource tasks like building a website and bookkeeping. This will allow you more time to network and build your business.
Play by your rules.
Plans need to be flexible; new opportunities and ideas may arise and things can change. Nevertheless, when you build your vision and the steps to get there, you can remind yourself of the long-term goal before charting a new direction.
Do not compare.
The truth is everyone puts on their best face when they are in public but we have no idea what their world truly looks like. It is good to keep an eye on the competition but do it for positive reasons and strategic planning purposes. Focus on you, your plan, and your desires. They are the only things that count. Compare your progress to your plan and nothing else.
Celebrate your successes as they come.
So many business owners minimize their success because they measure it only in terms of money. This lack of recognition can cause a ripple effect of demotivating thoughts and behaviors. As you meet your strategic milestones and tackle difficult hurdles, celebrate them!
Decide on a specific market niche for your products/services.
Understanding the need you fulfill with your services and how to best exploit that need is crucial for your long-term business success.
Run the business on a tight and lean budget.
It is tempting to go out and buy lots of new office equipment and supplies when you start a business, but the reality is that you do not need a lot of it in the beginning and may never need some of it.
Carve out space exclusively for the business.
If you can run your business from your home, you must have a dedicated space for it. Setting up an office helps keep household and business separate in terms of time and use, expenses, and sometimes even taxes.
Make sure you have financial resources.
Unless you start the business while still employed, it will take some time to build a client base and revenue stream. Ideally, start with several months of savings to help bridge the gap until your business is up and running.
Polish your sales and selling skills.
One of the most critical elements of running a successful small business is possessing personal-selling skills. If you do not have them and do not want them, you need either to hire a salesperson or consider a different line of work. Pitching clients and making sales presentations are important to building your client base and your brand.
Choose clients carefully.
You might be tempted to accept any clients, especially in times when the business is struggling. In the end, it is best to work only with clients who respect and value your work, not only paying you what your time is worth, but also valuing the work you do for them.
Establish and cultivate your brand.
Your brand is your reputation and your goal must be to develop it carefully. Launch your brand with a consistent message across all media, including your own website or blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other outlets.
Never stop prospecting and finding new potential clients.
Even if you are lucky enough to have a stable base of clients who keep you as busy as you want to be, it is important to spend at least part of your time prospecting for potential new clients.
Expand and build your network into a “community of colleagues.”
Surrounding yourself with positive people (solopreneurs and professionals) will provide you with a critical network of knowledge, support, and community. Finding a mentor within your network will help you grow professionally and personally.
Focus on boundaries and balance between work and personal life.
Freelancers say one of the hardest of all tasks is maintaining a separation of personal life and work life. The work should not consume you, but instead, offer you the freedom to do more in your personal life.
Gain knowledge of time management, organizational management, project management, and multitasking skills to meet deadlines.
When you are lucky enough to have multiple clients with multiple demands and deadlines, your organizational skills (or lack thereof) will make or break your business success.
Polish and enhance your communications and writing skills.
No matter how strong the demand for your services, if you cannot clearly communicate your brand message, sales pitch, or professional services, you will not be as successful as you hope — and may even fail.
Success for the solopreneur: 6 branding mistakes to avoid
Here are some things Guy Kawasaki says you should not do.
Diluting your brand.
Just because you own multiple businesses or domain names, it does not mean you should put them all on your business card or in your email signature. It creates more questions than answers: “Why should I care about these other things?” “How can this person do a good job for me if he/she has these other gigs?” This is not the place to advertise how busy you are with your other ventures.
Overusing pictures of yourself.
Does your homepage contain a picture of you? Go to the homepages of all the best brands: do you see any pictures of the CEO or founder? Use the About page if you insist on a picture.
Spending an inordinate amount of time and money on your logo.
A recognizable logo is more an outcome of success rather than the cause of the success. Many top companies use logos that are not much more than stylized text, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just get a decent logo and focus on your business. If your business is successful, people will think your logo is brilliant, or you can fix it when you have the time and money.
Using a weak email address.
An email account with your company’s domain name is better for two reasons: first, it shows that you are serious about the company; second, it shows that you are not clueless. Gmail is a tricky case. It does not make you look clueless, but it does beg the question: “Is this person serious about the business or just doing this on the side?” Get a real email address and remember: any little faux pas like this can affect the perception of your brand.
Confusing your look and feel.
Details such as look and feel, font type, and color should be consistent on your website and marketing materials. Pick a scheme (font, color, overall style) and stick with it. It is one less thing to think about, and it will make your business look more stable and solid.
Keep your branding messages short and sweet. Websites or emails with hundreds or thousands of words will not be read in today’s world of 140 characters and ten-second sound bites. If you cannot communicate what you do within these parameters, maybe you are not doing the right things.
What can I do for you regarding succeeding as a solopreneur?
Being a solopreneur myself, I can always try to answer any questions you have. However, my expertise is translations. If your marketing material is in a language your audience does not understand, it raises an unnecessary barrier. Translations help you expand your reach and strengthen your brand (or not, see this blog, yikes). I am the owner of Dutch translation agency BudgetVertalingOnline, which offers affordable translations English <> Dutch. Hence, I can help you if you want to reach a bigger audience. Want to get in touch? Send me an email (email@example.com), send me a Tweet (@GdenHolder) or fill out the quotation form.
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