Is Fear Putting The Freeze On Your Small Business Dreams?

One of the biggest hurdles to accomplishing anything is gaining the confidence to get started. That’s certainly true for launchingMarie-Curie-Quote-Green-background-black-text your own business.

I was ‘fortunate’ when I started out as a freelance writer seven years ago. The corporation I had worked for (for 17 years) was acquired and my position was eliminated, therefore forcing me to buck up and make a change. What started out as a career upset has led me to this fulfilling career that offers flexibility and an opportunity to shape my own professional destiny.

But had I not needed to make a change, I honestly don’t know that I would have taken the leap. The prospect of self-employment was scary to me. Having been a SCORE mentor several years ago, I’ve talked to other aspiring entrepreneurs who have found it scary, too. So scary, in fact, that they failed to launch. They gave in and gave up before they got going.

Is fear standing in your way of starting your own business?

  • Fear of being laughed at
  • Fear of not knowing enough
  • Fear of not being good enough
  • Fear of wasting your time
  • Fear of other people’s criticism
  • Fear of not making enough money
  • Fear of hard work
  • Fear of letting other people down
  • Fear of letting yourself down

These fears aren’t to be downplayed as insignificant or silly, but they are to be overcome.

How can you do that?

  1. Assess your skills realistically, not through the lens of self-criticism.
  2. Do your homework to find out what’s involved.
  3. Prepare by making a plan.
  4. Start.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” ~ Marie Curie

 

Your turn! What fears are you facing in your business pursuits? What fears have you overcome and how have you done that?

Six Ways Running A Small Business Is Like Raising A Rescue Pit Bull

I started my freelance writing business in 2010. My family and I adopted an adolescent pit bull mix from a rescue organizationYoung black and white pit bull with family on adoption day in late 2015.

 

Although the two endeavors may seem unrelated, I’ve discovered many parallels exist between being a “mom” to our pittie, Lulu, and running my business. Both have brought their fair share of challenges and triumphs. And in many ways, they’ve required a similar mindset and methodology to move things in a positive, productive direction.

 

What launching/running a small business and raising a rescue pit bull have in common:

 

  • You need patience.

Building a successful business doesn’t happen overnight, and there are often setbacks along the way. Similarly, gaining the trust and respect of a rescue pup may require an extended time frame. When I transitioned from a corporate job to starting my own business, it took a couple of years before I went from “feast or famine” mode to having a consistently full plate of work from clients. After adopting Lulu one year ago (she had two homes and was in residence at a rescue twice prior to coming to us), we’re still working on some trust and behavioral issues. Patience isn’t optional when raising a dog that has been through disruption and disappointment—nor is it optional when building a business.

 

  • You can’t get lazy.

Starting and running a business requires your energy and attention nearly all of the time. Likewise, pit bulls are of a breed that typically needs A LOT of exercise and mental stimulation. You need to stay motivated and put forth constant effort to make things work. Lulu needs miles of brisk walks each day, bouts of play when she can go “all out” to expend pent-up energy, and training exercises to stimulate her brain. Without those things, she becomes mischievous and less obedient, akin to a naughty toddler.

 

Similarly, your business will retaliate if you ignore its basic needs. Unless you tend to every aspect of running your company, you’ll eventually lose control.

 

  • Bad behavior, if not corrected, could come back to bite you.

I don’t mean that literally. Pit bulls get a bad rap even though they ranked 4th among 122 different canine breeds in temperament testing by the American Temperament Test Society, Inc. But I digress.

 

With Lulu, I’ve learned that consistently reinforcing good behavior and discouraging what isn’t desirable has helped her gain more self-control and confidence in stressful or overstimulating situations. Mixed messages don’t work when training rescue dogs—and they don’t work in business either. If you pick up bad habits and don’t make the effort to follow through on what you begin, you’ll either miss—or screw up—opportunities. Exercising self-discipline and setting ground rules are the keys to accomplishing your goals.

 

  • You might bite off more than you can chew if you don’t do some research first.

Although I’ve always had dogs as part of my family, Lulu is my first pit bull. Because her breed is so widely misunderstood, adopting her brought with it a higher level of responsibility than if we had rescued a different type of dog. Thankfully, we took some time to educate ourselves about pit bulls before jumping in and bringing her home. Oh, we still met some surprises and challenges, but having a foundation of knowledge and understanding has definitely helped us.

Similarly, if you don’t prepare yourself with some self-education before starting and running a business, you could find yourself overwhelmed. With legal, accounting, marketing, sales, and every other responsibility to manage, you need take stock of what you know, what you don’t know, and what resources you’ll need to cover all the bases.

 

  • There’s no one-size-fits-all system for success.

Some training techniques that have worked for other pit bull owners have not worked for us. Some popular approaches to thwarting undesirable behavior either excite Lulu, putting her into crazy overstimulation mode, or they have no effect at all. We’ve had to go through a long process of trial and error.

 

Running a business successfully also requires experimentation. What has worked for other business owners won’t necessarily be the right M.O. for you. While it’s to your advantage to be open to advice from others, consider that your situation isn’t the same as theirs.

 

I’ve also discovered that to some degree I need to adjust my working style to accommodate individual clients’ needs and preferences. Although I have some standard rules of engagement that I’m not willing to comprise, I’ve found it’s extremely beneficial to exercise some flexibility. For example, with some clients I collaborate and exchange information predominantly via email, attaching content via Word documents. With others, I share content via Google Drive. And then others prefer using Trello. The point is, you’ll likely find your clients will have their own way of doing things, and you’ll add value and gain loyalty by accommodating them. Before you agree, however, make sure their approach will work efficiently for you and won’t add unreasonable amounts of time or cost.

 

  • It’s well worth the hard work.

There’s satisfaction in seeing positive results after you’ve put mind, body, and soul into an endeavor. This is true when your business is thriving and when raising a rescue dog who becomes well adjusted in your care.

 

When I think about how I went from “zero” customers and feeling as though I had to grab whatever work I could find to now having loyal, quality clients who often max-out project schedule, I’m thankful and fulfilled.

 

As for Lulu, I feel pride and a sense of great accomplishment at how far she has come in so many ways since we brought her home a little over a year ago.

 

Assuming the “Leader Of The Pack” Role

Whether you’re running a business or raising a pit bull, to make it work you must pledge your commitment to putting forth the effort and not shying away from the challenge. You’ll have good days when the world is all belly rubs and off-leash romps. You’ll have crappy days that feel like long, long walks on a short leash.

As the pack leader, it’s on you to make the most of opportunities and overcome obstacles.

 

Your turn: If you’re a entrepreneur and pit bull (or other breed) dog mom/dad, what parallels have you drawn between running your business and raising your rescue dog?

And for those of you just considering making a pet a part of your family, remember to “adopt don’t shop”!

7 Business-Savvy Irish Sayings

St. Patrick’s Day. What’s not to love about shamrocks, leprechauns, and having a justifiable reason to add a pinch of Jameson’s and a dollop of whipped cream Cloveratop your coffee?

And then there’s that rainbow to lead you straight to a pot of gold.

Sigh. If only it would be that easy.

If you’re in business for yourself, you know it demands a good bit more than the luck of the Irish to stay in business.

According to the Small Business Administration, approximately half of all new businesses survive five years or more—and some other sources report that as many as 80 percent of all new businesses fail.

The key point to home in on is survival as a small business eludes many. Those that don’t continue past their five-year anniversary don’t close their doors because they made SO much money they could take an early retirement to live a life of luxury. It’s because starting and sustaining a business is hard. Really hard. Not everyone can make a living at it.

It takes continual energy, learning, and listening (and heeding) wise advice along the way.

Sometimes the best wisdom comes in a simple phrase. So, because it’s St. Patty’s Day, I thought it appropriate to share some Irish sayings solopreneurs and small business owners might find insight and inspiration from.

Irish Words Of Wisdom To Remember

  1. It takes time to build castles.
  2. If you come up in this world be sure not to go down in the next.
  3. A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.
  4. May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, and never catch up.
  5. Better be sparing at first than at last.
  6. You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
  7. If you do not sow in the spring, you will not reap in the autumn.

So simple. So sensible. Keep these in mind today and throughout your small business journey; you just might find yourself closer to that pot of gold.

By Dawn Mentzer

Sources:

Top 50 Irish Sayings & Proverbs, AskMen.com

Irish Proverbs With English Translations, IslandIreland.com

3 Facts About Self-Employment Your Friends And Family Probably Won’t Believe

When a national corporation bought the regional telecommunications company where I worked for 17 years, my position was among the nearly 60 percent of Realitythose company-wide that were eliminated. Rather than look for a job at another company, I decided to go the self-employed route.

I was excited, motivated, and yes, a little frightened. Some friends and family members were supportive. Some didn’t quite get it.

Sound familiar?

Now that I’ve been making a successful go of it for the past five years, pretty much everyone in my life has grown comfortable with my present career path. But it has required ongoing effort to help people closest to me understand what I do—and why I do it.

Here are some of the truths about your self-employed status that the people in your life might not understand or accept when you’re first getting started:

 

Working From Home Isn’t Unemployment.

For serious solopreneurs, self-employment isn’t a way to kill time until they find a “real job.” While some people might do it because they don’t believe they have other options, many choose the path for the flexibility, autonomy, and income potential. According to The Solopreneur Life’s annual survey in 2014, 82.8 percent of respondents said they have at least a bachelor’s degree; 38.5 percent attained master’s degrees; and 4.3 percent are PhDs. Most solopreneurs are well-educated and most likely could find a job working for an organization if they’d really want to.

You’re Running A Business Even Though You Don’t Have Employees.

Although you don’t have multiple departments or a payroll to manage, you’re operating a bona fide small business. You’re the person responsible for your accounting, marketing, sales, administrative duties, and more. And you pay taxes (a lofty amount!) on your business’s net income. In many respects, you have more responsibility and accountability as a self-employed person than you would have working for someone else.

Your Time On Social Media Has A Purpose.

You MUST spend time—a good bit of time—on social media networks to build your business. People I know have made comments to me to the effect of, “It must be nice to play on social media whenever you want,” or “Are you always on social media?” Besides my personal Facebook page (which I don’t really spend all that much time on), my presence on other online channels is part of my marketing strategy. People who only use social media for personal purposes have a hard time wrapping their heads around the frequency and consistency required to use it successfully in a professional context. Don’t feel guilty about using social media! But do stay focused on delivering quality content to your followers, concentrate on building professional relationships, and don’t get sidetracked by watching too many cute kitty cat videos.

Realize Your Efforts To Bust The Myths May Not Be Easy—Or Successful.

As you demonstrate your self-discipline and your ability to make a living wage in your business, you’ll likely gain the support of most of the skeptics in your life. But prepare to see some relationships drift away. Your interests—and your circle of friends—will change to some degree when you’re in business for yourself.

Self-employment is an adventure in professional and personal evolution.

Do your best to help people understand that, but realize not everyone will come to terms with it or stick with you for the entire journey.

Thanks for reading! You probably know this already, but you can subscribe to my blog via RSS or email so you’re notified about new posts. And don’t forget to connect with me on social media. I’d love to meet up with  you there, too!

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What To Expect When Going From Corporate Employee To Self-Employed Solopreneur

A friend recently asked me to meet up over lunch to talk about his thoughts of making a career change. Not happy with the degree of autonomy or flexibility he Question mark under corporate business suithas in his corporate management position, he said he thinks the route to go is self-employment. He wanted to know more about how and why I took that path. And he asked for any insight and advice I could offer to give him a better idea about what to expect from becoming a free agent.

An hour over lunch really doesn’t provide enough time to really get into the nitty gritty of going from corporate employee to self-employed professional. It’s a decision not to take lightly. And since talking with my friend, I’ve felt impelled to write about some of the considerations potential solopreneurs should keep in mind as they explore the feasibility of making that significant transformation.

In my situation, the regional company I worked for (for 17 years) was purchased by a national organization. My position and many others (about 60% of the total workforce in our area) were eliminated. Thankfully, the company gave us plenty of advance notice. I had nearly six months to explore my options and figure out what I wanted to do during the next phase of my career. Even though my hand was forced to make a transition, I was fortunate to have time to assess my situation and determine if self-employment was a good bet for my family.

If you’re gainfully employed and considering leaving your present job behind to pursue starting your own business, you’ve got the advantage of time, too. Don’t act in haste by jumping in before you’ve thought it through and considered how the change will affect you and your loved ones.

With the flexibility of becoming your own boss come challenges.

The things you need to prepare for when going from corporate to self-employed include:

Unpredictable Income

It takes time to build a network of connections and a client base. When you’re starting out, you’ll likely experience cycles of feast and famine revenue. That can make it difficult to keep up with expenses both professionally and personally. I know several small business owners who haven’t taken a paycheck for themselves after being in business for several years, BUT they have spouses who work and can cover their personal financial obligations. I was fortunate to be able to jump right into freelancing because my husband had a good job, and we knew we could make ends meet until things ramped up for me. Even then, it took some adapting. Having been the one who always brought home the larger paycheck, I felt guilty about not pulling my weight financially as much as before.

Moral of the story: Expect to make less than you did in your corporate position and assess your income needs before you decide to ditch the day job. Don’t make a hasty decision that lands you in the poor house.

Cutting Back On Life’s Luxuries

Get ready to make some personal sacrifices when you enter the realm of self-employment. If you’re accustomed to starting each day with a Starbucks caramel latte, going out for expensive dinners each week, and spending money with abandon on leisure and entertainment, prepare to alter your lifestyle a bit. As I mentioned earlier, your pay scale as a solopreneur probably won’t match what you earned before. That means you’ll need to get more selective about which “non-essentials” you’ll spend your hard-earned money on.

Adjusting To Working From Home

When you work from a home office, you face a whole new set of distractions that threaten your productivity. Some people are able to tune out all the personal to-dos (cleaning, laundry, home repairs, a drive to the grocery store to restock the fridge, TV, etc.) and others aren’t. It helps to have a dedicated office space within your home so personal obligations won’t be in your face and lure you from staying on task. I rarely work from anywhere other than the spare bedroom we’ve converted to my office.

Another thing to keep in mind: you’ll work alone a lot. Even if your new career path involves consulting or coaching, you’ll spend a lot of time by yourself. Lack of social interaction can leave solopreneurs feeling isolated. You can get past that by seeking networking and professional development opportunities that take you out of your home office. But be careful not to overbook your schedule with those types of engagements; you might find yourself without enough time to get your work done.

Developing A Heightened Level of Discipline and Determination

Working independently requires self-motivation and project management skills. Without someone to lay out your work for you, you are fully responsible for planning your efforts so you can meet deadlines. Your organizational skills—or lack thereof—will largely affect your ability to succeed as a self-employed professional.

Working hard. Really hard.

I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re serious about making self-employment lucrative for you and your family, you will eat, drink, sleep, and breathe your business. Solopreneurs typically handle all aspects of their businesses—especially when they start out. You’ll be your all-in-one Sales, Marketing, Accounting, Operations, and Customer Service department. One of the biggest challenges will be “clocking out” as a solopreneur and giving yourself the much needed breaks you’ll need so you don’t suffer from burnout.

Health Insurance – What Now?

Health insurance is a biggie, especially if your spouse and children are covered under your policy at work. If you leave your job, you leave your medical insurance behind as well. Review your options before you cut the cord. If your spouse works, can you get coverage through his/her workplace? If not, can you afford the premiums and deductibles of policies from other insurers?

Life Insurance – Giving Up Peace of Mind?

If your life insurance coverage is through a group policy via your company, you’ll relinquish that peace of mind as well when stepping out on your own. Do your homework before leaving your job, and consider talking with a financial planner about your options.

Paying Your Taxes

Without your employer taking money out of your weekly or biweekly paychecks to cover your federal, state, and local taxes, you’ll need to estimate your revenue and expenses and make tax payments quarterly based on your estimated net income. And note that as an employee working for someone else, your employer pays half of your Social Security and Medicare tax. As a self-employed person, you’re obligated to pay the entire 15.3%. “Ick,” I know. I don’t know any solopreneurs who enjoy this part of self-employment, but it goes with the territory.

Putting Yourself Out There – Social Media Is A MUST

If you don’t actively use social media as a tool for building professional connections, you’ll put yourself at a severe disadvantage. You’ll still need to work on nurturing relationships face to face, but online networking platforms amplify and extend your ability to stay top of mind. Don’t wait until you’ve left your day job to start working on your online presence. Although you might not be in a position to promote yourself yet, you can start following leaders in your industry and connecting with people/businesses in your target market. You can also begin demonstrating your interest and expertise in your field by sharing relevant content and providing thoughtful commentary on it. Do it now rather than later.

Not Everyone Will Support Your Decision

Sadly, not all of your family and friends will understand or encourage you when you start your own business. You’ll meet skepticism and even animosity from some people. As a solopreneur, you’ll need a thick skin.

And Last, But Certainly Not Least, Expect To Doubt Yourself From Time To Time

Self-employment has its ups and its downs. You’ll have moments when you feel fully confident in your decision to go out on your own and others when you wonder, “What the #@*% was I thinking?”

That’s normal.

When you experience self-doubt, stay focused on moving forward by accomplishing something—no matter how small—to reinstate your momentum and self-confidence. The path to success as a solopreneur has some jagged twists and turns. Stay flexible and resilient as you make your journey.

My final words of advice for you—and anyone you know who is thinking about going from corporate employee to self-employed—is: Talk to others who have made the change! You can only benefit from hearing about their first-hand experience—the good, the bad, and the ugly. And consider using a resource like SCORE, where you can get free mentoring and guidance as you start and build your solo business.

Again, the move to self-employment should not be taken lightly. It’s a rewarding career path, but it’s not right for everyone. And even if it is right for you, it may not be the right time. Think about it carefully, assess your situation, and make an informed decision before you jump in.

If you’ve gone from corporate to solo pro, what would you add to my list? Know anyone who’s considering making the same change? Please share this post with them!

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Watch Out For Foul Balls

You never know when the unexpected will happen. This past weekend, my husband and I joined a client and his staff at a nearby baseball stadium to see a Baseball gamelocal Atlantic League team play. Getting out to enjoy the all-American pastime and spend some leisure time with my client created an ideal start to the Labor Day weekend. Hot dogs, screaming “Charge” at the top of our lungs, and the mascot’s antics. All fun stuff. Then…

In the fourth inning, a player hit a foul ball (a line drive) straight into a woman’s head just one row behind and seven seats to the right of where we were seated.

It came fast. It came without time to react or shout a warning. It was one of those freak accidents that happens only when you’re in the right place at the wrong time.

We were all shaken up. We feared for her well-being. We realized that could have been one of us.

Risk is present every day.

In everything we do, everywhere we go, some element of risk goes with us. I don’t say that to cause panic or paranoia. Generally, the odds are in our favor. But as my experience at the ball field illustrates, s*%t happens.

Running your own business brings risks, too.

A few risks all solopreneurs face include:

  • The feast or famine cycle (periods of too much work all at once and periods of not nearly enough work).
  • Losing clients to competitors with broader capabilities.
  • Miscommunication with a client over a project’s scope of work or the amount of time spent on a project.
  • Technical difficulties with the tools you use to produce work for your clients.
  • Technical difficulties with the tools you use to promote your business.
  • Computer viruses that render your laptop or desktop useless for days at a time.
  • Getting stiffed by a client.
  • Unjustified or unscrupulous negative online reviews.
  • Missing out on a prospective client because his email landed, without you realizing it, in your spam folder.
  • Missing out on an opportunity because your email landed in a prospective client’s spam folder.

Fortunately, most of the risks above can be minimized to some degree by planning ahead and doing things like…

  • Getting signed agreements from clients.
  • Having a savings account to carry you through lean times.
  • Backing up your data.
  • Communicating clearly and often with clients during projects.
  • Monitoring your online reputation.
  • Developing working relationships with other solopreneurs who offer complementary services.

You never know when life—or business—will throw you a curve. Your best defense? Stay alert, aware, and prepared.

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

 

 

 

 

7 Things Small Business Owners and Oscar Nominees have in Common

I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone describe running a small business as wildly glamorous. In fact, most small business Oscar statue - Small biz and the Oscarsowners and solopreneurs find themselves doing work that hardly resembles walking the red carpet in Versace or Dior. But after some thought, I’ve decided we aren’t so completely different. Here’s why…

7 Ways Small Business Owners are Like Oscar Nominees:

  • Sometimes you get passed over even if you perform better than your competition.
    It sucks. You’re just as deserving as they are, but for whatever reason, your competitor gets the client. Life isn’t always fair nor rational.
  • Sometimes you need to act graciously even when you’re yelling or crying inside.
    Occasionally you have to put on a happy face and grin and bear projects that don’t go as well as expected and clients who are less than cooperative or appreciative.
  • Sometimes you have to dress to impress.
    When you’re meeting certain clients, attending events, and making presentations, you’ve got to look professional and polished.
  • It can feel like an eternity until you find out you’ve been awarded the prize.
    Sometimes, you submit a proposal promptly…and then need to wait. And wait.
  • Sometimes “who you know” helps you get the really good roles.
    How well connected you are in the business community can lead to referrals and primo projects.
  • No matter how good you are, not everyone will love you.
    You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Clients have different working styles and personalities. It will be easier to work with some than others.
  •  Becoming an A-Lister doesn’t happen overnight.
    Overnight successes are few and far between. You have to work hard, do quality work, and build a following. It takes time.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post

 

 

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Client Relationships: There’s No Room for “Us” vs. “Them” – Only “We” in Small Business

Building strong relationships with clients stands at the center of the the small business universe.

An “us” vs. “them” mentality when working with clients isn’t only unproductive, it can be debilitating. What joy and No us vs. them - just we in small businesssatisfaction is there in working with people you view as your opponents?  Clients aren’t the enemy. Sure, occasionally you’ll meet one who puts your patience to the test, but if you’ve been careful about choosing who you work with, overall you’ll find clients are good people with good intentions. And to state the obvious, your business needs them!

From the very start of my freelance career nearly 5 years ago, I quickly discovered the best way to establish trust and loyalty when working with clients is to interact with them as partners.

When you approach relationships with clients as partnerships, your clients feel comfortable to approach them that way, too. I believe the way to “we” starts with us and how we interact with clients.

Ways to demonstrate a “We” mindset when building and maintaining client relationships:

  • Communicate often.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Take an interest in them as people, not just income sources.
  • Make an effort to understand their expectations and goals.
  • Go the extra mile to share articles and resources you think might benefit their businesses.
  • Interact with them on social media.
  • Apologize if you make a mistake.
  • When clients make mistakes, gently present the facts rather than point fingers.
  • Address misunderstandings quickly and politely.
  • Be honest.
  • Be attentive.
  • Be responsive.
  • Let them in…Be open to sharing about yourself beyond your business.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate their successes.

The benefits a “We” mindset brings to your small business:

  • Strengthens clients’ loyalty to you.
  • Results in mutual respect/less stress.
  • More relaxed working environment.
  • Leads to repeat business.
  • Creates camaraderie – and often friendships.
  • Can lead to higher quality referrals.
  • Makes work seem less like work.

While a We mindset takes two, you can move your client relationships in that direction by how you choose to interact with and treat your clients. It requires some extra effort to approach business that way, but I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Can you?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

Solopreneur Startup Smarts: East Coast and West Coast Solos Share What Works

No matter where you live and work, you’re going to make some really smart – and some not so smart – choices as you start out as a solopreneur. My friend, Carrie Chwierut of Carrie’s Social, and I launched our businesses at nearly the same time back in 2010. Carrie’s a west coast (California) gal and I’m near the east coast (eastern Pennsylvania), but despite our geographical differences, we have a lot in common. Both of us have learned some valuable lessons as our solo-businesses have grown and evolved over the past 4 years.

We’ve compared notes and are sharing the good, the bad and the ugly with you via a synchronized blogging exercise. Here on the Insatiable Solopreneur, I’m reflecting on what we’ve found to be among our smartest moves as new solopreneurs. On her blog, Carrie is sharing what we might have done differently had we known what we know today. So, after you read my post, please do pay a visit to Carrie’s blog to read her post!

Solopreneurial Smarts

What this East Coast Solo would do over again…Dawn Mentzer, East Coast Solopreneur, in Lancaster County Pennsylvania

• Joining the local regional chamber of commerce on Day 1 – and sticking with it!

While it didn’t pay off immediately, over time it has paid for itself many times over. Not only have I gained new clients, but I’ve been able to strengthen relationships with existing clients through my membership.

• Launching a website

Even if you don’t focus on generating leads from it, you need a place for people to go to learn more about you. Websites – particular those that are professionally-designed – give you credibility. I’m amazed at how many freelance writers don’t have websites. Depending on what type of business you have, it’s possible your competitors don’t either. Get there first. It will set you apart.

• Using Hootsuite and Buffer for posting to Twitter

Twitter is a different animal from other social channels. You can’t tweet once or twice a day to gain traction – you need to be prolific! Using Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule tweets and keep tabs on my social media activity has helped me build my online presence. That in turn has helped me build awareness of my brand and connect with some key folks who have brought some great projects my way.

• Getting personal on Linkedin

Sending personalized invitations (rather than the generic option) and responding with a personalized thank you to people who invite me to join their networks has opened to door to opportunities. By making that little bit of extra effort to connect with people, I’ve gotten face-to-face meetings and landed new projects.

• Volunteering strategically

When I transitioned from my corporate career to freelancing, I knew I needed to make more connections within the business community, learn more about being a biz owner, and build my portfolio of writing samples. I became a volunteer with SCORE and a board member of my local Main St. organization. Both experiences helped me build my network, skills and experience. Although my workload from clients is a lot more intense than it was when I first started my business, I still volunteer – only not quite so much.

Carrie Chwierut-West Coast Solopreneur-in CaliforniaThe West Coast Solo weighs in on what has worked for her…

• Launching a website

I completely agree with Dawn on this one! Creating a website was one of the first things I did. It makes you appear more professional and provides potential customers with a broader look at who you are and what your business is all about.

• Announcing it to family and friends

You have to be a little careful here. While you don’t want to bombard your family and friends with countless emails asking them to mention you to their friends, it doesn’t hurt to do a mass announcements to family, friends, past business contacts, etc. telling them that you’ve started a new business and what the services are.

• Joining a Social Media peer group

Finding the right peer group is so important when starting your business. I was lucky enough to have a group approach me about joining, and I gladly accepted. These groups give you a platform in which to vent, ask questions, and learn from the experiences of others in your field of work. The group I joined had a requirement that members share each other’s blog posts on their platforms, too, so it was a great way to support each other.

• “Honesty with clients…always” became my motto

From the start, I felt it important to be totally honest with clients. Whether it was telling them that I didn’t feel I was the best person for the job, or a constructive criticism of their current platforms (if they asked, of course!). If you’re honest with people from the start, you build trust and save yourself some potentially embarrassing and damaging situations down the road.

East, West, North, South…No matter where you’re located, you’ll discover that some of your choices will help put you on the map, while others will get you lost for a little while.

Now, check out Carrie’s post with our self-admitted solopreneurial blunders!
What decisions and actions served you well as you started your business?
Carrie’s California Image (background) courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Boo! What’s Most Terrifying About Being a Solopreneur

Fear. I think every solopreneur feels it to varying degrees throughout the stages of their careers. And with good reason; Fiery skeletons imagestarting and running a business can be scary stuff.  You have elements of uncertainty. You have to work hard – really hard.  You have to deal with things that are sometimes out of your control (personally, that’s the one that frightens me the most!).

As Halloween creeps up on us, I thought I’d share a few of the ghoulish and gruesome challenges solopreneurs face as we establish and build our businesses.

Face Your Fears: The Most Terrifying Things about Being a Solopreneur

Putting Yourself Out There – Networking

This is paralyzing for some solopreneurs. They hesitate to put their best foot forward for fear of sounding conceited, and they dislike networking.  No, not everyone is a “salesperson,” but you have to get out there (face to face and via social media) to build connections and let people know about the value you offer.

Dealing with Numbers – Business Financials

Business financials are spooky to many of us.  Heck, my hands got all cold and clammy just writing this.  When you run a business, you have to learn some of the basics though. You might also want to get the help of a book-keeping professional – even if only to periodically check your Quickbooks or other platform to make sure  you haven’t made any errors.

Wondering, “Am I good enough?”

Especially when starting a business, you might feel trepidation at competing with other solopreneurs and businesses who have been around longer than you. How do you get over that? Confidence and competitive research. Take stock of your strengths and capabilities and learn whatever you can about your competitors to discover what makes you unique and gives you an edge.

Too Little Work. Too Much Work.

If you do a lot of project work as a solopreneur, you might experience cycles of feast and famine. Not having as much work as you want or need can lead to some nervous nail-biting. But having too many projects at one time can also be hair-raising. How do you find the right balance? While not all of it is within your realm of control, you can level things out a bit with careful planning, choosing clients and projects wisely, and knowing your capacity limitations.

Experiencing Failure

Sheer terror! None of us go into business expecting to fail, yet failure comes in all shapes and sizes. Even solopreneurs who have run successful businesses for years deal with failures along the way. Who hasn’t lost a bid on a project or lost a client for some reason or another? Not everything will go the way you want it to all the time. You’ll slip up. Unforeseen circumstances will throw a wrench into your plans. Become mentally agile so you can roll with the punches, learn from your mistakes and misfortunes, and keep your eyes on the big picture.

Life as a solopreneur certainly does put forth some things that go bump in the night, but none should stop you in your tracks and turn you into a business zombie. Stand courageous and show those ghastly entrepreneurial fears who’s boss.

What things have scared you most during your career as a solopreneur?

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net