What You—And Only You—Can Take Responsibility For

I just wrote a guest post about accountability for the TDS Business blog that broached the subject from the standpoint of how to be accountable for getting Finger pointing at youthings done in your business. As a self-employed small business owner, you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, formal performance reviews, or a structured monetary award incentive to motivate you. It’s all you.


But besides the down and dirty business stuff, there’s another thing you need to hold yourself accountable for. YOU are the only person with ultimate responsibility for it.


Taking care of yourself. Physically. Mentally.


And your success in doing so hinges a great deal on managing stress.


Stress Sucks.

According to statistics provided by the American Psychological Association and American Institute of Stress (which I found on the American Institute of Stress website), 77 percent of people in the U.S. regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. And 73 percent experience psychological symptoms because of stress.


That’s nearly all of us. Rather astounding and unnerving, don’t you think? But it’s a little reassuring, too. If you’ve felt the effects of stress like I have, it’s sort of nice to know we’re not alone. We’re not the only ones who have dealt with the ramifications of letting stuff get to us:


  • Tightened neck muscles
  • Nervousness and inability to relax
  • Never a good night’s sleep
  • Headaches
  • Moodiness
  • Upset stomach and wacked out digestion
  • No energy


The list goes on.


Unfortunately, there’s not always a way to eliminate the work and home pressures that add stress to our lives. But the one thing we can do is take responsibility for prepping our bodies and minds to deal with stress more effectively.


The Stress-Busting Trio

I’m not a doctor, psychologist, nutritionist, or any other variety of health and wellness expert, so I’m not going to tell you what you should do. But I know what it’s like to have competing priorities and to feel the overwhelming pressure of trying to get everything done (and done “right”). So I thought I’d share some thoughts on what helps me keep stress levels under control in hopes it will help you explore ways to manage stress better.


I’ve found my success at dealing with stress depends largely on how attentive I am to three things.


  • Exercising
    I’ve been working out for over thirty years and can’t imagine how much of a frazzled mess I’d be if I didn’t get that boost of endorphins that comes from some physical exertion and sweat. Exercise helps reduce anxiety and improve mood and sleep. And then there’s the side benefit of getting fit and feeling better about yourself.
    Now that I work from home, I find it more manageable and mentally beneficial to break my workouts into smaller chunks and do them throughout the day rather than doing a single longer workout.

    According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I seem to be on the right track with that approach, “Studies have found that people who spend more time each day watching television, sitting, or riding in cars have a greater chance of dying early than people who spend less time on their duffs. Researchers speculate that sitting for hours on end may change peoples’ metabolism in ways that promote obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.”

    As solopreneurs and small business owners, we typically do a lot of work at our desks or sitting in a sedentary state somewhere. In addition to refreshing our minds, fitting in breaks to get our bodies moving could help us keep some potential health issues at bay.

    Not sure you have the discipline to do it? Consider getting one of those fitness bands like the Vivofit (that’s the one I have), that tracks your steps throughout the day and raises the equivalent of a red flag whenever you’ve been planted on your behind for an extended period of time.


  • Eating Smart
    “You are what you eat.” I’ve found that to be true. Certain foods can trigger and aggravate stress, particularly processed foods like soft drinks, fast food, microwave and out-of-the-box meals that are pretty much void of nutrients and full of sugar, sodium, and additives.

    I notice a big difference in my ability to concentrate and to deal with challenges when I stray from eating whole foods and indulge in quick convenience foods instead. There’s plenty of evidence to support that food plays an important role in regulating cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. That gives us very good reason to eat wisely.


  • Sleeping Enough
    It’s a vicious, frustrating cycle; stress can interfere with your sleep and not getting enough sleep can make you feel more stressed. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations, adults from 26 – 64 years old should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day.

    Hands down, sleep (or lack of it) is the one thing above all else that can make or break my day.


It’s a Package Deal

All of the above don’t work as well alone as they do together—at least not in my experience. Eating better makes me feel more energetic when exercising, and exercise facilitates better sleep at night, and better sleep at night makes me more inclined to exercise.


My outlook, energy level, and productivity are all more optimal when I make the trio of exercise, eating well, and sleep a priority. And only I can hold myself responsible for doing those things.


How accountable have you been for managing stress and taking better care of yourself? It’s not always easy when you’re schedule is jam-packed and you’re pulled in multiple directions. But remember, if you don’t do it. No one else will do it for you.


As I finished this post, by friend, client, mastermind group colleague, and all-around savvy small business owner Rachel Strella posted an article reminding us how important it is to take time for ourselves. Check it out!

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net





Why You Might Not Get A 1099-MISC From Your Clients

You’re probably (hopefully!) aware that if your business is a sole proprietorship or LLC and a client has paid you more than $600 in non-employee Tax formcompensation, they’re required to send you a 1099-MISC form for the just-completed tax year.


But did you know clients who pay you through PayPal or credit card aren’t required to issue you a 1099?


The Burden Of Reporting Electronic Payments Made To Solopreneurs Doesn’t Fall On Their Clients

That’s right. Starting in 2011, the IRS put the responsibility of reporting electronic payments on PayPal and the credit card companies. They are required to issue a 1099-K form—but only if you received $20,000 or more. Which means you might not get a 1099 at all.


Honestly, up until yesterday, I wasn’t aware that clients who make electronic payments to me through PayPal weren’t on the hook for sending 1099-MISC. One of my clients who pays by PayPal monthly discovered it when he went to process his 1099s for vendors.


I’m figuring other independent workers AND companies who do business with them aren’t in the know about this either.


Cause For Keeping Insanely Accurate Accounting Records

With not all clients realizing they don’t need to send 1099-MISC forms if they paid you electronically, you could end up with 1099s from them anyway. That raises the concern of both PayPal or credit card companies AND your client reporting your income (i.e., your income from that client could potentially be reported twice to the IRS). Moral of the story: KEEP ACCURATE INCOME RECORDS. It’s your best defense if discrepancies arise.


For more on this topic and 1099s in general, check out these helpful articles:


Must You Send 1099 Forms to Contractors Paid Via PayPal or Credit Card? via Small Biz Trends

Fast Answers About 1099 Forms for Independent Workers – UPDATED for 2015 via Small Biz Trends

General FAQs on Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions via the IRS website

Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income via the IRS website

What Is the IRS Form 1099-MISC? via the Intuit TurboTax website


Disclaimer: All that I write on this blog is for your reading pleasure and informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only. It is not meant to serve as professional advice. Readers absorb and take information from this blog at their own discretion and risk. Please use responsibly.

Two Ways To Scale Your Solopreneur Business

As 2015 creeps upon us (O.K. Who am I kidding? It’s not creeping, it’s coming at us like a rushing bull at the rodeo!), I’ve been putting thought into what I Hands holding growing seedlingwant to accomplish in my solopreneur business in the New Year. I’m guessing you’ve been thinking about ways to boost your business, too.


It’s no easy feat to grow your business when your income is very much tied directly to your time spent. And one thing I’ve talked about with my colleagues, mastermind partners, clients, and friends for the past year or so has been finding ways to scale my business.


What do I mean by scaling my business? Simply put, increasing revenue with minimal cost and without substantially increasing my workload.


How Can You Scale Your Solo Business?


Take On More Work, But Don’t Do All Of That Work On Your Own.

Despite my best intentions, I haven’t implemented scaling as I’d hoped to. As a professional services solopreneur, scaling doesn’t come easily.


It can be a problematic notion for a services provider. In my case, as a freelance writer, my clients rightfully expect me to personally do the work they hire me to do. Sure, I’ve streamlined my professional process a bit by bringing on a virtual assistant (Rose Boettinger) to do research, periodically do administrative tasks, and proofread some of my work before I send it to clients.


That’s alleviated some stress and has helped me take on some additional clients and work. But I realize I need to utilize her more—and in different ways—to really grow my business.


The trick will be to set new expectations for “Dawn Mentzer Freelance Writing” as a team versus a single writer who does content writing. That will take some time—and some strategic thinking.


If your clients view you as a “one man (or woman) band,” you’ll also need to carefully consider how to manage client expectations—and uphold your quality standards—while contracting the time and talents of others.


Embrace Efficiency Tools.

We’ve all got 24/7 at our disposal to accomplish what we need to do professionally and personally. No more. No less. And we—well, at least, I—don’t want to spend all of my days and hours working. Technology tools to boost productivity, add efficiency, and streamline processes can help. I’ve used several with success, but know I could do more with them.


Evernote, Quickbooks, Toggl, LastPass, Trello, Quote Roller, Hootsuite, and Google Apps. These tools help minimize time spent saving and retrieving information, tracking and collaborating on projects, issuing invoices and proposals, logging into websites, and monitoring and posting to social media networks. When you save time on administrative tasks, you have more time for billable work. That enables you to scale to some degree without outsourcing your work.


How Do You Plan To Grow Your Business?

As I contemplate what my expanded solopreneur business will look like, I’m wondering what plans for growth you have either on your brain or in active execution. Are you looking for ways to scale your small business?


If yes, I found a few articles on the topic that I believe you might find particularly helpful. Check them out, and please leave a comment on this blog with any tips you have that might help our fellow solopreneurs and small biz owners grow their businesses.


7 Points To Consider Before Scaling Your Small Business via Synnovatia


From Solopreneur To Company: How To Scale Up Your Organization via Firepole Marketing (Although not my ambition, it might be yours. The article shares some helpful pointers.)


6 Steps To Scaling Your Freelance Business via Envato Studio


Beyond Freelancing: 4 Models for Continued Business Growth via Bidsketch (This one touches on the topic of turning some element of your business into a product you can sell. For example, an e-book or a training course, etc. that will generate passive income. )


By Dawn Mentzer
An Insatiable Solopreneur™ post


Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Asked To Tackle A Project That Uncharted Territory? Keep These Things In Mind!

Even professionals in creative fields can sometimes feel the grind of working on the same types of projects over and over again. So, atypical (even off-the-wall Yoga stretchprojects) may look appealing.

Taking on projects that are new, different, uncharted territory can help you breathe fresh air and generate new mojo when you’re feeling uninspired—but they can also leave you feeling inadequate and defeated if they don’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped they would.

I recently worked on a project that was a far cry from the type of writing I typically do. It came to me as opposed to me looking for it, but I thought it sounded like fun and interesting, so I decided to accept the opportunity.

Wow, it was hard! Dang hard. But I learned a lot from the experience and I’m going to share some of what I discovered with you.

When you venture outside of your “project comfort zone,” I suggest keeping these things in mind:

You don’t know what you don’t know.

When taking on a project you’ve never done before, you won’t truly know what you’re in for until you get started. It might demand a whole new way of thinking or executing your work.

Expect to spend more time on it than you anticipate.

Because you haven’t worked on the type of project before, it will probably demand more of your time than you anticipate to get it right. In the case of my recent project, “getting it right” was subjective and dependent on my client’s perspective and preferences. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it does up the level of challenge.

Expect to spend more mental energy on it than you expected.

You might find that the project pervades your thoughts in all your waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours. That’s exhausting and can draw your focus and attention from your other responsibilities.

Put on your thick skin.

You may need it. Even if you’re used to hitting a home run with your other projects, you might flounder in producing what your client wants with this one. Requests for re-dos are never fun, and they can hit the ego hard. Don’t take it personally. It’s part of the process.

All things considered, I’m glad I made the stretch to try something different. It was hard work that brought a healthy does of humility, but it’s made me appreciate how effortlessly other projects proceed for me.

Have you taken on any unique, out-of-the-norm projects lately? What have you learned from the experience?

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post


Image courtesy of Ambro 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

Why Being A “Solopreneur” Is B.S.

I can already see the angry mob of freelancers and one-person business owners with pitchforks and flaming torches rounding the corner in protest. Solopreneur


But before you stick it to me, I hope you’ll stick with me and read on.


How Do You Define “Solopreneur”?

Surprisingly, Urban Dictionary has a straightforward, no-nonsense description:


“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.”


It’s that second part of the definition and its contrariness to the first part that has me thinking we might sometimes apply the wrong mindset to our solo businesses.


We Do Very Little “Solo” as Solopreneurs

The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” applies in some way to us as solopreneurs, too. We’re adults, of course, but our businesses are constantly evolving. They have to or they won’t survive.


We’re faced with ever-changing…

  • Technology for communicating, collaborating, and executing administrative tasks.
  • Client needs.
  • Competitive pressures.
  • Economic conditions.
  • Tax and accounting laws.
  • Business regulations.
  • Personal and professional highs and lows.


I guess if you’re a super solopreneur you can leap tall buildings and keep up with all of it on your own, but the rest of us need help from a variety of other people and businesses.


We learn to do business better with the help of…


  • Tax specialists – You might not need a CPA, but a professional tax preparer can ensure you’re following the rules and not missing out on any deduction opportunities.

  • Lawyers – Tip: I have membership to LegalShield Pre-Paid Legal Services which, for a low monthly fee, gives me access to an attorney whenever I have legal questions. You might want to check it out.

  • Bookkeeping specialists – While I retain my own books in Quickbooks Online, I had an expert help me set up my company accounts and every few months I schedule time with her for a checkup. She usually finds one or two things I should have entered differently. If you’re keeping your own books, how confident are you that all is correct?

  • Business advisors – You can save yourself from going down a wrong path by simply tapping into the honesty and experience of other professionals. Whether through a formal mentoring program, mastermind group, or by simply turning to someone you respect and trust, you can get affirmation and avoid pitfalls by sharing your challenges and asking for advice.

  • Competitors – You heard me correctly. None of us can serve everyone. Not all clients or projects are the right fit for us. I value my relationships with other writers for many reasons. Among them, the ability to refer prospects to someone else who has the capabilities and capacity to take on projects that I cannot.

  • Project partners – As a freelance writer, I alone can’t always serve a client’s needs. Sometimes they need website design or print design work in addition to the content I produce. You’ve probably encountered similar situations in your business. We sometimes need professionals in complementary fields to fill voids in projects.

  • An Assistant – I realize not all solopreneurs will either be able to afford one or absolutely need one, but a helping hand can alleviate some administrative pressures. When your amount of billable work for clients has expanded and you find it difficult to keep up with other business tasks, you might consider an independent virtual assistant to help you. My assistant, Rose, has been helping me since March of this year with research, proofreading, and other odds and ends. I don’t know how I managed without her. With her help, I don’t feel pulled in as many directions,  and I’m better able to focus.


Striving For Success as a Solopreneur: Don’t Go It Alone

So while you and I call ourselves “solopreneurs,” we depend an awful lot on others. I don’t really believe being a solopreneur is B.S., but we should never lose sight of how much easier we can achieve success if we get help from others.


By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post


How Making Ends Meet Could Confuse (and Lose) Customers

The road to making a livable wage as a solopreneur can be longer than ideal. Starting out presents the challenges ofDollar-in-pocket building awareness, growing a base of clients who provide ongoing business, and earning a reputation that helps answer any push back you might get when you propose rates to prospects.

It’s no wonder startup solopreneurs sometimes look for ways to supplement their income as they grow their businesses.

But could that hinder your business success?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more than a few solopreneurs putting forth multiple professional personas at once or changing their professional direction every few months. I get that. Might it not pay off  to cast the net wide in hopes of catching as many customers as possible or to shift focus as soon as one thing isn’t quite taking off?


But beware.

Prospects and clients might interpret your diversity as a sign that you’re indecisive, not fully committed to your business, unsure of your own professional strengths, or otherwise pulled in too many directions.

I’ve been there.
Although I never took on another for pay opportunity after starting my freelance writing business, soon after I began, I started volunteering with a local chapter of SCORE (a wonderful nonprofit organization, offering free mentoring to entrepreneurs and small business owners). About a year after serving as a volunteer mentor, I accepted the V.P. of Marketing position on their executive committee. Also a volunteer position.

While working as the chapter’s VP of Marketing helped me hone my skills and gain new knowledge, it cost me as well.

  • I discovered people perceived me as a sort of professional volunteer who was doing freelance writing on the side.
  • I couldn’t spend as much time on prospecting and generating business because I was so busy doing free work.
  • I wasn’t meeting my revenue goals.

After seeing the light, I exited from my volunteerism at the chapter. The next year, I quadrupled my number of clients and revenue.

Thinking about doing something on the side?
If you’re thinking about dividing your efforts and attention across multiple income streams, ask yourself these questions:

  • How disparate are the professional endeavors? Are they complementary to each other or are they completely unrelated? If they’re not in any way connected, you might look like a wanna be jack of all trades in the eyes of prospects.
  • Which professional endeavor do I most want to be known for? Are you first and foremost “Dawn Mentzer Freelance Writer” or “Dawn Mentzer [insert, Avon, Tupperware, or other here] Lady”?
  • How much time do you have? With your existing professional and personal commitments and workload, can you handle taking on a side opportunity?
  • Is the income potential or exposure worth sacrificing the time and attention you could be spending on your core business?

If you’re projecting diverse professional personas with no clear prioritization across your online channels and when talking to people face to face, you’re inviting confusion.

Clients and prospects might wonder:

  • Are you really serious about your business and the services you’re providing?
  • Are you not dedicated enough to your customers?
  • Will you be around next week, next month, or next year to serve them?

Here we go again…Almost.
Just recently, an attractive part-time business opportunity crossed my path. At first it seemed like a natural fit. I would apply the communication and networking skills I use in my own business, only in a different scenario. I would work with an impressive team of professionals who I respect.

But then I took stock of the amount of recurring work I have from clients, the project-by-project work that regularly comes my way, and my severe lack of  capacity to take on anything above and beyond all that. I also considered how adding another professional title to my LinkedIn profile might send mixed signals to prospects and my existing clients.

I turned it down.

Proceed with caution
You need to do what you can to make ends meet as a solopreneur, but always think through how anything you do on the side will impact the business you ultimately want to grow and see through to success. Take time to explain your intentions with prospects and clients so they feel secure in your commitment to them.

Identity confusion is your enemy; Clarity of focus and communication of your priorities is your friend.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post


Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Can You Handle a Full-time Freelance Career?

According to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report by Ed Gandia, 65.5% of freelancing professionals work full-time as freelancers. Freelance writer's work stationTheir career is freelancing. They don’t freelance “on the side,” and they don’t have other part-time jobs to subsidize their income.


Given that Freelancers Union estimates “Nearly one in three working Americans is an independent worker,” that’s a lot of people making a living by freelancing.


Freelancing provides home/work life flexibility, the satisfaction of doing what you love, and the opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge on your own terms.


Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Personally, I’ve found I’ve worked harder as a freelancer writer than when I worked for a corporation. Don’t misunderstand; I wasn’t by any stretch a slacker for my employer. But starting and running my own business has demanded a whole new level of commitment in time, attention, and emotional investment.


Are you up for the challenge of freelancing?

If you haven’t started yet or are new to freelancing, here’s a list of some things you’ll need to consider as an independent contractor.


Setting up a website
Along with that goes: finding a web developer/designer, web hosting, domain name registration, content (both text and visual), ongoing content updates, etc.


When self-employed, you’re responsible for submitting your tax payments to the appropriate agencies, because taxes aren’t taken out of your paycheck from an employer.

Income tax (federal, state, local), Social Security, Medicare. And depending on the nature of what you provide to your customers, maybe even state sales tax. Before you get rolling with your freelance business, talk with a tax professional to find out exactly what tax obligations you’ll have and when they’re due. A tax pro can also help you estimate how much you’ll owe so you can plan ahead.


No Guaranteed Income
Clients can come and go. Projects come and go. Even when you have several clients who give you regularly recurring weekly or monthly assignments, they may not last forever. Unlike having a steady paycheck from an employer, your income might wax and wane. I’ll bet you’ve heard about the “feast or famine” cycle before. You will probably experience it as a freelancer, especially when you’re starting out.


If you’re thinking just being present will draw prospects to you, think again. You need to put yourself out there and build awareness of your services. Expect to spend A LOT of time marketing yourself, especially when your business is new. Social media and blogging have been immensely effective tools for me. Be warned, however, they require attention every day and will demand hours of your time each and every week. To keep the momentum going and nurture online business relationship, you can’t ignore your social media or blog even when you’re super busy.


Paid Time Off
As a freelancer, there is no such thing.


Sick Time
Again, no such thing.


Face-To-Face Networking
Arguably, this could be lumped under marketing, but I believe it’s important enough for its own mention.

As convenient and effective as online networking is, the in-person variety can boost your capacity to build trust. When you meet someone face-to-face, they get a better sense of your personality and likeability. By attending networking events, you can get your foot in the door and close deals more quickly. And you can easily build upon those new relationships by following up via connecting with contacts on LinkedIn and other social media channels.


Be aware, however, that it takes time and consistency, just like online networking does. Don’t expect to go to a single event and walk out with a new customer in the bag.


Also important to know: networking events typically require a registration fee or membership to an organization (like chambers of commerce or professional networking groups).


Health Insurance
I’m extremely fortunate in that I have medical, dental, and vision insurance through my husband’s policy at work, but not all freelancers are as lucky. If you’re not married or your spouse’s plan won’t cover you, you’ll need to look into getting your own policy. It’s an expense you’ll need to factor into your pricing.
Time to Do the Work. Time to Run the Business.
Expect that you won’t be spending 40 hours a week on billable work for clients. Having a freelancing business demands time for taking care of administrative tasks, marketing, prospecting, and other responsibilities. That’s another thing to factor into your pricing. Your billable time will need to compensate for the time you spend on non-billable tasks.


Dealing with Numbers
Running your own business requires some degree of competency in managing your financials. Even if you outsource elements of your bookkeeping, you need to have a basic understanding of tracking and reporting the money coming into and going out of your business.


Only the Self-Motivated and Organized Need Apply.
If you have trouble motivating yourself to start projects and see them through to the end, freelancing might not be the best career choice for you. Likewise, if you fail at prioritizing and let tasks and projects slide until they’re past due, think twice before diving into freelancing full time.



I could go on and on, but I think that should give you a good taste of what you can expect from a career in freelancing. You’re the boss and there are many rewards, but you’ll need to work for them.


That said, don’t let your lack of experience or knowledge about business lead you to think you can’t do it. With so many online resources and entrepreneur-focused organizations (like SBA and SCORE, for example), you can access information and gain insight easily. I also recommend talking to other freelancers who will share about their own experiences.


Do your homework; then decide if a freelance career is right for you.


By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post



Want to Make a Smart Business Move? Ask Stupid Questions.

None of us like to appear uninformed, uneducated, or ignorant. Where’s the glory in that? But none of us knows It's smart to ask stupid questions in businesseverything there is to know about business. Especially when we’re starting out and not even after years down the road. So, like it or not, there will be moments when we need to disclose our lack of knowledge about one thing or another: By asking proverbial “stupid” questions.

As they say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Of course, knowing that provides little reassurance when you’re fearing ridicule by your peers because you think you don’t know something that everyone else in the entire world already does.

We need to get over that!

The fact is, we don’t know what we don’t know until we realize we don’t know it. That doesn’t make us idiots. It just means some things haven’t been introduced into our frames of reference yet. When they finally are, we often need to ask basic (a.k.a. stupid) questions to understand them.

An embarrassing blast from my past when I wished I had asked a stupid question…

Back in college, I remember taking an essay exam in a P.R. course and one of the questions involved the concept of getting quotes (bids) from companies for providing their services. I was around 19 or 20 years old at the time (and an A student, I might add), and for whatever reason, I didn’t know that  “to quote” meant to propose a price. (Amazing, I know.) Because of that, the question didn’t make complete sense to me, and I was too embarrassed to get clarification from my professor. So I fumbled through answering it the best I could. When my professor returned my graded test, he wrote a comment telling me that it was clear I hadn’t understood the question, and he wished I would have asked him about it. I got a C on that exam, when I likely would have gotten an A, if only I had put on my big girl pants and asked what seemed to be a stupid question. Seems to me, asking and getting an A would have been the smart move. Live and learn.

Not knowing something is excusable. Not asking questions to gain the knowledge you need when you realize you don’t know something is not.

And not asking questions can be downright damaging.

If you don’t ask questions (even when you think they’re stupid and believe everyone else knows the answers), here are a few of the things that could go wrong in your business…

  • You could make serious errors in your bookkeeping and accounting.
  • You could pay more than you should be for products and services.
  • You could do something unintentionally illegal in how you manage your employees or independent contractors.
  • You could be missing the mark with a product or service.
  • You could be wasting time on the wrong social media networks.
  • You could take projects in a different direction than your client envisioned.
  • You could take on the wrong clients.
  • You could take on the wrong projects.
  • You could be taken advantage of.

Moral of the story: If you don’t know, ask!

Sure, it might be embarrassing for a minute or so. But after that initial hit to the ego is over, you’re left with an answer – and empowering information you didn’t have before.


By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post





Why Small Biz Owners and Solopreneurs Need to Get Enthusiastic About Enthusiasm

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about enthusiasm

Enthusiasm’s upside for solopreneurs and small business owners

Enthusiasm is tough to fake…that’s what makes it so powerful in business. When you’ve got a real interest in your work and in the people you’re working with, it shows. And that genuine display of excitement for helping clients fulfill a need within their businesses builds goodwill. Your enthusiasm for what you do may not be the primary or deciding factor clients consider before working with you, but it can set you apart from your competition. Think about it; wouldn’t you prefer to work with a services provider who seems genuinely interested in and appreciative of the opportunity to assist you?

Enthusiasm’s downside (Yes, it really does have one!)

Alas, enthusiasm has a negative aspect, too. And ironically, it’s the same quality that makes it a positive; it’s tough to fake. When you’re not feeling enthusiastic toward your clients or your work, it may not be easy to hide your detachment. Lack of enthusiasm may make your clients and prospective clients mistakenly think you don’t care.

Most of us have ebbing and flowing levels of enthusiasm for a multitude of reasons that can change daily depending on what’s happening in our personal and professional lives:

Enthusiasm busters:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor nutrition
  • Not enough exercise
  • Family troubles
  • Client issues
  • Projects we’d rather not have taken on
  • Too much work, too little time
  • Not enough work

 How to coax your enthusiasm out of hiding…

Assuming you still have that underlying passion for your work even when you’re not feeling excited about it, there are ways to dig deep to rekindle and demonstrate enthusiasm.

  • If your schedule allows, temporarily sett aside work that’s a downer.
  • Focus on a task or project that energizes you.
  • Say “no” to projects you don’t have an interest in.
  • Avoid negative people as much as possible until you’re feeling better able to brush off their ill will.
  • Try to focus on the positive rather than the negative in situations. For example, you might feel pressured by a deadline, but the sooner you finish the work the sooner you’ll have that money in the bank.
  • Fake it until you’re feeling it again. Concentrate on making your conversations online, via email, over the phone, and face to face upbeat and friendly. If you purposely act enthusiastic, you must might convince yourself to feel that way for real.

Enthusiasm matters not only when making an impression on clients, but it also serves to motivate us to do more – and do the very best we can – in our businesses. And that comes full circle because being more productive and skilled at what we do will make us feel more enthusiastic more of the time.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post