Solopreneurs, Let’s Celebrate Independence this 4th of July!

This 4th of July is for you! As we celebrate our independence as a nation, don’t forget to celebrate your independence American Flag/Shieldas a solopreneurial small business owner, too!

As as solopreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in the constant and accumulating “to dos” that you face day in and day out. That often prevents us from recognizing our achievements. Our accomplishments often happen gradually over time as opposed to us experiencing them in single, gloriously victorious moments.

So, pat yourself on the back. Fix yourself a special cocktail (you know, the fancy kind with an umbrella and swizzle stick). Relax with family and friends. Reflect on how far  you’ve come. Take time this Independence Day to acknowledge and celebrate the fruits of your labor.

And if you need some justification for doing that, remember how hard you’ve worked and what you’ve achieved…

  • You’ve put in long hours.
  • You’ve sacrificed.
  • You’ve conquered fear.
  • You’ve conquered doubt.
  • You’ve succeeded.
  • You’ve failed.
  • You’ve built something from the bottom up.
  • You’ve defined yourself.
  • You’ve discovered your strengths and areas of improvement.
  • You’ve stuck with something through good and bad.
  • You’ve built a following.
  • You’ve contributed to supporting your family.
  • You’ve helped your community.
  • You’ve made others’ lives easier.
  • You’ve created professional relationships and friendships that are long-lasting.
  • You’ve lifted others up with advice and feedback.

What can you add to the list? I know you can!

No matter what  efforts and accomplishments comprise your list, make this 4th of July a day to not only observe our nation’s freedom, but also one to celebrate your independence as a solopreneur. You deserve it!

Image courtesy of nirots / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lessons That Being a Mom Has Taught Me about Being in Business

Something that all solopreneurs come to realize while running their own solo businesses is that their “personal” and 20130330_144915“professional” lives are in many ways one. Though that’s not always a good thing – overall it brings enrichment and rewards to both sides of the coin. And being aware of that can make you appreciate the breadth of experience you’ve got in your life – and make you a more aware and effective business owner.

So with Mother’s Day upon us, I reflect on how the lessons I’ve learned from being a mom have been helpful in business as a solopreneur:

  • Clear communication is key.

Explaining the what, where, when, how and why is the way to gaining understanding and acceptance of your ideas, recommendations, and – in some instances – demands.

  • Assuming understanding doesn’t work – you need to check it.

This is a two-way street. Make sure that others understand what you’ve explained to them…and make sure that you understand what others have explained to you. Otherwise, expectations might be different and no one will be pleased with the end result.

  • You can’t always be the “best friend.”
    There are times when you need to stand your ground and stick to decisions – even when they aren’t popular.
  • Plan and prepare, but realize that sometimes you need to go with the flow.

Having a strategy and setting goals for your business is essential, but occasionally the unexpected will upset even your best laid plans. Learn to be nimble and flexible so the unforeseen won’t paralyze you.

  • You won’t always feel appreciated – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t.
    At times, you might find yourself working hard without much incoming acknowledgement of your efforts. Don’t take it personally. Just because people don’t always freely show their respect or gratitude, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate you or the work you do.
  • You need to fulfill your promises to earn trust.
    When you say you’ll do something, you need to follow through.
  • The little things make it all worthwhile.
    Sometimes it’s not the big victories – but the day-to-day little perks – that bring the most happiness. Recognize and appreciate what you have to be thankful for – and let it fuel your enthusiasm for the path you’ve chosen to follow.

Happy Mother’s Day! Wishing that all of you – mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers – in business find time to celebrate your personal and professional successes.

Why Your Solopreneur Business Needs “Wiggle Room” – and How to Fit It Into Every Day

If you’re a professional services solopreneur, there’s great satisfaction in having a full plate of billable projects. After all,

Leaving "wiggle room" between projects & appointments lets you "plan" for the unexpected.

Leaving “wiggle room” between projects & appointments lets you “plan” for the unexpected.

that’s what you’ve been aiming for, right? To fill your calendar with billable, revenue-generating work. But don’t forget that you have only a limited number of hours in every day!

As you build your client base – and the list of projects that need your time an attention – make sure that you build some “wiggle room” into your schedule, too.

Wiggle room involves setting aside time every day for the unexpected.

It’s a simple idea. Yet I suspect a lot of small business owners and solopreneurs don’t embrace it. I hadn’t until recently…but the busier I get, the more I recognize how important it is. If I don’t set time aside for those little things that seem to pop up out of nowhere, I risk falling behind on my commitments.

Get organized first!
Of course, scheduling wiggle room assumes that you already schedule your work. If you haven’t made it a habit, I urge you to start blocking out time on your calendar for the different projects you’re working on and your administrative tasks. Paying attention to deadlines is great, but how do you know you’re capable of handling your workload unless you can see that you have the available hours to get things done? And planning your project work in that way will help you give realistic deadlines to clients.

How to fit it in
Now back to wiggle room! As you plan your projects, ALSO ADD WIGGLE ROOM into your day! You don’t have to add hours at a time, but schedule short bursts of a half hour to an hour every few hours between your planned meetings and projects.

What’s it good for?
So, what types of activities might you use your wiggle time for? Here’s the short list of the activities that typically tap into my wiggle room…

  • Responding to a quote request
  • Returning a phone call to a client
  • Tweaking work that requires minor changes
  • Meeting with a client or lead on short notice
  • Providing advice and guidance to business colleagues who have asked for direction
  • Refreshing my brain with a quick wog (walk/jog) on our treadmill

Other less common uses of wiggle room…

  • Cashing it in if I’m feeling run down
  • Driving my daughter’s forgotten packed lunch to her school
  • Medical appointments
  • Grocery store run

Really, you can use your wiggle room for anything that you haven’t otherwise planned for. Again, the essential element to making wiggle room work is to be well-organized in the first place. That may take some practice and discipline at first, but your efforts to plan your work – and your wiggle room – each and every day will make you a more effective, more efficient business professional.

What would you use your wiggle room for? Already doing this? How do you use your wiggle room?

Taking a Break Without Breaking Business Momentum – Tips for Making the Best Use of Time on a Road Trip

Thrilled about taking a holiday break, but stressed at the thought of projects falling behind and work piling up? If you’ll On the roadbe one of the many small biz pros on the road (literally) to an extended weekend over Easter, relax! There are ways to get away from it all and manage to stay on top of things.

Consider these ideas for taking care of business without officially punching the clock while you’re road-tripping it…

  • Take note – Traveling gives you uninterrupted time to think about things and brainstorm – take full advantage of it! Bring a notebook to capture ideas. If you’ll be behind the wheel; ask someone else to take notes for you.
  • Load up on apps – Before you leave for your journey, make sure your smart phone has got essential apps loaded and ready for action. A few I wouldn’t leave home without: WordPress, LinkedIn, Evernote, Facebook Pages Manager, Google+, Twitter, Hootsuite. If you haven’t use any of them recently, do a quick check to confirm that they’re not asking for updated usernames or passwords…things that you probably won’t have on hand after you leave your local environs.
  • Read up! – I’m guessing you’ve got a list of “do business better” books that have caught your attention, but that you haven’t found time to consume. During a road trip, take advantage of your status of captive audience and read (or listen to in e-book form) one from your hit list.

Remember, the point isn’t to work a lot while you’re taking time away – but keeping up with a few little tasks and taking care of some to dos can help make your return to business as usual a much more smooth  and less-harrowing transition.

Enjoy your weekend! And I welcome your thoughts on ways to make productive use of road trips!

Image courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s OK! 12 Things Solopreneurs Should NEVER Feel Sorry About

Being your own boss has its upsides, but many solopreneurs who I know admit to being the toughest employer they’ve Approved signever had. Really, that’s not all that hard to understand. When you’re running your own business and you solely are responsible for setting strategies and executing those plans, you’ve got to crack the whip on yourself. And while there’s nothing wrong with being fully vested in your success, you shouldn’t drive yourself to the brink of mental or physical breakdown. There comes a tipping point – and it’s one you don’t ever want to reach.

So, how do you avoid crossing the line that runs between “motivated & dedicated” and “burned out & checked out?” I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some words of advice that I think will help… “Tell yourself it’s OK!” What I mean by that, is don’t be afraid to make decisions or take actions (or lack of action!) to help you regain focus, de-stress, and rejuvenate your mind and body.

As a solopreneur, it’s OK to…

  • Fit a workout into your day.
  • Make yourself a healthy meal.
  • Take a nap if you worked late the night before or got up extra early.
  • Buy something to make running your business easier.
  • Ignore your email and phone after hours.
  • Take a vacation.
  • Take a long weekend.
  • Not be available at a moment’s notice for meetings and phone calls.
  • Ask clients if meeting by phone rather than in person would work so you don’t lose valuable project time because of a commute.
  • Say “no” to work that you don’t want to do.
  • Decline or resign from a volunteer opportunity if you’re time-strapped and the answer to the question “What’s in it for me?” is “Not enough to justify the time and energy.”
  • Say, “I don’t know,” when you don’t know.

Keep in mind that it takes some self-training and discipline to fully accept that it really is OK. Fortunately, like with any other professional skill, practice makes perfect. The more you exercise your right to treat yourself like the star employee that you are, the easier it will be to make your solo business a workplace you’ll never want to leave.

Your turn! What else should solopreneurs give themselves permission to do without apology?

Click here to register for the FREE Referral Source Secrets from Solopreneur Superstars telesummit! The place to be for tips and tools to build your solo business!!

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4 Ways to Keep Love for your Business Alive after the Honeymoon is Over

Starting a new business is exciting, exhilarating…and kind of sexy! There’s a great deal of satisfaction and gratificationHappy Valentine's Day in putting in long hours, facing challenges and moving things forward as a budding solopreneur. You can sense the electricity in the air. You feel boundless energy.And then, you wake up one morning to realize that you’re no longer in that intense mode of the unknown and the unexpected. You’re operating a business – and you’re responsible for paying attention to a lot of less-than-titillating details day in and day out. A downer, right?
 
It doesn’t need to be!Sure, the honeymoon might be over, but that doesn’t mean that your relationship with your business is. Like any relationship worth keeping for the long haul, the one you have with your business will change over time. It won’t always be chocolates and roses, but there are some things you can do to keep the magic alive. That involves making an effort to appreciate what you have – and nurture the bond that you share.A few ideas for how to treat your business right and keep the love alive…

Wine and dine it

Get out and mix and mingle with like-minded business professionals in casual settings where you can relax and enjoy yourself. Chamber of Commerce mixers and other networking events provide opportunities to escape from the grind and make face-to-face connections while sipping cocktails and noshing on hors d’oeuvres.

Take it out of town

Sometimes you and your business simply need a change of scenery and perspective to reinstate your passion. Whether you take one day to go to a nearby social media seminar or leave the home office behind for a 4-day professional development conference, leaving town for a learning opportunity can help motivate you to do business better.

Take some time apart

When you’re feeling burned out, it just might be time to take a little break. Completely remove yourself and your mind from your business for a weekend and do something you enjoy. Make a spa appointment, go biking or hiking, rent that bunch of movies you’ve been wanting to watch…just make sure you focus on only non-business activities. And when Monday rolls around, you’ll feel energized and ready to once again devote yourself to your business.

Don’t hold it to unrealistic standards

We’re always the toughest on the ones we love. Though we know that’s not fair, we can’t help ourselves. Keep in mind that your business is under a lot of pressure from a variety of sources – vendors, clients, finances, regulations, competition and the list goes on. You’ll find that it will sometimes make mistakes, drop the ball or in some other way fall short of your expectations. Don’t chastise it. Forgive it – and find ways for it to do better next time. Because all it really wants to do is make you happy.

Happy Valentine’s Day! XOXO to you and your business!

5 Tips for Getting More Mileage From Your Most Valuable Resource

As solopreneurs, we try our best not to take for granted our most valuable resources. But do you downplay the

Want a boost - go for a green smoothie!

Want a boost – go for a green smoothie!

importance of sustaining the one resource that you absolutely could not do without?

I’m talking about YOU! And I’m talking to you. Do you push yourself too hard and not give your own well-being the time and attention it deserves – and needs? The only thing worse than being overworked and underappreciated by your boss is being overworked and underappreciated by yourself. And too much of that WILL take its toll mind, body and soul.

What can you do to avoid depleting your business’s most important resource? Here are a few ideas to help you maintain your well-being and sustain your productivity…

Drink In a Little Sunshine – Every Day!
They’re bright and sunny looking, but even better is that lemons help boost your energy level and your immunity to colds (always a plus at this time of year!). Besides their cold-fighting kick of Vitamin C, lemons are also full of potassium which helps increase brain function and regulate blood pressure. AND warm lemon water purges toxins from your body and aids in digestion. Start every day with it – and for an extra dash of energy, add a splash or two of hot sauce. Trust me, it tastes much better than it sounds!

 

Let In Some Light – And Levity.

Bring some vibrancy into your workspace with lighting fixtures and light-colored (but not pure white) walls to make you more alert, but not distracted. Got windows? Keep those shades open to let in as much natural light as possible – except for when the sun’s glaring on your face or your computer screen of course.

And don’t forget to bring in some mood-boosting feel-good items like family photos, artwork, plants, wind chimes, piñatas, or whatever else to add some whimsy and creativity to your space. Whether you’re working from a home office or elsewhere, make your workspace one that you don’t mind spending time in.

 

Go Green to Beat the Mid-morning or Mid-afternoon Energy Slump

I know you don’t need to be reminded that veggies are really, really good for you. I will, however, venture to guess that it’s not always easy for you to fit them in during your busy days. As you’re feeling the need for a little something to replenish your energy reserves, toss the following ingredients in a blender for a smoothie that’ll give you a delicious lift and help you meet your greens quota:

  • 1.5 cups Romaine, Green Leaf or Red Leaf Lettuce
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 Tbsp. ground Flax Seeds
  • 1 cup water

Make sure that you blend it really, really well so it’s completely smooth if you’re averse to chunks. Vitamin-packed and full of fiber, it makes a nice energizing alternative to coffee and processed snacks.

Take a Break
But you don’t have time you say? Make time. Having your foot constantly on the pedal leads to fatigue and lack of focus. One of the 7 habits of highly successful people according to Inc. Magazine is to recharge by taking breaks after every 60 – 90 minutes of work. Of course, that could extend your day, but those hours will feel less arduous and exhausting because you’ve given your brain and body the rests they need rather than subject them to a marathon work session.

 

Give Yourself a Break

Above all; don’t be too hard on yourself! You’re human; you’ll make mistakes and fall short of your own expectations at times. Rather than beat yourself up about it, take a step back and figure out why. Chances are you’ll find that it’s not because you’ve been lazy or apathetic, but because you’ve been trying too hard and putting too much pressure on yourself. If you’re consistently missing the mark because of overdoing it, consider outsourcing certain work or home tasks. Are there elements of your business that you can hand off to someone else so you can focus on more important revenue-producing aspects of work? Is it time to hire a house-cleaning service?

Trite perhaps, but true for solopreneurs: Without your health, you have nothing. Take time for and give attention to doing things that will keep you feeling well and put you at the top of your game. If you don’t, your business could get sidelined.

 

What are your tips and tricks for being a healthy solopreneur? I’d love to hear your food, exercise, and lifestyle suggestions!

When to Say “When” – Drawing Boundaries on Volunteerism

Solopreneurs and new business owners, especially those just starting out, can benefit big from volunteering in their Draw the linecommunities. Not only does involvement help organizations in need, but it can also lead you to new professional connections, allow you to develop new skills, demonstrate your leadership capabilities, and enable you to beef up your portfolio.

Powerful stuff! But as you dig in and commit your time and energy to volunteerism, be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Volunteering should be a win-win. The organization and the community should benefit from your involvement; the experience should give you a positive return on the hours, talent and effort you’re investing to the cause. It should enhance, not detract from your personal and professional life.

Here are a few signs and signals that you may have taken on more than is good for you and/or your business:

  • You’re unable to find time to network to effectively build your business.
    Although volunteering gives you the opportunity to make connections, it might not afford you the ability to directly promote your business or services to the people you meet. If your commitment takes too much time away from your business development activities, you could be missing out on attracting new clients and generating revenue.
  • You’re not “present” with your family – even when you’re in the same room with them.
    It’s likely that physically you can’t always be around your loved ones as much as you’d like to when working on your business.  So when you are, they deserve the attention of your whole brain. Being in business for yourself takes plenty of mental energy in its own right, adding significant volunteer responsibilities on top of that will further push you to your limits. If you’re constantly distracted and thinking about other things when in the company of your family and friends, consider re-evaluating and adjusting your volunteer roles.
  • You’re irritated rather than energized.
    Volunteering should make you feel good. Sure, you’re giving precious hours and talents, but if the volunteer opportunity is the right fit, you’ll nearly always feel rejuvenated by your commitment. If you find that you’re consistently dreading meetings, getting annoyed by emails and phone calls from others in the organization, feeling resentful about donating your time and skills, or all of the above, you might need to cut the cord or drastically set some boundaries on what you will – or won’t do – as a volunteer.

Again, volunteerism is a marvelous way to breathe life into your business and personal life. Just be aware that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Before you commit, do an honest assessment of the amount of time you can – and are willing – to spend. If you’re already committed and have found yourself on the verge of burn out, make a change – and don’t feel guilty about it.

Has volunteerism played a role in your professional life? How have you kept your volunteer commitments in check so they’ve continued to work for – rather than against – your business?

Solopreneurs: 3 Things to Consider before Saying “Yes” to a Volunteer Opportunity

Solopreneurs’ entrepreneurial skills and experience – and our flexibility in scheduling our work – make us attractive candidates for leadership positions at community and professional organizations. We’re the quintessential volunteers. Driven to make change. Dedicated. Available.

And volunteering on committees and serving on boards of directors brings you tremendous opportunities for both professional and personal development.

By giving your time and talent, you can:

  • hone your skills as a leader,
  • make new business connections, and
  • enjoy participating as part of a team (even solopreneurs don’t want to always be in solitude!)

But before you jump in and grab the first volunteer opportunity that comes your way, you need to recognize that volunteering takes time, energy and focus.  Sometimes lots of all three! Avoid overextending yourself by considering…

  • Time commitment expected

Ask the organization how many hours it expects you to devote to the position each month – and for how long. Naturally, monthly involvement could vary depending on what events and activities are in progress, but get an average. And what is the term of the position? Are you committing to one year? Two? Three? Then take inventory of your existing commitments – volunteer, professional, personal – and carefully assess whether or not you can accommodate the responsibility.

  • Meetings schedule

Find out when and how often your committee or board meets, and ask  if the organization requires people in your position to attend a minimum number of meetings. Verify that the days and times of required meetings won’t impede your ability to serve your clients. If it’s likely that business commitments will regularly trump your availability to attend meetings, the opportunity might not be a good fit for you.

  • What’s in it for you?

Admirable as it is to volunteer your time to the greater good, you need to be sure you’re gaining something from the experience. Think long and hard about the knowledge, skills, connections, and credentials you expect to take away. Don’t feel guilty about wanting something in return for your efforts! Organizations benefit most from volunteers who have enthusiasm and purpose. It stands to reason that you’ll be more energized and committed if you see both personal and professional value in your involvement.

Volunteering can boost your business acumen and bring personal fulfillment, but the decision to do it needs careful consideration. Make sure you: believe in the cause, can accommodate the commitment, and will derive benefits that justify the sacrifices you’ll be making. If you do, both you and the organization you’ve selected will reap the rewards.

Your turn: What volunteer endeavors have helped – or hindered – your business success? If you’ve had volunteer experience, what advice for managing the commitment do you have for other solopreneurs?

 

 

Making Summer Work for the Home-based Solopreneur: 4 tips for balancing business and kids

In just two weeks, I’ll have my third go as the “school’s out for summer insatiable solopreneur.” As all of you home-based entrepreneurs well know, working from home can be challenging. And it becomes an even more delicate balancing act when school lets out for the summer. You no longer have a school district-prescribed window of working opportunity set into every Monday through Friday. You can no longer count on uninterrupted periods of solitude for making important calls to clients, focusing on projects and keeping up on your blog posts.

I admit it – I get a little uneasy as this time of year rolls around. I love the idea of having my daughter home with me for 9 weeks, but the contradictory aspirations of growing my business and making summer an enjoyable experience for her add an extra serving of stress to the solopreneurial plate.

This year, I’m finding it a little easier though – in part, because I know what to expect, and in part, because I’m doing a better job of planning ahead. Maybe you’ve already got a summer system in place, but if you don’t, here are a few ideas for juggling it all without letting balls drop:

  • Decide what your summer work week is going to look like.
    Take inventory of meetings that you need to attend regularly, and also decide on the weekdays and times that you’ll reserve for holding ad hoc meetings with clients and vendors. Then, if your children aren’t quite old enough to be home alone during those times, you can line up – in advance – a grandparent, friend or childcare provider who will be available  to keep your kiddo safe and entertained while you’re out on business.Also take stock of how many hours you’ll need to devote to your business each day and how you’ll work that in while your children are home.  As a freelance writer, I’m fortunate in that I’m not tied to an 8 – 5 work day. I suspect many of you have a good bit of flexibility as well. Will you need to wake up an extra 2 hours early to focus on clients’ projects without interruption? Will you need to stay up 3 hours later to stay on top of your responsibilities? After you get your kids settled in with breakfast, can you crank out an hour of work while they watch The Disney Channel or play a game on the Wii? Although your routine will routinely stray off course (and you know that WILL happen) occasionally, having a master plan will give you and your family some sense of structure during what could otherwise be complete pandemonium.
  •  Add enrichment.
    Look and you will surely find a wide array of summer programs that can give your children the opportunity to try new activities or immerse themselves in the ones they love most. The bonus is that they can give you several hours to a full day’s worth of guilt-free time to devote to your business. We enroll our daughter in an all-day local theater camp – that’s 4 weeks of the 9-week summer when I know she’s having a blast, and I can settle into business as usual.
  • Find Friends.
    It depends on your child’s and her friends’ ages, but there’s a point in time when having an additional child at the house requires less attention than if your child is there by herself. “Play dates” (Note that my kiddo would cringe if she heard me calling them that!) are often productive time for me because my daughter and her friends don’t want me hanging with them while they play with their Monster High dolls. While they’re doing their thing, I take up residence in the home office, crank out some work and attend to them when they need me.
  •  Vacation in summer.
     Taking a week’s vacation during the no-school summer months leaves you with one less week of worrying about the kids/work balancing act. Pledge to do minimal – if any at all – work while you’re gone so you can dedicate your time away to your family. If getting away isn’t in the budget, plan a week’s “stay-cation” at home when you unplug from work and focus solely on having a great time with your loved ones.
Finding the right combination of activities that translates to a successful modified work schedule may take more than one summer season to master. As you figure it out, have patience! And remember, this time-sensitive dilemma is well worth the temporary inconvenience given the year-round flexibility we enjoy as solopreneurs.

What tips and tricks do you have for keeping your business running smoothly and your kids happy during no-school months?