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 of 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?
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
Great advice and timely. I am struggling right now wearing too many hats, all in different fields but all sales. Out of necessity to make ends meet through an industry down turn.
If one identity was as a completely different name, like a dba or LLC. Do you see any issues with that?
Hi Craig! I just visited your LinkedIn profile and see that you’re consistent with your professional image. I think that’s key.
And taking on other opportunities doesn’t necessarily mean you will dilute credibility or client confidence. With the sales focus in common, I think people can readily make the connection. And if the other businesses are your own, then you have the entrepreneurial spirit common across them as well. Will you be adding the other ventures to your LinkedIn profile? If so, I think the Summary field would be a good place to connect the dots.
Great hearing from you!