Your Personal Brand: One Thing You Can Do To Get Closer To Super Star Status

At the 2015 CMT Music Awards, Carrie Underwood made history. Winning three awards, she reached a total count of thirteen in her career thus far. That’s more than any Spotlights On Stageother country music artist.

 

Not a country music fan? Neither am I, but we can still admire and appreciate not only Underwood’s raw talent but also her hard work and determination in building her personal brand.

 

As an avid American Idol fan back in 2005 (I’ve since ceased watching—too much of a time commitment), I saw Underwood get her start. Without a doubt, she had the pipes, …but her panache for performing was, in my opinion, meh. While her voice blew me away, her performances lacked that special spark to form an emotional connection.

 

Still, she won big over the other contestants that season. And over the years, she has improved her stage presence to true super star status. Now, her performances are not only music to the ears, they’re visually and emotionally captivating.

 

As professionals of other sorts, we can learn something from Carrie Underwood.

 

No matter where we are in our professional development journey, we have raw talents that we should improve upon to wow our prospects and customers.

 

We always have room to hone our skills and build our knowledge so we can serve our clients more effectively and bring additional value.

 

What might your path to developing your professional prowess involve?

 

  • Fine-tuning proficiency in your craft
  • Expanding what you know about a service complementary to the one you provide (In my case for example, keeping up on SEO basics is helpful.)
  • Improving your project management skills
  • Becoming better at time management
  • Improving your networking skills
  • Working on your public speaking skills

 

And bringing additional value doesn’t only benefit our existing clients; it can put our businesses in a different league from our competitors.

 

Make professional development a priority, and you could likely:

 

 

No matter how accomplished you are as a professional, there’s always room for improvement—and always something to gain from the effort.

 

What improvements could you make that would help your clients and your business?

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles 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

The Often Unsung Benefit of Blogging

Blogging. You’ll find no shortage of articles telling you how important it is to your business. It directs traffic to yourThumbs up website, improves your placement in search results, establishes you as an authority in your field…need I go on?

But there’s something else blogging can do for you. And it’s something I believe we don’t talk about nearly enough…

Blogging helps us better understand – and project offline – who we are and the value we bring to our clients.

Here are some of the reasons why that’s so…

  • Blogging helps you find and develop your professional voice.
  • As you blog, you have an opportunity to think about the individual components of your business and how they impact you and your customers.
  • Blogging gives you a reason to dissect your systems and processes. Preparing to explain what you do to an audience helps you find holes and gaps that you might not otherwise find.
  • Blogging reinforces what you know and instills confidence in your capabilities.
  • Blogging often requires some degree of research – you expand your knowledge in the process.
  • Regularly writing about what you know and do and what’s important within your industry can help you feel more comfortable and confident when talking with prospects.

If you’ve felt like you’re simply going through the motions of blogging because you believe you have to for the purpose of marketing, look at it as a professional development opportunity instead. Blogging can do more for you than put you on the online radar screen; it can make you a smarter, stronger, more confident small business owner.

Important to note: Even if you hire a freelancer to write your blog posts, your involvement in identifying topics and specific talking points can give you these benefits!

YOUR TURN! How have your blogging efforts transcended marketing and helped you develop professionally?

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Things Freelance Professionals Need to Get Over

To run your own freelance business, you can’t afford to be your own worst enemy. There are times when it gets toughMan jumping over obstacle having your work scrutinized, waiting for  responses from clients, prospecting for new business, and putting your foot down. But these things come with the territory when you freelance, so to get on with business, you need to get over a few things first.

Don’t let these things hold you back in your freelancing business:

Sensitivity to criticism

The beauty of what freelancers do is generally in the eye of the beholder. Clients are subjective…their unique styles, likes, and dislikes will play a role in determining whether or not they like your work. There’s no room for Prima Donnas in freelancing. Accept that not everyone will love all of your work all of the time.

Perfectionism

You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. No freelancer is. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes – but own them and do what it takes to make them right. Most important, recognize if there are areas of business where you make mistakes repeatedly. You might need to take more time when tackling them or outsource tasks when possible.

Dislike of networking

Want to get quality clients? Network, network, network – online and in person! I know a fair share of freelancers who very much dislike mixing and mingling in social settings. Avoiding networking activities puts you at a disadvantage. Face-to-face networking can give you a major edge as prospects hear your voice, see your smile, feel your personality up close and personal. You’ll need to embrace social media, too. Used consistently, it builds professional relationships and goodwill because it makes it easy to show support of and interest in prospects and clients.

Impatience

Freelancing requires a willingness  to wait. It takes time to build a portfolio of work, a solid base of clients, and a reputation as the “go to” pro in your field. Sometimes it can take years before a contact turns into a client. Beyond that, the day-to-day stuff requires patience, too. You’ll encounter prospects who don’t respond to your proposals, clients who don’t get back to you with feedback on your work, and occasional payments that won’t arrive by the due date you posted on your invoices. Instant gratification is rare in freelancing – you need to develop a tolerance for waiting.

Discomfort at following up about client payments

That said…while practicing patience in most things, stay politely vigilant about following up on client payments that are overdue. Freelancers aren’t high-volume service providers who can afford to let payments go 30 days…60 days…90 days past due. I’ve found missed payments are not intentional and almost always an oversight. Generally, I wait 7 days past the due date and then send an email to inquire (always in a non-accusatory tone).

Traveling the freelancing career path requires the guts and gumption to put preconceived habits and inclinations aside. You won’t always find it comfortable to change your thoughts and practices. But after you start reaping the rewards from altering elements of your M.O., you’ll find it easier to get past the other things that might be holding your freelance business down.

What have you needed to get over to go forward in your freelance biz? What methods and ways of thinking have you found most difficult to set aside?

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why It Makes Sense to Make Your Competitors Your Comrades

You’ve heard it before…ID-10045800

“It’s a dog eat dog world.”

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

In business, it’s natural to be somewhat wary of our competition. After all, they pose a threat to our livelihood, right?

Not necessarily! My hope is that you’re not in a completely saturated industry or niche that’s so incredibly tight where there’s not enough room for both you and those who do the same sort of work. Assuming you’re not in that situation, there’s much to be gained as a solopreneur by openly communicating with – and even coaching – your competitors.

Although I launched my freelance writing business just four years ago, several writers (some in the field far longer than me) have approached me to “talk shop” and learn about how to better manage, evolve, and market their solo-businesses. I’ve never turned any of them (my competitors!) away. And while I believe my insight and shared experiences have helped them a good deal, I’ve also found benefit professionally from giving them practical tips and advice.

Here’s what you stand to gain by treating your competitors like comrades:

Validation
Hey, if your competition is coming to you for advice, you’re obviously doing something right. Talk about a shot in the arm to boost your self-confidence! Consider it an honor that they thought to reach out to you for knowledge.

Discovery
While you’re sharing some elements of your “secret sauce” and advising, you’ll likely discover new ideas, tools and approaches, too. As you open up about what has been working for you in business, they will surely share some of what has worked for them as well. Stay aware and ready to learn!

Alternative Options
As a solopreneur, you don’t have unlimited capacity to take on new work, and you won’t be right for every project that crosses your path. By learning more about your competitors, you’ll be better able to outsource work or direct prospects to the right person for the job when you’re not available or when the job just isn’t a good match for you.

Potential for Referrals
That’s right! That good will that you’ll generate through being a friend rather than a foe to your competitors can translate to new clients and projects for you in return. Just as you on occasion may need to defer work to someone else, so will your competitors.

Occasionally, you may need to draw the line on just how much information and help you freely provide.
Use your discretion and good sense. If someone seems to be asking for too much detail, politely explain that you don’t feel comfortable disclosing that information and perhaps send them a link to an online resource instead where they can explore the topic. If someone starts to demand too much of your time (email after email or phone call after phone call), politely let them know that you’re very busy and gradually wean them to a level of communication that is manageable for you.

Is there risk associated with helping your competitors move their businesses forward?
Perhaps. But in my experience, the competitors I’ve helped have all had only the purest intentions to learn to do business better – and not at my expense.  None of them have ever used what I’ve shared against me or have knowingly approached any of my clients in an attempt to steal them away.

That said; go with your gut before you sit down to have a heart-to-heart with a competitor. If someone seems less than authentic in their motives, don’t talk with them.

Remember, however, that most solopreneurs are good, honest people who support each other. So, be open to communicating with your competitors and enjoy the camaraderie and opportunities that follow.

What about you? How have relationships with your competitors helped you professionally?

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ways to Whack Your Inner Whiner

When running a small business, you face a lot of challenges. And as a solopreneur whose quality of work can largely No Whiningdepend on your ability to stay focused and function within the right frame of mind, dwelling on what’s not going your way will sink you quickly. To be a successful solo-professional, you can’t be whiner.

We all have those “Whoa is me” moments. I know I do, and I don’t know anyone who is immune to them. And I know some people who just don’t seem to be able to get past them. But on the flip side, I also know people who are dealing with some quite heavy, incredibly sad circumstances, but yet somehow manage to see the positive in every day and give others hope and inspiration.

As a solopreneur, it’s important to remain cognizant of – and appreciate – what’s going right even when certain things are going all wrong.

How?

Make it a habit!

A few ideas to help you keep your chin up and cop a “lemons into lemonade” attitude:

  • Write down the steps for tackling whatever’s challenging you. Creating a plan will help you see that you do have some control over the situation.
  • Every day, start the day by reminding yourself of at least three things that you should be thankful for. And it’s OK if they’re the same three things every day!
  • Think ahead to an event or activity that you have planned and are looking forward to in the near future. That can serve as a source of light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Remind yourself that our mistakes – and those made by others – can be our best friends and best learning tools.
  • Listen to music that lifts your mood.
  • Get outside for a breath of fresh air a few times every day – even if only for a minute or two at a time.
  • Make a sincere effort not to complain. In many ways, we create our own attitudes by how we choose to react to situations. I haven’t taken it to the extent of the 21-day complaint-free challenge, but I’ve experimented with it to some degree and have absolutely noticed some positive changes in my level of stress.
  • If possible, minimize your exposure to people who are consistently negative. And if you can’t avoid them, recognize that it’s not you, it’s them!

Again, mumbling and grumbling every now and then about less than ideal circumstances in business is perfectly normal, but don’t get settled into “victim mode” where the pity party never ends. Your prospects and clients need to know that you’re capable of weathering the occasional storm – and that starts with your ability to shed your inner whiner and focus on making the best of every situation.

Your turn: Know anyone in your professional circles who is an incessant whiner? What techniques help you stay positive during challenging times?

The Power of 8! Generating Referrals With Fresh Ideas from Insatiable Solopreneurs

While the legacy of your good work and professionalism needs to be at the foundation of every referral that you get – it Ideas for solos by solosdoesn’t always serve to generate referrals in and of itself.

And “traditional” ways of generating leads can sometimes fall short, too. Or maybe we solopreneurs are slightly impatient? Guilty as charged! (Speaking for myself only of course!

As I’ve navigated my way over the often rough and rugged waters of being my own boss throughout the past 4 years, I’ve discovered that gaining referrals sometimes takes more than doing a great job and mixing and mingling at networking events or making Facebook posts. It takes opening your mind to new ideas and approaches that can leverage relationships and raise awareness of your business and your capabilities. It takes the willingness to try something different – and to learn from each and every experience and opportunity.

If you’re connected with me on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter or Google+, you might have noticed some “promotional” posts sharing about next week’s Referral Source Secrets from Solopreneur Superstars telesummit. Elaine Quinn, The Solopreneur Specialist®, is hosting this free event – and it’s dedicated to giving solopreneurs like you new ideas and ways to think about building your referral potential. For more than 10 years, Elaine has been helping solo professionals more effectively manage their businesses – and their growth. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to lead us in exploring how we can do things better!

Elaine will interview the following list of speakers during next week’s telesummit that runs “live” March 11 – 14 (with the option to listen in for free for up to 24 hours after each session):

AND Elaine will share her tips for smart partnering!

All have found ways to reach new clients and customers with “next step” strategies that you probably haven’t tried yet.

I hope you’ll register, listen in and connect with me to let me know what you thought of it!

Click here to register for the FREE Referral Source Secrets from Solopreneur Superstars telesummit!

Solopreneurs Self-Assessment: “Fascinating” Approach to Personal Development

Learning. When starting and running your own business, there’s no way around making it part of your everyday routine. There’s always something to learn about your industry, your clients, your competition, AND yourself!

As a solopreneur and the one person ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your business, it seems silly not to learn and pay attention to your strengths, what motivates you, and which of your qualities makes you influential. And thinking through it on your own, doesn’t always lead to an objective and honest picture of who you really are.

In the past, I’ve completed the DiSC assessment and StrengthsFinders 2.0 – twice each. And found them both to be relatively accurate in describing my motivators and approach to working and communicating.

Just recently, I was presented with the opportunity to participate in another self-assessment program: Sally Hogshead’s Fascination Advantage Test. The Fascinate test required only about 10 minutes of my time to answer 28 questions targeted at determining which one of 49 personality archetypes match me. The premise of the personality archetypes is that there are 7 different “triggers of fascination” that are combined in different ways according an individual’s personal style for catching the attention of and influencing others.

Immediately after finishing the test, I received an email with a basic report identifying my archetype and triggers. Those results alone seemed to accurately describe my personal/professional style and approach:

  • My personality archetype: Connoisseur
  • My primary trigger: Prestige. Described as, “You earn respect for your higher standards.” “WHO YOU ARE: Ambitious • Detail-oriented • Recognized • Uncompromising • Focused”
  • My secondary trigger: Passion. Described as, “You quickly create warm emotional connections.” “WHO YOU ARE: Expressive • Intuitive • Social • Impulsive • Enthusiastic”
  • My dormant trigger: Power. Described as, “You are unlikely to fascinate others through command and control.”

But where the rubber hit the road was when I received my “custom report” in a PDF via email several days later. The custom report gave a deeper dive into my archetype and each of my triggers. More significant to me (the solopreneur), however, is that it delved into the unique traits that give me a competitive advantage – and those that might be potential pitfalls. And it gave me strategic tips for leveraging my strengths for professional success. Better still, was the realization that my dormant trigger, Power, could make me more effective in business.

“POWER commands people to pay attention by exerting some form of

influence. With your dormant POWER, it’s possible you might be missing

out on opportunities to distinguish yourself, especially at work. If you can

identify and increase your use of this trigger, your messages can earn greater

respect and a bigger audience, thereby increasing your influence.”

 

Ouch! But it’s absolutely right! O.K., I’ll work on that!

Like StrengthsFinders, the Fascinate System isn’t free, but it is reasonably priced. For individuals, the Fascination Advantage Custom Package that I tried sells for $47. There’s also a more basic package available for just $17.

Of course, much of the success you can expect to achieve from self-assessments like this one largely depends on what you do with the results and insight they provide. I think many solopreneurs (myself included) often dedicate time and energy to understanding who we do business with – and who is competing for that business, but we don’t always make a conscious effort to dig into what makes us tick. Nor do we put much thought into how to strategically develop our personality traits to make people more inclined to pay attention – and react – to our calls to action. As solo business owners who are our brands, it makes sense that we should.

Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate System is one way to learn how to use your unique strengths to be more influential. What other methods have been effective for you? StrengthsFinders? DiSC? Myers-Briggs Type Indicator?

 

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?

 

 

Volunteering: Your good works can be good for you professionally!

In one of my first posts here on The Insatiable Solopreneur, I shared about the give and take aspects of volunteerism.Volunteerism: Full circle

I’m passionate about volunteering.

I’m equally – if not more – passionate about letting you know that it’s OK to seek more than just the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped a worthy cause. When you volunteer your time, talent and energy, there’s no shame in expecting something non-monetary in return.

Read more here to find out how you can make the time and effort that you spend volunteering give back to you!