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

I’m a Solopreneur and I Need HELP: How to Prepare to Outsource Tasks to an Independent Contractor

It’s a tricky spot to be in. You’re a solopreneur – an independent contractor to your clients – and now YOU are at capacitySolopreneurs sometimes need help and turn to independent contractors as personal assistants with your work and need to outsource some responsibilities. Whether you’re bringing in a virtual assistant or someone in your field who does some of the things you do on a freelance basis, you’ll want to prepare for the new working arrangement.

Before you hire an Independent Contractor consider having these things in place before you start working together:

A list of tasks/responsibilities you will delegate – While you might not have specific assignments determined, at least know and communicate the types of tasks you’ll be outsourcing. For example, a few of the things I’m getting assistance with include: research for blog posts, proofreading, and keeping record of my business mileage. You’ll want to discuss your needs with your independent contractor to make sure the work is in line with their expectations and capabilities.

Independent contracting agreement – Having one of these puts it in black and white that the person helping you is NOT an employee. That’s extremely important because they are responsible for submitting all applicable federal, state, and local income taxes, and you’re not responsible for providing health insurance or other benefits. Besides that, you can define the type of work the independent contractor will do and the compensation rate, which will confirm you mutually agree on those points.

You can find samples and templates of agreements online to use as a starting point, or perhaps one of your professional contacts might be willing to share their format with you. Here’s one on docracy.com that appears rather straightforward and customizable. When I created my independent contracting agreement, I was fortunate to have a template available to me via Gosmallbiz.com, a membership-based resource for small business owners. Having subscribed to pre-paid legal services through LegalShield, I also gained the benefit of membership to Gosmallbiz.com. After I tweaked the agreement template to include the particulars of my situation, I emailed the document for review to the law office assigned to me via LegalShield. I then made adjustments based on my attorney’s advice and forwarded the agreement to my new assistant.

Confidentiality agreement – While we’d all like to think the people we work with will respect our confidential and proprietary information, it doesn’t hurt to ask them to agree to it in writing. A confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement will state that the independent contractor will not share the  information you disclose to them with third parties or the public without your permission. Of course, any information already in the public domain or that is common knowledge doesn’t apply. This agreement is to get acknowledgement that your independent contractor isn’t going to share your financial info, business plans, client info, private emails, etc. with anyone without your O.K.

As with independent contracting agreements, you can also find plenty of sources of confidentiality agreement templates online (like this one on nolo.com for example). I found one through Gosmallbiz.com and added a non-compete clause.

I’ve also seen some examples of combined independent contracting and confidentiality agreements. Regardless, it’s advisable to have an attorney review any agreements you plan to use or sign.

A system for working together – The success of your working relationship will depend on how well you communicate and define how you’ll work together.

  • How will you exchange information?
  • How often will you meet or talk by phone?
  • When are tasks due?
  • Where will you store digital files that you both need to access?
  • How – and how often – will the contractor track and report her time?
  • What tools will you use to manage projects?

And prepare to have to write out processes for certain assignments. While they might be second nature to you because you’re so familiar with them, your independent contractor may need step-by-step instructions.

Going from doing everything yourself as a solopreneur to delegating tasks to another person is a big leap. Not only is it not easy to admit you can’t do it all effectively by yourself, but it can be difficult to put your trust in someone else. And you might question, will it be worth it?

There’s one way to find out.

Have you used an  independent contractor as a personal assistant in your solo business? What tips do you have to share with other solopreneurs?

(Please note that the content of this post is for informational purposes only and in now way should be considered legal advice.)

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

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Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

6 Types of Profile Pics that are Worse than an Egg

First impressions matter – especially when you’re looking to build your brand and be recognized as a professional whoTwitter egg is worth the while to connect with. As good as your credentials may be, the very first thing people notice on your online profiles is your profile photo. If it’s an egg or a shadowy silhouette, I’ll bet you’re not making as many as connections as you could be. I’m sometimes near merciless when teasing my small biz friends and colleagues who have yet to upload their photos – particularly on Linkedin. Again, first impressions matter – especially online where you often don’t have a face-to-face opportunity to project the real you.  But as bad as eggs and shadows are as profile pics, there are (believe it or not!) worse choices!

Want to be taken seriously as a professional? Think twice before using any of the below as your profile photo…

Fido or Tiger
Lots of people ooh and ahh over dogs and cats, but using yours as your profile photo on a network you intend to use primarily to build your brand will make you look less  professional. Well, maybe not if you’re a dog groomer or pet sitter…actually, even then it’s not a good idea.

It Takes Two
Posting a couples shot as your profile pic is…well…odd. MAYBE, if the face of your business is you and your spouse, it might be appropriate on your Facebook Page or G+ page. But not on your individual Linkedin profile. That photo should be all you.

Leaving too much to the imagination
Beware of bared shoulders and low necklines on photos that when cropped give the illusion that you’re in the buff. Awkward!

Sexy and you know it
While there might be a few professions (ahem) that justify putting on pouty lips and a seductive stare when saying “cheese” for a profile pic, it’s generally not the way to go.

Don’t mess with me
Making connections online is about being approachable. Your facial expression on your profile pic can either draw people to you or push them away. Don’t post a pic that makes you look menacing, mean, angry, or otherwise stand-offish.

Comic relief
You might argue that using a cartoon or caricature as a profile photo shows creativity. But if you’re trying to build your professional network do you really want to be known as the guy or gal who used a silly drawing for your profile pic? Even if it’s in the likeness of you. It’s not you.

Remember, your profile pic makes a strong first impression, so make sure yours is projecting the image you want prospects and customers to have of you. Realize, too, that even the profile pics you use on your personal online social networks can impact how others perceive you professionally. You have more flexibility on them, but be cognizant of the appropriateness of what you post when you’ve got business colleagues and clients within your personal networks.

What professional profile pic faux pas have you seen online? 

By Dawn Mentzer

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

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

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

Solopreneurial Smarts

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

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

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

• Launching a website

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

• Using Hootsuite and Buffer for posting to Twitter

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

• Getting personal on Linkedin

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

• Volunteering strategically

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

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

• Launching a website

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

• Announcing it to family and friends

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

• Joining a Social Media peer group

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

• “Honesty with clients…always” became my motto

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

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

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