15 Moments When Your Business Needs Your Unconditional Love

Starting a small business is exciting. Fraught with novelty and excitement. While it would sure be great if every day from day one onward would be an awe-inspiring adventure,  not all of them will be. Eventually, the fiery honeymoon period ends and your sensible, steady love for your business and what you do will need to sustain and motivate you.

Your business needs your unconditional love!

You need to love your business even when…

  1. You feel overworked.
  2. You don’t have as much work as you’d like.
  3. Not everything is going your way.
  4. You miss out on a great opportunity.
  5. You take an opportunity that isn’t as great as you thought it might be.
  6. A client misunderstands you.
  7. You misunderstand a client.
  8. Payments arrive late.
  9. Your checkbook or credit card statement doesn’t reconcile with Quickbooks.
  10. People doubt you.
  11. You doubt yourself.
  12. You lose a good client.
  13. You gain a not so good client.
  14. Computer issues set you behind schedule.
  15. ________________________. [Insert business challenge here]

Although it’s natural to become frustrated and stressed at times, you can refrain from losing your cool by remembering what you love most about being in business for yourself. As you go about your daily routine day after day and week after week, you might have lost sight of that.

So take a deep breath, and remind yourself about how liberating it is to have the opportunity to do work that means something to you. Focus on the flexibility self-employment has provided you. Think about how running your own business has helped you grow and develop professionally – and personally.

There’s A LOT to love!

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

 

 

 

Twitter Quick Tip: Set Up a “VIP List” to Manage Your Feed & Build Your Business

Twitter has become one of my all-time favorite platforms for finding and sharing content, networking, and building Top 10 Buttonprofessional relationships. As my Twitter network grows, however, so does the challenge of keeping up with what many of my key connections are tweeting.

I know I’m not alone. As you follow more and more people on Twitter, the quantity of tweets in your home feed balloons exponentially. And that means tweets by “VIPs,” the individuals and companies who you want to proactively nurture relationships with, often  get lost in the shuffle.

Even if you have a variety of Twitter lists set up according to industry, business focus or geography to organize tweets in your feed, it might not be enough. In my case, it hasn’t been enough! So, I’ve created a new list specifically for a handful of people and businesses who I want to keep better tabs on. By putting them on my “VIP List,” their tweets are far easier to find and react to.

Worried that having a VIP List will seem exclusive? Don’t! Just because you don’t put someone on your VIP List doesn’t mean that they aren’t important! Every connection is valuable, but it’s natural that some are more professionally advantageous than others.

Tips for your VIP List:

  • Make the list “Private” – That way no one will know who is – and who is not – on it.
  • Add individuals and businesses who aren’t frequent tweeters – Reserve your VIP List for people who DON’T show up in your feed regularly. If you’re already catching their tweets, there’s no reason to include them. This list should be for users who either don’t tweet enough to stay on your Twitter radar, or who seem to cluster their tweets at a time that you generally aren’t perusing your stream.
  • Consider including…Prospects, clients, vendors, loyal supporters, sources of referrals.
  • Keep it short – You’ll want to keep your ability to review the feed for this list ultra-manageable. Keep it lean. I recommend 30 or fewer users, but you’ll need to gauge what works for you. And keep in mind that you’ll probably alter your list over time as your professional relationships and priorities evolve.
  • If you use Hootsuite, set up your VIP List as a stream in your dashboard. – That way it will be accessible where you’re most likely to view and use it most effectively.

I don’t recall who blogged about it, but months and months past, I recall someone saying something like, “I follow everyone, and therefore I’m finding that I follow no one.

How true that is when you’ve got a Twitter feed that flows fast and furiously with tweets by hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of users. My hope is that a VIP List will help you set a less overwhelming pace and enable you to more easily follow – really follow – the people and companies that matter most to your business.

What’s your biggest challenge in keeping tabs on key people and companies on Twitter? How do you keep your feed manageable?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You’re a Star! 3 Golden Globe-Inspired Tips for Solopreneurs

You might never dress in Dior and adorn yourself with Cartier bling. And you might never find yourself walking a red carpet. But as a solopreneur, you do (believe it or not!) share some things in common with the famous personalities that were abundant at the Golden Globe ARed carpet imagewards. Here’s how you can use them to your advantage…

Like it or not, you’ve earned a degree of celebrity status.

As a business owner, you’re out there in the public eye. Just because the paparazzi aren’t chasing you around every corner, doesn’t mean that people aren’t paying attention. Being in business expands awareness of you as an individual within your community. And thanks to social media, you could very well be making a name for yourself in circles well beyond the place you call home.

Use your celebrity status (no matter how great or how small) to build a positive brand image. Be helpful, interesting, giving and responsive to your audience. And set out to be role model for other solopreneurs and members of your community. Be real. Be optimistic. Be accessible.

How you perform is constantly under critique

Just like the actors at the Golden Globes, your work gets reviewed by an audience. And the individuals within that audience (your clients, your blog subscribers, your social media connections) have differing tastes, frames of reference, and levels of tolerance.

Not only do you need to do your best work at all times, but you need to be cognizant of the unique wants and needs within your diverse fan base. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to please all of the people all of the time, so get a grip on who you need to focus on satisfying the most (Hint: Keep your target market in mind!).

Appreciation and gratitude build adoration

When Golden Globe winners express genuine gratitude for the accolades received and appreciation for the people who helped them along the way, they give off warm fuzzies that make adoring fans even more adoring.

That can go a long way for solopreneurs, too. Be generous in acknowledging others for their recommendations and referrals. Reciprocate when people share your blog articles and comment on your social media posts. Spread the word about vendors’ services. You have so many easy and cost-effective ways to show your appreciation and gratitude readily available to you. Use them!

What other ways do you find yourself in the spotlight as a solopreneur? What challenges have you met because of becoming better known locally and online as you’ve been building your business?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

LinkedIn Tip for Solopreneurs: Go Light on your “Skills & Expertise”

More isn’t always better – especially when posting your “Skills & Expertise” on LinkedIn.Scale

LinkedIn recently introduced a “Skills & Expertise” feature to enable us to enhance our profiles by adding single words or phrases that represent our specific talents, organizational and interpersonal skills, software aptitude, sales and marketing prowess, technical abilities, industry knowledge, etc. It’s nice in that it adds keywords to your profile to help others find you via the Skills & Expertise page of the LinkedIn site. But resist the urge to splurge!

LinkedIn lets you add up to 50 skills and areas of expertise to your profile. Fantastic, right? Great in theory, because it seems logical that the more you have, the more impressive you’ll appear to prospects. Unfortunately, that can backfire as your connections seek to help you by endorsing your specific capabilities.

I discovered quickly, that if you have too many options listed under “Skills & Expertise,” people might very well endorse those that really aren’t what you want front and center on your profile. Not that any particular skills or areas of expertise are bad (unless bank robbery or money-laundering happen to be among them!), but they could pull attention away from the talents that truly matter to prospects. If your connections endorse your “lesser” or “in the past” skills more prolifically than those that are pertinent to your current status as a solopreneur, potential clients might not feel as confident about your ability to meet their needs.

How can you ensure that your top traits get the spotlight?

Keep these things in mind as you set up or review your LinkedIn “Skills & Expertise” list…

  • 50 is overkill. I have 22 on my list and need to whittle it down even further.
    1. Check your own list to see if you duplicated any skills.For example, if you’ve listed “Marketing,” “Marketing Strategy,” “Product Marketing,” and “Marketing Management,” you might eliminate one or two of them so only those that you’d like emphasized on your profile remain.
    2. Remove skills that are implied in other skills.I axed “Microsoft Word” from my list. As a freelance writer, I believe people will correctly assume that I have proficiency in using Word or some equivalent word processing software. If a skill naturally “goes with the territory,” you probably don’t need to list it.
  • LinkedIn prioritizes and puts your skills and areas of expertise with the most endorsements at the top of your list.
    If you have any that you would rather not highlight, remove them so your connections don’t have the option to endorse them.
  • Don’t feel obliged to keep endorsed skills and expertise in your profile.
    Even if others endorsed you on them, pull the plug if they are diluting your professional focus.

Of course, there is the double-edged sword effect of not being found if someone searches on the LinkedIn Skills & Expertise page for a capability that you removed from your profile. However, if you’ve got a comparable skill there instead, users will see it among the list of “Related Skills” provided. And if they’re seriously looking for professionals with your specific abilities, they’ll continue their research to view profiles (yours included) that have the related skill. No guarantees, of course, so the choice is yours! My preference is to work toward a profile that displays a meaningful Skills and Expertise list with appropriate endorsements, rather than bulk load for the sake of search. Your thoughts?

 

Image courtesy of John Kawasa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Solopreneurs Campaign Every Day: What to Consider to Win the Votes from Your Prospective Clients

Not wholly unlike presidential candidates, solopreneurs undergo a degree of scrutiny before being selected as providers of choice. Clients do research, and they put a good deal of thought into whom they choose for professional services. Although you most likely don’t run up against negative ads and spin doctoring like candidates in an election, you are judged according to comparable categories of performance and perception.

Keep these in mind as you strive to put your best foot forward and win the favor of prospective clients:

Your past record

It’s far easier to garner new business when you’ve got a body of work available for review that demonstrates your skills and expertise. A portfolio can absolutely tip the needle toward you versus someone who appears comparatively green in your industry. And by making your portfolio easily accessible online via your website, Facebook page, Pinterest, a Commonfig multi-media profile, or other web venue, you’ll gain the advantage of making an impression quickly. If you’re a new solopreneur with not a whole lot of experience or samples to share, consider practicing your craft on a pro bono basis to build up your repertoire of examples.

Your reputation

Sometimes prospects will base their buying decisions on knowing that others have something good to say about your work and your work ethic. When clients are happy with your services and their experience in working with you, ask them for brief endorsements. One easy way to accomplish gathering testimonials is via LinkedIn’s Recommendations feature. It gives your professional connections a convenient way to share their experience with you, plus it gives you a record of referral that you can copy and paste (with permission from the author of the recommendation) on your website and other marketing communications. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Nothing says credibility more than happy clients who talk up your service.

Your capabilities

While your portfolio and testimonials establish that you do what you’ve done well, you’ll also be judged by what you potentially can do for prospects. Sometimes you’ll run across opportunities to work on projects with very unique requirements. How well do your online points of presence and print marketing materials project the skills and expertise that show your potential to do more? Although you might have less (or no) experience with a particular type of endeavor, that doesn’t mean you’re not the right professional services provider for the job. When writing about your credentials, don’t miss out on highlighting the talents and skills sets that are transferable to projects beyond those that you already have in your repository of experience.

Your promises

Ultimately, people do business with people and brands they believe they can trust. As a solopreneur, you make promises to prospects when you propose services to them. Your approach, your tone, your listening skills, and your responsiveness to questions will all influence whether a prospect chooses you or your competitor. Not only do your credentials, reputation and past experience play important roles in securing clients, so does instilling confidence that you’re going to follow through on what you say you’re going to do for them. Always be realistic and rational…and NEVER overpromise on what you can deliver.

As solopreneurs, there’s no escaping our constant state of “campaign mode,” but fortunately that doesn’t mean we have to resort to hosting extravagant events and slamming our competition. By focusing on what we do best, highlighting recommendations of our services, effectively projecting our potential and by following through on what we propose to do for clients, we stand a very good chance of winning the vote.

Your turn! Any other parallels between being a solopreneur and the presidential campaign in progress? 

 

Are You on the Right Track with your Social Media Efforts? A 3-Point Checklist

There’s no arguing that the many social media platforms out there have both subtle nuances and in-your-face differences. But regardless of which ones you’ve tapped into for your small business, there are attitudes and approaches that are universally helpful in moving your brand forward.

Fail to embrace these practices as a solopreneur, and you could find yourself spinning your wheels…

  • Be about “them” not you

In spite of the multitude of articles and posts that have preached about NOT using social media as a one-way advertising tool, many small brands continue to push their sales messages to their audiences. That’s OK now and then, but people will tune you out if that’s all you do. Nobody likes a “Me, me, me” kind of person…and they don’t appreciate that in a business either! Instead, focus on providing info that will help, inform or entertain your followers. Tips on this or that, hot news that’s relevant to your industry and your clients, local events, etc. Give them something of value and interest, and they’ll keep coming back.

  • Respond

Ever leave a well-thought comment on someone’s blog post or a question on a Facebook page, only to be ignored? It sucks. If someone takes the time to read your post and even more time to provide input and feedback, the least you should do is acknowledge that you received it – and that you appreciate it. Yes, I know, you’re busy and it can be a challenge to keep up. If finding time to check for commentary is a problem, adjust your account settings so you receive notification of interactions via either email or your mobile device. Not only is it good manners to respond, it’s also important for projecting that you care. I know you do!

  • Reciprocate

When you’ve got fellow business fans, followers, G plussers, connections or pinners who regularly like, share, and comment on your posts, return the favor. Social media gives us a wonderful opportunity to generate good will in that way – and that can be exceptional for business. By simply reciprocating on a consistent basis, I’ve garnered new project opportunities and gained referrals. That said, be genuine and put some thought into it. Select to acknowledge and pass along content that you truly do find interesting or informative.

Social media is absolutely a two-way street, so don’t miss the mark by ignoring these ever-important ways to move your online presence in the right direction.

What do you think? Are there any other best practices that apply across all social media platforms? 

 

September 11 and the Solopreneur

September 11, 2001 touched all of us. We all remember precisely where and when we first learned of the unfolding events of the day. Every year, the month/day 9/11 takes us back. We reflect. And then we move onward and get back to business. Business as usual.

But we can learn some lessons from 9/11 and instead strive to do business even better…

  • Don’t let adversity kill your spirit – Being in business for yourself will be incredibly difficult at times. Keep motivated by your vision of what you want for your business and keep working to achieve your goals.
  • Look for something positive in even the worst situations – There’s something to be learned and gained from any experience.
  • Helping others gives strength – Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean you should only look out for Number 1. Coaching a new business owner (even a competitor), giving some free guidance to a client, referring a prospect to someone for services, etc. are ways to create good will and build relationships in a business environment that is sometimes “every man for himself.”
  • Evil exists, but good outweighs and outlasts it – Although you’ll occasionally cross paths with a client who doesn’t respect your time and talent or a malicious online discrediting by a jealous competitor, most others you encounter will be upstanding, ethical people. Don’t let bad experiences with one or two people lead you to believe that everyone aims to drag you down to lift themselves up.

And above all, exercise persistence and resilience for a brighter tomorrow!

What other lessons from 9/11 can we apply to living and working as solopreneurs?

 

Blurred Lines: Your Professional and Personal Social Media Personas Are One

Fact: The lines are blurred between “professional” and “personal” personas on social media.Blurred personal and professional lines

Is that a positive thing? Is it negative? Quite honestly, I think it’s a little bit – or maybe a lot – of both.

Like it or not, you are your brand on social media. Whether you’re a small business owner, a professional working for someone else or someone looking for a job, what you post on your personal social media accounts will, without a doubt, color how others see you professionally as well.

So what? Do you:

  1. …walk on eggshells and only post plain vanilla content and commentary so you never ruffle any feathers?
  2. …take a “devil may care” attitude, speak what’s on your mind, and say “to hell” with anyone who doesn’t like it?

Really, that’s up to you. But be aware that choice “b” will probably have consequences. Assuming that not all of your business colleagues, clients, bosses and potential employers hold the same position on issues like politics, religion (or lack thereof), gay rights, and other potentially volatile topics, you’re likely to either piss off or completely alienate people.  And that could hurt your business, ax your chances of a promotion, or put you out of the running for a new job.

I’ve focused on the extremes here, but I believe there are also ways to respectfully share your positions on certain topics and beliefs without appearing confrontational and exclusive. Your approach means EVERYTHING when addressing sensitive topics. If you invite civilized discussion and respond without attacking those who respectfully disagree, you stand a better chance of maintaining good will and keeping relationships intact.

Your turn to share! How do you manage the lack of divide between your personal and professional social media personas?

Do Hashtags Make a Difference? The Results of My Hashtag Experiment!

In an earlier post, I shared my thoughts about using hashtags on Twitter. Rather than completely dismiss their relevance Hashtag imageand effectiveness based on my own personal preferences and preconceived notions, I embarked on a little experiment to find out if they appear to make any difference at all in attracting Twitter followers.

The experiment

For 4 weeks, I proactively used hashtags in all of my tweets (Before the experiment, I only included them when retweeting people who used them in their original tweets).

The baseline

For the two months prior to starting the experiment, my net new twitter followers rang in at 52 and 51 (5.80% and 6.28% of my total followers at the time) in those two 4-week periods.

The results

After my 4 weeks of proactively using hashtags, I gained 61 net new Twitter followers (6.38% of my total followers).

The conclusion

Although I admit that my experiment was hardly scientific and possibly could have benefitted from some additional time, I have to conclude that hashtags don’t significantly impact the growth of your Twitter network.

I should note, however, that although the overall number of new followers may not be affected, it’s possible that engagement is. Twitter users who search for conversations based on hashtags might prove to be more relevant followers who will interact more readily and frequently with your tweets. But I’ll let you run and report on that particular experiment!

For now, I’m back to using hashtags only in retweets when they appear in the tweet before me – and sometimes not even then. With Twitter’s 140-character constraints, every space is prime real estate, you know!

What’s your take on hashtags? Have you found increased following or engagement when using them?

Kick Your Blog Up a Notch with an Editor: But Consider These 4 Things First!

You know what your audience wants. You’ve got the expertise, the experience, and the pulse on what they expect to take away from your blog.

While all of that is absolutely critical for building a following and earning reader respect, there’s one other key component that businesses need in blogging…well-written posts!

A blog with poor writing style, regardless of the usefulness of the info within it, can destroy credibility and make you look unprofessional.

If your business resembles that remark, it doesn’t mean you or your employees aren’t extremely smart, savvy and skilled. It just means you aren’t writers. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just not your thing.

When you’re trying to convey your business’s strengths, features, benefits and value to readers, your blog needs to have the pizazz and polish of a professional writer. Although hiring a writer to create content for posts might not be financially feasible, hiring a writer/editor to spruce up your rough drafts could very well be within budget.

Thinking about kicking up your blog’s prowess up a notch? Here’s some food for thought as you consider using an editor:

  • Editors generally price their services according to a rate per word. And some bill by the hour or by the page. Through my research when setting my own editing price points, I found that editors’ rates vary widely depending on capabilities, experience, geographical location and other factors.
  • Editors might ask for a sample of your work before offering pricing. To provide a rate that’s fair to both you and to them, some editors will request to see a sample or two of your work so they can assess how much work will be involved. If your writing skills are relatively good, editors won’t need to spend as much time and effort on your posts as they would on drafts written by someone who has poor grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Often, editing rates will be specific to individual clients. Realize it really can’t be “one size fits all.”
  • If an editor offers different levels of editing, find out how they’re different. I suggest that you seek an editor who follows my M.O. I prefer to take a paragraph from a sample draft and, in turn, provide my prospective clients with samples of basic editing and more substantial editing so they can see the difference and make an informed decision about which level will satisfy their needs both functionally and financially.
  • Most editors treat proofreading as a separate service. Many writing professionals edit first at X cents per word, and do proofreading as a separate service at X cents per word. Although I also do them in that order, I don’t edit without proofreading. And I choose to combine them into an all-inclusive rate per word. I’m sure there are other editors who do the same. Be sure to ask if proofreading is – or is not – included.

Whether you’ve got an existing blog that could use some fine-tuning or haven’t yet started a business blog because you don’t believe you’ve got the writing chops to pull it off, an editor could be just what you need. As you search for one that’s the right fit for you, keep in mind that you’re looking for value, not just the cheapest rate. Always ask for work examples, inquire about turn-around time, and find out how they’ll provide the edits to you (Word doc with mark ups, Word doc with changes made live, etc.).

Got questions about my blog editing services or about what to look for in an editor? I welcome your emails to dawnmentz@gmail.com. Or feel free to call me at 717.435.3559