Hey friends, dropping in today to talk about the things you should know as a new solopreneur. I’m sharing the behind the scenes/behind the curtain/under the kimono of running a business. I’ve been doing this professional coaching and consulting thing for years! And I’ve learned a few things that might be helpful for those of you who are just starting out. And this article is a list of five things that I wish I knew before starting my coaching business. Granted, I’m learning things everyday but I think these five items really stand out as constant areas for growth if you’re a new solopreneur or an expert-based-business.
Marketing is a whole thing. Now I know this might seem very obvious. But for those of us who have gotten a lot of education and grown our skills by staying in one lane our whole lives, we don’t realize that there’s more to running an expert-based-business than just being an expert.
I know I’ve read a lot of books on entrepreneurship and looking at the cash-flow quadrant and different ways that people can go about making money. And the one thing that you’ll find from the E-myth to Rich Dad Poor Dad is that there is a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner.
Someone who is self-employed owns a job. This is how most expert-based-businesses start. Because you’re really good at doing one thing you figure “I’ll just hang my sign outside and people can come to me for this one thing.”
No one tells you that there’s a whole artform to hanging the sign.
Marketing is a whole industry. A discipline that people spend years studying and perfecting. And get this, it’s always changing so no one really ever has it down pat. That means, if you’re jumping out here as a new solopreneur to share your expertise with the world there’s a whole skillset that you probably don’t have unless your expertise is in marketing. This means it’s worth it to hire someone who has this type of knowledge. Coming out the gate, I was fortunate enough to have a partner who had a decent foundation in basic internet marketing and SEO skills.
But there’s still a wealth of knowledge that I’m continuing to learn about online marketing, how to write good copy, how to run ads, how to retarget ads, how to generate content in a way that isn’t painful. Marketing is a whole thing, so if you’re just starting out, get help early. Continue to educate yourself and find those who are experts in the marketing space to sit with you and guide your steps.
2. Sales and Enrollment
Sales and Enrollment are not the same thing. Nobody likes sales. Nobody likes to be sold to. When I think of a typical salesperson, I’m thinking of old white guys in cheap suits who are trying to swindle me anyway they can. They’re dishonest and they’re out for themselves. Don’t be a salesperson. Instead, especially in the coaching space, it’s helpful to think about enrollment.
When you’re enrolling someone in an idea it’s not you who’s doing any of the work. Instead, you’re having a conversation, and others get to choose what’s best for them. Together you discover if what you have to offer fits into what they need. As a new solopreneur, the first step in enrollment is that you yourself have to be enrolled. Meaning, you have to have already sold yourself on your goods or services and the value you provide in the world. If you are certain that what you do can help your ideal client, then there’s no pressure to sell them anything. You just seem confident in your skills, abilities and services. And they can decide if that matches the current problem they’re trying to overcome.
Enrollment is always a win-win. No one has to be sold.
The other great thing about enrollment is that you don’t have to be attached to the outcome. (Whether or not they want to take you up on that offer or not). If the person discovers that what you have is not valuable, that’s actually a win for everybody because they got clear on what you offer and whether it aligned with them. And you also got to see who is not your client and learn more about why. As a new solopreneur there’s always an opportunity to think about how you’re further defining and clarifying who your target audience is as you continue clarifying your service to show offerings to best meet their needs.
3. Niching is always better than casting a wide net
Now, this is a concept that comes up a lot in internet marketing spaces. Especially as you’re just starting out as a new solopreneur, there’s a tendency to want to be really vague about what you offer. But when you’re not clear about what you do, it makes it really hard for others to get clear around whether or not you can help them. This totally relates to the sales versus enrollment thing. Again, you have to be completely enrolled. Which means you have to understand who exactly it is you serve and what exactly it is you do. It’s being super specific about the problem and your solution that uniquely solves it.
Think about it this way – it’s always better to eat alone. By that I mean, if you’re super-vague about what’s on the menu, let’s say you have a buffet-style restaurant where anyone can get anything they want at anytime of day from shrimp scampi to meatball heroes to gluten free french toast and vegan custard, that’s a lot of different stuff. And when you offer a lot of different stuff you end up competing with everyone else in the space who also offers vegan custard and gluten-free options and Italian food etc., etc., etc. That’s a lot of competition. Think about being at a giant banquet hall table where you have to elbow your way through to get to the plate. Much preferred is a table for one, with a menu that’s specifically to your liking that you get to enjoy luxuriously by yourself.
A table for one is Niching. A Sizzler type free-for-all is what happens when you cast a wide net.
It’s a lot easier to niche and dine alone than it is to be elbowing your way through a generic market. Spend time finding your niche because it will always be the path of least resistance.
4. Reclaiming your time doesn’t mean you get to be a full-time stay-at-home mom
This one I really struggle with and continue to really call myself out on. Once I left corporate one of the key things that really struck me as a benefit was how much time I was able to spend with my children. I would drop them off in the morning, and pick them up in the afternoons. We would go to the playground a few times a week, we were doing homework together. I was doing the bedtime routine, I was cooking a lot, doing the home made lunches. The list goes on and on. And the reason the list goes on and on is because motherhood/parenting is a full-time job. Don’t find yourself having quit corporate to run your new solopreneur business, and have taken on the second job of full-time parenting. It’s not possible.
It’s 2020 and we still have this idea that somehow we should be able to do it all by ourselves. This is a terrible lie. We all need support and help. And there’s no shame in asking for help with parenting or with your business. Don’t think that just because you don’t work for someone else that your time has to be fully devoted to running your household or raising your family and running a business. That’s far too many hats for anyone to wear. And you can stop beating yourself up about doing all of them at sub-optimal. Because the idea that you could do all of them like a rockstar all of the time is absolutely ludicrous.
New Solopreneurs need help. Parents need help. So ask for help. Ask for it early.
Enroll your partner and how they can support you as you transition and what the allocation of your time is going to look like. Make it clear that even though you work at home you’re not just sitting on your butt doing laundry and cooking all day. Having people assist with picking up the kids, entertaining them with after school programs, or even things around the house like cleaning and getting support with grocery shopping and menu planning can give you a lot of relief and space in your time.
Reclaiming your time isn’t about giving it all back to your kids. Reclaiming your time means there’s an opportunity to delegate like never before, and get support so you can do the things that you love doing the most, like maybe playing dolls with your daughter and video games with your son, not necessarily all of the cooking and cleaning and prep that happens behind the scenes to make that happen.
5. Bet on Yourself First
Finally, number five I wish people had been super clear with me when I started as a new solopreneur was to always bet on yourself first. Yes, you’re an expert. Yes, you have degrees and accolades and you’re super accomplished. And there’s still so much to learn and so much growth available for you. This means you will constantly be asked to invest in yourself.
Support is a beautiful thing and when you’re paying for those services you are making an investment in yourself.
Don’t balk at the rates of coaches and other consultants who can support you. As a new solopreneur if you’re not willing to invest in yourself through ongoing professional development, learning, coaching, in hiring other consultants to up-level your game and help you accelerate your growth and your business, then how could you possibly expect anyone else, i.e., a potential client, to bet on you?
To date, my largest line item in my operating budget is professional development. It’s right up there toe-to-toe with my salary. If you think about it, it makes for a pretty sweet total compensation package. Things like National Conferences, networking events, affiliations to other organizations to support my growth, paying for my business coach, my executive coach, for therapy, for my massage therapist, anything that is designed to help me nurture my mind and body, (also known as my business). All of these things are an investment back into me. And as a solopreneur/small business owner, I am the business.
I think out of all five of these tips that I wish I’d known early as a new solopreneur this one is the most important: You have to put you first. Continue investing in yourself with a rock-solid belief that that you are going to be a tremendous return on investment. That kind of faith in self has great ROI.
Have you applied for the Side Hustle Intensive yet?
If you’re loving this short list of five things to understand right away I highly recommend you apply for the Side Hustle Intensive. Applications are currently open and it’s the ideal place to chat through how you can set up and actually implement the structures for a rock solid foundation as you grow your business. And yeah, there are more than 5 things you can do to set yourself up for success.
Whether you’re in year 1 to 3 or 5, this is a great way to get back to the fundamentals that will accelerate your growth.