The secrets to success as a solopreneur have very little to do with education and skills training in your particular field. Instead, they are about how you show up, how you apply yourself, and how you keep yourself fueled and balanced to tackle the challenges that inevitably arise.
Anxiety & Risk Tolerance
Stepping away from the steady paycheck and health benefits we may take for granted when working for someone else -- whether in the private sector or government agency -- can be a big risk. Yet, working for yourself can sound attractive. Set you own hours. Make your own rules (within the law and ethical boundaries). No more conflicts with co-workers. No more frustration over unreasonable expectations levied by the boss. Why not?
But becoming a solopreneur is really just trading one set of annoyances for a different set of anxieties. Setting up your own business structures is often overlooked until a business is in trouble. Getting and keeping a steady stream of clients isn't easy, and requires skills most of us were never taught as someone else's employee. And the instability of cash flow is something that few of us expect before we get on the roller coaster of being in business for ourselves.
Being successful at being self-employed requires being able to tolerate financial risk and daily anxieties. Learning to tolerate constant risk and cope with the uncertainties of client attraction is the first secret to success.
Tips for Acquiring Tolerance for Risk and Anxiety
join a solopreneur business group locally or online
get short term therapy for situational anxiety
seek out solopreneur mentors
secure stop gap funding
re-budget and/or delay personal needs
develop new coping mechanisms, such as meditation
First, let's distinguish between an entrepreneur and a solopreneur. An entrepreneur creates or directs the creation of products for sale to the retail and business to business markets, and intends to, or knows she will need to at some point hire employees. A solopreneur provides direct services to clients by working alone, and is typically paid by the hour or on a retainer arrangement.
My clients, and myself for example, are mostly private practice clinicians, life coaches, spiritual counselors, self-publishing authors, and attorneys. As such, we are solopreneurs.
To be successful as either an entrepreneur or a solopreneur, it is imperative to be as dedicated to getting business as we are about providing quality work. In the early years, we find ourselves putting in 150 - 200% of the time and effort we used to make when simply earning a paycheck. And that means foregoing a lot of evenings and weekends, family time, socializing and other fun to ensure business keeps rolling in. No one succeeds by treating their business like a hobby, and working when they feel like it.
Tips for Acquiring Entrepreneurial Traits
develop and stick to a consistent work schedule
track your accomplishments daily
don't discount small task completions
expand into extroverted habits if you're more introverted
shun non-productive interruptions
develop a sense of what "good opportunities" will cost you
Time and Energy Management
Burnout and procrastination go hand in hand as a solopreneur, so it is crucial to have good boundaries on your time and energy. There is no special magic to starting the work day early, not stopping for lunch, or plowing through into the late evening hours. The magic is in knowing how your energy ebbs and flows, and scheduling your work time accordingly.
It's also vital to know what drains you and what replenishes you. If going to the gym or out for a jog in the early morning revs up your brain for dealing with clients, by all means do that. If you need to go walk around the block in the fresh air every two hours, schedule your clients around that. if you need a power nap in the early afternoon, do it. Find what works best for you and incorporate it into your daily schedule.
Other Tips for Time and Energy Management
have set hours for answering email, phone and text messages
schedule social time with non-working friends and family
count and schedule business consults and marketing as productive work time
limit time with toxic people
learn to say no to time wasting activities you don't really care about
delegate unenjoyable business admin tasks to a virtual assistant
Knowing what you are working towards, and for, are important ingredients for success. Are you driven by the idea of banking a million bucks by the time you're 35? Is your goal to become known as an internationally recognized expert? Does your heart cry for the injustices you see in the world and you feel compelled to make a difference in individual lives? No matter what your inner motivations are, make them explicit, and ground them in all five senses to help manifest them into a successful business.
Inner motivations work best when they are framed in the positive. Motivations that come from a negative idea, such as wanting to prove yourself or get even with a critical parent or childhood bully will eventually backfire and sabotage your determination to keep putting in the hard work needed to succeed.
Articulating a business vision and mission will capture and ground your inner motivations. Knowing why you are working so hard and sacrificing so much in the early years and beyond keeps the fire lit inside, and helps keep us in touch with why overcoming all the difficulties is worth it.
Tips for Being in Touch with Inner Motivations
question why you want to be a solopreneur
celebrate each step forward towards your big picture goals
write out monthly and yearly goals
meditate on how goal achievement looks, feels, sounds, smells, tastes
revisit / revise your motivations every years as your business grows
While being business minded is itself part of having the entrepreneurial personality, it is also a distinct quality of its own. Being business minded has to do with how you approach your work space and work day. If you work from home, as many solopreneurs start out doing, or do for their entire career, it is especially important to have a dedicated space that is just for work and off limits to pets and family alike.
Other aspects of business mindedness have to do with how we "behave" in relation to being at work. Think about the written and subtle rules of behavior you had to comply with when you were an employee, such as showing up on time, whether leaving for lunch was allowed, how you answered the phone or greeted customers and co-workers, when you were expected to turn in reports, how organized your work space had to be, and so on. Setting up your own workplace rules might include never doing laundry during work hours, only checking email at the start of the day, and making your work week be Tuesday noon through Saturday noon.
As a solopreneur you are perfectly free to make up your own rules, and it is to your advantage to have some to keep the work flow organized and productive. It's guaranteed that no business succeeds when operating by whim and chaos.
Tips for Cultivating Business Mindedness
ask other solopreneurs for their personal work rules or habits
decide when to do bookkeeping and stick to it
outline your process as if needing to explain it to clients, or attorneys
have a reason for the way you spend every hour "on the job"
spend time on things that either get you clients or serve your clients
My final tip for success is to take the assessment for solopreneur readiness and find out how you stack up against the key requirements for this demanding way of life.