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Whether you’re an independent freelancer just starting out, or you’re dreaming about solopreneurship from your 9-5 job, there’s a lot that goes into running a business all on your own.
As a solopreneur for over 15 years, I know exactly what it’s like to go from a steady paycheck to the ups and downs of self-employment, and the greatest lessons I’ve learned have come from experience. Here’s my best advice!
1. Take caution when processing advice
Yes, including the advice in this post. You’re the “C.E.O. of you.” Trust yourself that you know what’s best, and take advice with a grain of salt. You may make mistakes along the way, but that’s going to be your very best teacher. Everyone will have an opinion about what you should do, how you should change, or how you should do things differently. Your job as C.E.O. is to consider the advice and then make a decision about what to do with it.
Further Reading: The Solopreneur’s Guide to Taking Advice
2. Understand that you’ll never feel ready to take necessary risks
If you’re waiting for permission, the right time, or to be perfect–chances are you’ll never launch your business or put yourself out there in a big way. While being prepared is imperative, no amount of preparedness will make you “feel ready”. At some point, you’re going to need to take that leap and trust yourself that you’ll figure things out along the way. Everything is figureoutable.
Further reading:3 Mindset Shifts If Launching Your Business Terrifies You
3. Know that everybody feels like an imposter sometimes
If you think there’s no place for you–that everybody knows more than you and they can do it so much better, welcome to the club. Every successful entrepreneur I know feels like an imposter from time to time, no matter how successful they become. Remember there are people out there who need your help and they don’t need you to be perfect. You are enough.
4. Run your own race
It’s helpful to look at your competitors and your business heroes to know what’s possible, but if you’re spending a great deal of your time comparing yourself to others, you’ll only stand in your own way. Your own personal goals are all that matter and they should guide you. Start with where you are and take a look at your own progress and pat yourself on the back along the way.
5. Fear is part of it
Part of being an entrepreneur is battling fear on a daily basis. Fear of success, failure, criticism, looking stupid. Learn to recognize that fear and remember that’s just your ego playing tricks. The stories we tell ourselves aren’t always true. Often times if it terrifies you, it’s the right thing to do.
Further Reading: How to Overcome Fears & Get Visible with Your Dream Clients
6. Get yourself a vision that makes you tingly all over
The reality of the day-to-day of running a business can be challenging, and you’ll face ups and downs. Visualize your dream business and make that vision so amazing that it’ll carry you through your tough days. If you sell yourself short and you don’t aim high enough, you’ll wind up with a hopeless struggle on your hands.
This is the first lesson in my Client Attraction Mindset Workbook for a reason. If you don’t understand where you’re headed, finding the motivation to show up every day and overcome fears and obstacles can easily keep you stuck or worse, operating in your comfort zone where nothing amazing ever happens.
7. Make marketing a priority
Every business needs marketing, you already know that. But 50% of small business owners spend 2 hours a week (or less) on marketing. That’s not enough. Put your business first. When you’re profitable, and you have steady leads as a result of marketing, it actually puts you in the position to serve your customers better and enjoy longevity.
8. Brand Bravely
If you’re afraid to really put yourself out there, it’s going to be impossible to get visible with the right people. The magic happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone, so write “be brave” on a post-it note and stick it on your computer and when you find yourself talking yourself out of doing the scary things… just remember that to achieve that dream business vision, you’ll need to do brave things.
Further Reading How I Turned My Insecurity Into A Brand Asset
9. Get ready for money to come into your life
This is another foundational lesson in The Client Attraction Mindset Workbook. If you don’t think you’re worthy of making money, it’s going to be very hard for you to put yourself out there in a big way. We hold ourselves back when we think that money isn’t for us–we undercharge and play it safe. Making money means first feeling worthy of it.
10. Create an “in case of emergency” savings account
I know everybody says this, but it’s key to longevity. Take a portion of your income and put it right into an emergency savings fund. Over time that fund will grow, and as it does, you’ll make decisions from a place of power rather than desperation. You’ll make choices that serve you and help you create that future dream business.
Further reading: How I Saved Enough Money To Travel & Work
11. Create a routine
I know that one of the reasons we escape the 9-5 is because we want freedom, and ‘routine’ doesn’t feel like freedom. But one of the biggest sources of overwhelm entrepreneurs face is not knowing what they’re supposed to be focused on at any given moment and not knowing when work life begins and ends.
If you don’t create a routine, you’ll fill your time up with ‘activity’ (how long things take tends to be however much time we make available) and you’ll always feel like work never ends. That only leads to burnout and it won’t do you or your clients any favors.
12. Set Boundaries
This is the one that took me the longest to learn. Without boundaries, we tend to “people please” and that’s not the way to build a profitable and rewarding business. We want to please our clients, but we must take care of ourselves first. Set policies, then, educate your clients on how you work and enforce those boundaries. Good clients will appreciate being ‘trained’ how best to work with you and rotten apple clients (the ones just out to take advantage) will show their stripes soon enough and you can fire them before things get out of hand.
13. Get Yourself A High-Vibe Bubble
You’re going to need support along the way, but be careful who you surround yourself with. If you’re hearing a lot of nay-saying and unhelpful criticism, or if the people you surround yourself are always negative–reach out to entrepreneurs who are a few steps ahead of you or have qualities you’re looking to cultivate in yourself. Surround yourself with positive people–ask for help and be generous with yours.
Running a business is overwhelming, and you’ll always feel like there’s never enough ‘day in your day’… the key to getting things done is not to try to be busier, it’s to apply more focus in what you’re doing. Decide what the most important thing is you need to accomplish and then eliminate distractions and give it your 100% attention. Then focus on the next thing. This is how things get done.
Further reading: Overwhelmed By Digital Marketing? Go With The Flow!
15. Do the urgent things last
This one seems counterintuitive, but it was a huge and wildly helpful mind shift for me. As you make a list of your daily tasks, some of those things will be urgent–like, getting your client work done and putting out fires. The important things–like taking time for self-care and doing those crucial things that are going to help you grow your business (e.g. marketing tasks, leveling-up your skills) will never get done if you put them last. Know what the important big-picture things are and put those things first. Your urgent tasks will get done because, well, they’re urgent.
Bonus: 99% of your success will come down to having the right mindset
Being a solopreneur has been a rewarding journey and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been able to establish location independence and work while I travel, and I’ve had the luxury of picking and choosing only wonderful people to work with doing work that fulfills me personally and financially.
What I didn’t know was that I’d stumble along the way. I’ve been stuck in learning mode, research mode, “I’m scared shitless” mode and downright panic mode. In The Client Attraction Mindset, I share all of my “Aha!” moments, paradigm shifts, and exercises that helped me get through all of that to create a plan of action for attracting high quality clients and feeling in control of my own destiny.
What’s your biggest challenge as a solopreneur? What’s got you worried or excited?
Let me know in comments!
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.